Startups

Coaching program for startups seeks to get companies hotwired into entrepreneur ecosystem

One of the most challenging things for life science and healthcare entrepreneurs is developing a compelling presentation that will wow investors and motivate them to invest in their companies. But there are a lot of components to that pitch that entrepreneurs may not even have considered. And what about the investor questions? How would you […]

One of the most challenging things for life science and healthcare entrepreneurs is developing a compelling presentation that will wow investors and motivate them to invest in their companies.

But there are a lot of components to that pitch that entrepreneurs may not even have considered. And what about the investor questions? How would you handle a provocative question from an investor that seems to diminish your work? A flash of anger and you may lose even the potential investors who believe in what you’re doing.

Mid Atlantic Diamond Ventures, an entrepreneurship advisory and venture forum program, is affiliated with Temple University’s Fox School of Business. It runs a coaching program that seeks to get startups to the golden chalice: a second meeting with investors.

In addition to a second meeting another goal of the program is to get entrepreneurs “hardwired into the entrepreneur ecosystem.”

Executive director Jaine Lucas says one strength of the program is its ability to provide feedback from a group of angel and venture investors with an average of 35 years’ experience. Mentors also use their knowledge of the entrepreneur ecosystem to connect startups with organizations and people who can provide funding or referrals. They can provide feedback on appropriate milestones and guidance on how to avoid potential pitfalls with business strategies.

“The coaching process we use is a scrub process,” said Lucas. “For scrub sessions, entrepreneurs come in with an investment pitch, half of the board [from Mid Atlantic Diamond Ventures] will be in the room to provide feedback on presentations. Investors include entrepreneurs across life science technology, marketing, engineering so they are getting rich, well-rounded feedback.”

It’s a tough love approach. Entrepreneurs might hear, “We’ve seen this before and it doesn’t work. Go back and take a different approach.”

The program has four pitching events each year with presentations from eight to 10 companies across IT, life science, and physical science — the next forum is scheduled for September 21.

“One goal of this program is to get them a second meeting so can do a deeper dive into [their service or product] but another goal is to help them build contacts, build a customer pipeline, guide them through the grant process, help them find a manufacturer if they need one,” Lucas said.

Even serial entrepreneurs sometimes neglect or cast aside advice they receive from the coaching program — and that can come back to haunt them. Among those potential pitfalls are providing a valuation too soon, not doing enough market research on needs of customers, and blurting out your intellectual property or failing to present complex concept in terms that non-insiders can understand.

Originally co-founded as Diamond State Ventures in 2003 in Newark, Delaware, the investor forum was was acquired by Temple University’s Fox School of Business in 2006.

Although about 70 percent of the companies accepted into the program come from the Philadelphia region, many come from other parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, the metropolitan New York region, as well as Maryland and Washington, DC.

Since it was started in 2003, the program has helped more than 287 emerging companies. Graduates of the program have raised more than $210 million in early stage funding as a result of their participation in this and other venture programs, according to its website. In a move to underscore the entrepreneur ecosystem theme, it started having alumni reunions with its coaching program graduates last year.

Lucas’ background spans from an M.S. in analytical chemistry to head of brand development and marketing at Sunoco, where she persuaded the world’s largest supplier of racing fuel to become a NASCAR sponsor. She later founded and led a marketing consultancy for NASCAR sponsorships. One of the marketing insights she took away from that experience was that fans support the brands that support the drivers.

Although she has enjoyed her experience in marketing she has a passion for the startups she works with both at MADV and the student-led startups she meets as executive director of Fox Business School’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute. The program offers a major or minor in entrepreneurship as well as a certificate program. It has been successful at encouraging students from most of its all of its colleges within the university to make use of the classes and mentoring the program offers. Additionally it hosts competitions like one for innovative ideas and another to develop business plans called the Be Your Own Boss Bowl.

Topics