By Peter Kovach
Christian Seale is the founder and managing director of Startupbootcamp Digital Health Miami, the first digital health accelerator and seed fund focused on diverse and underserved communities. He has been on both sides of the table as an entrepreneur and early stage investor and loves supporting ambitious and extraordinary founders navigate the high and lows of their startup journey. Before building SBC Miami, he was a founding member of Equitable Origin, the world’s first certification for responsible energy production. He is also a member of NextGen Angels and worked for consumer-only VC firm Maveron. This month at Venture Hive, Christian sat down with Startup Grind’s Jason Ibarra to discuss his experiences and how they can help startups grow.
* Understand your Barriers of Entry - While at Brown University, Christian set out to create the ideal oil company in Colombia, a company that is environmentally friendly and respectful to the community stakeholders. Unfortunately, the barriers of entry were too high as many of the oil companies in Colombia were far more established and it was too costly to enter into the market. However, Christian and his partners were able to leverage previously established relationships with stakeholders and other oil companies to create a certification for responsible oil production. It's important to know the cost of entry and other barriers you may face before you make a big investment. You may intend to pursue an idea, but discover it’s not feasible. If you are observant of the industry, you can always find ways to make an impact regardless of the obstacles.
*The Business Plan - One of the most overrated aspects of business for startups is the business plan. Many businesses get caught up on having a long drawn out plan that will explain every single way in which they will make money for the next five years. The business plan for startups does not need to be 50 pages long, especially because things can change so quickly. Instead, don’t get caught up in length and focus on quality. The business plan should be a road map of where you want your company to be in the next few months with an overview of how you’ll address the next five years. It can be a simple 5-page document that identifies your target customer, the market, any competition, plans for growth and key goals you want to achieve in the the near future.
* To V.C. or not V.C. - In today’s startup ecosystem, we are all focused on who gets how much money and from whom. This can be a major distraction, and quite honestly getting funding from investors may not be the best option for everyone. In fact, growing a business organically may be the better option for a lot of companies. Of course, there is not the same sex appeal and your growth may take longer, but you don’t have to worry about keeping investors happy and reaching absurd revenue expectations. Instead, you can focus on what is most important, growing your business the right way, and when the time is right the money will follow. Remember, once you take someone else’s money, their goals become your goals.
* Approaching Investors - Christian has had his fare share on NOs in life, maybe more than 1,000. If it taught him anything, it's that you should never be afraid to ask. If you decide to look for venture money, it is necessary to do your research. Make a list of the investors you are interested in, understand what they like to invest in, and how involved they are with their companies. Remember, bringing on a VC is a marriage, and you will be stuck with them for the foreseeable future, so it is essential to understand who is investing in your startup. Christian mentioned, once you have a list, prioritize it from best possible investor to the “hey I just want your money” investor. Then approach the investors starting from the bottom of the list. This will give you plenty of practice, to refine your pitch and handle difficult questions, so when you finally meet with your ideal investors you are more than prepared.
* Accelerator or Incubator - Accelerators and incubators are essential for Startup ecosystems to grow. They build a community of like-minded companies and offer them assistance in reaching their full potential. If you are contemplating putting your company in an accelerator or incubator, Christian emphasizes the importance of understanding their differences. An incubator, he said, is like coddling a newborn baby, where an accelerator is essentially putting your business in a rocket ship and having it blast off. Incubators typically work with companies that are fresh off the idea phase and help them formulate their business. On the other hand, accelerators typically deal with more established companies and help them target and achieve specific goals within a few months. Understand what phase your company is in, so you can properly identify if you are more geared toward an incubator or accelerator.
NEXT UP: Xavier Gonzalez, CEO of eMerge Americas, will be joining Startup Grind for a Fireside Chat on March 8th at the Venture Hive. Tickets are now available here.