According to CNN, “2018 will be the year of women.” Just last year, “feminism” was named as Merriam-Webster’s word of the year. And TIME’s Person of the Year for 2017 was collectively represented by “The Silence Breaker,” the women (and some men) who came forward with stories of sexual harassment and assault that helped force nationwide #MeToo movement.
On the business front, women’s entrepreneurship has been on the rise in the United States for the last two decades. According to American Express’s “The 2017 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report,” there are an estimated 11.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States that employ nearly 9 million people and generate more than $1.7 trillion in revenues. And this trend is expected to continue.
In the second installment of our three-part podcast series called “Angel and Venture Capital Investing,” show hosts Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon of Trusted Counsel speak with Bernice “Bernie” Dixon, former President of the Atlanta Technology Angels and Founder and CEO of Launchpad2x, a non-profit intensive boot camp and master-class program that focuses on leading women entrepreneurs in the Atlanta metropolitan area to accelerate their businesses to achieve their goals.
Bernie only had male mentors throughout her early career days. “When I left Hewlett Packard, I realized there weren’t a lot of women in private industry, in technology, and even in Silicon Valley. So I vowed that I was going to do something about that if I ever had the opportunity to get out of the corporate world. I committed to being part of this new economy and maybe even doing something to move the needle for women,” Bernie said. Years later, she has unquestionably moved the needle for numerous women entrepreneurs.
In just six years, Launchpad2x has graduated more than 120 female CEOs from its programs. And the average age of these women is 40. Ninety-four percent are still in business―well over the national average of 20 percent. Additionally, these businesses have an average growth rate of 200 percent per year. Lauchpad2x has an estimated $200-million economic impact to Atlanta. In post-program surveys and in-person feedback, Bernie hears this over and over: “This program has been transformative. My perspective has changed from owning a business to being a CEO.”
During the course of the podcast, entrepreneurs and investors will learn about:
- Bernie’s early influences
- The benefits of affiliating yourself with angel investor groups
- The mission of Launchpad2x, program specifics and expansion plans
- The three things that women should do now to be more successful as entrepreneurs
- How any business executive can create more opportunities for women in the workplace
Trusted Counsel is a proud sponsor of Launchpad2x. Be sure and stream the conversation in its entirety in the player below, or download it to your mobile device via iTunes. Don’t miss a single episode, subscribe to our podcast show “In Process Podcast ” on iTunes to receive this episode as well as future episodes to your smartphone.
To learn more about Launchpad2x or to make a donation, please visit https://launchpad2x.org/
Angel and Venture Investing, Part Two:
Increasing Capital for Women-Managed Businesses to Launch Them to Success
(c) Trusted Counsel (Ashley) LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Speaker 1: It’s time for In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century, with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon, presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. For more information, visit trusted-counsel.com. Now, with In Process, here are Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon.
John: Hello, and welcome to In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century, presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. I’m John Monahon.
Evelyn: And I’m Evelyn Ashley.
John: We are partners in Trusted Counsel.
Evelyn: We’re really excited about this one today, John. We’ve been waiting for a long time to have Bernie Dixon on the show. I think with everything in the news about women, basically women are Time’s Person of the Year now because they’re actually speaking out, and Bernie has been doing some wonderful work with women entrepreneurs as well as her work at Atlanta Technology Angels (ATA). I really think that this is going to be a high-energy, really fun conversation.
John: Absolutely. We’ve participated in some of those workshops. We’ve seen her in action, the other fantastic entrepreneurs that she’s helped. There’s a lot of good being done in those programs. Of course, this also fits into our three-part series, where we’ve had a legal one with Mike Siavage on the term sheet. Another one, with Brad Feld of the Foundry Group on venture deals, and then now of course, now we have Bernie of launchpad2X. She was also the former Atlanta Technology Angels president.
