06/17/2021 San Juan: ATO Ventures today announces the launch of a free business program designed to walk 100 aspiring entrepreneurs without prior business experience through the startup process, step-by-step. At the end of the eight week program, four teams will be offered pre-seed funding and invited to Puerto Rico, where the fund is based, for an all-expense-paid, pre-launch bootcamp. Submissions are open to founders worldwide through July 23, 2021.
First-time entrepreneurs need hand-holding; ATO Ventures steps up
While venture capital funding is at an all-time record high, first time entrepreneurs at the earliest stages of business development still struggle to find capital. While this is partly due to the contraction of micro funds that offer pre-seed funding, it is also true that these early founders often have not yet proven that their idea is investment worthy. For those just starting out, more guidance is needed on how to validate an idea before having the money to build it.
The new ATO Ventures program is a virtual incubator offered through Valid Startup, an interactive, online program developed by the fund’s Managing Partner, Jennifer Hopp. Structured as an extremely detailed checklist of ordered tasks, the Valid Startup program focuses on developing a “sell first, build after” mentality, whereby founders prove there is a viable market before developing the actual product. It enables cohort leaders, like ATO Ventures, to hold the entrepreneur’s hand throughout the process, in an efficient manner.
“There is a lot of information out there on lean startup models and what entrepreneurs should do, but there isn’t much information on exactly how to do it. First time entrepreneurs who do not have a business background are unlikely to know what terms like CAC and LTV mean, much less how to calculate them,” said Hopp. “We received 450 startup submissions during 2020; yet, we only found one pre-launch company that was actually ready for potential investment. Would-be entrepreneurs are skipping important steps.”
Valid Startup enables new entrepreneurship programs worldwide
The Valid Startup program helps address this problem and, as of today, is available to organizations and individuals who want to start entrepreneurship programs in their own communities. Such programs may include online incubators, college courses and business coaching services, among others. Each cohort leader is able to specify their own participation criteria, include add-ons such as mentoring sessions and set their own prices.
“By making it easy for others to launch startup programs designed for first-time, aspiring entrepreneurs, we create the opportunity to have a significant impact in emerging economies around the world,” said Hopp. “We see this first hand in Puerto Rico, where the startup scene is new, and many residents simply have not had access to the business tools and education needed to start a viable company.”
More information on starting a program can be found on the Valid Startup website or by writing to Hopp at “hello @ Hopp.vc.”
The ATO Ventures cohort offers $300K in pre-seed funding
As for the ATO Ventures “virtual incubator” cohort, it brings with it an opportunity to gain up to $300K in pre-seed and seed stage funding. Although the program is free of charge and does not require startups to give up any equity, it is a rigorous program that does require a significant time commitment. Hopp will hold weekly office hours, host a private chat room and connect founders with industry experts to help guide them through the process. Four participants selected for investment will convene in Puerto Rico in October to work and play with other entrepreneurs and the ATO Ventures team.
“Our goal is to find the next unicorn before it hatches. To do that without a crystal ball requires rolling up one’s sleeves and helping the entrepreneur make it happen,” suggests Hopp.
The deadline to submit to the ATO Ventures Virtual Incubator is July 23, 2021 11:59pm AST. Visit ATOventures.com/incubator for more information.
ATO Ventures is one of the first early stage venture capital firms in Puerto Rico. The fund backs pre-launch technology startups worldwide with a special focus on the USA and LATAM. ATO Ventures uses a Market Validation Testing (MVT) strategy to mitigate the risk of pre-seed investments by helping startups capture their first paying customers prior to launch.
Valid Startup is an online, interactive program that guides aspiring entrepreneurs and early stage startup founders through the process of building a company, one step at a time. The program is now available as a platform for organizations and individuals who would like to start entrepreneurship programs such as incubators, college courses or business coaching services.