Founder Friday: Jenae Pitts, OneTen Capital

Building a successful startup requires several things: a great idea, a solid team, and, of course, money. While you might have a great idea and an awesome partner or staff, getting people to believe that your idea can truly succeed, enough to give you some of their hard-earned money, is a whole other ball game.

Most startups turn to family and friends for initial investments, but once the business starts growing, outside support becomes essential. Business competitions, like 43North and MassChallenge, are one place to seek funding. But today, there are a plethora of investment firms looking to fund high-potential startups, including venture capital, angel, and seed investors.

Typically, our Founder Friday series focuses directly on startup founders. But this week, we’re highlighting the startup community from a different perspective, shining a light on a new venture capital firm in Buffalo, OneTen Capital. They don’t just provide funding to early-stage startups, they work closely with founders to help their company grow. We spoke with co-founder Jenae Pitts to learn more about their role in Buffalo’s startup community.

How did your startup…well, start up?

Our model was born out of the realization that venture capital has been underperforming as an industry, yet remains under very little pressure to change course. At the same time, we identified a gap in Buffalo between the availability of seed capital, and that next meaningful amount of funding that can take a company to stable revenues.

So we created a new model we call coalition investing. To increase the probability of success of our portfolio companies, we have dedicated our time to a limited number of carefully selected deals. That, combined with the resources of a deeply experienced advisory board, will help our companies get over hurdles and build healthy businesses around their products.

What do you do? Your startup?

My background is in building systems for growth, so I am focused operationally on things like infrastructure planning with the businesses we work with. Beyond that, my job is to connect them with the resources that can move energy in their organization, whether that might be highly technical talent, new capital sources, or supplier partners.

When was the ‘aha’ moment for your startup when you realized this could actually work?

Jonathan Amoia and I had been, separately, brainstorming around these puzzle pieces, and found this was something the Buffalo community could benefit from and would be receptive to. Since then, the community has stepped up to support us, so we are encouraged.

What tools can you not live without and why?

I’m trying to get hip, but I am only now trying to get by without a pocket-sized notebook and pen.

What was some important advice you received when starting up and who told it to you?

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Edison

Best part / worst part of your day as a founder?

We are very lucky to have the team we do, including the crew at 43North and the people who work in our portfolio companies. They are what keep us inspired.

Goals for the next year? Three years?

This year and next, we are focused on investing in 3-5 companies and helping them set strong roots.

Why Buffalo?

There is a new spirit of optimism in Buffalo, and we know it’s not just hype because we are rich in intellectual capital and business sense. But to make sure this is a truly lasting economic and cultural shift, we all need to create real opportunity that drives job growth.

How do you do it? What drives you?

There are deals here that are worth getting behind. In the case of Vader, there’s a possibility they will substantially shake up the manufacturing landscape, and knowing we’re a small piece of it is fun to wake up to.