John: This should be great. Let me introduce Bernie then. Bernie Dixon is a distinguished and accomplished businesswoman. Following her broad and often groundbreaking career in the private industry, she currently leads the Women’s Premier Entrepreneurship Program called launchpad2X in Atlanta, Georgia. Bernie is chairman emeritus of the Atlanta Technology Angels, a 130-member investment network that sources, performs due diligence and post-deal stewardship for early-stage technology companies in Georgia and the Southeast. Bernie brought a growth mindset to the ATA, which is ranked in the top 10 networks in the US in portfolio size, members and opportunity flow. She has an immense interest in increasing investment capital for women-managed businesses, and her passion for providing women CEOs of emerging businesses with tools and connections to drive success in their companies. This has led her to develop launchpad2X.
Bernie began her career as a leading member of the first class of female officers in the US Army and she served as a role model and mentor for women, stressing the importance of female leaders with technical backgrounds, and went on to positions as Chief Information Officer at United Technologies, Hamilton Standard, Carrier Corporation, and Raytheon Corp. She capped her corporate career as VP, Services, HP Americas. She serves on several boards, such as the National Conference for Women in Technology and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Along with advising hundreds of early-stage companies, she serves as a board member or chair of 10 early-stage companies. Bernie splits her time between residences in Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina. In her free time, she can be found on the golf course, traveling the world and reading the latest release of political intrigue novels. Bernie, welcome to the show.
Bernie: Good morning. Thanks John. It’s great to be here.
Evelyn: We are so thrilled to have you Bernie. As John said earlier, we had quite a lot of interaction with you this year, which has been fantastic, through launchpad and the Atlanta Technology Angels. Given your career and your path coming from the army and then your work with various corporations, how did you actually end up getting involved with early-stage investing, Atlanta Technology Angels? How did we get here?
Bernie: Well, it’s a long story but I’m going to give you some highlights. It’s actually been great, I’ve had a great career. I’ve had some great opportunities, starting with the US Army opportunity when I graduated. I got my commission as the first class of female officers, so I went into the army as a Signal Corps Officer. I was the first class of female officers, and I was in one of those positions where the men would look at me, they didn’t know where the women were wearing their rank. They didn’t know if they should salute me. They didn’t know what they should do, and so I kind of had some fun with it from time to time. You have to keep your sense of humor in all this. What was nice about the army was it didn’t matter if you’re male, female or what your political inclinations were, even what you thought. It was more important that you’re a soldier first and the mission of the army came first.
I learned a lot. My army career was actually capped with an assignment as an aide to a three-star general. Not only was I a female in the army as a second lieutenant, and then a first lieutenant when I became the aide to the general, he was also the youngest three-star general that the military ever had. Here’s a female aide to a really young whippersnapper out to change the world kind of person, and we did. I really felt that that was probably one of the most influential periods of my life. I got to see how decisions were made at the top levels in government. We traveled the world and oftentimes were doing business with other countries and their governments and their militaries, all the English-speaking countries.
Being a female officer in the army was an excellent opportunity for me to learn a lot of lessons and kind of figure out how things are done and how decisions are made. Then I thought I need to get out of the army and go into some place where I could achieve on my own. I could get ahead as quickly as I could achieve on my own. So I went to Booz Allen Hamilton. I continued my stint with National Security and I worked with the White House and the State Department and some DOD agencies at Booz Allen.
Then after Booz Allen I got my first taste of private industry, although Booz Allen is a private industry, sort of quasi-government work I was doing. I went to private industry and I have to tell you, I left Booz Allen and I was interviewing for a position, actually interviewing United Technologies, and I was interviewing when I was seven months pregnant. I might have been a little naïve at the time, but here I am as a young female, I’m thinking I’m great, I’m capable, and it didn’t dawn on me that in Hartford, Connecticut there might be a little bias against women that were pregnant.
Bernie: They were asking me questions like, “Does your husband know you’re here?”
Bernie: United Technologies was not asking that. It was other companies that I was interviewing with. Eventually I took a position with United Technologies and eventually at UTC became a Chief Information Officer for Hamilton Standard, which makes space suits for NASA. Then I began, I moved on to be the CEO at Carrier Corporation. First time in my career I could talk about something that wasn’t classified. I could actually go to parties and actually talk about heating and air conditioning and compressors.
Evelyn: [crosstalk 00:07:35] you were working on.
Bernie: Yeah, I could actually talk about my work.
