Monique Villa, investor at Mucker Capital and co-founder of Build in SE, shares her perspective on the unique advantages founders can access when they build their companies in the Southeast.
Monique Villa wants to help people understand that the Southeast is full of great talent and resources to help founders succeed. As an investor at Mucker Capital — where she leads the Nashville office — and co-founder of Build in SE, Villa works to support founders across all stages of starting and growing a company in the region.
“There’s this really limited view that talent is hard to come by in the Southeast, and that all the talent is in these traditional hubs,” she explained. “That’s definitely not true… There’s absolutely top-tier talent across the Southeast.”
In this episode of Disrupt the Continuum, recorded at 3686 Festival 2020, Villa shares the results of a recent report on “The Capital Landscape in the Southeast.” She also offers practical advice to founders who are looking for guidance after closing a seed round.
A Growing Network of Resources for Founders
When Villa thinks about the opportunities available for founders in the Southeast, she thinks it’s important for people to understand that the talent is not only available, but also uniquely “sticky.” Since the market is less competitive than some of the more traditional startup hubs, founders may not have to worry as much about talent retention issues.
“When you find that team and build that team and that leadership team and then they start to build out their more junior teams in whichever department they’re managing, those teams become incredibly loyal and incredibly sticky,” she explained. “If you are a good leader and manager and you are building something that they really believe in, they will stick around for a long time.”
The pool of talent in the region is also continuing to grow thanks in part to major companies like Amazon and AllianceBernstein that are setting up shop in cities like Nashville.
Along with talent, Villa understands that capital is one of the most important factors that founders need in their area. She recently worked on a report with Build in SE, Launch Tennessee, Embarc Collective and HQ1, which found that the Southeast region “has experienced nearly a 20% growth in new angel network and venture firm creation” in 2020. Though the region could benefit from more late stage funding, there are 240 firms investing at the pre-seed through growth stage.
“That new firm creation is really a signal that the market is strong,” Villa explained.
Supporting Founders Beyond the Seed Round
When Villa thinks about the best ways to support founders at every stage of growth, she recognizes that one pivotal moment for many startups comes at the end of a seed round. She encouraged founders who are in this phase to take time to examine the status of their companies and decide whether or not they’re ready to scale.
“What are the indicators that are telling you that it’s time to really scale this? And how have you been capturing feedback from the market in a repeatable way?” she asked. “Because arguably at Series A, which comes after seed, that is supposed to be pretty much money just to scale the business.”
Villa also explained that taking on capital requires founders to accept new responsibilities, so it’s important to think about what those long-term partnerships with different types of investors might look like.
“Whatever you’re signing up for, it’s really worthwhile to know the full extent of what that means before taking the money in,” she argued. “Is that investor aligned with the vision for your company?”
If you’re interested in learning more about the work that Launch Tennessee and other organizations are doing to support founders in the South, join us for the next 3686 Festival this summer. More information will be coming soon, including official dates, registration details, speakers and networking opportunities you won’t want to miss.
Please subscribe, rate, and review Disrupt the Continuum wherever you listen to podcasts. This season of Disrupt the Continuum is powered by Pinnacle Financial Partners. We’d love for you to join us next year at Launch Tennessee’s 3686 Festival to hear more stories about innovation and entrepreneurship. Watch this space for more information about 2021’s Festival, returning this summer.