Former Olympic Level Ice Dancer is Fostering a New Sustainable Startup Ecosystem with a Founder’s First Approach

Alexis Williamson (Snelling) and Vitali Novikov. Senior International Ice Dance Competition 2009–2010. Lake Placid, NY

WeTransact AI SaaS platform is revolutionizing the way founders, funders and experts align. What does this former senior international ice dancer trained by the global masterminds have to bring to the legacy of the Silicon Valley-dominated tech world? Alexis Snelling CEO of WeTransact says:

“It’s all about alignment and timing.”

For hundreds of years, the world has watched and admired the stories of many Olympians’ road to compete with the best in the world. It’s not just the one Olympic performance that the world falls in love with these athletes. It’s the struggles that they had to overcome, their perseverance and resiliency to never give up and be the very best they can be, that we admire most. These are the very traits of entrepreneurs and many global leaders we also adore and respect.

How do these athletes get to the Olympics?

They all get there because of their ongoing support system. Everything in their life revolves around accomplishing this common goal. People, resources, schedules, nutrition, workouts, psychologists, equipment, and environments will contribute to the athlete’s success.

If anything is toxic or not aligned contributing to moving in the right direction then adjustments are immediately made that will positively impact the results.

The scientific approach is implemented with a system of tracking and monitoring for Olympic-level athletes. Many specialists in their fields guide the athletes who are tracked, monitored, and constantly given feedback to adjust their training to impact their outcomes.

This continuous feedback loop of improvement is how athletes become the very best versions of their abilities. This requires a trust and transparency of all behaviors and criteria every step of the way.

The Amateur Sports Act of 1978 (later renamed in the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act) established the USOPC, then referred to as the USOC (United States Olympic Committee), as the coordinating body for all Olympic-related athletic activity in the United States. The USOPC was also given the responsibility of promoting and supporting physical fitness and public participation in athletic activities by encouraging developmental programs in its member organizations. Thus the Olympic Training Centers were formalized in the United States.

How did Olympians compete and qualify before?

Before the training centers were created each individual sport had its own organization for each country. Broken into regional and local clubs and informal groups. They were all separate and had different criteria, rules, and even due structures to qualify through their training programs. The athletic system needed a unified organization to establish and maintain a consistent clear expectation of rules and parameters for the athletes to have a fair opportunity to compete and ensure fair sportsman-like qualification standards.

Alexis Snelling saw the same fragmentation occurring in the startup ecosystem in Silicon Valley and realized there was no Olympic Training Center for all entrepreneurial activity. The startup ecosystem needed this critical link in order to foster a more diverse and sustainable future of entrepreneurs, products, and services to not only achieve our greatest human potential but build a better future for us all. Mrs. Snelling shares with us lessons from her training years that she applied to her own fundraising process. SheTransacts cooperative fundraising group runs on their company’s WeTransacts AI SaaS incubation, communication, and investment platform created by her co-founder and husband David Snelling.

Lessons Learned

This was the world I knew being an athlete at multiple Olympic Training Centers in the United States. Access to these Olympic Training Centers as a figure skater often favored athletes whose families could invest in the resources to get there, i.e. the best coaches, ice time, and equipment.

Figure skating is not a cheap sport. I was being raised by a single mother on a teacher's salary and we never got child support from my Dad. This was my passion and I was really good. At 10 years old, when he walked out on our family, it was entirely up to me to sell raffle tickets door to door or outside the grocery store to pay for my trip to nationals, earn every scholarship and sponsorship could go to private school and college to get private ice time funding to train. I have had to pitch myself and always deliver to get the necessary funding to compete each season. With talent and hard work, I knew there was always a way to find the right resources, the right coaches, and the right training centers to get me to my goals. Then I would work my ass off to deliver each season and excel year after year. This prepared me for pitching as an entrepreneur.

I learned a lot from reaching the highest levels of the world of sports as well. The judging is not always fair, in fact often very politically biased. I had to be 150% better and undeniable to get the same recognition as a skater whose family may have contributed more to the right people in the sport or just being able to afford the best coaches became more prohibitive to skaters without lots of family money.