Evelyn: Bernie, I think that’s kind of interesting though. Let’s just go through that, because I know that women who have children still face challenges in the workplace. You’re seven months pregnant, you had the baby, went to work, and were you supported, did you feel supported by United at the time that you were there?
Bernie: Actually, my first child was born when I was at Booz Allen. I have to tell you that Booz Allen had a, I don’t know what it is now, but they had a very generous maternity policy. We were able to take up to six months off. Full pay.
Bernie: I took advantage of that. Here’s what happened though. I’m a female, I was running some contracts with state departments and I had to leave. Somebody else has to do that work when you’re on maternity leave. What happened, it’s kind of like being an attorney, you leave your job and someone else is going to come in and fill in for you. Suddenly when it was time to go back, I went back to work after three months because I felt like if I didn’t, I was going to just not have a job. My work was going to all the guys that were very aggressive about getting the work, and by the way, they weren’t at home with their kids. They were at work. I wanted to go back. I enjoyed work, I enjoyed the intellectual interaction with-
Bernie: Yes, and I’m a constant learner. I love that, but when I went back I realized I’d have to start my business practice all over again from scratch. That’s one of the reasons I left. In the process of leaving and I was having my second child, I actually didn’t start at United Technologies until my second child was three months old. I thought three months was kind of okay. They actually hired me while I was pregnant and they made me feel like I could make a contribution.
Evelyn: That’s awesome.
John: You said that you worked at Carrier. What happened after that? Did you come to Atlanta?
Bernie: Oh, there were many miles between that position and Atlanta. I was a Chief Information Officer at Raytheon Corporation in Boston and talk about having to drive. I stayed living in the Hartford, Connecticut area, where I’d been with United Technologies, and I commuted two hours one way to Raytheon because I wanted my kids to stay in school, in their schools in the Hartford area. This is what women do, right? I’m sure some men do it too, but that was huge, huge [inaudible 00:10:17]. Anyway, it went on after that, I worked at HP. I ran a service business for HP in the Americas in support of some big industries. When I left HP I was realizing that there just isn’t a lot of women in private industry, in tech, even in Silicon Valley, where, actually HP started Silicon Valley. So I vowed that I’m going to do something about that if I ever have the opportunity to get out of this corporate world. I became part of this new economy. I committed to being part of this new economy and maybe even doing something to move the needle for women. I started with let’s have some capital, let’s move some capital into this area. I got together with three of my best friends of all time. We were all executives at United Technologies and we vowed that we’re going to do something to move the needle for women.
John: Okay, we want to dive into that a little bit more after the break. We’re going to be back with Bernie Dixon of launchpad2X.
John: Welcome back to In Process. We are here with Bernie Dixon of launchpad2X. Bernie, when we left off, you were just telling us about how you and a couple of your friends had gotten together and you were starting to look into sort of capital formation, investing. Tell us how you went from that to eventually being the president of the Atlanta Technology Angels.
Bernie: Well, it was probably through a lot of naïveté actually. I have some three really good friends of mine that we were sitting in one of our outings one time and saying, “We got to do something to move this needle for women.” I also naively thought that there was actually a correlation between capital and having a successful company, which I’ll talk more about later. We thought putting money into these female-led companies at an early stage would help them. Very long story short, I ended up in Atlanta in 2012. I had some other opportunities, and I saw the wealth of activities in Atlanta for women. I thought wow, this has got to be a hotbed to invest in women entrepreneurs. Georgia Tech graduates more female engineers than any other institution in the country. They have a huge universe of entrepreneurial programs. I’m thinking this has got to be a hotbed for me.
Well, I got to Atlanta, talked to a lot of people, and I couldn’t find these women entrepreneurs. Really. I would think now, there’s a lot of engineers here. I started thinking well, why don’t I do something that would magnetize them and attract them to me instead of me trying to tromp around every place looking for them? I was going to all kinds of meetings. In the end, I started launchpad2X. But I learned a lot about what I now know is angel investing, which is investing at the very early seed stage of a company when it might not have a product yet, certainly may not have revenues yet, and not be market proven yet.
