Mergelane Blog

Broadening the On-ramp for Women-run Companies

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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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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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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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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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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Raising Money Is Hard for Everyone But Harder if Rationalizations are Trumping Self-inquiry

If you're relying on rationalizations for why you're not raising, you're missing excellent insights

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It Has Been a Great Few Weeks for the MergeLane Fund

It has been a great few weeks for the MergeLane fund. When people ask us what our criteria are for investments, we always talk about team as the distant number one priority. I wanted to share this recent, wonderful interchange with TomboyX after a great week for them:

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Why Are Men “Incredibly Moving” and Women “Distraught?”

How the media (and more) judges emotion in leadership differently between men and women, and the costs of those judgments.

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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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Conscious Leadership Camp is Going Gender-free

After years of running women's Conscious Leadership Camps, all programming is now for everyone

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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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A Prescription for a "Quiet Day" for an Entrepreneur

Want to take a day and bookmark a big win? Here are a few ideas and groundrules

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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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Are Your One-on-One Meetings with Direct Reports Feeling Stale? Add Conscious Leadership …

Dennis Adsit of Adsum Insights guest blogs about turning your one-on-ones from pedestrian checklist run-throughs to opportunities for connection and growth.

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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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7 Ways Conscious Leaders Give Feedback From Presence vs. Reactivity

MergeLane CEO, Sue Heilbronner, gives tips on giving feedback from presence.

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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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The Best Mentor/Advisor Question I’ve Ever Been Asked

Our co-founder Sue Heilbronner shared her thoughts on the best mentor/advisor question she’s ever been asked

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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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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 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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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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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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Podcast with Seth Levine of Foundry Group: One “Middle-aged Guy’s” Reaction to Sexual Harassment in Venture

Hear MergeLane’s Sue Heilbronner and Foundry Group’s Seth Levine in an open and intimate discussion of the sexual harassment news that emerged from Silicon Valley over the last two months. Seth has been an instrumental advisor and personal investor in MergeLane since day one. Foundry has made...

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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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Introducing “The Booth” with Sue Heilbronner — It’s Worth a Shot (figuratively…or literally)

If you know me personally or through my blog or Facebook, you know that I grapple with how to balance my life with the number of requests I get for in-person meetings. I’ve written about this before, but it was time for a new plan. I’ve landed on a new approach. The issue is that there…

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Mentoring Young Women to Empower the Next Generation of Leaders

In our best efforts to guide youth to becoming meaningful leaders in their lives, we can employ many useful tools which bolster future opportunities. Empowerment, perseverance, confidence and an entrepreneurial spirit are important notions for all kids to have in their back pockets...

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Becoming a Woman (at 35)

This post was originally published on Elephant Journal. I recently finished reading The Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton. In the book, Glennon talks about sexiness. She starts by talking about the conventional sexy that most of us can agree on (with some standard deviations). She goes on to...

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A Day in the Life of a MergeLane Cohort Company

It’s Week 8 in MergeLane’s 2017 accelerator, the third in a series that began in 2015. We do a mid-program in-person week, and so this week our cohort companies from around the US and Canada returned to Boulder to connect with mentors, investors, our team and each other. This is the homestretch...

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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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MergeLane’s Third Accelerator Cohort Has It All

It is that time again. The moment when we have the privilege of sharing our upcoming accelerator cohort with the world. We are happy to announce the third MergeLane Accelerator class that will begin on February 12th. We are thrilled to add these exemplary nine companies with at least one female...

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Bold Summer: MergeLane Leadership Camp for High School Girls

Just like we believe that investing in women-led companies isn’t just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do, we believe that investing in girls is key to #ChangingTheRatio. According to the White House, “Ensuring that a nation’s girls are educated unlocks human potential...

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Shop Women Leaders Wednesday: The First Annual MergeLane Holiday Gift Guide

It seems every day between Thanksgiving and the Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanza trifecta now has an alliterative theme, so as of now “Shop Women Leaders Wednesday” is a thing. I’ve looked high and low, I have scoured the landscape of possible gift recommendations...

