As ideas turn into working models and then into companies and commercially available products, many obstacles are in the way. Certainly, founders and CEOs look for ways to brighten their path and avoid pitfalls. And there’s no better way to do that than leaning on someone or some organization who has “been there, done that” to provide guidance.
Founders and CEOs need mentors to coach them, and many times these mentors come from regional organizations put here to do just that.
Pittsburgh is not only blessed with outstanding sources of innovation in leading universities like the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, at the top of the long list, but we are also blessed with organizations established here to help in so many ways.
Some of our world-class, and widely recognized Pittsburgh regional partners include: Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Pittsburgh Technology Council, Innovation Works, Idea Foundry, Blue Tree Allied Angels, Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse and, of course, regional foundations like the McCune Foundation, Richard King Mellon Foundation, Hillman Family Foundations and Pittsburgh Foundation, among others.
We also have many state resources established by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, through the Department of Community and Economic Development, a spectacular partner themselves. And it is not just Pennsylvania, but there are similar programs available to entrepreneurs in surrounding states like Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey and New York.
These regional partners provide technology and commercial guidance and, of course, are in themselves terrific sources of initial and follow-on capital. Entrepreneurs don’t have to look very hard or very far to find the right regional partner, they are listed in many local websites and just “asking around” should be enough to find them.
But these sources of smarts and general guidance should not be seen as an “end game.” They are an important and readily available part of the process. The hard work of a founder or entrepreneur will never be replaced by any partner.
I know from my experience, working with early-stage companies directly while at the PLSG for the past 11 years and most recently in starting a company on my own, these sources are priceless.
At PLSG, a regional partner by design, we help our companies by connecting them to these sources of capital and counsel, and we provide these services ourselves.
My most recent startup, JTM LLC, offers an activity-based cost-comparison travel website/app for the travel industry. The JTM solution is a unique platform in planning and selecting a memorable vacation itinerary for all travelers. In setting up JTM, I was able to tap many of my regional partners to define the company structure, both for funding and growth. Once the structure was defined, and funding secured, it is all about executing a well-designed business plan.
Starting a company is tough, with many bumps in the road. Founders and entrepreneurs need all the help they can get, and they can rely on regional partners versus trying to reinvent the wheel.
John W. Manzetti is the managing director of Manzetti Group LLC. John formed Manzetti Group in 2017 to provide guidance to early-stage and growth companies across multiple industries. He co-founded JTM LLC, a company in the travel industry which is entering the market in April 2018 with a patented product. John is also the executive chairman of Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, and founder and managing director of Accelerator Fund LLC, an early-stage, for-profit venture capital fund focused on life sciences and health care.