Building The Startup Team To Get Funded

How to Establish a Core Startup Team?

One of the earliest obstacles that founders have in managing a startup team is dealing with how to get things off the ground without sufficient funding or the right people.

During an eLuminate Mastermind Session on Getting Funded, CEO and co-founder Anastasia Leng was interviewed by eLuminate founder, Sharon Brown, about the struggles she had to go through at Hatch with building a startup team.


Starting With What You Have

For Leng, she and co-founder Ryan Heyward had just left Google to pursue the Hatch business concept and that they were very passionate about. She moved from London and he moved from Tokyo so they could work together in New York. To get the website running, they had to hire a developer, since neither of them were coders.


Fortunately, one of Leng’s friends from London came calling, offering his services. Leng, of course, was hesitant about it, quickly telling him, “look, I can’t pay you” but the guy insisted saying he believed in their business idea and that he’ll work for free until the business gets proper funding.  So, they decided to get him onboard as part of their startup team.

Leng looks back on the experience with a hearty laugh saying the three of them worked “on a couch” as they were building the company.

Bringing New People In

As their online marketplace started to grow, they eventually had to begin hiring additional people which, according to Leng, was “really hard.”

She felt the first 10 to 20 people they hired should perfectly fit in the kind of culture they were hoping to establish. Bringing new people onboard, she says, is crucial because it means picking the people that would “help you build your business and solve your problems.” In short, the startup team has to be just right.

startup hiring

Getting Rid of Those That Do Not Fit

Leng also pointed out that sometimes it is best to fire people immediately instead of keeping them in the company too long. She shared how they were quick to get rid of people that they felt did not fit in their culture.  Acting quickly prevented further problems.

During the hiring process, the co-founders also had a specific set of traits they looked for when they interviewed candidates. For example, they asked situational questions that would really get the applicants thinking. Those who thrived when their answers were challenged were hired, but those who were a bit defensive were eliminated from consideration. Leng wanted to see potential and brilliance.

She sums up her startup hiring strategy by saying, “I don’t care whose idea it is as long as it’s the best idea for the company.”


Sustainability Startup Raises $1,100,000 Preferred Financing Round

Powur PBC Raises $1,100,000 Preferred Financing Round

Powur PBC, the first 100% sustainable energy direct sales public benefit corporation, has successfully completed a $1,100,000 preferred financing round led by Tech Coast Angels (TCA), one of the largest and most prominent angel investment organizations in the U.S.

What Earned The Startup Their Raise?

Powur has built the first nationwide network of direct selling entrepreneurs accelerating the shift towards sustainable energy. This most recent successful financing for the startup brings the total investment in the company to $2,550,000.


An “ability to raise financing across a wide spectrum of investors demonstrates the viability of this business model,” says Powur CEO and Founder Jonathan Budd.  The startup feels confident about the future of their social business model and the relationships they have built with investors.

Dean Rosenberg, lead investor representing TCA said, “It is rare that we see a company and team as committed to both profit and mission.”  The investment group believes Powur will be able to accelerate the adoption of solar and sustainable energy around the world, by positioning itself as the “network marketing category leader for clean and sustainable energy.”

Equity Crowdfunding

The Business Model

Headquartered in San Diego, California, Powur is pioneering the renewable energy/efficiency product category inside the $170 billion annual direct selling industry. The company’s first partnership is with the world’s #1 solar energy provider, SolarCity, which provides renewable electricity directly to homeowners, businesses and government organizations for less than they spend on utility bills.

The startup proprietary software platform offers a first-to-market tool suite enabling direct sales distributors to engage in the fast-growing clean energy industry. This tool suite allows distributors to invite customers through a variety of channels, track customers through the sales cycle, build a sales organization for commission overrides, get key reporting metrics to monitor and grow their organization, and receive extensive direct sales training. Powur is currently serving customers in 19 U.S states with expansion into Mexico on the horizon.

On-Demand Payments Consumer Growth Opens Startup Opportunity

On-demand payments are a significant shift in the way that consumers prefer to shop and buy and the way that merchants push the payment process into the background.

New research identifies how card-on-file solutions have been given a new lease on life and are now the primary consumer method for making payments via mobile devices.

The report – From Card-on-File to On-Demand Payments: New Payment Model and Strategies For Payment Providers – by Mercator Advisory Group describes several examples of third-party solutions that enable consumers to better control and manage their payments.

Examples are also cited in the report indicating how card issuers have responded to on-demand payments in a tactical way but have so far failed to grasp the strategic implications of this model.

“Sometimes changes in technology and consumer adoption occur so slowly that both the nature of the change and the magnitude of the change are misjudged.” said Tim Sloane, VP, Payments Innovation, and author of report.

“On-demand payments may appear to be a simple extension to traditional card-on-file solutions, but nothing could be further from the truth. On-demand payments are a significant shift in the way that consumers prefer to shop and buy and the way that merchants push the payment process into the background. With the issuer’s brand almost invisible at the point of purchase, issuers need to identify new strategies to remain relevant to consumers,” notes Sloane.


Startups should consider the impact of on-demand payments and look for growth opportunities that exploit this trend in consumer shopping preferences.  Technology changes and consumer adoption play big roles in the shift toward this new way of paying for purchases.  The advisory groups report offers insight into other possible reasons for the shift.


Report Highlights

  • Evidence that the on-demand payments model is the primary driver of the explosive growth in digital payments volume, further displacing cash and check transactions
  • Issuers should move from the tactical efforts in place today to a strategic response required to remain relevant with cardholders in the long term
  • Industries once thought to be impervious to disruption are now being radically reshaped due to smartphones and on-demand services


Investor Pitches for Biotech and Healthcare Startup

Do you have a biotech, life sciences, or healthcare startup and are looking for investor face time?