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Wendy Lea, CEO of Cintrifuse, A Manifester, Bridge Builder, and Wildly Introspective Leader

Wendy Lea has had a lifetime of high-profile successes in building successful businesses. Leaving Get Satisfaction after years as CEO, Wendy was lured to Cincinnati to develop and grow an enduring business ecosystem that brings together startups, bigcos, government nonprofits, neighborhoods...

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MergeLane: A Game Changer for TomboyX

This is a guest post by Fran Dunaway, CEO of TomboyX, a graduate of the MergeLane 2015 Accelerator. TomboyX manufactures and sells clothing and accessories by and for “tomboys.” Over the last year we’ve learned we are more than just a great brand. Our MergeLane experience was a game changer.

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MergeLane Came at the Perfect Time for Silicon Valley-based Mapistry

This is a guest blog post by Allie Janoch, CEO of Mapistry, MergeLane Alumni 2015. Mapistry, a 2015 MergeLane alumni, is in the business of industrial stormwater. We’ve created an easy to use and affordable software to combat the challenges of stormwater regulations.

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MergeLane’s High Expectations Help BallotReady Bring Non-Partisan Voter Guides to this Election

This is a guest post by Alex Niemczewski, CEO of BallotReady, a graduate of the 2016 MergeLane accelerator. BallotReady is an online non-partisan voter guide that helpers voters make informed decisions all the way down the ballot. If you live in Illinois, Colorado, California, New York, Ohio...

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The Startup Dilemma: Do We Have Time to Accelerate? MergeLane is a Yes

This is a guest post by Ann Stewart Zachwieja, COO of Globig. a MergeLane 2016 Accelerator participant. Those of you leading a startup will recognize the driving pace. There is no such thing as a 40-hour schedule or free weekends. You solve problems in your dreams, Slack ideas to your teammates...

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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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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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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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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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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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Turning the Tables: Elizabeth Kraus Interviews Sue Heilbronner, Co-Founders of MergeLane

This episode of the Real Leaders podcast features Elizabeth Kraus and Sue Heilbronner, co-founders of MergeLane, the investment fund and accelerator targeting companies with at least one female in leadership. Here Elizabeth turns the tables on Real Leaders Host Sue by asking her about her goals...

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New Lifetime Policy: A Money-Back Guarantee on Everything

This post, written by MergeLane co-founder Sue Heilbronner, first appeared at her site. This policy also applies to all MergeLane activities, including our November Women’s Leadership Camp. We wanted to be sure to share her thinking (our thinking) here as well. As of today, I’m formally enacting...

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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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2017 MergeLane Startup Accelerator Applications Are Open

MergeLane, the accelerator and fund for high-growth startups with at least one woman in leadership, is now accepting applicants for its 2017 accelerator. This program will pair a select cohort of startups with industry-leading mentors and CEO coaches to dramatically increase the startups’ growth...

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MergeLane Startup Accelerator Wins Second $50,000 SBA Growth Award

MergeLane is a winner of the $50,000 Small Business Association’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition for 2016 for the second year in a row. The SBA today announced a total of $3.4 million in federal awards for startup accelerators who are making an impact to an underserved market or population...

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Azure Antoinette’s MergeLane Demo Day Opening Poem: “Ordinary” Has Never Been My Goal

2016 Demo Day was kicked off by the formidable, brilliant, and inspiring poet Azure Antoinette. We hope this poem helps to keep you going when your entrepreneurial journey gets tough.

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Are Women Really Producing a Better Bottom Line?

MergeLane was established on a simple principle: investing in women is not only the right thing to do – it is the smart thing to do. In the time I’ve been working with MergeLane, I’ve researched over 1,600 companies with at least one woman in leadership. I have watched our startup...

