Circular Board Founder Carolyn Rodz Puts New Spin on the Accelerator
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the group to move their company forward.
We then look at what’s happening across the cohort and consider whether there’s additional content we need to bring to the table. How can we help further support them? We have mentor office hours that are done with the group—a group meeting, but done online.
X: Who are your companies? Where are they based?
CR: It’s very hands-on. You’re never operating at more than group of 10 and it feels very intimate. We pair those in similar industries, complementary experience, similar stage of growth.
On average, we’ve had about 50 to 60 entrepreneurs per class. We’re one-on-one with every company. Typically, the companies are pre-Series A, though not always.
Interestingly, a lot of people who follow this space are in startup hubs in New York, California, and Texas. But we do have women from Louisiana, Mississippi, Africa, a pretty good group in Latin America. It’s really all over. They share their resources [and the diversity] gets people out of their boxes. We’re looking at everything from energy to healthcare to fintech to consumer-facing companies.
Most accelerators focus on tech companies. More than 50 percent of our companies are tech but we have a lot of product-based or service-based companies that are highly scalable—concepts like Drybar or cosmetics companies. These aren’t pure tech plays, so existing accelerators weren’t looking for those companies.
We do challenge women in their business models by asking, ‘Is there a way to incorporate more technology?’ Often times there is. We definitely push on that. Or, ‘Have you thought of going out and finding a co-founder to get the resources to be a technology company?’ You don’t have to be a software engineer to be a tech company.
X: Tell me about the virtual demo day.
CR: Investors review the pitches and give constructive feedback. The women are able to record their pitches in advance. There’s none of the pressure like in traditional demo days where you have to cram it all in in three minutes. They can edit and tweak the video as many times as they want.
Our invitation to investors is if there’s a company you’re interested in investing in, or have feedback for them, or if there is a relationship you have to connect them with, we want you to invite you to do that. It’s all password-protected and private.