For Faith Larson, a 2002 finance graduate of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business Administration, it wasn’t a straight shot from undergraduate to businesswoman. She earned her juris doctorate and masters of business administration with career stops in healthcare, business, law and international trading. This well-rounded experience in business and law makes her ideal in her role as managing director of Straight Shot, a 90-day accelerator for e-commerce and software as a service (SaaS) startups based in Omaha, Neb.
“I always loved business and knew that is what I wanted to do,” said Larson. “I thought a combination of financial and legal skills would better prepare me for a career in business.”
Her experience and areas of expertise allow her to be a part of the solution to some of the common problems for entrepreneurs.
“There are so many wonderful ideas people have, and if they have help from us to execute their innovative ideas and build their business, they have a better chance to succeed,” she said.
The idea for an accelerator was born after Larson was introduced through a mutual friend to Mark Hasebroock, founder of Dundee Venture Capital and fellow CBA graduate. Hasebroock has also founded several startup companies, including giftcertificates.com and Hayneedle, one of the internet’s largest retailers.
“When he was raising money for Hayneedle, it was hard to get an interest in the Midwest, so he had to go to Silicon Valley,” Larson said. “He wanted to change that with Dundee Venture Capital, so local and regional companies can raise money here.”
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Together, they began building one of the missing pieces of this puzzle – an accelerator to provide advice, guidance and other support for businesses in the startup phase. Their inaugural three-month program began in July with seven technology companies enrolled.
After a month into the program, entrepreneurs have felt the impact of Straight Shot’s network of more than 200 mentors from both the startup and established business communities.
“The advantage of working with three tiers of mentors is the network,” she said. “The connections our companies have received are unimaginable when you first think of launching a business.”
Larson learned the importance of having mentors early in her career and has benefited from having a mentor at every company she has worked. Now she is witnessing the power of Straight Shot’s vast network of mentors in aiding their startups.
“Pamela Rezac, CEO of Avera Sacred Heart Hospital, was my first mentor. She taught me so much, exposed me to more than I would have been without her as a mentor, gave me challenging and difficult projects to lead and always provided feedback, advice and guidance in what I did,” Larson said.
With Straight Shot bringing startups from around the country to Nebraska, it will not only have a large impact on the community but also equate to opportunity for students.
“The focus of the accelerator is to build companies that are highly scalable and can achieve rapid growth, which will help create jobs, attract and retain talent and provide more opportunities for students in our universities for internships and jobs after graduation,” she explained.
For more information on Straight Shot, visit www.straightshot.co
. To apply for the program’s 2014 session, see the contact page on the website.