Broadening the On-ramp for Women-run Companies

Author:

Elizabeth Kraus

Elizabeth Kraus

I am the co-founder of MergeLane, an accelerator for women-led startups, and the Impact Angel Group, an angel investment group equally dedicated to making a difference and realizing a return. I started my career as an intern for a fast growing startup and have been founding, consulting for and investing in startups ever since. I am an active angel investor, startup mentor and advisor, and am very active in the state and national effort to improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem and mobilize angel investors.

Posts by:

Elizabeth Kraus

Why My Day in the Woods Was My Most Productive Work Day Yet

I am extremely disciplined and focused. However, this can also be a detriment. Anything I perceive as a distraction from my to-do list feels stressful, and I have to constantly tell myself that off-the-to-do-list opportunities are often the best opportunities. I was recently reminded of that.

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Episode #10: Lessons from 300+ Venture Capital Fund Pitches

For the final episode of Fund81's first season, I interviewed Jaclyn Freeman Hester from Foundry Group. As someone relatively new to the industry, she has a fresh perspective on what's compelling to institutional investors and an incredible pulse on the landscape for emerging VC managers. Enjoy!

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Shedding My Commitment to the Conventional Schedule

Could I be more effective if I simply surrendered to a schedule that felt natural to me? After some serious self-reflection and experimentation, I can unequivocally say YES.

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How I'm Doing Less to Achieve More

I’m trying to focus my time on opportunities to operate in my zone of genius and a few select priority areas in line with my passions and in which I feel I can make the most impact, aka my true north. To help all of us stay the course, I thought it might be helpful to share those priorities. ‍

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When Giving First Gets to Be Too Much

I gave first without question for almost five years. It came back to me in spades. I don’t regret it, and I think it was exactly the right thing for me to do at the time. But then….it just got to be too much.

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Episode #9 - Cryptocurrency Venture Investing: The Questions Every VC Should Ask Before Making a Crypto Investment

Dave Balter, the CEO of one of our MergeLane portfolio companies, Flipside Crypto, shares his perspective on investing in the cryptocurrency space. Dave is obsessed with and extremely knowledgeable about cryptocurrency, and has an interesting perspective from both sides of the table.

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Episode #8: Why Ownership Matters in Venture Investing with FirstMark's Amish Jani

Most venture capital funds target a minimum ownership percentage when making investments. In this Fund81 episode, Amish Jani, a founder and Managing Director of FirstMark Capital, shares his take on why ownership matters and how funds of different sizes and strategies determine ownership targets.

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Episode #7: Venture Capital Liquidity: Innovative Solutions for Today and the Future

Venture capital funds are typically structured to have a 10-year lifespan, but venture-backed companies often take more than 10 years to achieve an exit and return capital to their investors. In this Fund81 podcast episode, we discuss solutions to this problem with our our guest, Roland Reynolds.

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How 75 Ski Days Made Me a Better Venture Capitalist

This year, I decided to do an experiment. To build our MergeLane investor and mentor network, I dedicated four months to exclusively focus on meetings that involved skiing.

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Episode #6: Using Conscious Leadership to Be a Better VC

Conscious Leadership has been a game-changer for our partnership and our investing. For this Fund81 podcast interview, I invited my business partner at the MergeLane venture fund for high-potential startups with at least one woman in leadership, Sue Heilbronner, to talk about Conscious Leadership.

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Episode #5 | Venture Fund Terms 201

Gaining an understanding of venture fund legal terms can be a bit like learning a foreign language. In this episode, my guest, Mark Weakley, helps us navigate some of the more complicated terms commonly seen in venture fund legal documents.

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Why I Am Going to Break More Commitments in 2018

I cannot think of a commitment my mother has ever broken. The importance she places on her commitments is one of her best qualities. I am proud that I inherited this quality. However, my goal for 2018 is to actually allow myself to break a few commitments.

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Episode #4 | The Introverted VC with Google Ventures and Section 32 Founder, Bill Maris

In this podcast, I spoke with Bill Maris, the founder of Google Ventures (GV) and Section 32, who happens to be an introvert. I am also an introvert and have been doing a lot of thinking about how my introversion plays into my life as a venture capitalist. We explore this topic in this episode.

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Fund81 Episode #3: The Generalist vs the Specialist VC with Nick Moran

Venture Capitalists are increasingly looking for ways to differentiate themselves and produce better returns. One popular path to this is specialization according to geography, industry sector, etc. Nick Moran, GP at New Stack Ventures and host of the Full Ratchet podcast, shares his insights.

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Fund81 Episode #2: Venture Fund Terms 101

Venture fund legal terms can sound a bit like a foreign language to new venture capitalists and venture fund investors. In this Fund81 podcast episode, Liz Meade, a new angel investor considering venture fund investments, interviews me to decode some of the lingo in venture fund offering agreements.

