With 28 active companies in its portfolio, and around 10 new ones added each year, it’s about time The Startup Factory duo became a trio.
Founders Chris Heivly and Dave Neal announced today the hiring of their first venture associate, former internship and program director for UNC’s Minor in Entrepreneurship, Lizzy Hazeltine. She’s tasked with helping the growing portfolio of companies meet investors, and helping investors make connections within the TSF portfolio.
Heivly and Neal have been successful so far—graduates since 2012 have raised $4.6 million (10 companies have raised follow-on funds averaging $410K). But they continue to fine-tune the TSF model to better support the companies, and better compete with other accelerators.
Heivly has taken a more public role—writing regular columns for Inc.com, speaking at events around the nation and recently appearing in a nationally-acclaimed Startupland documentary series. For the fall 2014 class, the men changed up their recruitment strategy, mining AngelList for companies that might be a fit for the accelerator. And Demo Days have been scaled back to put less pressure on founders and emphasize relationship-building with investors. Hazeltine’s role represents the recognition that funding continues to be difficult for young companies.
According to Heivly, “the funding world for seed companies continues to feel enormous pressure. This role enables us to compete more effectively.”
Hazeltine’s is a familiar name to any startup that has hired an intern from UNC—she was The Startup Factory’s key contact at UNC for interns before moving into her most recent role. Over time, Heivly and Neal became familiar with her work ethic and passion for entrepreneurs. She also developed a network that extended far beyond UNC as she placed interns in companies around the nation and helped to launch a national Massive Open Online Course called What’s Your Big Idea? with former UNC chancellor (now Washington University provost) Holden Thorp and UNC professor Buck Goldstein.
Hazeltine is from Charleston and the daughter of an entrepreneur. Her mom ran an architectural practice out of the spare room in their house. As a multimedia journalism major at UNC, her internships were for entrepreneurial organizations—the “lovechild” of a Smithsonian Museum and Showtime partnership called The Smithsonian Channel and Awamaki, a startup NGO in Peru. There, she taught computer literacy and conducted research on the organization’s women weavers co-op.
From those experiences, she recognized and appreciated that entrepreneurs got stuff done.
“I’ve seen that many entrepreneurial people tend to embody that sense of impatience for good outcomes,” she says.
She proved she had that same spirit inside of her at UNC, where she became internship director for the e-minor program immediately after her 2011 graduation, and then moved into a role as program director in early 2013. She managed the Innovation Scholars Program, bringing top high school talent or “rabble rousers” to UNC and connecting them with entrepreneurial opportunities.
She also led the effort to create What’s Your Big Idea?, bringing 300 UNC and Washington University students together with online learners around the globe to brainstorm solutions to problems set by professors from the universities and local healthcare entrepreneur Steve Malik. She wanted students to come up with businesses that tackled bigger problems than “a UNC events calendar and a one-for-one t-shirt company that benefited pandas,” she jokes.
Her last project before joining TSF was creating What’s Your Big Idea? 2.0. Ironically enough, it kicks off today on Coursera.
Hazeltine’s new role is similar to her work at UNC in that it “plays on the ability to connect with lots of different people and have an environmental awareness about what people need and want at any given time.” She explains herself as a matchmaker, helping to develop mutually beneficial relationships.
It’s different in that she’s employee No. 1 at a startup, compared to one of thousands at UNC. Profit margins are also a concern for the first time, she says.
It’s only day three for Hazeltine, but she’s already developing a plan of attack. It starts with listening—to learn the goals of the portfolio companies short and long term, the assets of TSF and the interests of angels and VCs, both local and beyond.