Sound familiar?

Many women and minority founders know what it’s like not having “family & friends” they can tap into for the money to even get a chance to play or train. The Startup world is just another systemic socio-economically based system with a very unlevel playing field.

So how did this 25-year career end for me?

Alexis Williamson (Snelling) and Vitali Novikov. Senior International Ice Dance Competition 2009–2010. Lake Placid, NY

I was in the top 2% of athletes in the world in my discipline. I played by all the rules, I earned awards and qualified to compete for the United States internationally, I worked even harder and I learned the hardest lesson of all… to learn you can’t beat a broken system. There’s always going to be a catch or loophole you can’t get through as long as you stay playing by the old rules. Ultimately, as it was my time to qualify and compete my partner was bought off to not skate. My chance to skate at US Nationals to go to Vancouver Olympics was stolen away from me.

I swore at that moment, never again would I put 25 years of my career, training
8 hrs a day 6 days a week, in someone else’s hands. My successes and my failures would always be in my hands as an entrepreneur.

When this door of my life was closed fate opened a new door towards becoming an entrepreneur. I successfully made the transition to becoming a small business owner when I seized an opportunity to acquire “The Carrie Dress” from Sex and City by Vivienne Westwood from her Wake Up Cave Girl collection to be featured in the then-upcoming film. While skating growing up, I would go with my Mom to the Merchandise Mart and various bridal fashion weeks to more affordably re-engineer couture dresses into my figure skating costumes each season saving me thousands of dollars each season. Working closely with many designers on re-engineering my costumes over 25 years, I knew I could disrupt the bridal industry. With my understanding of verticals in the fashion industry I did just that! All ignited by a $10k angel investment written to me in a Starbucks in Detroit Michigan into a multi-million dollar national online e-retail, pop-up store model bringing emerging fashion-forward international designers from around the world to the traditional North American Market.

Winner Takes All

Fast forward 7 years, it came time for me to raise capital for my own startup as a tech CEO. At this time in 2018–2019, only 2% of VC funding was making its way to a female founder despite being an over-performing asset class with 35% higher ROI for the VCs. This was an obvious systemic problem when investment dollars were not flowing to female founders. As the press and media started covering this inequity it was only getting worse. Post-Covid hit 2020 and Pitchbook’s data reported a 50% increase in investments globally and a decrease of 48% investments in female founders despite higher ROI to investors/funds.

Having been an entrepreneur in Detroit, New York, Chicago, Seattle, and now San Francisco, I saw first hand the many challenges unique to being a female founder in tech that I had not previously experienced in the fashion or skating world. I saw that I was not alone either. There are thousands of accomplished female founders online in private groups and communities all sharing the multiple hoops and consolations prizes being offered to female founders while investment wires were being sent to male founders after a zoom call.

As a resourceful self-made entrepreneur who could always find a solution to any problem. The problem was very clear to me that needed to be solved. For the majority of founders without access to ongoing family and friends or personal savings, they will be lost in the “zombie money” scenario. This is when founders are spending more time on fundraising and pitching than actual traction or growth just to keep going. This is where the “valley of death” begins for most founders.

Source: Osawa and Miyazaki, 2006

As the “valley of death” reality for me was unfolding as my family and friends network was not a viable option. The phrase “timing is everything in life” was especially true here. Angel investors often took 3–6 months of “getting to know you” for less than 1–2 months of runway max. Grants were often a 3–8 months process and for early-stage founders and not ever enough of an injection to get the traction needed to complete a project.

I saw the direct parallel from my figure skating days where the ability to even compete was being prevented for those who didn’t have enough family and friends funding to get the traction needed to get there to even qualify for VC funding. I learned this lesson before in my life and I was NOT going to repeat it again.

How could we turn the “valley of death” for resourceful founders into the “valley of opportunity” in the eyes of investors?

Timing

It all comes back to timing and alignment.

Time=money. Founders were accepting that fundraising has to take 100% of their time because this is “just how it is for a startup”. I put a dollar and impact value on my time so I can assess where I spend my time, my most valuable resource as a founder. Other successful people also do the same.

