Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Eve Richter the Emerging Technologies Coordinator of Austin talks about her View of Startups

Where are you from originally?
This is always a fun one. Born in NY, then NJ, RI, MA (Boston), Los Angeles (graduated from Santa Monica High School), then Sacramento for almost 20 years. So I’m both a Yankee AND a Californian. So much beloved here in Texas, without a doubt. I’m a Red Sox Fan by heritage, and Celtics fan by acclimatization. And, of course, I bleed burnt orange.

What university did you go to?

I got my B.S. (Business with Minors in Gov’t and Public Policy) and MBA from California State University, Sacramento. I got my Master’s in Public Affairs from the LBJ School here at UT.

What brought you to Austin?

I came for the LBJ School. I stayed for the community (and a great job). I really love it here. I can get good food, good fun, good weather, great people, and I can afford to live in a neighborhood and house I want to live in. Who can ask for anything more? (OK, a couple of professional sports teams would be nice, but I’ll deal.)

What is your passion and strength?

From a business perspective, I love to see companies make it past the 2-guys-in-a-garage stage, and make it to successful launch. I get a real thrill from that. My core strength is probably marketing, but I’m also good at seeing the big picture, identifying gaps and next steps. I’m not bad at finance either. I also am a crazy networker. I really do tend to know almost everyone. So getting the right people in the room together is another strength of mine. I am the queen of the “mutual introduction.”

What need does it fulfill?

I like being a part of something successful. I like having had a role. So if I can provide some assistance that helps get a company to that next stage, I guess I get to feel like I’ve accomplished something. For companies, I’m kind of a link between the government and the community and the professional services and the resources and . . . so on.

What exactly do you bring to startups?

I call myself a combination between business consultant, sales & marketer, and matchmaker. I get the right people in the room together, make appropriate introductions, and bring my experience and background to bear in helping companies steer from where they are to where they need to go.

What type of startup would benefit from your strengths?

I work primarily with technology startups, from someone with just an idea to a post-launch company looking to grow. My areas include clean energy, digital media, wireless communications, biotechnology, nanotechnology, other early stage technology commercialization, and . . . well, almost anything with a website. I do tech. Lately I’ve branched out into some lesser known areas like food service and other randomly strange companies – just because I was there and couldn’t help myself – but my real expertise is in the tech fields.

What was the most challenging aspect of starting up a business?

I think making that leap from an employee to a business owner. It’s terrifying. I get the question a lot – “when should I quit my job?” My usual answer is “that’s between you, your bank account, and your spouse.” I know how scary it is, I’ve done it. It’s risky, but it’s necessary to reach that rewarding stage (and it is there, if not every time). You have to have the stomach for entrepreneurship, and it’s not for everyone. But it’s addicting. Of course, in the current economy, you could also say getting funding is the most challenging. But really, I think in most cases when the money needs to be there, it can be found, even if it’s not easy. For a first-time startup, I think it’s that first leap of faith into running your own business full-time.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Get all the help available to you from so many quarters – take the classes, meet others who’ve done it already, network network network. It’s not a waste of time if you can get advice and maybe partnerships that can help you. Do the necessary research (market research, competitive research, product research, all of it). Know what you’re getting into and what you’ll need. Have a plan and stick to it until it no longer makes sense, and then make another plan. Don’t wait for perfection, it never comes. You need to make it and sell it. Having the greatest product in the world doesn’t matter if you can’t sell it. Oh – and remember to have fun! This is your business; make the environment you want to be in. If running your own company is worse than being an employee, you’re doing something wrong. Don’t get me wrong – you’ll work your butt off, you won’t have any time off, you’ll spend all of your money. But at least have fun doing it.

What Austin-based resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?

Me, of course, ha ha. No, seriously, I don’t think I can pick just one. It really depends on the situation. We are so fortunate here in Austin to have not just government-provided assistance, but also community-based assistance. I hesitate to mention any for the fear of forgetting some, but the Austin Technology Incubator, Tech Ranch, Capital Factory, Central Texas Angel Network, Austin Entrepreneurs Network, Door 64, Bootstrap Austin, Austin Startup, Business District, and so on – these are places to get information, assistance, money, startup support, information, etc. (Apologies in advance if I left you out, please know it was unintentional.) If you really want to know what’s out there for YOU, look me up and I’ll point you in the right direction. Early stage folks need different resources than revenue positive folks looking to grow.