What constitutes a pre-seed company these days?
By definition, these companies have shown identified a market opportunity and are seeking outside investment to build and gain customers. You’d expect they might go to an early-stage VC, an angel network, or even a specialized accelerator to pitch their vision. But in reality, the pre-seed landscape has become a lot murkier to navigate, particularly for minority founders.
Up until the recent economic slowdown, capital was being deployed at a record pace. But investment criteria have narrowed, making it harder for true pre-seed companies to get their foot in the door.
And that creates a catch-22 for founders. Startups need capital to build their product, customers, and revenue…but they often can’t get outside capital until they prove they have a product, customers, and revenue.
“There’s a lot of money out there for underestimated founders, but all that money is going towards the programs that require product, customers, and revenue,” Kristin Slink told Hypepotamus.
That gap in resources can kill a startup idea even before it has a chance to get off the ground.
Slink has seen this problem play out multiple times throughout her career. Now, she’s dedicated to helping early-stage founders get a product out of the idea phase and into the growth stage.
Tech AF, her Atlanta-based startup training program, is focused on helping non-technical founders avoid the common pitfalls made in that pre-revenue, pre-investment phase.
“There can be a lot of wasted time and wasted money when trying to figure out exactly how to get a product built. Specifically, with non-technical founders, they go and hire a developer, they articulate what they need…but they get [the product] back and it’s either not what they had in their mind or it’s not what their customers needs,” said Slink.
The program is designed to help bridge that technical gap for non-technical founders. The goal is to help founder validate an idea, build out an MVP or product, and prepare a path forward to ultimately pitch to early-stage investors with strict product, customers, and revenue requirements.
Slink is a successful non-technical co-founder herself and has made her mark on the startup scene both in San Diego and Atlanta. While working at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, one of her side hustles in the loan consulting space started gaining momentum. She built up several startups in loan, consulting, and fintech spaces that helped eliminate predatory lending practices.
Her most recent venture, LoanHero, was acquired by Kennesaw-based LendingPoint in 2018.
When Slink moved to Atlanta soon after, she realized her passion for helping other startup founders navigate the pre-seed space. While she was ultimately able to raise angel and venture funding for her startups, she saw first-hand how the cards are stacked against founders trying to get an idea from an idea to an actual product.
The name Tech AF (All Founders) is intentionally “sassy,” Slink told Hypepotamus. But she genuinely believes that all people can become grow their tech idea with the proper tools. “We just believe that anyone can be a founder. It doesn’t have to be a tech bro. You can come from industry and understand what needs to be built and you can work with technical teams to make it happen,” she added.
The program has a particular focus on generating revenue over just going after funding in the early stage.
“When you’re focused on funding, you’re practicing your pitch and you’re going to pitch competition. But when you’re building revenue and getting out in front of customers, you’re automatically building something that investors are looking for,” Slink said.