You can’t throw a rock in the Triangle startup community without hitting someone or some company that Robbie Allen has influenced or helped. Allen has also made his mark through founding and/or leading various startups in the Raleigh-Durham area, including Automated Insights (originally StatSheet), Infinia ML and most recently Startomatic, which helps entrepreneurs start a new business. (We wrote about Startomatic last June.) He was also the Readers’ Choice winner for Most Impactful Individual in the inaugural Greppy Awards.
Allen’s passion for helping people start and grow their businesses has brought him to GrepBeat, where he is now host of a new podcast called For Starters. The podcast is sponsored by the startup lawyers at Robinson Bradshaw, who have helped Allen build his startups—and can help you, too.
For the podcast’s first episode, Allen brings on guests Chris Heivly (co-founder of MapQuest), Geraud Staton (founder of Durham-based The Helius Foundation), and Robbie Hardy (founder of xElle Ventures), to tackle some of the big questions: What makes an entrepreneur? Can anyone be an entrepreneur?
Here are some of the episode’s highlights:
- Heivly believes entrepreneurs are both born and made. Ultimately anyone who has an iterative mindset and a drive to solve a problem can be an entrepreneur, he said. However, Heivly believes community is crucial, which is why he became involved in Techstars, where he helps startup communities grow. It’s much easier for a first-time entrepreneur to start a company when they can readily bounce their ideas off of other people or ask for advice from experienced mentors, Heivly said. “I believe entrepreneurship is very aspirational: you have to see it to believe it,” he said. “What makes a great community is having an ‘aspirational stack,’ in which a single founder can look across the hallway and see a five-person team, and that team can see a 12-person team, and so on. It makes new entrepreneurs feel like they can do it.”
- Guest Geraud Staton said he founded The Helius Foundation on the belief that anyone can start a company. Many people may not believe they can because they don’t know someone who has started a company or because they think they have to be Elon Musk to be an entrepreneur, Staton said. “Anyone can be an entrepreneur, and that’s the basis of what we do,” he said. “We help single parents, people who dropped out of school, and they’re perfect for starting a business—not every business needs to be a big tech startup.” (23:40)
- The final guest, Robbie Hardy, joins at 34:45. Hardy said she used to wonder why male-dominated investing groups didn’t invest enough in women founders, until she realized the problem was the lack of female investors at the table. She founded xElle Ventures in 2019, an early stage angel network for female founders by female investors. “We can yell at guys and say ‘why aren’t you investing in women,’ or we could look in the mirror and do it ourselves,” Hardy said. Hardy said the best way to get more female entrepreneurs is to increase the number of female-run mom-and-pop businesses on the community level.
Here is the full podcast, and don’t forget to subscribe!