MIT Enterprise Forum Presents Funding Startups to Flourish

Despite the pandemic the world is going through, local investors are still looking for start-up businesses to invest in and help flourish. 

That was the message a “Startups: Funding to Flourish” panel sent at an Oct. 21 Central Coast MIT Enterprise Forum Virtual discussion moderated by Jason Spievak, co-founder and managing director of Entrada Ventures. 

Panelist Brett Queener, partner at Bonfire Ventures, said COVID-19 could actually accelerate hiring as business moves more into the digital world. However, he said investors like him are not just looking for ideas. 

“We are investing in founders not ideas … nothing replaces energy and soul as founders,” he said. 

Queener admitted entrepreneurs trying to raise funds must get used to hearing “no” and not take it personally, even though it might feel like that. 

Agreeing with him was panelist Andres Forsland, founder and CEO of the Santa Barbara-based tech company Cognixion, which builds accessible and affordable software and wearables that use sensors to help people with disabilities use their face, eyes and brain to communicate. 

“Get used to hearing no,” said Forsland, who noted that his startup has raised more than $5.5 million along with some grants. “No means not now.” 

Spievak, who may be best known for his work at Invoca, said it’s about enthusiasm, not capital and finding how to connect with venture capitalists. 

Panelist Haley Pavone, founder and CEO of UCSB startup Pashion Footwear, said venture capitalists who put in money into a startup want more of it. “It’s a part of life; expect to hear from them,” but not so much with her initial smaller investors, she said. 

As an investor, Spievak said the biggest turnoff is ego. He said he doesn’t like someone who thinks he or she has it all figured out. Most of all, he said startups should avoid changing their chief executives when seeking investors. 

Other panelists included Elizabeth Cholawsky, CEO of HG Insights and Dan Engel, founder and managing partner of Santa Barbara Venture Partners. 

Posted Oct. 22, 2020.

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