Lisa Calhoun pictured with the Startup Runway 7 Showcase Finalists.

The 7th Startup Runway Showcase on October 8 was the kick-off event in October’s startup ecosystem Atlanta experience culminating in Venture Atlanta.

It was the most competitive Startup Runway cohort yet. 10 Finalists, all underrepresented founders, were selected from 600 applications and six states. Dinote, ecoText, Kliit Health, Milk the Moment, Inc., Mini City, ReSuture, RegAlytics, SweatPack, Smart Convos, and UZO LLC made the cut and pitched to a standing-room only crowd at Startup Runway co-host, The Gathering Spot.

Underrepresented founders–women and people of color–lead some 40% of startups.

Yet they receive less than 5% of venture capital funding. Introducing top startups led by underrepresented founders to professional investors is the mission of the Startup Runway Foundation, according to opening remarks by Sarah O’Brien, co-founder at Valor Ventures and Startup Runway Board Chair.

Sarah O’Brien, Startup Runway Board Chair

Startup Runway was launched in 2016 by her organization, Valor Ventures, an Atlanta venture capital firm focused on sourcing the full spectrum of innovation before making investments. According to Valor, 70% of its portfolio is led by underrepresented founders. “Through Startup Runway, we turn the funding gap into an onramp,” says Lisa Calhoun, general partner and founder at Valor Ventures. In her comments, she referenced McKinsey research that gender-diverse and racially diverse teams have double-digit financial outperformance. “Inclusion is one of the risk factors controllable by investors,” Lisa said.

$20,000 in grant awards from Cox Enterprises, American Family Institute

Billy Greineinsen, VP of Strategy and Corporate Development at Cox Enterprises, presented the $10,000 Judge’s Choice grant for the most investable startup to Hannah Eherenfeldt, CEO and Founder of ReSuture. “The best part was getting to talk to VCs and meet other really helpful connections in the mock board meeting,” said Eherenfeldt. ReSuture is based in New Orleans and helps reduce surgical complications by as much as 50% thanks to better training.

Nyra Jordan of American Family Institute presented the Audience Choice Grant of $10,000 to cofounder and CEO India Aleah Hayes of Mini City. “The amount of preparation required beforehand was exactly what we needed– from before pitch day to the actual pitch day. The lists of asks and board agenda, the planning and speaking with each advisor before the pitch, helped us tremendously. We are often planning as a team, and then meeting with potential customers– but to have to shape various asks around a board you have not yet met was great prep work.” MiniCity is based in Atlanta and uses technology to help homeless citizens get back on their feet.


Networking and mentoring hosted by Slalom

Mentoring session Mock Board Tables.

Before taking the stage, Finalists were mentored by selected leaders in the local community, spearheaded by sponsor Slalom. Each startup presented a major business challenge and got direct feedback “mock board style.”

In addition, Finalists and audience members had the opportunity to directly question the VC judges panel about how they make decisions and what they look for in investments.

“I was blown away by the vision and impact of Mini City,” commented Ben Gibson, SVP at BBVA. “I am super glad I was able to attend Startup Runway Foundation’s 7th Startup Runway event at The Gathering Spot tonight. We had the opportunity to hear from some phenomenal founders in Atlanta.”

Brenda Johnson, Senior Director of Philanthropy at Year Up, commented, “Watching women and founders of color pitch yesterday was so inspiring!”

Sheena Allen, co-founder and CEO, Capway

The audience enjoyed voices of wisdom and experience from startup leaders of color including Startup Runway co-host TK Petersen, co-founder of The Gathering Spot, and keynote Sheena Allen, co-founder and CEO of Capway. Both are Valor Ventures portfolio companies. Sheena’s comments are available on YouTube.

Get involved in inclusive innovation

1) Sponsor–there’s a sponsorship or donation level right for your commitment to inclusive innovation.

2) Consider mentoring or volunteering. This is a volunteer-led nonprofit.

3) Ask underrepresented founders you know to apply.

4) Attend! Mark your calendars for May 6, 2020, the next Startup Runway Atlanta. 

Follow Startup Runway Foundation on Twitter or on LinkedIn for updates about the exciting 8th Cohort. It’s now open for applications from under-represented founders across the country who have raised less than $100K and have not gone through a national accelerator (500Startups, YC, or Techstars).


Want more inclusive innovation?

Share the videos of the pitches from the 7th Startup Runway Showcase.