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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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MergeLane Announces New Innovation Camp – Apply Now

Most transformative ideas over the past 15 years have come from startups. The freedom to experiment creatively and to fail quickly produces true disruption. Leveraging combined decades of experience by the MergeLane founders in working with leaders on innovation, MergeLane is launching a new...

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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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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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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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MergeLane Halftime(ish) Report

It’s hard to believe, but we are in Week 8 of the 12-week inaugural MergeLane program. We could not be more delighted with how things are going, and we could not be more appreciative of all of your support. Here are the highlights numerically:

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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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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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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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MergeLane Accelerator Announces 2016 Startup Cohort

The accelerator for companies with at least one female in leadership welcomes a dynamic batch of new companies. MergeLane, the investment accelerator for companies with at least one female in leadership, today announced its 2016 cohort of ten exceptional startups. MergeLane’s 2016 program...

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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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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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MergeLane Runs on Conscious Leadership

There are a number of unique things about MergeLane – the venture fund we launched in 2014. We increasingly think that one of our key unfair advantages is that MergeLane runs on principles of Conscious Leadership.

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The Application for MergeLane 2016 is Open – Apply

Today we opened the application for the second class of the MergeLane accelerator. Our 2016 class — starting on February 1, 2016 – will comprise 10 fantastic startups with least one female in leadership. We could not be more excited about meeting these entrepreneurs.

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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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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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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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What You Need to Know to Apply to the 2016 MergeLane Class

With our first program complete, we are excited to put our attention on next year and our second startup cohort. We are hearing from startups all over the world about their interest in our next program. We meet them at our QuickPitch events, and we will be meeting more at MergeLane event...

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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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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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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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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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Hey Silicon Valley VCs: We’ve Got 8 Female-led Startups Right Here

We hear it all the time from Silicon Valley VC firms, corporate boards, and the C-suite. It goes something like this: “We WANT to have more women in our ranks, but we just can’t find enough great candidates.” The perception on diversity in pipelines is entrenched, and so long as the seekers...

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Hey Women: Take up More Space and Ask Brilliant Questions

I woke up in the middle of the night last night – a night that falls toward the end of the inaugural class in the MergeLane accelerator for companies with at least one female leader. Things have gone well. Eight diverse and talented companies that cut across tech, consumer web, and consumer...

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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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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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A Love Letter to MergeLane’s Sponsors

Startup accelerators are growing in numbers in the US and the world. I’m not going to bore you with the granular details of the economics of these programs. Generally the objective is as follows: Make great investments in great companies Offer something special enough to the community that...

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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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2015 MergeLane Team Announcement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE MergeLane Accelerator Announces First Class of Women-led Startups Diverse cohort includes tech, consumer web, and products companies with at least one female founder Boulder, CO – January 27, 2014: MergeLane, an accelerator that targets women-led startups, announced their...

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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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How the First “Yes” Changes the Game for Entrepreneurs – Especially for Women

Today is the first day after applications closed for our initial cohort at the MergeLane accelerator for female-led companies. There is far more to do, but I awoke this morning at 4:30am in the quiet space of reflection. The last six months of nurturing the idea for this concept have called to...

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Considering the MergeLane Accelerator? Just apply, D#&@it!

MergeLane – the accelerator designed for companies with at least one woman in leadership – is in the homestretch of the application period. We want to give companies that have considered applying one more big push. Because we have learned that female entrepreneurs are their own best critics...

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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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This Female-focused Accelerator is Not the Junior League

My business partner Elizabeth and I have written about our path to founding MergeLane – our new accelerator focused on women-led companies. You can read my origin story here and Elizabeth’s on this blog. We have become very comfortable with our roles in birthing this new program, although we...

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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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MergeLane Monday(s) Starts October 20th

Eager to learn more about the new MergeLane accelerator program that starts on February 2, 2015? We are eager for you to learn about it as well. And we’re looking forward to meeting you. Join us for an evening info session — MergeLane Monday — in Boulder, Colorado. The first MM is October 20th at…

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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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