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Startup Investing | My Favorite First Meeting Questions

As an early-stage startup investor, I like to use the first meeting to ask some fairly unconventional qualitative questions. Here are 18 of my favorites.

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Fund81 | My New Podcast for Venture Capitalists

I’m excited to announce the launch of my Fund81 podcast for VCs. Fund81 is a podcast for the next generation of venture capital. As a general partner of the MergeLane venture fund and your host at Fund81, I'll tackle specific questions commonly asked by venture fund managers.

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MergeLane Launches Accelerator for Women-Led Businesses

We are excited to announce that MergeLane will be accepting its first class of women-led startups in February of 2015. After years of running, mentoring and investing in startups, Sue Heilbronner saw a need for this and I am so thankful she convinced me to join her. After becoming increasingly...

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Why I’m Investing in More Women

I’ve always been hesitant to identify myself as a “female” entrepreneur or angel investor and I’ve never gravitated toward women’s groups. There are a lot of reasons why, but it’s mostly because I’ve been afraid of marginalizing myself as a business person by doing so. Despite this however, I am...

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Should a Company that Has Raised an Angel Round Join an Accelerator?

I recently met with one of the female CEOs in whom I’ve invested to encourage her to apply for the MergeLane accelerator. I encouraged her to apply because she is an exceptional entrepreneur who has been making impressive progress with her business. She asked me a great question: “As an investor...

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When Slowing Down Helps You Go Faster

I finished my first Half Ironman when I was 22 years old and it was a huge feat for me. I have zero natural athletic talent, so I had to train twice as hard, be twice as disciplined and stay twice as focused as my training buddies. But crossing the finish line made it all…

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The Mentee Decree

As I’m sure many of you have seen, David Cohen’s “Mentor Manisfesto” is a great set of guidelines for mentors. It’s been very helpful to me in my journey as a mentor and it’s certainly helped us recruit mentors for MergeLane. However, I had an experience the other day that inspired me to...

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The Art of Playful Accountability for Big Rocks

Every week during our accelerator program, the teams have to choose a “Big Rock” goal for the week. If they don’t meet that goal, they have to do something like sing karaoke during our team meeting or tell an embarrassing childhood story. The MergeLane team plays too. Since we’re trying to help...

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How to Get an Angel Investor to Answer a Meeting Request

I, like many active angel investors, receive several meeting requests a day from companies looking for angel funding. As I was going through my inbox today, I started thinking about what separates the best meeting requests from the rest of the pack. When deciding to answer an email from an...

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How to Ask for an Angel Investor Intro

I am asked to make an introduction to people in my network several times per day, but unfortunately, I can’t say yes to most of these requests. I thought it might be helpful to share why. Here it goes: My intros are a reflection on me. Because of this, I typically only make intros when…

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MergeLane Demo Day | The Compliments that Made Me Cry

I hate crying almost as much as I hate being labeled as a “female entrepreneur” or a “female investor.” Both of these things make me feel weak and vulnerable, as if I’m somehow not strong enough to play in the major leagues. But if there is one thing I’ve learned on this incredible ride of…

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The Metrics Every Entrepreneur Should Know by Heart

Most startup investors look for entrepreneurs who know their business inside and out. Historical financials are rarely a good predictor of future startup success, but entrepreneurs’ understanding of their financials and key metrics can be. In helping our MergeLane teams prepare for Demo Day last...

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Join MergeLane on 6/26: Lessons in Tech Recruiting and Lunch at Google

The shortage of tech talent is a challenge for perhaps every company with which I’ve worked. Since this is a constant topic of conversation not only among startups, but companies at every stage, MergeLane has invited experts from three innovative companies at totally different growth stages to...

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What Types of Companies Do Angel Investors Fund?

Entrepreneurs often ask me: what kinds of companies are likely to be funded by angel investors? Because angel investors are individuals and all individuals are different, it’s really hard to answer this question. However, from my experience reviewing thousands of angel investment opportunities...

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A Slide by Slide Guide to a Killer Investor Pitch

I’ve seen thousands of entrepreneurs pitch in dozens of different pitch formats, but the following is the format I’d recommend. I’ve compiled this through my own experience as an investor, the best of the existing resources I found, and input from several angel investors.

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Dating Ring, Kindara and Havenly Founders Talk Accelerators: MergeLane Onramp Live

MergeLane is launching Onramp Live to share fantastic insight from startup mentors, angel investors, VCs and exceptional leaders. We’re kicking this off with an interactive online discussion with the founders of Dating Ring (as featured on Gimlet’s StartUp Podcast, Y Combinator Grad), Kindara...

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What Is an Accelerator and Is It Right for Your Startup?

As a mentor for several accelerators, an investor in accelerator participants, and the co-founder of MergeLane, an accelerator for high-growth startups with at least one woman in leadership, I often find myself explaining the ins and outs of startup accelerators. I recently invited...

