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Taking Advantage of Underrepresented Markets with 500 Startups

Amit Bhatti, principal at 500 Startups, explains how COVID-19 is reshaping the world of startups and fundraising, especially in markets like the Southeast. 


Amit Bhatti believes that founders from smaller markets have a unique work ethic and creativity that people from traditional startup hubs often lack. As principal at 500 Startups, Bhatti invests in founders all over the world, but he sees great potential in the Southeast region. 

“When you’re already feeling a little bit overlooked or you feel like you’re going to have to work harder to get something, that definitely shows,” he explained. “I think founders that come into it already with a little bit of a chip on their shoulders are great.”

In this episode of Disrupt the Continuum, recorded at 3686 Festival, Bhatti discusses some of the ways that COVID-19 has changed the startup world, especially for companies in the Southeast. He also offers advice to early stage founders looking to make more connections and raise capital.



A Shifting Startup Landscape

In the past, it was much more important for founders to build their companies in major hubs like the Bay Area. But now that COVID-19 has required companies to get used to doing business remotely, founders in other regions have new opportunities to thrive.

“There’s always going to be value to having some sort of network within the Bay Area. Some of the largest tech companies are based out here, their leaders are here, and some of the largest venture firms,” Bhatti shared. “But now that you’re able to connect with people in all these places remotely… I think it really opens up the possibilities for people to grow a company where they’re comfortable.”

In the Southeast, Bhatti believes “there’s no shortage of talent,” and talent retention is much easier than in some of the more competitive markets. And remote work doesn’t only help founders connect with investors, it also allows them to attract talent from all over the world. 

“I’m excited to see founders that are coming out of the Southeast that probably were overlooked in a lot of cases because there was a great founder coming from Stanford or based in the Bay Area,” he said.

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.


Building a Network as a Founder

As an investor who manages a portfolio with more than 2,000 companies, Bhatti has plenty of advice to share for early-stage founders who are looking to raise capital. 

Most of all, he emphasized the importance of making connections with people when you reach out to them. To do this, it’s important to do your research and figure out if the person is a good fit before you try to contact them. He also recommended reaching out to people they’ve invested in already or people they work with who are already in your network.

And while plenty of people will try to tell you how to grow your business or advise you on what direction to take it in, Bhatti believes it’s important to stay true to your vision for the company.

“At the early stages, so much of what you’re selling is the vision and having people believe in you, so there’s not going to be only one way to do that,” he explained. “I would tell all early stage founders to take everything you hear with a grain of salt, make sure you believe in it before acting on it.” 


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.

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