$10 per minute When we started Andreessen Horowitz, Marc and I wanted the firm to treat entrepreneurs with great respect. We remembered how psychologically brutal the process of building a company was. We wanted the firm to respect the fact that in the bacon and egg breakfast of a startup, we were with the chicken and the entrepreneur was the pig: we were involved, but she was committed. We thought that one way to communicate respect would be to always be on time to meetings with entrepreneurs.

For the average early stage founder to fundraise it takes networking and talking with 200 investors and approximately 60k hours before you close your round. Most time is wasted not by being late to a founder meeting or an occasional rescheduling on zoom but rather by talking to the wrong people for your company and the multiple meetings to even get to the due diligence phase of the decision to invest. It’s very frustrating when 9 out of 10 of my investor meetings are not actively invested or their funds are not even funded yet. The only solution before was to just have more meetings, network more, stay up later, get up earlier, spend less time on your your own company’s traction, and basically push yourself to a point of diminishing returns until you find your investors or you become a statistic of 98% of female founders who don’t get funded.

The Universal Startup Ecosystem

The solution was creating a new startup ecosystem that would realign the founders and funders to save both time and provide better alignment of opportunities and maximize their impact together. These are true sportsmanship ideals I valued my whole life as an athlete committed to the true Olympic spirit.

the good sportsmanship, sense of fair play, and respect for fellow athletes that is developed through participation in sports teaches men and women of different races, religions, and nationalities to work peacefully together in competition toward common goals. The Olympic Movement works to expand such lessons beyond the sports arena in the hope of promoting peace and a sense of brotherhood throughout the world.

The most prominent way the IOC promotes the Olympic Movement is through the Olympic Games. But the Movement’s ideals are practiced in other ways, including the promotion of environmental issues, fighting drug use among athletes, providing financial and educational aid, and now a more sustainable startup ecosystem for ALL.

Everyone in the startup ecosystem has their own “love language” to find the right fit for their goals. In order to find the core of each individual’s alignment, we had to universalize the ideal principles for everyone to cooperate with a set of shared values. WeTransact’s mission began to foster a more diverse and sustainable startup ecosystem for ALL with HER principles, humanity, and responsibility. No two paths of an entrepreneur look the same but their shared principles should. As more products and services innovate the solutions to the world’s problems the diversity of ideas and access to resources to implement is critical to our global recovery. It is critical moment in time to start collaborating together for a shared bigger world view.

Alignment

With WeTransact, founders now have an alternative way to fundraise and grow their companies together, like an Olympic training center, which shares a common end goal and focused on the ongoing support system of the founder. This is the new founder's first approach which is simultaneously better for funders too! Funders now have access to better real-time data, ensure they are their next unicorn that doesn’t slip thru the cracks, and also maximizing their existing ROI of their portfolio of investments. Everyone saves time and has a shared common set of goals and values.

The choice is now available to the founders’ to make. You can leave your fate to the 2% odds or join one that fits your standards and shares your common goals. We are flying past the decade-old YC playbooks of the world, and advancing them with real-time dynamic and personalized guidance and recommendations available to the founder as they grow.

We are giving founders and funders a better state of the art compass to locate their destination instead of relying on the old outdated maps of previous unicorn voyages.

Founders are trained on the tools to navigate their best possible outcomes and maximize their impact. We are continually vetting all parties across the ecosystem to maximize alignment and global impact for everyone. It’s a true real-time win-win startup ecosystem.

The founder's first “Olympic training center” is now open for founders at WeTransact. If you are an investor, fund, incubator, and/or expert you can now also access our WeTransacts AI SaaS white label. We are connecting everyone with more aligned resources and opportunities to succeed together.

Have a warm intro? Believe in our solution? Understand the problem? Want to increase efficient deployment capital to maximize impact?

Request white label demo

Are you an active fundraising female and non-binary founder? Are you wanting to pay it forward with your #RealRaise? Seeking a better way to get investment/access to capital?

Join the #RealRaise Circle for founders actively fundraising here.

If you would like to invest in our #HERchangers you can request more information via our .Live Stacks here.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store