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5 Things Every AngelList Profile Should Include

In preparation for our next MergeLane accelerator class, we’ve been searching high and low to find the most promising startups with at least one woman in leadership. As of today, I have reviewed over 1100 AngelList profiles. By the 527th profile, this admittedly became a bit tedious, but it was...

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My Top 10 Favorite Angel Investor Questions

The only thing I know for certain about early-stage companies is that there will be uncertainty. Even the best opportunities often twist, turn and pivot thousands of times before they produce a return for their investors. As an angel and the Chief Investment Officer at MergeLane, I focus most of...

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How to Choose the Best Lawyer for Your Startup

As an active angel investor and co-founder of the MergeLane accelerator, I am asked to recommend startup lawyers almost once a week. Many of these requests come from companies that have been working with a friend or family friend, or a reduced cost attorney. Those lawyers may not have...

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The Definitive Guide to Startup Valuation

The valuations set for each round of financing can have significant consequences for startup investors and entrepreneurs. Thanks to new and improved startup resources, it’s now much easier to understand how high startups can value their company. However, the question of how high a startup should...

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A Template for Startup Investment Wire Instructions

I frequently find that entrepreneurs fail to provide all of the information I need to execute a wire to invest in their company. To save time and hassle for entrepreneurs and startup investors everywhere, I’ve created a simple template. See below or download this word doc. You’re welcome.

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The Close: How to Actually Accept an Angel Investment

As an active angel investor and the co-founder of MergeLane, an accelerator and fund focused on companies with at least one woman in leadership, I’ve made 24 investments over the past year. All 24 of those entrepreneurs followed different investment-closing processes, many of which created...

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How Techstars, Foundry, Startup Week and MergeLane Walk the Walk on Startup Diversity

I was recently asked to speak at two Boulder Startup Week sessions on startup diversity to provide my perspective as a female investor with experience investing in women-led companies. Admittedly, when I was asked to speak on these topics, I was a little miffed. Two more invitations to speak...

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31 Investor Questions Startups Should Be Prepared to Answer

As an active angel investor, former angel group leader, and the co-founder of MergeLane, an accelerator and fund for high-growth startups with at least one woman in leadership, I’ve heard thousands of investors ask tens of thousands of questions. I’ve also learned that startups’ answers to these...

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Capital Raised to Date? How Investors Should Ask and Entrepreneurs Should Answer This Question

The amount of money a company raises to finance its operation is an important metric, but I’ve learned that entrepreneurs and investors often calculate this differently. We recently sent out our quarterly survey to the 25 investments we’ve made through the MergeLane accelerator and fund...

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Churn: The Churn Rate Formula and Definition

Churn Rate is a metric for measuring retention. It is commonly used for both employee and customer retention. In the context of startups, the term is most frequently used when discussing customer retention. As a customer retention metric, it is like MRR, in that it is only applicable to companies...

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Repurchase Rate: The MRR of Non-SaaS Startups

Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) is perhaps the most-referenced startup metric, but MRR is only applicable to companies that provide services to their customers through an ongoing contractual relationship, e.g., SaaS businesses (For more on MRR, read my previous post: MRR – The Definition...

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The Startup Metrics Cheat Sheet: How to Calculate What You Are Expected to Know

This post is the fifth in a series summarizing guidance for how to calculate key metrics for startups. This series focuses on the metrics that are the most critical for entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capitalists. These critical Key Performance Indicators for startups...

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Please, Mr. Trump, Stop Calling This “Locker Room Talk”

Dear Mr. Trump, Thanks to the hard work of many before me, I, an entrepreneur born in the same year as your daughter Ivanka, have grown up believing I could do everything my brother could do. I’ve never really felt the weight of the glass ceiling. I co-founded MergeLane, an accelerator...

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An Apology to the Generations of Women Before Me and a Bold Ask of Dr. Madeleine Albright

I had the opportunity to meet the former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright last week. The experience made me realize that I’ve taken the opportunities paved by generations of women before me for granted. To Dr. Albright, the grandmother I never knew, and the women and supportive men...

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Before You Even Think About Raising Money, Read This

At MergeLane, we (and most of the startup investors I know) subscribe to the philosophy that startup success is determined by team, team, team, market and idea, in that order. We look for incredibly tenacious founders with a track record of making the seemingly impossible possible, a deep passion...

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Dear Venture Capital, Thanks for your offer to “protect” me. I really just want you to value me.

I have felt strangely turned off by the recent conversation about sexual harassment in venture capital, and I finally understand why. For me, the commentary over the last few weeks has been a painful reminder that I might be seen as the weaker species.

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Organizing Your Docs to Prep for Investor Due Diligence

Paying legal fees and organizing paperwork are not typically entrepreneurs’ favorite things to do. However, getting things in order now will help you avoid headaches in the future like tracking down a signature from an investor hiking in Peru with a 24-hour deadline for an acquisition offer...

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