Career 12 April 2017
CEO and Co-Founder of Eosera Inc., Elyse Dickerson, started her own business because she wanted to use business as a force for good in the world.
After spending almost 18 years in corporate America, Dickerson realized that corporations did not value the people whose lives they were supposed to be improving.
Fort Worth-based Eosera Inc., a majority woman-owned biotechnology company, is committed to developing products that address underserved medical needs.
Photo: Good Crowd
Dickerson said preparation was the key to making their mission of healing humans successful.
“We spent the first year with our own money,” Dickerson said. “We also prepared for six or seven months before even asking for money. A lot of people make the mistake of “winging it” but we wanted to be prepared.”
After Eosera won $50,000 in a business pitch competition hosted by the Dallas Entrepreneur Center (the DEC) and Comerica Bank, Dickerson’s company received press and attention from potential investors.
“This was my first time fundraising and I was terrified to ask for money,” she said. “I experienced investors trying to change the terms with me… I experienced that ‘gut’ feeling of something being off with an offer – all of these ten tips are based on my personal experience.”
The two-year-old company raised $1.2 million in three months.
Here are Elyse’s ten tips to successful fundraising:
1. Read. A lot.
Educate yourself on the angel investment world. Read books, take classes, and meet with people in the industry whether it is venture finance or starting a business. In a nutshell, you need to be smarter than your investors so that you can feel confident in your deals.
2. Bootstrap your business
The more business milestones that you can hit on your own dime, the higher the valuation you can place on your company when it’s time to raise capital. Investors want to see that you have skin in the game.
3. Set your terms and do not deviate from your plan
Angel networks and investors will try their best to get the upper hand in a deal. It is your responsibility as the founder to be in control of your company and negotiations. If an investor really believes in you and your company, they will invest on your terms.
4. Be Passionate
If you don’t believe in your idea, no one else will. The investors must feel your passion and believe that you have what it takes to pull off the plan.
Joe Griffin, Eosera’s CSO and Co-Founder said Dickerson’s confidence and passion were obvious during her pitch.
“You could see the passion in her pitch and her audience could too,” Griffin said. “I think that is why we were so successful. We truly believe in our cause.”
5. Remember that you are bringing value
Too many founders feel guilty asking for money. Remember that you are bringing a valuable opportunity to the potential investor.
When I first started, I felt like I was begging for money or looking for handouts. But eventually I had to reframe my mindset to realize that I was the one bringing potential investors a valuable opportunity to make money.
I think as women, we are afraid to ask for money and we are just bad at closing a deal and asking for that investment. But we need to change our mindset to empower ourselves to realize that we are worth the risk and our ideas are valuable.
6. SELL, SELL, SELL
I quickly learned that if you don’t ask, they won’t offer- even after hearing your pitch. But the second you ask, people are more open the idea. You have to be confident about what you want.
Your full time job is fundraising. Every breakfast, lunch, and dinner should be booked with potential investors or connectors. Give your pitch to everyone and ALWAYS close by asking for an investment.
7. Practice your pitch
OVER and OVER and OVER again. You have 30 to 60 seconds to grab someone’s attention, so make your introduction is dramatic. You will most likely have only five to six minutes to pitch your full idea, so make sure your presentation tells a story that the investors can relate to. Also make sure you are fully prepared. You never know what a potential investor will ask.
8. Find a lead investor that you trust
The first investor is the most important. The lead investor acts as a beacon for other investors. If the lead investor is accomplished and has a vast network, other investors will follow.
9. Don’t hurt the ones you love
Friends and family money should be cash that they will never miss. You don’t want someone taking out their retirement or a second mortgage to support your dream. You need to be able to sleep at night if you can never repay them. If friends and family want to invest, be straightforward and tell them ‘don’t invest if you can’t afford to lose it.
10. There is good money and bad money
Steer clear of any investor (or investor group) that gives you a bad “gut” feeling. Don’t be afraid to turn money down if the investor wants to change the terms, seems over bearing, or wants to take control. Remember, that once you take an investors money, you and your business are married to them.
5 Min Read
Like so many millions across the globe, I deeply mourn the loss of one of our greatest real-life superheroes, Chadwick Boseman. To pay tribute and homage to him, my family rewatched his amazing performance in Black Panther. T'Challa was one of Boseman's most important roles both on and off the screen, as his portrayal of the heroic warrior and leader of the people of Wakanda inspired viewers of all ages.
