Rachael Qualls on KC Innovation
An entrepreneur and investor, Rachael Qualls is currently CEO of Venture360, a technology platform designed to assist private equity investors in evaluating, closing and tracking investments. Her bench of insights and experience is deep: she founded and helmed Angel Capital Group, owned her own business, and has served as a economic and financial advisor and analyst.
To wit: Rachael knows what’s she’s talking about—and below, she talks about how money isn’t the problem for startups. Finding that first customer is.
Launching an innovation-led company comes with a unique set of challenges and opportunities. When we created Venture360, we knew that our platform would solve major pain points faced by investor groups like venture capital firms, angel groups, incubators and family offices.
What we underestimated (as I’m sure a lot of startups do) was how long it would take our market to adopt new technology.
It’s not about money.
The fact is change is very hard for most people. So hard, in fact, that they would rather stick with what is familiar, even if they know a better alternative exists. It is the single largest hurdle for innovation (yes, even more than capital), so companies that create new technology must make it ridiculously easy for their customers to adopt.
For example, Venture360 creates incredible efficiency for investor groups in screening, closing and tracking investments. It’s second-to-none in features, performance and price.
While those benefits might be enough for some consumers to come on board, we still had to make it as easy as possible to adopt our technology, so what did we do? We did all the work of setting up their Venture360 account for them. We loaded set-up funds, entered portfolio information from Excel, downloaded and uploaded all company documents, designed applications, imported investor information and so on.
We did this because it was the kind of service we wanted to deliver for our clients, and because we knew once we had a few people really using our technology, they would be so happy with what we built that they would be our market cheerleaders.
Meet change in the middle.
I’m happy to say that since the beginning of the year or so, we have nearly 300 investor groups using Venture360, which represents thousands of portfolio companies and individual investors. So, the moral of this story is that if you expect people to make a change and adopt new technology, you need to design ways to make it as easy as possible and take into account that change takes time - a lot of time.
Build something worth investing in.
Here in Kansas City, innovation-led companies find themselves in a unique ecosystem that is continually striving to provide creative startups with the capacity-building tools they need to grow and mature.
Incubators, mentorship programs, granting institutions and the like are all important stepping stones on an entrepreneur’s path to success, and the tight knit community ensures the support and encouragement necessary to launch a pioneering venture.
People assume that access to local investment dollars is a problem for innovative companies, but I haven’t found that to be the case for everyone. The funds exist, but investors are savvy - competition among innovative companies for investment dollars will always exist, and it’s actually a good thing.
Raising money should be a competition, it pushes entrepreneurs to perfect their product, their plan and their pitch. The dollars are here - we just have to build companies people want to invest in.
And while Kansas City is certainly still figuring it out (a recent Brookings article pointed out the economic lag between our region and the rest of the country) I believe KC, like any good startup, will continue to learn from its mistakes, change when necessary and evolve to meet the demands of its community.
I am so thankful to call Kansas City my home.