This is very different if you’re a corporate mindset and you’re used to projecting revenue and margins and return on equity and all that. It’s not that thing at all. I got myself very much educated in this new economy about entrepreneurs. Then I realized that most seed investing is done through angel groups. Well, a lot of it’s done individually, but you can waste a lot of time trying to find companies to invest in as an individual. You’re meeting them in coffee shops, you know? Everything sounds great, right? Everybody’s enthusiastic about their company. It’s better to band with a group of other people that have some insight, maybe have done this before.
I became affiliated with the Atlanta Technology Angels, which at that point was about 80 to 100 accredited investors. Accredited investors are high net worth individuals that make over $250,000 a year or their net worth is more than a million dollars minus their primary residence. These were all high net worth individuals that I began to work with and began to learn the arms and legs around angel investing and how to evaluate entrepreneurs. In the meantime, my heart is still with launchpad2X. I became the president and chairman of ATA about two months after I joined, maybe because I kept saying, “We should be doing this and we should be doing that.” Suddenly we should be in charge, right?
John: I’m always careful of what I ever suggest.
Evelyn: Everyone said, “Wow, you need to lead us.”
Bernie: Yeah, good ideas. Of course, I’m a Booz Allen consultant, I’m an army, I’m going to take the high ground, let’s just do this and we’ll worry about how to do it later. Anyway, I ended up leading ATA and it was great. Again, I learned a lot about angel investing. I learned a lot about entrepreneurs. I also know that 80 to 90% of businesses that are started at the entrepreneurial level, they’re out of business in three to five years. 80% are out of business. You start talking about VCs and how they select companies and how angel investors select companies, 80% of them are going to fail and everybody tries to make their money on the 10 or 20% that go big. There are very few of those. We’re talking about 20% of the companies get invested in. Most companies that are successful, by the way, don’t get external funding. Most companies do not get external funding. I began to-
Evelyn: [crosstalk 00:16:03] by their entrepreneurs, yeah.
Bernie: Right, right. I mean, they’re doing it through sheer grit sometimes. Oftentimes they’re mortgaging their house and they’re putting their own money into it, which is actually great if you care enough about something, you’re going to put your own money and energy into it. Still, when I was looking at all these companies with ATA, and ATA reviews about 30 to 50 companies a month that apply for funding. Actually ATA ends up investing in 12 to 15 deals a year. Half of those would be follow-on deals and half of them would be new deals. That’s a lot of screening of companies to get hundreds of companies down to 12 or 15 a year to invest in. There’s a lot of due diligence. There’s a lot of research and a lot of help that goes into it. So I did lean a lot.
Evelyn: That’s kind of interesting though Bernie. As part of ATA though, did you start seeing more female entrepreneurs that were coming and pitching for money, or not so much?
Bernie: Well, not so much. We still had to go look for them. Still had to go look for them. There are even times when, for instance, we would have an educational program for ATA. It was going to be a panel discussion and I would actually insist that there’s a female on the panel. I mean, those are the types of things that female leaders need to do, is in certain situations you just need to insist that females be given an opportunity. It doesn’t have to be a win, it just has to be give them an opportunity. They’re just as good. In the end I had to find the individual female to be on the educational panel, but we ended up having at least one. Having policies like that in place where there’s just some opportunities for women to be successful is what this is all about.
John: I had a question about that. When you were talking about your career and you being in the military, who were your mentors in the military? I mean, did you have anybody who was a female that could help you at all? It sounds like it would at best be your peers, not someone who would really be above. Is that what sort of drove you to sort of take this initiative in finding people, female mentors? Or were you lucky enough to have some male mentors that were also I guess cognizant of this?
Bernie: Yeah, I have to say there weren’t a lot of women that had preceded me, certainly in the army. I had to look, but that’s a misnomer, and not that I want to play that down at all, but it’s a misnomer to think that women need female mentors.
Evelyn: I agree.
Bernie: You know? We can actually be mentored by anyone and we can mentor anyone.
Bernie: I think there’s more differences in and among the individual genders than there are between them, especially when it comes to mentoring. I was an aide to a three-star general. He is still very much a mentor to me 30 years later. There are people in this world that I turn to. My friends are great, but I actually learn something from everywhere I go. One thing I must stress is that women need to know that they have an equal opportunity to be successful, or they may not even enter the competition. Go ahead.
