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Reflecting today on Startup Runway, it’s surprising to realize the program is less than a year old. It all started when, as an investor building a new venture firm, I became acutely aware of how under-represented women- and minority- led tech startups are. (Here’s more on that.) As a woman founder, that got under my skin.  In 2015, I’d already launched Female Entrepreneurs Magazine to partially address the lack of information faced by under-mentored female founders. As an investor, though, the lack of access to capital for under-represented groups became mission critical.

How can you say you’re doing a great job finding the best deals if you’re not seeing a representative slice of the opportunity?

I reached out to my friend Ryan Wilson at the Gathering Spot–and several more friends after that–to do something about it. With sponsors like the Metro Atlanta Chamber, OnPay, the Atlanta Hawks, Connetic Ventures, and Write2Market, Startup Runway has truly taken off. Over 100 applications came in for our Spring 2017 pitch series.As I we reflecting on the success our founders, our sponsors and our community are accelerating, I came up with three things I’d like you to know—and hopefully share—about Startup Runway:

  • Startup Runway Foundation is a mission-driven nonprofit and  our prize check is strings-free.

    It all started when I became convinced the Innovation Gap could prevent our partnership from seeing best-in-class startups. I decided to do something about it. Other investors are also interested in finding the best seed deals and seeing entrepreneurs of all kinds–especially those they don’t have in their direct networks.

  • What our founders say.

    “We discussed everything from marketing to financials, from finding investors to how to package your company for the best pitch possible. The connections I made are priceless.”–Jennifer Bluemling, Borrowed by Design

    “Quality business advice and access to funds.”–Sasha Cahill, HealthInfoMap

    “The mock board meeting was amazing! Having the opportunity to meet with real life investors willing to give indepth feedback in a low pressure environment is invaluable! I felt like that time was worth a Million bucks.”–Jeannell Darden, Moisture Love

    “Startup Runway helped us to streamline our value proposition. Honestly, the requirement to complete the Executive Summary was very helpful for our fundraising, overall.”-Quinetha Frasier, MyPledger

    If you’d like to support great founders like these,  volunteer with the Foundation.

  • What our investors say:

    “Kudos to Valor and the Startup Runway Team for finding such an incredibly talented team of entrepreneurs. Today’s presentations were by far some of the best I’ve seen in the Atlanta tech start-up scene,” said Ken Grimes, Managing Director at the Black Angel Tech Fund.

  • “Startup Runway offers the opportunity for investors to hear brilliant ideas from new perspectives. It brings together the best and the brightest from all walks of life, and provides the forum for the entire technology ecosystem to engage incredibly unique entrepreneurs.“–Andrew Kangpan, ffVC, New York

    Inquire about joining the Investor-Only Judges Panel here.

Please share Startup Runway with people that matter to you in the innovation economy.

Let’s continue to build the best, most positive, most pay-it-forward, most productive innovation ecosystem in the world, right here in the Southeast. See you at our next Showcase!