The Louisville chamber is piloting a new initiative to help startups generate revenue more quickly at a time when securing investment dollars is increasingly difficult.
Local startups this year have struggled more than in the past to secure funding, in part because fewer identifiable investment groups exist, because a lot of the available capital in the community is tied up in existing ventures and because the improving economy is providing fairly secure jobs, which means fewer people want to take the risk of starting a business.
Lisa Bajorinas, vice president of entrepreneurship and talent for EnterpriseCorp, the entrepreneurial arm of Greater Louisville Inc., said that the organization wanted to help startups figure out alternative ways to secure financing, with the new initiative, preliminarily called Sales Intensive, focusing on acquiring paying customers earlier in the development process.
For many entrepreneurs, that’s uncharted territory: While entrepreneurs typically have a good understanding of their product or service, they may lack expertise and skills around selling, Bajorinas said.
The Sales Intensive will help entrepreneurs figure out how to sell sooner rather than later, which can help them generate revenue, which is especially critical in early stage companies.
“It’s really the cheapest form of capital,” Bajorinas said.
The effort is organized by Ellie Puckett, GLI’s commercialization director, who knows first-hand how entrepreneurs sometimes don’t know where to seek help — or, indeed, that they need help and in what area.
Before joining GLI, Puckett worked with microgravity research startup Space Tango and served as a startup coach at the Kentucky Innovation Network.
On Tuesday, GLI will pilot the initiative with local startups Schedule It, Virtual Peaker, Occam Design and PowerUp Labs. Each of the companies will rotate through four “pods,” each of which will provide one or two mentors to help the startups with anything from sales pitches to the sales process and customer service.
Mobile Serve co-founder, Ben Reno-Weber, who, together with co-founder, Chris Head, participated in a trial of the effort in June, said the workshop was exactly what his company needed, as it helped connect subject matter experts like him with mentors who had entrepreneurial expertise.
“We got to meet some people in town that we didn’t know who have experience building this kind of sales organization,” he said. “There’s a difference between being a good salesperson and managing a sales process.”
Reno-Weber said he liked the workshop so much that he would like to participate in it again with other co-workers in a few months, in part because he expects to have more and better questions.
Puckett said GLI would debrief participants after Wednesday’s event and prepare for a more formal event launch early next year.
EnterpriseCorp is looking for mentors, including people with expertise in various stages of a startup, those with knowledge of a particular technology or industry and subject matter experts such as patent attorneys. Those interested can inquire at [email protected]