Startup accelerator/incubator programs are fueled by passionate mentors who share their expertise, insights and experience with the founding teams in the program. Access to these networks of mentor relationships– and the opportunity to learn from their experiences – is frankly a huge startup advantage. As only a select number of startups are admitted into accelerator programs and enjoy the benefits of this unique access, here’s your opportunity to grab some mentor insights.
Today we speak with Mary Lemmer. Mary is an entrepreneur, having been through the trenches, starting, building, and consulting for companies since age fourteen. She is also an Associate for an early stage VC firm, RPM Ventures, and she knows what venture capitalists really look for and the skills necessary to be a venture backed entrepreneur. Mary is actively involved in the entrepreneurial community, advises entrepreneurs, and uses improv to help entrepreneurs improve communication and pitching, among other important skills
What’s the worst mistake a founder can make?
Forgetting the golden rule: “cash is king.” Don’t run out of cash. As a founder and leader of your company, you have a duty to your employees. Be responsible and transparent. In a similar vein, be honest. Lying to yourself and others is one of the worst things you can do, as the false perception can be detrimental to your team, your business, and yourself.
“Thinking” not “knowing.” I see this a lot with companies that are raising money and when telling their stories they “think” people will buy their product or they “think” the market size is $50 billion. Do yourself a favor and don’t think…. know! Run experiments; prove your thoughts are real or not real. Not just for the investors’ ease, but also for yourself and the confidence that what you’re doing is worthwhile.
What does “fail fast” mean to you?
Test something quickly. If it’s not working, cut it off and try something else.
If you could fix one thing in the startup eco-system right now, what would it be?
To inject a shot of reality into it! We read about all the things that go well – companies raise money, hire fantastic people, or are acquired for millions of dollars – but the reality is that most companies don’t raise money, people quit, or doors are closed. Don’t get me wrong, I think the positive press is great, but in skewing the news to include mostly the good, we’re creating a false perception of reality.
What should startups be focusing on in 2013?
Monetizing. Let’s have 2013 be the year of the business model. Find really big problems that people will pay money to solve. Then, solve them and charge people. Novel idea I know.
When’s the right time to seek funding?
Before you need it. Raising money when you’re just about out of cash is not a great idea. Always expect fundraising to take more time. It also helps to really know the microeconomics of your business. Know the “x in = y out” formula for your business because with that you can identify where money needs to be spent to scale the company.
Thoughts on crowd-funding?
It’s either going to work or blow up in our face.
Best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Be yourself. This is the most common advice I receive from people I respect the most, regardless of their ages. It is timeless advice and when I follow it, my life is so much better. When I don’t, well, chaos ensues.
Guess who’s coming for dinner…who would be your dream dinner guest(s) and why?
Tina Fey, because:
- She’s my hero
- We have a lot in common and therefore so much to talk about
- Recreating the scene in “Date Night” where her and Steve Carell create dialogues for other dinner guest = my dinner game of choice
- I have a letter to give her
Anything else you’d like to add?
An improv rule and life mantra: there are no mistakes – only gifts and opportunities. We cannot change the past, but we can learn from it. Take every moment and every experience as an opportunity to learn and grow and you will never make a mistake again.
About WIM Mentor Mary Lemmer:
Mary is an entrepreneur, having been through the trenches, starting, building, and consulting for companies since age fourteen. She is also an Associate for an early stage VC firm, RPM Ventures, and she knows what venture capitalists really look for and the skills necessary to be a venture backed entrepreneur. Mary is actively involved in the entrepreneurial community, advises entrepreneurs, and uses improv to help entrepreneurs improve communication and pitching, among other important skills. Learn more about Mary on her website.