Jenny Fielding, Techstars: “We’re looking for signals based on people and less based on product or technology”

Jenny Fielding, Techstars: “We’re looking for signals based on people and less based on product or technology”

Last week we’ve announced some of the speakers coming to this year’s Lisbon Investment Summit, a list that is going to grow and is going to be released slowly like the band’s announcements from a Summer Festival.

One of the speakers is Jenny Fielding, Managing Director at Techstars, Adjunct Teacher at Columbia and also an Investor. It’s the first time she’s coming to LIS and I had the privilege to talk a little bit with her about her career, women in tech, investments and tips for startups to get acquainted with investors.

Read the whole interview below and make sure you register here for the Lisbon Investment Summit 2018, on June 6-7.

I know you’ve studied Law, how does a lawyer become a Managing Director at Techstars?

I had a rambling career which has taken me through many iterations of myself so after I went to Law School I did a brief stunt in Legal and ended up in Finance where I worked at J&P Morgan. While I was there I developed a concept for a startup, the idea was based on a need that I had personally and I ended up joining forces with two technologists and starting a company. It was the highlight of my life and the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

What are the challenges women face in tech and venture?

The framework of my life and career has never been that anything would hold me back and I never really put my career in that light of gender. However, women are subjected to bias more regularly in tech mostly because we’re minorities, the thing that you really have to look out for is the unconscious bias because it’s more endemic and we have to be very aware of as we’re building companies that don’t necessarily have gender parity.

You’re also an investor and you’ve already invested in a portuguese startup, right? How did it happen?

It’s right. They’re a great company in Lisbon called Muzzley and were pretty much pioneers of consumer IoT. I was introduced to them as they were thinking about what their international expansion would be and also what their B2B and industrial footprint would be. And the program I was running at the time was focused on industrial IoT so it was a great fit.

Do you keep in contact with the startups you’ve invested in?

Yes, 100%. Any investors commitment when they invest in a company is to be with them for life and we know the venture cycle is at least 10 years so when you make an investment it’s a long term commitment. And that’s what’s really exciting, you’re building a long relationship.

Could you give us any tips on how to build relationships to win?

Entrepreneurs think about what’s right ahead of them, they’re very tactical, it’s like “I need to raise money so I’m going to call some VC’s”, but what you really need to do is develop relationships and those relationships can take months and years to build. I definitely recommend that startups that aren’t even thinking about raising money start getting acquainted with the investor community and really start getting to know those people as people, because that’s really how we invest in the early stage, we’re looking for signals based on people and less based on product or technology. It’s never too early.

We now come across startups looking for 6 million rounds without a previous investment, which was rare a couple of years ago. Did ambition grow or the market changed?

It’s ambitious but some verticals require more capital, something like energy, for example, especially if there’s going to be a hard work component or an industrial component can definitely take more capital. But I think what we’ve seen as a successful cadence is that companies raise capital in sequence and they’re able to hit milestones. That’s one of the things we help with at Techstars and through my investing career is “how much can you do with how little?” You start with a little amount, get to the next milestone and then think about your next raise as opposed to going out to the market just trying to raise a massive number. It used to be your friends and family (money) and then series A and now we’re seeing probably three rounds in between that.

I read this article on Crunchbase that said that startups keep choosing bad names, does it have an influence?

At the end of the day if you have a great product that’s gonna win, but I think startups and founders get discouraged because they’re looking for the perfect URL. I always say: base your company on the name that really resonates with you and worry about the domain later because there’s always ways to solve through that, so find the name that really represents you, your product, your vision, what you stand for and go from there.

What are the Venture Capital investments in 2018?

I think we’ll see more on Autonomous that’s obviously tight in to AI and I don’t think that’s going away anytime soon, Healthcare is an area that’s really starting to step up and take the reins on, those are the two areas we’re going to see more of. Also, we’re hearing a lot about Spacetech, for a long time that was something that was pretty expensive, but now there’s a lot of interest in it so we’re going to see more areas around that.

What do you think about Lisbon Startup Scene?

I visited in December for the first time in quite a while and I was just blown away by what was going on there, just in terms of all the different types of companies, the different verticals, the different resources that are available, the government incentives, the capital that is coming in. It’s following a similar pattern that I saw with Berlin and it’s so exciting so I can’t wait to spend more time and really dig in the summer.

If an entrepreneur wants to reach out to you at Lisbon Investment Summit what do you recommend?

They should just contact me directly, come grab me on the panel or tweet to me on Twitter (@jefielding). I think that’s what’s so great about conferences outside my hometown, it’s a great opportunity to have some one-on-one time with people that you may not be able to get to all the time. I look forward for that.

Want to have some one-on-one time with Jenny? The make sure you register here and join us for another edition of the Lisbon Investment Summit this June 6-7.