By Candace Mitchell, CEO of Myavana
It was the start of the new year and I was just getting settled in from relocating back to Philadelphia from Atlanta after an awesome experience in the DreamIt Ventures Fall 2014 class. Never would I have thought that a week later I’d be heading out to Silicon Valley to pitch investors about my company,Myavana. But that’s just how Patrick Fitzgerald rolls. Patrick was our Managing Director and when he has something in mind, he gets up and gets it done. So while it was typical, I was still blown away to see a list of over 20 venture firms invited to our demo day-style presentation. I knew this was an opportunity I had to hop on quickly. When would there be another time to command this type of audience along with the whole DreamIt Network behind me? I saw the value in forming new relationships and had my flight booked within a few hours.
Then began the incessant research on all these firms in addition to other potential investors to either invite or connect with. I was strategizing for the rest of the week—since we were heading to the Bay Area about four days after Patrick invited us. During that time I read a quote that said it best, “Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.” Success also meets those who have the courage to go for it! So while my company is unique, I knew we were on to something big and just had to get in front of the right person.
Myavana is tackling a gigantic market—a $500 billion hair industry in which we’ve discovered the secret sauce to spark innovation and solve the personalized hair needs that many consumers have. We just spent the past three months working hard, validating our assumptions, and rolled out a new consumer technology that the hair industry has never seen before. It’s a market that’s ripe for disruption and we wanted to continue riding the momentum of last year’s success. I was more than ready to get out there and tap into new circles of funding, expertise, and experience, especially for consumer focused startups.
With all this preparation, I decided to stay out in the Bay Area for a full week to make the most of the opportunity. The week began with a VC meeting in Menlo Park, then off to Charles River Ventures where the DreamIt presentations took place. During my strategizing leading up to the trip, I uncovered an email chain with a VC at Charles River Ventures that I met early in my career at a Women 2.0 conference in New York City. What a coincidence on how things come full circle! It was the perfect opportunity to reach back out to inform her of my trip back to the Valley, but this time with a live product out in the market, thousands of users, early revenue, a rockstar team, and many product iterations. Investors LOVE to see traction, progress, validation, and also perseverance. I was also able to connect with several others who have supported our company in our early stages of growth.
Patrick hosted a great presentation day for the seven DreamIt companies that ventured out west—Myavana, Bestimators, Spot It Buy It, Right Hire, Baloonr, Converg, and Pico. Many of us were in fundraising mode and we left with a thicker rolodex than what we had started with. The investors, partners, and associates that attended asked great questions, indicating their level of interest. For investors who could not attend, we were connected virtually and scheduled follow-up calls. (I actually just had one earlier today!) DreamIt’s adventure to Silicon Valley was an awesome experience because the fundraising process can take forever, especially if you’re a minority or female in the industry. But, if you have the right network and right strategy, everything you need will be right at your fingertips.
That’s been the greatest strength of the DreamIt program and is evident in the leaps (and flights) they take to open doors for the companies that come through the accelerator. It also was a terrific way to start off the year as an official DreamIt Alum. Recently, someone asked me how life felt after DreamIt, and my reply was, “It feels the same. I’m still hustling! But if there’s someone you’d like for me to meet and share Myavana’s company vision, I’m all in!”
You never know how it will line up in the future. This trip was without a doubt another great stop on this journey we call entrepreneurship!
Written by Candace V. Mitchell, co-founder and CEO of Myavana
Myavana is the first hair care recommendation system for women of color. We direct consumers to the right hair products and services using scientific analysis and social data on our web and mobile platform. Follow Candace on Twitter @candyVmitchell and Myavana @myavanahair.