Breaking Barriers For Women In Tech

Beverly Parenti
Cofounder and Board of Directors, The Last Mile
1hr 24min
January 11, 2024
About the Show

"In underserved communities, if they can actually avoid going down that generational cycle of incarceration; if I can help do that. I am so in, I'll do whatever it takes."

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Beverly Parenti is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and cofounder of The Last Mile, a nonprofit providing technology training to incarcerated individuals. She has founded and cofounded several other successful companies, including First Virtual Holdings, one of the first online payment systems, which went public in the 1990s.

In the interview, Parenti stresses the importance of grit, resilience, choosing the right partners, and providing second chances. She recounts the origins of her entrepreneurial spirit from her parents, both survivors of the holocaust, along with the incredible story of her father escaping the Nazis. She discusses cofounding First Virtual Holdings and other startups, as well as cofounding the KickLabs accelerator, which successfully launched massive companies like Wish.com. Her current project is The Last Mile, which provides training in coding, web development, and other technical skills to prepare incarcerated individuals for careers in technology upon release. The organization has expanded to 8 states and gained support from leaders in business, government, and philanthropy. Parenti emphasizes the need to break generational cycles of incarceration and allow individuals to become productive members of society. Her journey and the work of The Last Mile showcase the power of purposeful work, compassion, and redemption.

Episode Links

Beverly’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bparenti/
Beverly’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/thebev?lang=en
The Last Mile Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thelastmileorg/?hl=en
The Last Mile: https://thelastmile.org/
The Last Mile Radio: https://thelastmileradio.org/
HBR Case Study on First Virtual Holdings: https://store.hbr.org/product/first-virtual-holdings-inc-a/98E007#:~:text=Source%3A%20Ivey%20Publishing-,First%20Virtual%20Holdings%2C%20Inc.,and%20services%20over%20the%20Internet.

Key Moments

The Ultimate Guide To Investing In Startups With Beverly Parenti

Beverly Parenti is a testament to the power of resilience and innovation in the entrepreneurial world. Her journey is deeply rooted in the inspirational story of her father, a Holocaust survivor whose strength and perseverance greatly influenced her. This legacy of his endurance and determination set the stage for Beverly's remarkable accomplishments. She played a pivotal role in the founding team of a groundbreaking technology company, First Virtual Holdings, contributing to its successful journey to a public offering. This achievement showcased not only her business acumen but also her ability to identify and nurture innovative technologies and taking advantage of opportunities when they are presented.

Beverly Parenti On The Forward Obsessed Podcast

Currently, Beverly is deeply involved as the Cofounder of The Last Mile, an initiative that focuses on transforming the lives of incarcerated individuals. This program offers education and training in technology, providing a pathway for these individuals to reintegrate into society with valuable skills and a renewed purpose. Beverly's work here is not just about business development; it's about societal change and empowerment, leveraging technology to create new beginnings and opportunities for those who need them most. Her efforts in this arena highlight her commitment to social impact and her belief in the transformative power of technology.

Beverly Parenti On The Forward Obsessed Podcast

Building on Beverly Parenti's diverse experience, including her impactful role as the Managing Director of Operations at KickLabs, the next part of our article delves into a practical and insightful guide for investing in startups. At KickLabs, located in the heart of San Francisco, startup companies were nurtured in a dynamic environment where they had access to veteran advisors, value-added services, and were at the nexus of industry events. This vibrant setting, fostered by a team of industry veterans and experienced entrepreneurs, created an ecosystem where collaboration and technology utilization were key. Companies like Wish.com and others thrived under this model. Drawing on this rich background, Beverly offers a step-by-step guide, filled with wisdom and practical strategies, for those looking to invest in the startups that are shaping our future. This guide is particularly tailored for young entrepreneurs and early angel investors, aiming to navigate the intricate and exhilarating world of startup investing.

1. Understanding the Startup Ecosystem

Understanding the Startup Ecosystem is crucial for anyone looking to invest in this dynamic and ever-evolving sector. Beverly Parenti, drawing on her extensive experience from KickLabs, underscores the importance of grasping the fundamental concepts and stages of startup development. She emphasizes, "In the startup world, it's not just about a great idea; it's about the market fit and the team behind it." This insight is critical for investors, as it highlights the need to look beyond just the product or service a startup offers.

