Raising startup capital can be tricky. Many startups fail before getting started because of financial limitations. Despite the need of many young companies, banks aren’t exactly jumping at the chance to work with 20-30 year olds with a new business idea. Due to the volatile nature of a startup, there is a substantial level of risk for banks working with early-stage companies and the overall failure rate of new companies is too high to justify lending them a significant amount of money without collateral.
After spending over a decade in investment banking and consulting, Lili Balfour decided to do something about the lack of investment banking options for startups. Lili started spending nights and weekends working with companies for free and learning about how to best serve early-stage customers. Through this process, Lili discovered there was a fit for both banks and startups, and Atelier Advisors was launched in 2007. Atelier Advisors was founded based on the idea that early-stage companies should have the same investment banking services as any company.
Lili is founder and CEO of Atelier Advisors, author of Master the Finance Game, and creator of Lean Finance for Startups, a course on Udemy. “The topic of finance has really gotten a bad rap,” Lili said. Although many of us try to avoid it, we can’t ignore the importance of staying on top of the financial side of our startups. Lili describes the most common mistake of most startups as not putting together a financial model. “Understand the financial mechanics of your business.”
Through her passion for finance, Lii has carved out a niche with startups, but why startups? “I think helping startups is so important because it really is going to be the backbone of America’s growth.” “(It’s my) patriotic duty to help startups.”
Q: What’s your best piece of advice for a young entrepreneur?
A: “Work on yourself as much as you work on your company.”
As an advisor who was worked with hundreds of young companies, Lili has seen it all when it comes to the startup world. The grueling and time intensive nature of running a startup can take a toll even on the strongest 20-something. “There is a tough and dark side of being a young entrepreneur working on a demanding startup.” Lili said that young entrepreneurs have a tendency to go overboard and fail to eat and sleep right while keeping stress at a manageable level. “Have peers! Focus on stress reduction.” Part of her routine includes meditation and hypnotherapy techniques.
Original article on Under30CEO, listen to the full interview here!
– Lili’s entrepreneurial background and growing up in Silicon Valley.
– The toughest hurdle to overcome as an entrepreneur: Recruiting.
– Common financial mistake for startups: Not putting together a financial model.
– “I think any entrepreneur out there who wants to build a startup, perhaps should go work at a startup and see what it’s like and really get a taste for it.”
-“If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you tend to be comfortable being weird or different. When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re not really following the crowd.”
What do you do in your free time to relax? “I threw away my TV a while ago.” Lili advises to read as much as possible and exercise. She also recently got involved with pet rescue and has two dogs she is taking care of.
What is she reading? The Entrepreneurial Bible to Venture Capital by Andrew Romans.
What is your favorite alcoholic drink? Pimm’s Cup.
Who is your favorite musician or music group? Jack Johnson & U2.
If you could add one entrepreneur in the world to team, who would it be and why? Richard Branson. Atelier uses the phrase ‘rethink investment banking,’ and is trying to bring a new vision to finance and investment banking – similar to how Branson’s Virgin Airlines has been able to revolutionize the airline industry.