She Roars: Starting A Start Up: The Art of Founding and Funding

Sunday, Oct 7, 2018
by Wright Seneres

In a energetic panel discussion during day two of She Roars 2018, Princeton alumnae founders and funders traded entrepreneurship war stories to a rapt audience in McDonnell Hall. 

Moderated by PEC Executive Director Anne-Marie Maman ‘84, the panel featured Karen Roter Davis ‘94, Leadership Team Member at X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory; Dora Mitchell *08, Vice President of Operations at Carisma Therapeutics, a Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs tenant; Ita Ekpoudom ‘03, Partner at GingerBread Capital; and Steph Speirs *14, co-founder of Solstice, a Princeton Alumni Entrepreneurs Fund portfolio company. (Read their bios at the She Roars site.)

Some highlights: 

How do you get good team members?

Karen Roter Davis ‘94: You have to establish a culture, and find people who will go on the ride with you. Not that everyone should agree with you, but you have to be able to work together.

Dora Mitchell *08: There is a level of trust and expectations that determines whether a team is viable or not. Networking is everything in terms of finding these people. Even poaching, done properly, is an option. 

Ita Ekpoudom ‘03: From the investor side, investors are looking to make sure a company has people doing different things. Investors look to see if companies bring in someone to fill in gaps in a team’s skills.

Steph Speirs *14: Creating the world you want to see starts in your backyard, in how you build your team. ... If you are doing something additive to the world, people will show up. 

Audience questions touched on a variety of topics, including: 

How to create confidence among team members:
Davis: As a leader, you must communicate what the objectives are. The more transparency, the better. People need to know where we’re going and why. Make people feel addressed. But the other side of this is discretion.

What do you wish you had learned in school?
Ekpoudom: Be the woman that is comfortable talking about the cap table.
Mitchell: Intellectual property.
Speirs: Business law and people operations/HR. 

Read more highlights from day two and day three of #SheRoars18 on the University homepage. 

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