Evelyn: I think that’s been one of the major issues for a long time. I think some of that is, girls and boys are actually raised differently. They are raised differently and I think that the whole idea of being at the table, if you will, and speaking equally is somewhat foreign to a lot of women. I want to support your position on women don’t have to have female mentors because I never had a female mentor myself. I had some wonderful men that saw that there was a drive there and a brain, and were happy to actually help steer me into opportunities and support.
Bernie: Yeah, it’s good if women are given the opportunity to be authentic and not necessarily play by men’s rules. They can play by their own rules too. You can choose your own mentor as a female. Again, there was actually, I should tell you a little piece of data. There was a study done at HP and HP was wondering why more women weren’t applying for positions at the senior level. It seems like there was a lot of men that were applying for these positions. The study was done like, why aren’t these women applying? What they found was that men will actually apply for a position, and now you can translate this into any opportunity, but men will actually apply when they think that they meet about 60% of the criteria necessary for that opportunity. On the other hand, and this is at the very fabric of women, women think that they need to meet over 90% of the criteria before they will even step up to an opportunity. If a woman doesn’t think, you’re reading all this criteria about a job position or an entrepreneurial opportunity and you’re looking at all this criteria that’s necessary and you’re a female going, “Well, I can’t do this. I have never done that, never done,” and a female may not actually go for it. A man, on the other hand, will say, “Yeah, let’s do it. Yeah, I can do that. I can do that,” and actually will enter into even how they are evaluated. A lot of times in venture capital or even at ATA and the seed stage level, a lot of men entrepreneurs are actually judged for their potential. The questions that are asked of them are actually about their potential. We see a lot of questions that are asked to women entrepreneurs is always about their experience, which obviously it would translate into their ability to execute, I suppose. But I see big differences in the way that we actually holistically look at male and females whenever they go into entrepreneurial ventures.
John: All right. We’re going to take a quick break, but we will be back with Bernie Dixon of launchpad2X.
Speaker 1: Now, back to In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century, with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon. For more information, visit trusted-counsel.com.
John: Welcome back to In Process. We are here with Bernie Dixon of launchpad2X. Bernie, tell us a little bit more about launchpad2X. What’s the mission of that?
Bernie: Thanks John. I actually started launchpad2X in 2012. In 2012 I was new to Atlanta and I was looking for females. My personal passion was always to be able to move the needle for women somehow. I’m out of corporate. I don’t have an infrastructure around me, and so I thought, “Let me just go help these women. I think I might have something to offer. I’ve got a lot of experience.” I couldn’t find them. We talked a little bit before about being unable to identify where these women are. Where do they gather? What are the places they’re attracted to? Where can I go to find them? When I couldn’t find them, I thought, “Well, I’m going to create something here that would attract them to me, and that I could, if I can’t find out where they’re being developed locally, then maybe I can develop them myself.” Little naïve again, but that never stopped me before. I actually founded launchpad2X. Now, the 2X in the title of launchpad2X denotes the two X chromosomes that females carry. It’s a little code word for this is for women only. Now guys, I’m not saying that launchpad wouldn’t help you, but you know, you’ve been given a lot of other opportunity. Now it’s my chance to give some women some opportunity to get some concentrated development. What I learned through many, many years is that what women need in terms of, to be successful in businesses, they need knowledge and tools just like guys do. They need the grit to be able to do it, just like guys do. All entrepreneurs need that grit, that steadfastness, that never give up, let’s go on QVC, let’s go on Shark Tank even if we fail. We’re going to try this because we’re just so committed to it. That kind of grit. There’s three things that women need more than men, and it’s not that women don’t have those other capabilities. It’s just there’s other things that are necessary. Women need to know that they have at least even odds of being successful. That means that there’s got to be at least something that would favor them a little bit. They have to know something about what they’re doing, and that there’s even odds for them to be successful.
