From watching my grandfather grow his cocoa farming business to working with tech luminaries who changed the way we live, work, and interact with one another, I’ve spent my life supporting the many varied faces of entrepreneurship.
These experiences are a testament to entrepreneurship’s capacity to promote inclusive growth and uplift communities and the fact that great ideas can and do come from anywhere.
My career as an operator at commerce enablement companies comprises seven companies with six exits in 13 years, bringing real case studies of success and failures to share with founders who are on a similar journey. My superpowers are go-to-market (launching a product in market, acquiring customers, and scaling) and fundraising for startups who are building in verticals where I have unique insights, expertise, and can bring my extended network to bear:
Consumer, and the
Together, these fields guide my thesis as an operational investor to make the greatest impact on a startup’s trajectory.
Today I'm excited to continue this journey supporting entrepreneurs at Techstars, with a focus on founders endeavoring to change the world through Commerce, Consumer, and The Creator Economy.
Digital connectivity is bringing buyers and sellers closer than ever at scale, requiring an evolved set of capabilities to realize the full potential of the digital evolution of commerce that’s inspiring every company to become a commerce company. This new breadth and depth of technologies that’s supporting the evolution of commerce fall under the banner of “commerce enablement”. The commerce enablement technology stack is long and all-encompassing: spanning everything from supply chain technology to payments, MarTech, commerce infrastructure and more. An entire universe of sub-industries is vital in facilitating the exchange of goods and services between businesses (B2B) and between businesses and consumers (B2C). While the specific solutions may differ, they share a common business model: Software as a Service (SaaS). Because commerce enablement technology companies provide solutions on an ongoing basis, SaaS is the most optimal way to capture the value they create. There’s no shortage of reasons for any founder or investor to be bullish on SaaS Commerce Technology: high gross margins, predictable revenue and customer acquisition costs, and healthy net margins just to name a few.
Are you trying to figure out how to land your first, 10th or 100th customer? Trying to choose the right metrics for your business? Craft a winning channel strategy? Perfect your pitch to B2B SaaS investors? Preparing to launch in the Shopify app store? You’ve come to the right place.
Atlanta’s ecosystem is incredibly fruitful for businesses with the third largest concentration of headquarters of Fortune 500 companies in the country that heavily comprise the local mentor ecosystem and that any startup would love to work with. Furthermore, these corporate heavyweights have “walked the walk and talked the talk” in engaging with startups and helping to build a thriving startup ecosystem.
Sub-sectors of interest: Commerce Infrastructure, MarTech, Supply Chain, Enterprise Apps, Fintech, AI/ML, Security, Big Data, and related areas.
Consumer is one of the fastest-growing sectors for startups and this has only been accelerated by recent tailwinds that are reshaping the global economy. For me, “Consumer” includes both consumer brands and marketplaces. Brands and marketplaces are redefining what direct channel engagement means by leveraging the best of technology, data, and business model innovation to transact more intimately with their customers, create communities, and build enduring businesses.
Are you trying to define the most agile technology stack for your business while managing OpEx? Are you struggling to identify the most effective customer acquisition channels? Trying to figure out how to balance supply and demand for your marketplace? Are you looking for guidance on the best way to scale your supply-chain and manage shipping & logistics as your business grows? This accelerator is for you!
Atlanta is Consumer’s sleeping giant that’s quickly waking up and making noise. In addition to ranking as one of the top 10 cities in the U.S. for fulfillment centers, Atlanta is also home to the headquarters of many leading brands (The Coca-Cola Company), retailers (Home Depot), supply chain & logistics partners (UPS), ecommerce payments (FiServ) and technology vendors (Mailchimp & Salesloft) who are providing resources to Atanta’s local ecosystem to support consumer startups.
Sub-sectors of interest: Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) and marketplaces
The rise of consumer social platforms has demonstrated the true power of digital connectivity. Enabling a new generation of solopreneurs to build communities and engage with global audiences. The latest wave of innovation is empowering this new tide of businesses built by over 50 million content creators, curators, community builders, social media influencers, bloggers, and videographers, with technology designed to help them pursue a myriad of paths to monetization. Plus, the shift from Web2 to Web3 promises to make the internet more accessible, open-sourced, secure, and decentralized, which will further expand the breadth, depth, and diversity of the internet-enabled creator economy. This movement stands to uplift more people than any economic evolution to date.
Not sure which monetization model will be most enticing to creators and address overall consumer subscription fatigue? Looking to create network effects for your startup? This accelerator will help you answer these questions and so much more!
It’s no secret Atlanta is one of the nation’s great culture capitals, home to many power brokers in music, fashion and the arts. This mighty metropolis is also where some of the internet’s most important creators are living and working today.
Sub-sectors of interest: Web3, Social Media, Networking, & Community Platforms, Creator Tools, Content Editors, and Alternative Asset Classes (NFTs, etc.)
Answers to other questions I’m frequently asked:
No! I’m excited to work with founders who are building startups in one of my thesis areas regardless of where they live in the world.
Our accelerator is stage agnostic, I’ve worked with companies ranging from pre-product, searching for product-market fit, scaling their go-to-market strategy, all the way through later stages of institutional funding. As an operator and investor, I have the experience to support you regardless of where you are on your startup journey. Don’t think you are too early or too late.
As an investor, I focus on team, market, tech, and timing. If you noticed that team is first on my list, that’s no coincidence! Please reach out and apply if Techstars Atlanta Powered by J.P. Morgan feels like a fit for you.
I’m looking to work with diverse teams in the many ways that diversity can be defined. It is my strongly held belief that diversity is a competitive advantage and a prerequisite to building a successful global business. I’m painfully aware of the added challenges diverse teams face and I’m excited to be a rising tide in the industry and a lifeline to our incredible founders and their teams. Together, Techstars and J.P. Morgan are committed to building a more diverse and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem.
I look forward to reading your application for Techstars Atlanta Powered by J.P. Morgan!
See more info and apply for our program by May 11, 2022
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Melissa Pegus is the Managing Director of the Techstars Atlanta Accelerator 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 six acquisitions. As an investor, she focuses on startups that are building the future of Commerce, Consumer, and the Creator Economy.