5 Questions with Melissa Pegus, Managing Director of Techstars New Orleans Powered by J.P. Morgan

Mar 17, 2023

Melissa Pegus is the Managing Director of Techstars New Orleans Powered by J.P. Morgan and Techstars Atlanta Powered by J.P. Morgan, startup operator, and early-stage investor. During her tenure as a startup operator, Melissa has spent more than a decade scaling startups from pre-revenue through Series C growth, resulting in seven acquisitions. As an investor, she focuses on startups that are building the future of Commerce, Consumer, Climate, and the Creator Economy. 

01. What are you looking for in startups for the Techstars New Orleans Powered by J.P. Morgan accelerator?

It all starts with the founding team: people are the core of every business. I’m looking for entrepreneurs who are purpose-driven and want to make a big difference in the world. However, vision alone isn’t enough. I’m also looking for fearlessness and self-awareness, key traits that define great leaders and help them build great teams that in turn create successful businesses. This accelerator has a strong vertical thesis that focuses on Commerce, Consumer, Climate, and the Creator Economy. The accelerator’s thesis is shaped by my experiences, expertise, and a world-class roster of mentors and advisors that will all come together to support our founders’ success. 

02. What is your favorite thing about the New Orleans startup scene and how will the partnership with Louisiana Economic Development make an impact?

New Orleans is a city that’s known for creativity and for serving as a literal launchpad for innovation. In fact, they design the rockets to put the first Woman and Person of Color on the Moon and human on Mars. So it comes as no surprise that we’re seeing an uptick in entrepreneurial activity in the local ecosystem and I’m excited to leverage our resources including our global network to help entrepreneurs succeed!

With a business climate that’s friendly to investors, founders, and attractive to talent seeking opportunity there’s never been a better time to be a part of the NOLA startup ecosystem. 

03. What are some of the biggest learnings from your career and entrepreneurial journey that you bring to being a Techstars Managing Director?

Two words: strategic partnerships. Startups are typically lean on resources and by necessity must be scrappy. Partnerships can have a transformative impact on your business regardless of what industry or business model you’re pursuing. An emphasis on strategic partnerships can help a company in a number of ways:

  1. Building brand awareness

  2. Establishing credibility

  3. Acquiring customers and users at scale

  4. Enriching product capabilities

  5. Expanding into new markets

  6. Courting investor interest

  7. Providing a gateway for future acquisition

04. What does our partner J.P. Morgan bring to the accelerator?

Startups face challenges at every stage. However, financial challenges can abruptly end a startup’s vision for their product, team, or growth. J.P. Morgan has the expertise, financial solutions, and network to support the disruptors of today and leaders of tomorrow. This program represents Techstars and J.P. Morgan’s belief that diversity and inclusion are the catalysts of innovation and growth. In supporting early-stage startups, J.P. Morgan believes it can help build a future with stronger companies led by underrepresented, diverse founders.

For J.P. Morgan, it’s about changing the entire ecosystem because while talent is distributed equally, opportunity is not. Backing diverse founders leads to a reinvestment in their communities and expanding access for others. J.P. Morgan has made longstanding, large-scale investments in cities to support local initiatives, entrepreneurs, and the environment with over $30 billion committed to advancing racial equity in 2020 and $2.5 trillion towards green initiatives by 2030.

J.P. Morgan’s partnership with Techstars shows their commitment to supporting inclusive accelerators that create opportunities for diverse, early-stage founders. As a part of this partnership, J.P. Morgan will offer an integrated suite of services to founders in this accelerator that extend beyond the 13-week program. This includes, but is not limited to, access to banking, wealth management, and advisory solutions accessible through their local and commercial banking specialists.

05. What does Give First mean to you and how do you apply it in your work and life?

One of my core values is to be a rising tide. I truly believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. My successes are in large part due to the incredible support and guidance of mentors and advocates who I’ve met on my professional journey. The alignment of my core values with the Techstars’ #givefirst ethos was a key factor in my decision to join this incredible team. Very few things in life are zero-sum and creating opportunities and pathways for others can have a profound multiplier effect that is at the heart of driving innovation and global impact.