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Who Are You? – An Entrepreneur’s Toughest Question


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Entrepreneur Roundtable hosted another evening of business advice and pitches at Microsoft’s offices, with a focus on telling the story of why your startup matters– specifically to investors. The program’s guest speakers were the founders of startup accelerator Women Innovate Mobile: Deborah Jackson, Kelly Hoey, and Veronika Sonsev, all of whom were eager to hear from New York’s brightest would-be business breakthroughs.

After brief introductions, the WIM founders elaborated on how they entered the business themselves while deciding to champion more women to do the same. “This is a community. You can’t do anything by yourself,” said Jackson, as the trio reflected on building WIM in light of the uncertainty regarding success and change in the startup space. WIM continually looks to support that sense of community in LoMa and beyond by funding diverse, women-led teams innovating in mobile technologies. They coached the evening’s group of startup hopefuls on what they needed to remember in pitching their products, underscoring the importance of problem-solving, monetization, and identity.

Liz Entin’s plan is to bring diversity to the fashion world with her social shopping network, Runway Passport. Playing on the consumer’s thrill of wearing an international brand, Entin and her team of global curatorial bloggers look to break the vise grip major fashion names have on the industry by promoting partnerships with taste-making local designers worldwide. After Entin’s presentation, Hooey emphasized the importance of promoting the team behind Runway Passport and the core mechanics of how customers used the product, in order to better convey the purpose it serves to investors.

Abiodun Johnson, whose seemingly boundless smart-tagging service, CoSign, rewards users for referring tagged items in viral media, succinctly explained how his product was different from market competitors: by allowing for a greater variety of goods to be tagged, with a wider range of mobile and stationary devices. The panel asked if Johnson might have been playing too broadly by not focusing on one consumer niche for the system, and asked him to elaborate on CoSign’s promotional goals. Hooey had mentioned earlier in the evening that startup support like angel funding isn’t “revenue,” per se. When celebrity endorsements were mentioned, she advised that entrepreneurs shouldn’t state that they will reach out to the community, but  rather elaborate on how that outreach will be employed.

Understanding one’s own brand identity and validating it was one of the themes of the night’s pitch coaching. Natasha Marra McCabe and Adam McCabe co-founders of edPeople.com, a professional social network for teachers, wanted to provide an alternative to LinkedIn and NYC’s nebulous public school job application processes. As two teachers clearly addressing a niche problem, they’re offering a better-tailored solution, with the purpose of modernizing the application and referral process, ultimately helping teachers find the right jobs faster.

Personal experiences and their resulting epiphanies often sow the seeds for a good startup (and story). It’s sometimes difficult to articulate, but Hoey, Jackson, and Sonsev, demonstrated that all your bases, however small they might seem in light of the end-goal, must be covered in order to turn your story into a viable business, and hopefully one with a happy end result.

For full coverage of tech events in New York, visit The Watch.

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About the author: Andrew Marinaccio

Andrew Marinaccio is a recent graduate from State University of New York College at Purchase where he was the editor-at-large for The Beat, the college’s first arts magazine. Andrew has previously interned at the Brooklyn Vegan and is a Bronx native.

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