“Every opportunity I’ve gotten in my life has been provided by a network,” said Sky Kelley, Founder and CEO of Avisare. She values them so highly that her own company, Avisare, is itself a network, connecting small business owners with government contracts, and building diversity and inclusion into the process. She’s seen the power of networks, and now she’s created a new one to level the playing field for companies owned or founded by women or people from historically underrepresented groups.
“Networking can get a bad rep,” Sky explained. “But for me, networking is about getting to know people and forming relationships. It’s about being genuine and being interested in people. It’s about giving as much as you get.”
“I didn’t know how important and valuable the network would be here until I got into Techstars,” Sky said. She applied to Techstars LA because she wanted to #DoMoreFaster: “I heard that businesses get better when they go through the Techstars program. I wanted to learn quickly and not make avoidable mistakes. The biggest element that none of us in the startup space have is time. If you can learn really quickly, that can be the difference between success and failure.”
What she discovered once in program was that it was the Techstars Network that let her learn so fast. “Being in the program, I honed my chops. I became a better leader, a better strategist,” Sky said. She met with mentors who were experts in branding, hiring, managing talent, fundraising, scaling businesses, and more. “You can find all this expertise through the Techstars Network.” In her business, Sky has to deal with lumpy revenue streams, where cash flow comes in a torrent, and then slows to a trickle. She connected with people who had experience with this type of revenue stream, and could help her manage her cash flow.
“I can get a connection to anyone I need through the Techstars Network. Whatever your business is, you can find people who can help you get better in any area of growing your business,” Sky said. “Not enough people understand how important that is.”
What this means is that even now, more than a year after Demo Day, Sky can still count on the Techstars Network to help her solve problems. She can find experts from around the world who have dealt with the issues her company is facing now. That’s what #TechstarsForLife really means.
The Power of Networks
Sky is passionate about networks, and what they can achieve: “Networks are about people helping other people. Period. And we all need help in this world.”
Sky knew about the power of networks even before Techstars. She grew up in a mostly low-income, mostly African-American community. It was a human connection that helped her get into a private, all-girls school starting at age 10. It was a human connection that helped her get her first job on Wall Street.
These—and a thousand more examples—showed Sky the power of networks, of people helping people. Throughout her life, she saw inequalities in the world, and wanted to do something to make a change.
The B2B space is where Sky feels comfortable. “I’m not a B2C person. I don’t understand consumers. I’ve never been one for trends or fads.” Instead, she looked for an opportunity that aligned with her mission.
Many governments, at every level, have requirements for them to work with small businesses, including minority- and women-owned businesses. Sky saw an opportunity to provide a better way to accomplish their mutual goals. Governments need small businesses to work with. Sky wanted to help provide opportunities for these same people. “It’s a really scalable way to make an impact,” Sky said. “I wanted to work on solutions that scale.”
That’s both good business and a great way to make a big social impact.
The Worldwide Network that helps Entrepreneurs Succeed
When a network operates on the principle of #GiveFirst, each member gives without expecting to receive something back from the recipient. Instead, they know that at some point down the line, someone else will #GiveFirst to them. When it’s a worldwide network of entrepreneurs, more businesses succeed, creating more jobs and more wealth in communities around the globe, all because people are helping each other, learning from each other, and giving to each other.
This is the power of entrepreneurship, and why Techstars is, fundamentally, a network. Because by intentionally creating a diverse and inclusive network of great entrepreneurs, we create new paths to success for people from every background. If you have a great idea and a great team, Techstars can give you the network you need to help your business succeed.