FARGO, ND, – Emerging Prairie’s Capital Summit was a thriving success. Entrepreneurs came out of the woodwork to learn the “do’s and don’ts” when starting a company. Founders of a wide range of companies were in attendance, from one-man shows to companies with more than 20 employees.
The event began with speakers, then broke out into founders and investors. The sessions helped to prime both groups for the “hypothetical” funding pitches that concluded the event. Ten start-up companies braved the stage and pitched the idea of their company, boldly asking for assistance raising funds.
Founders and investors alike were raving with the success of the event. Anthony Molzahn, CEO and Co-Founder of AegisFlow stated that there was, “ – an openness toward creating conversation between entrepreneurs and investors. Both parties had a willingness to engage regardless of status to provide insights that are needed for companies to grow and flourish.”
“Be all in. Or get – out.”
– Ben Milne, Founder and CEO of Dwolla.
Keynote speakers included, Howard Morgan, Co-Founder of First Round Capital, Ben Milne, Founder and CEO of Dwolla, and serial entrepreneur Chris Heivly, Co-Founder of MapQuest. Howard Morgan encouraged entrepreneurs to be a part of a network that encourages co-working and finding ways to help one-another out. He shared a story of an individual who needed information to help his business grow, and he only had a few hours. Through the network of founders, he made a few phone calls, one of which was to Germany (where it was 3 AM), he was directed back stateside, and connected with the individuals who helped him solve the issue within two hours. Howard’s takeaway? Be willing to answer that 3 AM call.
Ben Milne began his start-up in Des Moines, IA, he spoke directly to both the entrepreneurs and investors about taking the time to find out who they should work with, and who they could handle working with for the next 10 years. He told the founders, “You can’t get mad at your investors. They are the only people who are literally paying you to follow your passion.” Likewise, to the investors he said, “If you are frustrated with the way the CEOs are handling the company, assume its because they don’t know any better. Help them.” In the small, tight-knit start-up communities like Fargo and Des Moines, investors and founders need to wear many hats, to educate one another, and communicate effectively, his last piece of advice rang out like a command, “Be all in. Or get – out.”
Chris Heivly brought it all together before the breakout sessions. He asked the audience to reflect on when they were 10-years old and they would build forts in the summer. They had a great idea for a fort, gathered some people together who could help, found resources, and built the fort. The same concepts can be applied to a start-up, we as adults simply need to not overthink what can go wrong. Heivly encouraged individuals to go and do. When it comes to finding those resources, like funding, he compared it to marriage. “You didn’t get married the day you met your spouse, did you? No. You dated, you got to know them, then when you knew they’d say yes, you asked.”
All three keynote speakers agreed that the best way to succeed is to “Pay-It-Forward.” Say yes, ask and offer to help, take that 3 AM call, find ways to help others, and it will return ten-fold. The last hour of the event was designated to bringing the entrepreneurs in front of the investors, to allow them to make a short pitch and make a broad introduction. Afterwards, both founders and investors stayed to network and build those connections that Morgan, Milne, and Heivly were talking about.
Jake Joraanstad, CEO and co-Founder of Myriad Mobile concluded that it was, “ –from an entrepreneur’s perspective, fun to see the dynamic between investors and entrepreneurs; the ways their thinking and mindsets differed and found common ground. Exciting things are happening her in Fargo!”
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