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On Tuesday, February 23rd, the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute hosted a Startup School session on “Funding Your Research & Development: VC, Federal Grants, and More” featuring Alexia Akbay (CAS BS ‘17), CEO and Co-founder of Symbrosia. Startup School is a workshop series, led by industry experts, designed to teach in-demand startup skills and exposure to essential entrepreneurship topics.
Here are 5 takeaways we learned from Alexia Akbay’s talk!
- Expect to negotiate, first terms are not the end. Most investors are not founders - you may have to educate them on realities and limitations of your product and team. Start doing it earlier rather than later and make sure to be transparent.
- Sell your vision! Three high-yield funding opportunities for R&D startups are competitions, fellowships, and federal grants. For competitions, you want to sell your impact and/or vision. Fellowships often want to invest in your personality and personal story. Federal grants typically want to see technical proposals (for federal grants, Alexia recommends checking grants.gov biweekly!).
- Create an investor pipeline! Have your resources available and organized for when you need them. Have a clear goal with investors - know how much funding you want, what you need it for, and how long it’s going to last you. Have a financial plan and a budget ready!
- Don’t underestimate private investment - getting funding is one way to beat out competition, after all! Clear customer interest and market presence may indicate that you’re ready for investors. New development might be financially limiting, so venture capital can assist in getting your product to market.
- Be truthful! You’ll be responsible for any lies later. Being vulnerable and open leads to better investor relationships. Investors like it when you don’t need them. Funds also like to co-invest - they know others have done their due diligence. Reputable firms that have good success rates are attractive to other investors.
Alexia Akbay (CAS BS '17) is the CEO and Co-founder of Symbrosia, a marine biotech company based in Kona, Hawai'i developing new seaweed species for sustainable applications. With a background in green chemistry, Alexia's prior research focused on petroleum-based consumer products, medical marijuana, and blockchain-enabled carbon accounting.
She is passionate about sustainability as a Grist 50 Fixer, climate activist, and author in “A Better Planet: 40 Big Ideas for a Sustainable Future”, commenting on genomics as a tool for climate change mitigation and adaptation. She received an MPH from Yale and holds a B.S. from New York University in Chemistry.