Second of all, they need confidence. Therein lies the majority of the focus of launchpad2X, is confidence. How many times do you hear women say, “I’m sorry”? I mean, really. That’s one of the things we work on. Confidence, and then the third thing that women need more than men do in terms of an entrepreneurial venture is a community around them. That has something to do with giving them an equal chance. They need a community of their peers as well as an ecosystem around them. Do they need it? No, but those three things that I just mentioned, even odds, confidence, and community, they will actually increase the odds of success for women. I founded launchpad2X on those three primary considerations for women.
Evelyn: That’s awesome. The women that apply to the program, do you have statistics on their backgrounds? Do many of them have MBAs or not?
Bernie: No, I have all kinds of statistics. This is something I track very closely. We have graduated 120 companies. I’m going to talk about the first 100 because I just graduated 20 from the last class, so they haven’t performed to give me statistics yet, but we have, the average age, by the way, of these women coming into the program, average age is 40. It’s 40 years old. These aren’t 20-something, no there’s a couple, there’s outliers, of course. We welcome anyone into the program, any age, but what I’m finding is the first six years now I’ve done it, the average age is 40, which means they’ve got some other kind of experience. They’ve had a corporate job. They’ve worked with somebody else, maybe they’ve had a previous entrepreneurial venture. They’ve been a professional. Now they’ve decided to launch out on their own and do something. Usually it’s related to whatever their experience is. We have that average age. In terms of the types of companies that are coming in, it’s about half product and half services. It’s about a third consumer products and two-thirds, a third maybe enterprise and then a third sort of other or mixed. We have about half of them are technology based, and the other half I would say run on technology platforms but that isn’t the main thrust of their business. They’re very, very diverse in the types of industries. We oftentimes think about women being dominant in the consumer products industry and launchpad has about half of it, half of the companies that have graduated are in the consumer products industry, but half aren’t. Half are supply chain management and industrial products and product-based. t’s a lot of diversity to all these companies, which is amazing because the track record of success, which means that you can actually take any industry, any focus, and actually have a success with it, because let me tell you about some of the success statistics that we have from the launchpad companies.
I talked earlier about most companies are out of business, 80% or 90% of companies are out of business after three years. With launchpad, after five years, 96% of the companies first of all are still in business. They are still up and they’re running. Number two, the average growth rate, so instead of going out of business and decreasing, the average growth rate for the launchpad2X companies is more than 200% a year. It’s every year. It’s not just the first year they graduate from the program. It is every year.
They are growing. We have also had six exits. Six of these companies have sold, most to strategic buyers. There’s something to be said about that. Then from what I can calculate with the employees that they’re hiring, their revenues, their supply base, contractors, these companies have close to $250 million impact to the Atlanta economy. It’s pretty close to $300 million. These are entrepreneurs, so they’re very early stage. My dream would be actually, let’s have a bigger, let’s get to a billion dollars with these companies. You know what I didn’t say in all that was these companies are raising money. I have not tracked that because some of them are funded. Most of them aren’t or they’re funded by their own personal or they have other businesses that are funding their mainline business. There’s lots of different ways, but a lot of these companies are not out getting funded like we thought they might be. My naïvete about forming this investment group and investing in female entrepreneurs, I find that my bigger value to these companies is helping them with evening their odds, giving them confidence, and building a community around them.
Evelyn: Interesting. Talk to us about the program itself, Bernie. You apply, you’re accepted, and what is the program?
Bernie: Oh, sure. I’ve had the program for six years now and the first year I kind of screened companies myself. I was begging companies to come to launchpad2X because I was not a known entity. But six years later we fast forward and there’s quite a reputation. Any female entrepreneur that is in early stage beyond ideation, we’re not just looking for idea companies. We’re looking for companies that have something, that are on the brink of revenue. They are ready to sign their first contract. They actually have something. Then they’re ready for launchpad2X because there’s lots of places that you can go and get help during the ideation phase. They go online and apply. There’s an application online at launchpad2X.com. Then we have a group of advisors that we’ve built around this program that actually help in screening these companies. We limit the class to 25 companies a year. There’s a core program that we run once a year. We’re thinking about a little bit more, but we’re running once a year, core program that’s three days. The focus of that core program is transitioning from founder to CEO. It’s getting these women entrepreneurs into the mindset of being big shot CEOs, not staying in this early stage entrepreneurial, I’m just a founder. Then what we do afterwards is we have a series of workshops. We do monthly workshops where we will dive deep into a project, or excuse me, into a topic. What’s interesting during those workshops is it’s part of the community. The workshops actually start with the first hour of, we call it a little bit of therapy, a little bit of networking, but everybody gets to talk about their company and that’s where they get to ask for resources or we celebrate successes if someone just signed a huge contract, or if they need help with where to get a prototype manufactured. We might address those types of things during the networking and therapy session. Then we’ll go deep into a subject. It might be creating a social media strategy for your company. It might be how to negotiate a term sheet. I actually run two classes on how to negotiate, which is a very popular one. Evelyn, you’ve done workshops with us. You know that we also do how to become a, how to apply and register as a female-owned business in the State of Georgia. There’s lots of things that we do.