Applications are now being accepting for startups interested in pitching before investors at a healthcare startup conference, HealthCare Texas 2016. Up to 20 Series A companies will have the opportunity to present open demonstrations and schedule private sessions with matched investors and prospective partners. Five of these will be selected by a jury to present to attendees in fast-pitch format for a chance to win the Series A Venture Award.

In addition, 35 Texas growth, or Series B, companies seeking late-stage funding will participate in private investor-matched one-on-one sessions. Five of these companies will be selected to present to the full conference audience in a fast-pitch format for a chance to win the Series B Innovation Award. It is free to apply.

“We see unprecedented opportunities for connecting innovators with people who are wrestling with some facet of the health ecosystem. Our leaders are looking forward to discussing some of these developments and the platforms for innovation that result from them,” said Clay Johnston, inaugural Dean of the Dell Medical School.

biotech startups

This business match-making and fast-pitch competition is being produced by the Texas Growth Capital Forum, whose mission is to ignite the innovation and success of the brightest Texas technology companies with access to capital from national and regional investors.

Its 2015 Texas Venture Growth Forum conference brought together 42 venture capitalists and growth investors and 27 Texas CEOs, who participated in more than 125 matched one-on-one meetings.

The 2016 event provides a first focus on health and healthcare, including digital health, healthtech, life sciences and biotech—spanning medical devices and software solutions to therapeutics and pharmaceuticals.

health care startups

“Our mission is to measurably increase the venture capital and investor presence throughout the state. Startups founded in Texas need broader access to capital at every stage of growth to maximize their potential to achieve global scale,” said Matt Black, director at the Texas Growth Capital Forum who is producing HealthCare Texas 2016. “We’re focused on attracting diverse capital interests to Texas to build a lasting national network.”

Presented by the Dell Medical School, HealthCare Texas 2016 is produced by Texas Growth Capital Forum (TxGCF), and sponsored by Austin Healthcare Council and the Moon Group at Merrill Lynch. More information is found at Conference will be tweeted at #HCTX

health care startup

The Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin is presenting the first HealthCare Texas 2016, the annual technology and venture capital conference bringing together more than 300 leading innovators in healthcare information technology, digital health, life sciences, and therapeutics.

The two-day conference, running May 3-4, will feature more than 20 speakers, 30 investors, and 40 companies. It will be held at Brazos Hall in downtown Austin TX. For more information and to register to attend, see

Shark Tank Wins and Closing Investor Funding

We’ve had three entrepreneur founders and supporters from our eLuminate Network get their shot to pitch on ABC’s Shark Tank.  So, what’s the secret to getting one of the sharks on Shark Tank to bite?

The keys to success always seems to narrow down to two key fundamentals, a great pitch and great numbers.  PrideBites was one of those startups that pitched their way to a successful investment by two of the Shark Tank investors.

Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec paired up to offer PrideBites $200,000 for 20% percent equity in the company. PrideBites co-founders, Steven Blustein (CEO), and Sean Knecht (CMO), appeared on the show seeking $200,000 in exchange for 10% percent equity in their customizable dog product business.


What drove their success on the show?

Prior to Shark Tank, PrideBites had seen impressive momentum, landing its products in over 2,500 stores in the first year, doubling growth year-over-year and being honored with the “Dog Toy of the Year” award by Pet Business Magazine.

The founders were seeking capital to expand their manufacturing capabilities, and though they had to give away twice the equity they had planned they were able to leverage the traction from their business into a successful pitch.

With the new capital, the company plans to continue enhancing its efficient back-end personalization and fulfillment platform, grow its sales and marketing efforts, and expand into additional pet verticals. The company also has plans to roll out several new products over the next 90 days.

Kate Spayed Sugar Snap Hoodie

What’s the value of being on an episode?

Building a relationship with any of the Shark Tank investors is a major plus, but the exposure that a startup receives once their episode airs can net even more business opportunities.

PrideBites has also closed an initial seed funding round of $500,0000 with ATX Seed Ventures, BlueStel Ventures and Tucker Max, among other previous investors.


“We’re always excited to invest in companies with highly engaged user bases and there is perhaps no user base more passionate than pet parents looking to pamper their pets,” said Chris Shonk, General Partner, ATX Seed Ventures. “PrideBites has utilized a personalized approach to gain early traction with dog owners and an innovative on-demand platform to efficiently manufacture and ship custom products to them. With this massive new exposure to pet parents across the country, I believe it is poised to be a new leader in pet commerce.”

With pet-related spending hitting more than $60B in 2015, the purchase of pet products online is seeing double digit growth year over year. Although there are thousands of companies in dog ecommerce targeting the 54 million households owning a dog, PrideBites has dug out its own niche by becoming the ‘Nike ID of pet products,’ while building a uniquely flexible and efficient manufacturer and supplier network.

“The two major reasons I cut back on seed investing was lack of good people to invest in and the amount of time it took to assist companies,” said Tucker Max. “PrideBites continues to be an exception. While I’ve certainly invested a lot of hours assisting the company, they’ve always maximized the return on that time and I knew from day one that it was the right team to address this multibillion dollar market.”


What Information Do Entrepreneurs Report To Investors?

Insight from a private equity perspective and perspective of a founder who completed a series A round.  The short video clip, gives a very good explanation of why exits are important and what you should communicate to investors.