5 Questions with Maria Flynn, Managing Director of Techstars Kansas City

May 27, 2021
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Maria Flynn is the Managing Director of the Techstars Kansas City Accelerator. Prior to Techstars, Maria was the CEO of Orbis Biosciences (acquired by Adare Pharma). Maria was a Director at Cerner Corporation, where she held P&L responsibility for a life sciences business unit that provided drug safety software. Maria holds an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, an M.S. in engineering from Stanford University, and a B.S. in engineering from Kansas State University. 

01. What are you looking for in startups for the Techstars Kansas City Accelerator? 

We value founding teams with strong character, work ethic, ambition, and deep dedication to what they’re building. We evaluate the velocity of the company: the speed and the direction that the company is going. We ask ourselves if the team has a sense of urgency and will the company deliver something that the world needs. 

02. What are some of the biggest learnings from your career that you bring to being a Techstars MD? 

My entrepreneurial journey has taught me the value of harnessing the power of mentors, expanding funding options, and partnering to advance technology. 

Many great mentors shaped my mindset, and my peer entrepreneurs certainly provided a lot of coaching and perspective. Our Techstars teams learn how to leverage key mentors, create strong boards, and gain friends along the way who become champions of what they are building. 

Every company has a different funding path and sometimes you have to be scrappy and get creative. Leveraging equity investment, non-dilutive financing, and client financing allows you to pick the best path forward at each stage. All founders should blaze their own path that is right for them. 

If you look at my career, a big part of the story is partnering: how to be a good partner, what to look for in a partner, and how to create win-win situations so that people will partner with you. I see the Managing Director role at Techstars as a continuation of my partnering journey. Whether it's the entrepreneur, mentor or investor — they all need to get something out of the relationship for the ecosystem to work. Luckily, there is much that we offer each other.

03. How has your own personal experience with entrepreneurship impacted your career and perspective on entrepreneurship in the region? 

I’ve experienced both entrepreneurship — from company startup through acquisition — and intrapreneurship in a fast-growing company, and these provide a broad perspective. Sharing the entrepreneurial ride as a mentor and investor delivers experiences in different industries. I received a lot of support from entrepreneurs and executives across the region. I appreciate their help, and I readily pass on what I have learned to other entrepreneurs. I can’t think of a better platform than Techstars to help other founders and have a front-row seat on their journey. 

04. What is your favorite thing about the Kansas City startup scene? 

The willingness of entrepreneurs to help other entrepreneurs is one of our strengths. We have a history of great people sharing sage advice that gets passed down to others. We help each other because other people have helped us, and anything we can do to help other entrepreneurs avoid missteps, we do. In Kansas City, advice flows freely when we can help another entrepreneur save time or even the playing field. 

05. Describe a moment/situation with a startup founder or team where you felt like you made a difference. 

An investor from Amsterdam contacted me looking for investment opportunities in the agriculture space because he learned of our success in animal health. I explained that we were not looking for investment at the time, but I had someone he should meet. I introduced the investor to my friend, who had started his second agtech business, and it turned out to be a great fit. The Amsterdam investor led my friend’s Series A investment, and I was very proud to have had the opportunity to be a part of their story. You never know where introductions can lead; when one of your introductions makes a difference, it is very fulfilling.

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