Still Got the “Entrepreneur Bug”

I have the opportunity to connect with and learn from entrepreneurs every day of my job as a deal sourcing analyst for a growth equity fund. The conversations and meetings that I have with passionate entrepreneurs educate me about market spaces I would never have known even existed. And I really enjoy hearing the stories of those who saw a problem, dropped everything to build the solution, and hustled enough to now own a market-proven and growing business.

My current Analyst role parallels a B2B business development role in that I identify and pursue leads; those leads just happen to be CEOs of thriving small software companies. I’ve learned how to craft emails and calls to garner responses. How to pitch our value-add appropriately for each target audience (CEO vs CFO, marketing automation vs cybersecurity). How to establish and cultivate relationships from the investor point of view.

But now I want to get the experience of selling a nascent application software product. For this reason, I’m adding some ad hoc work into my life with Helme is a budgeting and expense forecasting tool to help private and charter schools better plan tuition, hiring plans, and capex-intense development projects. The solution oftentimes takes the place of cluttered spreadsheets being managed by a school’s business manager or headmaster. Helme targets small-to-medium private schools (30 to 750 students) across the States and has already contracted 20+ paying customers.

I connected with Brent, Helme’s founder and a fellow University of Virginia grad, through a mutual friend this fall. We grabbed lunch and I was impressed by his dedication to learning about a new industry, building out the product while finishing his UVA degree, and wearing the many different hats of a founder.

As schools look towards their spring budgeting cycle, November — January is the ideal time to introduce Helme’s product to the private school principals and headmasters. The Company plays in a small niche market where the only other options are spreadsheets or an internally-built solution (not feasible for the smaller schools with budgets of less than $2M / year). So while Helme may not become the next Facebook, it is a solution that solves a burdensome process that consumes many days of workflow each year.

I hope that I can spend a few hours here and there learning from and connecting with private and charter schools over the coming weeks. It’s an exciting opportunity to both sell directly to schools as well as build potential distribution channels for a product that is right out of the gates. And since I am not a product guy, but am instead a finance and bus dev guy, hopefully Helme is just one of many future ventures to which I can contribute.

All that being said — if you know anyone involved with a mid-size private or charter school, I’d love to connect. I’m also reaching out to leaders at school networks such as KIPP in DC or MAPCS in Maryland to both learn about pain points and introduce Helme’s budgeting solution. Shoot me a note/comment if you have anyone who might be interested.

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