Falon Donohue of VentureOhio: We Need More Women to Start Companies

In the startup world, it can feel like all the attention is on the coasts. Fortunately, attracting venture capital to Midwestern startups is the game plan of CEO of VentureOhio, Falon Donohue.

“Over 50 percent of venture capital invested in the U.S. last year went into California startups, with Ohio receiving less than one percent,” said Donohue. “VentureOhio is working to level the playing field for Midwest-based entrepreneurs by increasing access to venture capital through advocacy, marketing and evangelism.

Through VentureOhio, Falon helps advance Ohio entrepreneurship by changing the VC world from the inside.

At the Techstars Startup Week Columbus, powered by Chase for Business, Falon Donohue will share more about their game plan to bring more capital to Ohio, accelerate innovation, create jobs, and support more diverse entrepreneurs, on Monday, May 7 at 3:00 p.m.

I had a chance to catch up with Falon who shared her story about transitioning from military to civilian life, the state of Ohio entrepreneurship, supporting women entrepreneurs, and offered some VC pitching advice for founders.

Talk about the startup momentum in Columbus. What excites you about the growth?

The success of CoverMyMeds $1.1 billion acquisition last year, USDOT Smart Cities Challenge, and a continued increase in capital and talent is proof that Ohio is where the future is happening.

Columbus entrepreneurs are swinging for the fences and I can't wait to see what this special and growing community looks like in 2025.

Talk about the state of venture capital in Ohio.

Ohio is on an incredible trajectory. I tend to view our progress through two lenses. The first is through data which can easily be measured. According to research conducted by VentureOhio and the National Venture Capital Association, both the amount of venture capital invested into Ohio startup companies and the number of VC's investing into Ohio companies has increased every year since VentureOhio was born in 2014.

The second lens is energy, which cannot easily be measured but can certainly be felt. Over the past year, we've attended sold-out events across the state and the energy levels and excitement are at an all-time high for our community.

What gaps exist in the Ohio ecosystem?

Like most emerging ecosystems, we need more capital, diversity, mentors, talent and success stories. We are doing all of the right things, we just need time to grow.

What are you doing to change the VC world from the inside?

I am committed to getting more female leaders into our ecosystem. We need more passionate women with an appetite for risk to launch funds and start companies. As a community, we need to rally around them to support their success and continued growth.

What ground support needs to be done to help women and diverse founders grow their businesses?

As a community, one of the best things that we can do is support and fund the entrepreneur-led, grassroots initiatives across the state that are already doing amazing work.

As individuals, we need to do a better job growing our networks to include people who don't look ourselves. Find time to meet with the entrepreneurs who cold emailed you or found you on LinkedIn and help them begin to build out their network. You will likely find that you get a lot more than you give from those meetings.

Where do most startups fail when pitching to investors? Any advice?

The average VC will hear thousands if not tens of thousands of pitches in their lifetime. Most of those pitches sound the same. Get to the point quickly, explain why you are uniquely qualified to solve the problem, and keep the main thing the main thing.

As a veteran of the military and a Bunker Lab advisor, what do veterans need to know about transferring their skill set from active duty to civilian life?

I spent nine years in the military and not one day of my service was spent alone. Life in the military is built around a sense of family, teamwork and chain of command. Entrepreneurship on the other hand can feel lonely and isolating – even with a team around you.

My advice would be to get engaged in your startup community and link up with other founders on a similar path to share this journey with you.

Music has been a significant part of your life. How have you used that talent to stay grounded and have fun along the way?

Ever since I can remember, music has been my therapist, best friend and interpreter. No matter where I am in life or in the world, I can throw on my favorite song and get right back to neutral. I am incredibly grateful for that. My best memories are having fun with friends while we sing along with cover bands, a friend playing guitar, or the radio on full blast during a road trip.

From elementary school through college, I wrote dozens of reports and gave several speeches on The Beatles. If anyone is up for Beatles trivia let me know!

Any advice to women founders striving for success?

Support other women, believe in yourself, and never ever give up.

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Written by:
Tishin is a technology journalist and correspondent. She has written for TechCrunch, Demand Studios and Fitness, and has regular network segments on local Phoenix affiliate stations. She holds a Master's degree in Clinical and Sport psychology, and has covered many areas of technology ranging from 3D printing and game development to neurotech and funding for over 15 years.
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