To make informed investment decisions, it's essential to conduct thorough research. This includes understanding the startup's position in the market, its competitors, and potential for growth. Beverly advises, "You need to dive deep into the market dynamics, understand the customer needs, and how the startup intends to meet them." This approach ensures that investors are not just captivated by a compelling pitch but are also cognizant of the viability and sustainability of the business model.

For those keen on doing their own research in the startup ecosystem, a wealth of resources are available. Websites like Crunchbase and AngelList offer comprehensive data on startups, including funding rounds, key personnel, and market sectors. Industry reports from sources like CB Insights provide detailed analyses of market trends and investment patterns. Networking at industry events and participating in startup forums can also yield valuable insights. Additionally, following thought leaders and successful investors on social media platforms like LinkedIn can provide real-time insights and trends in the startup world. These resources combined offer a robust toolkit for aspiring investors to make well-informed decisions.

2. Keep It to One Vertical

In contemplating the approach to a modern accelerator like KickLabs, Beverly Parenti emphasizes the importance of focusing on a single business vertical. Her perspective is that specializing in one specific area, whether it's health, climate, or social justice, leads to a more targeted and effective support system for startups. This focused approach allows for a deeper understanding of the industry's specific challenges and opportunities, creating a more tailored and impactful incubation environment.

Beverly Parenti On The Forward Obsessed Podcast

The benefits of this specialized approach extend to investors as well. By concentrating on a single vertical, investors can leverage their existing expertise and networks more effectively, leading to better decision-making and potentially higher returns. It's a strategy that aligns resources and knowledge with market opportunities, ensuring a more cohesive and efficient investment process.

For investors looking to determine which verticals are currently promising and profitable, extensive research is key. Utilizing industry reports from reputable sources such as McKinsey or Gartner can offer insights into emerging trends and market forecasts. Engaging with professional networks and participating in industry-specific forums or conferences can also provide a real-world understanding of what's driving growth in various sectors. Ultimately, aligning personal expertise and networks with market research is crucial in making informed decisions about which vertical to focus on.

3. Know Your Founder

Knowing the founder is a pivotal aspect of startup investment, and Beverly Parenti places significant emphasis on this in her approach. "It's the grit of the entrepreneurs that you accept in the accelerator," she notes, underlining the importance of the founder's character. To assess this, Beverly relies on a blend of intuition and observable facts. She suggests looking at what the founders have set out to do, their vision for the future, and their plan to get there. "You just feel it in your gut," Beverly says, highlighting the importance of instinct in evaluating an entrepreneur's potential.

Beverly Parenti On The Forward Obsessed Podcast

Beverly further elaborates on developing this intuition, "You listen to their stories, see what they have accomplished... but it's not necessarily what they have accomplished, it's what their vision is for the future." This approach moves beyond traditional metrics of success and looks into the deeper aspirations and motivations of the founders, which can be indicative of their potential for future success.

When it comes to red lights, Beverly points out the importance of community and collaboration, especially in a single vertical focus. A major red light would be a founder who is solely self-focused and not interested in being part of the wider community. This attitude can hinder collaboration, which is often crucial for success in specialized industries. Additionally, a questionable track record can also be a red flag, signaling potential issues in the founder's ability to execute their vision. Investors should look out for these warning signs, balancing them against their own expertise and network to make informed decisions.

Beverly Parenti On The Forward Obsessed Podcast

In this insightful exploration, we've unpacked key strategies for startup investing, guided by the wisdom of Beverly Parenti. From understanding the startup ecosystem and specializing in a single vertical to the critical evaluation of a startup's founder, these insights form a valuable playbook for aspiring investors. The nuances of each step, enriched by Beverly's experience and perspective, provide a comprehensive guide for navigating the dynamic world of startup investment. For a deeper dive and more of Beverly's invaluable insights, don't miss the opportunity to watch the full interview episode. Her expertise is not just informative but also inspirational, offering a real-world perspective on making impactful investment decisions in the startup world.

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