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Turning Innovation Into Enterprise


3 Steps to StartUp Venture Fair Brings Entrepreneurs, Investors Together

Event featured 20 regional, national experts offering strategies to help WV entrepreneurs grow

Entrepreneurs across the state and region received expert insight, advice, and strategies for moving their business forward during the recent 3 Steps to StartUp Venture Fair. Video recordings of the event segments can be accessed by clicking here.

Mitch Carmichael, Secretary, WV Department of Economic Development

“West Virginia is an excellent location for entrepreneurs to start and grow their business,” said Mitch Carmichael, Secretary of the WV Department of Economic Development and a keynote presenter during the Nov. 16th event. “Governor Justice and state leaders have created an environment where businesses can thrive. Homegrown, entrepreneurial businesses are the cornerstone of our economy and offer tremendous opportunity to our state.”

Carmichael highlighted several indicators and initiatives helping to grow awareness, improve perception, and facilitate economic growth in the Mountain State. He noted West Virginia’s gross domestic product recently exceeded every other state in country; our unemployment rate was among the lowest in the nation; the state is set to radically improve its broadband infrastructure; and the ASCEND WV program is luring talent to move to West Virginia.

“Entrepreneurs have access to a range of assistance and resources through the state’s Small Business Development Center, our CTC and university systems, and other providers,” said Carmichael. “Startups pay low-to-no taxes until they are revenue producing, and many previously burdensome regulations impeding business have been eliminated.”

Making an effective pitch to investors is a critical skillset and was a primary focus of two event segments. In the “Presenting Can Be Such A Pitch” panel, Don Morrison with BlueTree Allied Angels, Mara McFadden, CEO of Morgantown-based Endolumik, and Scott Ewing with the Appalachian Investor Alliance, offered sage advice to entrepreneurs preparing for a pitch. Some of the strategies shared, included:

  • Tell the “big picture” by stating how the product is solving a critical pain point.
  • Every pitch should tell a story: 1) establish vivid characters; 2) set the backstory that led to the creation of the concept; and 3) convey the conflict (i.e., the problem the concept is solving).
  • Tailor your pitch to your audience and break it down into simple, easy to understand language.
  • Convey excitement! If the entrepreneur isn’t excited, no one else will be.
  • Investors want to know what the “ask” is. Make the ask and don’t be afraid to ask for what is needed.
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!

Three innovative startup companies pitched their ideas to a panel of investors for feedback and tips, including Parthian Battery Solutions, Legend Sneakerz and Easy Leash. The audience gained valuable insight into how investors evaluate a pitch and how an entrepreneur can present more effectively.

In the “Role of the Investor Post-Investment” segment, representatives from state and regional venture/angel funds discussed the expectations an investor has for their newly backed startup and shared advice on how an entrepreneur can effectively structure the relationship. A few of the strategies shared included:

  • Choose your investor wisely and research them fully before you make the pitch.
  • Most investors require a board seat or the ability to be a board observer.
  • Investors are there to help – tap into their network and expertise.

And, in “Perspective From the Starting Gate”, Kyle Gillis, CEO of Morgantown-based Iconic Air, facilitated discussion among multiple West Virginia entrepreneurs offering lessons learned, best practices and words of wisdom for those starting out. Representatives from Earring Backtrack, Joe To Go, Mountain Country Farms and Analytica Legalis discussed the challenges of being a new entrepreneur and how they are overcoming obstacles to further their goals.

The 3 Steps To StartUp Venture Fair attracted entrepreneurs from across West Virginia as well as small business owners, investors, assistance providers, economic developers, and other interested stakeholders.

The INNOVA Commercialization Group in collaboration with TechConnect West Virginia and the West Virginia Jobs Investment Trust created the 3 Steps To Start Up Program, which is funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation through a federal POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) grant.

Guy Peduto, Founder, 3 Steps to StartUp

The program was founded by Guy Peduto, a visionary leader in the field of entrepreneurial assistance. Peduto passed away just prior to the Venture Fair. In a recent discussion about the 3 Steps to StartUp program, Peduto said, “What we’ve done is streamline the process for getting a new company launched and into the marketplace, by collaborating with key partners across the state. Our goal is to help startups get the right help – at the right time – to move their idea forward.”

His legacy of helping entrepreneurs will continue through the 3 Steps program and other pioneering initiatives he helped create.

To learn more about the 3 Steps to StartUp Program, or to apply, visit