Then there’s also, we created what we call these industry circles, so if you are a consumer products company you might join this circle and they have special meetings and they go and have their own [crosstalk 00:33:00].
Evelyn: Set up meetings and …
Bernie: Yeah, they often do what they want to do, but we always come back and report back at those monthly workshops. Then we do an annual survey, so we keep in touch with all the companies.
John: Welcome back to In Process. We are here with Bernie Dixon of launchpad2X. Bernie, when we left off, you were telling us about the program but as we know, one of the most important things about being an entrepreneur, or hardest things, having a network is just so critical. What does launchpad2X do to provide networks to entrepreneurs?
Bernie: Oh, great, because we did talk a lot about it’s important to have this ecosystem around you as an entrepreneur. We have built this ecosystem that consists of a board, we have a board of advisors, and we also have sponsors, of which Trusted Counsel is a big sponsor of launchpad2X. There’s different roles for these. When an entrepreneur comes into the launchpad program, she actually gets assigned an advisor from this group of sponsors and advisors. That sponsor or advisor is actually someone that can use their networks to help connect that person to a broader set of resources. Those are very valuable resources that these advisors and sponsors bring into this program. Can you imagine being an entrepreneur and having at your fingertips an advisor from Delta Airlines that can help you with connections and resources and just a way of thinking? Maybe even opening doors for you. We did a showcase with Delta earlier this year and nine companies presented from launchpad and seven of those companies are in the process of getting business out of Delta. We try to make those kinds of connections. We’re doing other showcases coming up this year. Having that-
Evelyn: I think that’s really important too for companies, actually all businesses, really, that are in their early stages, because it’s so hard for an entrepreneur to actually make the transition from working in their business to working on their business. That kind of entree is one of the ways that you can actually segue to that.
Bernie: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. The whole theme of launchpad2X is about transitioning from founder to CEO. Thinking like a CEO and seeing how other companies’ CEOs think, that’s really, really important. We’ve had such great success with these companies in Atlanta. I mean, if you ever ask me, what are the greatest companies that have come through launchpad2X, I wrote down like, 15 of them off the top of my head. It’s hard for me to zone in on here’s one or two companies that have been successful. They’re all successful in their own ways.
Evelyn: It’s got to be like choosing your favorite child. It’s really not something that is possible.
Bernie: Yeah, like you didn’t mention me. We’ve had six companies have sold to strategic buyers so we know that there’s something about this program, there’s something that’s working here, that’s helping these women be successful and I’m going to take that credit right now. I’d like to do more too. I’d like to expand this beyond these women that I’m finding in Atlanta. It’d be great to have something like launchpad in other major metropolitan areas.
Bernie: Even in non-metropolitan areas. I’m actually going through the thought process right now and I may be a little naïve, but that hasn’t stopped me before, but this process about thinking about who are the right partners for launchpad2X as we expand? Do we want to find some national sponsors? Do we want to go through a chamber of commerce kind of network and reach these other cities? I’m actually trying to figure out what it is, what the right model is for expanding launchpad. I will say, though, because Atlanta is so friendly to women entrepreneurs, we’re going to keep the core program here in Atlanta, because I’d like other female entrepreneurs to be exposed to that kind of an environment. It’d be good to keep the core program here and then build an ecosystem in these other metropolitan areas that can support these women entrepreneurs.
