Founders Seeking Funders

Two new b-school initiatives help entrepreneurs learn how to obtain the capital their new businesses need to thrive.

Founders Seeking Funders

AS BUSINESS SCHOOLS ramp up their entrepreneurship programs, they realize that training founders to run successful startups is only one part of the equation. They also need to connect founders and small business owners with the funding they’ll need to thrive. That realization has led to new b-school initiatives focused specifically on attracting capital.

One such initiative at IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain, is the creation of InvestHorizon Academy, a new online learning platform to train European tech entrepreneurs to find funding more effectively. The platform was inspired by a recent study by IESE, which finds that only 5 percent of EU patents are currently commercialized—but that 5 percent contributes to an estimated 40 percent of the European Union’s gross domestic product.

IESE created InvestHorizon Academy to activate the innovation locked within the remaining 95 percent. Based on insights from international experts, the platform features 37 open online courses, along with related materials, to help entrepreneurs learn to pitch their ideas in front of investors, design business models, analyze customer feedback, leverage trends in healthcare and fintech sectors, and value their companies.

While InvestHorizon focuses on training and development, an initiative at the Busch School of Business at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., connects entrepreneurs directly with investors. In late February, the Busch School’s Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship partnered with the Department of Small & Local Business Development (DSLBD) to launch its first Capital Access Expo on the university’s campus.

Held on a Saturday morning, the fourhour expo attracted more than 200 entrepreneurs and representatives from 20 banks, community development financial institutions, and other funding sources.

Before the expo, the DSLBD and impact investing firm Twenty Degrees hosted two preparatory events, where they distributed “jargon sheets” to registrants to establish a common language.

The participating entrepreneurs had access to expert panels, keynotes, and networking opportunities—all designed to help them identify the types of capital that would benefit their operations the most. Successful entrepreneurs also shared their experiences during three additional discussions, where attendees could learn about adopting a “bootstrap mentality,” addressing the funding needs of food-based businesses, and seeking out alternative funding sources.

Of the small businesses represented at the expo, 60 percent were women-owned and a little more than 75 percent were minority-owned. Nearly 40 percent were less than 2 years old, but about 25 percent were more than five years old, “showing a prevailing need for capital among businesses that have survived the proof-of-concept stage,” says Brian Becker, the center’s director of small business outreach.

A survey of attendees showed that nearly 58 percent attended to meet lenders, and the same percentage wanted to learn more about investment. However, 72 percent wanted to meet other entrepreneurs, highlighting a need to create a community where founders can learn from each other, says Becker.

It’s too early to know how many funding relationships were established at the CAE, but Becker believes that such events can play an important part in local ecosystems of small and medium-sized enterprises. “We tested the theory that we would be able to provide value for all participants of the event—business owners, funders, support service providers, and our students,” he says. “We are already looking ahead to next year.”