Re-visiting the futuristic city of Wakanda on screen caused me to reflect on how Blacks in America once had our own version of Wakanda: Black Wall Street. Black Wall Street was the name given to the wealthy, thriving, Tulsa, Oklahoma neighborhood of Greenwood in the early 1900s. The nearly 40 square-block neighborhood had more than 300 businesses and over 1,000 homes, including several stately mansions. Like Wakanda, Black people in Greenwood built their own hospitals, schools, theaters, newspapers, churches, and everything needed for their community to flourish.
Tragically, he lost everything he built, as did the entire district of Greenwood, in the largest, government-sanctioned race massacre in U.S. history.
With only 42 years separating the moment Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and Greenwood's founding, the amazing feat of Blacks building Black Wall Street is something that required supernatural acts of real-life superheroes the likes of which we see onscreen in Black Panther.
One of these real-life superheroes and leaders of Black Wall Street was my great-grandfather A.J. Smitherman, owner and editor of the Tulsa Star. The Tulsa Star was the first daily Black newspaper with national distribution and was a source for Black people to stay informed about issues affecting them throughout the US. A member of the first generation of Blacks born free in the late 1800s, Smitherman attended La Salle and Northwestern Universities. After receiving his law degree, A.J. began his career in community activism, politics, and the newspaper business.
A fearless leader in the Black community not just in Tulsa but throughout the nation, he dedicated his life to empowering his race in all categories of life in every way: morally, economically, physically, and politically. A.J. fiercely and courageously used his newspaper and the power of the press to end a myriad of corrupt operations and develop his community. As one of the most influential founding fathers of Black Wall Street, his contribution and investment in Greenwood was and is immeasurable. Tragically, he lost everything he built, as did the entire district of Greenwood, in the largest, government-sanctioned race massacre in U.S. history.
Unlike Wakanda—the fictional land hidden in the mountains of Africa, mostly invisible to the outside world and protected from foreign threats—Greenwood was exposed. Greenwood was not only visible, but the 11,000 residents and their luxurious lifestyle were a constant reminder to their poor white neighbors across the tracks that Black people had surpassed them in economic empowerment and success. Eventually, the jealousy, greed and contempt for the growing Black economic and political power ignited a horrendously evil act of domestic terrorism by white Tulsans.
A.J. fiercely and courageously used his newspaper and the power of the press to end a myriad of corrupt operations and develop his community.
On May 31st, 1921, thousands systematically looted and burned down Greenwood in a 36 hour-long massacre resulting in the murdering of over 300 Blacks. Thousands more were detained in concentration camps where they remained for months through the freezing Oklahoman winter.
In a recent interview, I was asked what goes through my head when I see the racial unrest taking place today and compare it to what was happening 100 years ago leading up to the Tulsa Massacre. The short answer is that I am incredibly sad. I'm sad for so many reasons. One of the things I am saddest about is knowing that my great-grandfather and great-grandmother sacrificed everything for the betterment and empowerment of their race. And after all of these years, the struggle continues.
I believe that now, more than ever, it is so important to maintain not only our hope but our faith.
A.J. Smitherman's writings in both the Tulsa Star, and thereafter in the Empire Star, a paper he founded later in New York, reveal a man full of hope and ambition to make a difference and contribute to his race and his country as part of the first generation of Blacks born free. He worked tirelessly to this end until the day he died in 1961. Tragically, A.J. died still a fugitive of the state of Oklahoma, having been unjustly indicted by a grand jury for inciting the massacre. This is another point of tremendous pain and grief for me and my family. It is a travesty that he never saw justice in his lifetime, and he furthermore never saw his dream of racial equality.
But perhaps what saddens me most is the fact that I truly believe that in his heart, he still had hope that America was on a path to find its way out of its dark past and into the light of a new dawn. He hoped that the nation would one day become a country where his descendants would no longer be subject to racial hatred, discrimination, and economic disenfranchisement. And I'm certain that he believed the days that Black people would fear being lynched would be long gone by now.
One of the things I am saddest about is knowing that my great-grandfather and great-grandmother sacrificed everything for the betterment and empowerment of their race. And after all of these years, the struggle continues.
I can feel A.J.'s blood in my veins, and I feel a responsibility to carry the torch of the light of hope. I believe that now, more than ever, it is so important to maintain not only our hope but our faith. I'm very grateful for the attention being brought to the legacy of Black Wall Street and A.J. Smitherman. Knowing their story of success and triumph and how it tragically turned to massacre and destruction is vital to insuring history doesn't continue to repeat itself 100 years later.
One thing I know for certain is that building a brighter future will require all of us to summon our own inner superhero, like A.J. Smitherman and Chadwick Boseman before us, and work together to continue to fight for our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.