By: Geri Stengel
Finding another female-founded tech startup with ambitions to scale in Arizona is like looking for the mythical unicorn, said Vicki Mayo, cofounder of TouchPoint Solution, a wearable technology that reduces the stress response.
So when she heard about Project Entrepreneur’sSummit in Los Angeles, where women entrepreneurs had the chance to connect with one another and workshop their ideas with investors, she jumped for joy. Project Entrepreneur is a partnership between Rent the Runway co-founders Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss and UBS. Both companies are on a mission: to break traditional barriers women face in growing their companies big.
It Pays To Ask
Mayo was brought back down to earth when she tried to sign up. The event was sold out. A very determined woman, she called the organizers to ask if there was any way to make an exception and allow her to attend. She was put on a wait list. Then, a week later, Mayo was told she could attend.
Find A Cofounder With Complementary Skills
Mayo’s 4-year-old daughter suffered from night terrors. One night, after being up all night with her daughter, Mayo called a friend, Amy Serin, a neuropsychologist. As it turned out, Serin was working on technology that helps people reduce their stress and anxiety levels.
Mayo’s daughter tried it that night. Within 30 seconds, she fell asleep. The next day she awoke happy and refreshed.
Mayo told her friend that everyone needs to know about this product. But, as a clinician, this was out of Serin’s area of expertise. Fortunately, it was within Mayo’s skill set since she already had a successful IT company.
Together, they formed TouchPoint Solutions. It uses the the technology Serin developed — Bi-Lateral Alternating Stimulation Tactile (BLAST) stimulation to give users a gentle vibration that affects the brain and alters the body’s fight, flight or freeze response. In addition academic research substantiating the efficacy of the technique, Serin has case studies and her her own research to support her claims about the device.
Raise Money From The Crowd
They raised more than $76,000 on Kickstarter — 508% of their goal — and more than $250,000 on Indiegogo — 953% of their goal.
Don’t Do It Alone
Even when you have a cofounder, you need the support of others. You need to surround yourself with people who understand what you are going through as you start and grow your company. You want people who will be there for the good times, but especially for the lows. You also need people to help you problem-solve. Project Entrepreneur delivered that and more.
Sometimes You Know What You Need, Sometimes You Don’t
When Mayo attended the Project Entrepreneur accelerator program between June and July of this year, she had a very specific goal: Get advice on rebranding. She evaluated her competitors and, with guidance from Angie Hellman, head of product marketing at Rent the Runway, May upgraded her packaging, quick-start guide and messaging. Website conversion doubled.
She also attended a roundtable with Rent the Runway’s CTO, Josh Builder. Because Mayo has her own IT company, she assumed she wouldn’t learn much. Never assume! Just a couple of the insights she gained from Builder:
- If you want to improve customer service and conversion, fully integrate CRM into your automation processes.
- If development of apps are integral to business growth, it’s not “if” you will bring this inside but “when.”
Entrepreneurs Learn From Each Other
Mentorship was just the beginning of Project Entrepreneur’s benefits. Her cohort included two other winners from the pitch event as well as two other women entrepreneurs whose companies were similar to Rent the Runway. The five branded themselves the Fearless Five. Although the accelerator program has ended, the Fearless Five speak twice a month. They have answered Mayo’s questions about selling on Amazon and setting up a subscription service. And of course, Mayo still has the support of Project Entrepreneur.
How will you form a posse to support your entrepreneurial venture? Should Project Entrepreneur be a part of it?