Evelyn: You could make it even much more valuable for the women who actually participate in the program. To be able to access nationally could be incredible.
Bernie: Right, right. Oh, and the other thing that I’m looking for right now is, since launchpad2X, is a not-for-profit organization. We are looking for grants, so we’re out, we have a grant writer working with us and we think we can expand a lot more quickly than we can with our current sponsors and Bernie Dixon’s own contribution to this program.
Evelyn: Your investment dollars that are [crosstalk 00:38:18].
Bernie: I’d like to pursue some grant money and then figure out how we can expand this more nationally.
John: We have a little segment that we want to do pretty fast. It’s rapid-fire questions. I think this is probably a good way for us to wrap up the show. I’m going to ask you a series of quick questions and just give us your top of mind thoughts on these. Who’s an entrepreneur that we need to follow?
Bernie: Oh, I want you to take, I’m going to tell you a name but I want you to look up La Belle Bump on the Internet. La Belle Bump actually rents maternity clothes for women. Wow, why didn’t we think of that before?
John: That’s genius.
Bernie: Great idea.
John: Yeah, I wish that would have been around, oh, about six years ago.
Bernie: You would look really good in maternity clothes.
John: It is for me. Crowd funding, yes or no?
Bernie: Yes, yes. Crowd funding for consumer-based products that are in the early stages, yes. It’s a good way to market as well as collect some capital.
John: What do you look for in investing or when you invest in a business?
Bernie: I look for the entrepreneur to be confident and be able to execute in a high potential business area.
John: What’s your favorite book?
Bernie: Oh, I got a trillion favorite books, but right now I am reading, gosh, I just got done reading Dan Brown’s new book. Trying to think of the name of it now.
Evelyn: I’ve heard it’s really good.
Bernie: Yes. I’m also reading, I’m drawing a blank.
John: I did see in your bio that you-
Evelyn: Rapid fire is really hard.
John: You like political intrigue books, so you must read a ton.
Bernie: Oh, I do, I do. There’s one reason I don’t do Facebook. I’m just not a Facebook person, but I read Tom Clancy’s novel last year and they all have similar titles. I don’t remember the title of it. Tom Clancy’s book last year, if you read that book you will understand why you are exposing yourself greatly when you’re out on Facebook and Twitter and everybody’s able to locate you and find out what you’ve been going through. It’s a thriller about terrorists targeting people through social media.
Evelyn: Listen, I want to mention, today’s December 7th and Facebook pushed me this morning saying, “Here’s your year-end review Evelyn.” I was like, “Why is Facebook closing out my year?”
Evelyn: [crosstalk 00:40:47].
Bernie: What gave them authority over your year anyway?
Evelyn: Exactly. What are you working on now Bernie? What’s engaging you and driving your passion and interest?
Bernie: Well, besides supporting women entrepreneurs through launchpad and some other opportunities and my board work, I’m a perpetual learner so I have just thrown myself into the whole world of cryptocurrency. I am at a feverish pace watching what’s going on in cryptocurrency, particularly Bitcoin and Ethereum right now. I’m liking what I’m seeing, and I’m thinking we are at the very early stages of a huge movement and just like all other industries have been hacked by new technology, I think the whole monetary system’s going to be hacked by cryptocurrencies.
John: Who inspires you?
Bernie: I am inspired by anyone that’s doing something that’s adding value. I love women entrepreneurs. I am inspired by all of them because they have the courage to do something I didn’t do whenever I was young in my career, and that is start their own company.
John: I think that’s a perfect one to end on. Bernie, thank you so much for joining us. It’s been great, launchpad2X is fantastic. It’s a fantastic program that we love to participate in and sponsor. If anybody would like to know more about launchpad2X, please visit launchpad2X.com. We hope you enjoyed In Process today. If you’d like to download this episode, you can find us on iTunes as In Process Podcast. If you have any questions, or you’d like to be a featured guest, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for joining us.
Evelyn: Thanks Bernie.
Bernie: Thank you all.
Speaker 1: This has been In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century, with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon, presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. For more information, visit trusted-counsel.com.