Julie Harrelson, CEO of the Harrelson Group, Fund Manager of Cascade Angels, has a beloved penchant for taking selfies with entrepreneurs, investors and people of Oregon who support building a strong Oregon through entrepreneurialism. This is the second in a series of selfies + blogs about the amazing people she’s met in the last couple of years. #julieselfie

Julie Harrelson, of Cascade Angels, and Corey Schmid, of Seven Peaks Ventures.
Julie Harrelson, of Cascade Angels, and Corey Schmid, of Seven Peaks Ventures.

Corey Schmid is an investment partner with Bend-based Seven Peaks Ventures, a board member on many growth companies and a tireless advisor. I recently caught up with her to discuss what motivates her to work with startups, what it takes to build a company and the best places to “eat dirt” in Oregon.

Why do you like working with and investing in early stage companies?

No one day is EVER the same — I love that! I started my career working in startups and loved the pace, passion, and urgency to make progress and innovate. I then moved on to larger corporations, where I had the opportunity to sit on the other side of the table, and integrate and scale small startups into their acquirers. Philips Healthcare was a tremendous global company to work for, but my heart was tugging to get back into startups and have an impact in my own corner of the world, the Pacific Northwest. I knew I didn’t want to start my own venture at this point, but instead serve as an advisor and investor backing the ideas of brilliant entrepreneurs looking to solve really hard problems. It’s so rewarding (and challenging) to work at the early stage. I am impressed every day with the dedication, talent and passion that exists in our PNW startup community. Keep an eye on Oregon – some amazing companies are being built.

What would you say to someone contemplating starting a company?

That a great “idea” doesn’t necessarily equate to a great company. Are you in this for the supposed lifestyle quality of being your own boss, or are you looking to change the world? Regardless, you will likely work more than you ever imagined, and it will be harder than it first appeared on the Excel business model you downloaded from the internet.

So if you’re up for it, then go for it. But first do some homework. Ask yourself:

  • Are you solving a real problem and delivering a solution that your envisioned customers truly can’t live without? Have you even asked enough of them (i.e. market research) to be confident that this is true?
  • How big is your market? If your business will serve only you and a few of your closest friends, it’s probably not a sustainable or scalable business. Market size and dynamics are rarely within your control, so understand this very well and size and scope the opportunity appropriately.
  • How will your business be funded? Do everything within your control to run on very little cash in the early days, until you’ve validated that your product/solution can gain traction by delivering sales or usage by your customers. This will also show maturity and resourcefulness to future investors when you ask for their support, and precious capital, to grow your business.
  • Why now, and why you? Authenticity, humility, coach-ability, expertise, and a kickass capacity for resolve to wade through tough decisions and problems, are imperative in a successful entrepreneur.

What interesting trends are you seeing develop in 2016?

My focus is primarily on digital healthcare, which, as every one of us can attest to, is undergoing massive changes across the industry right now.  In fact, the latest industry data from Rock Health’s 2015 report shows $4.5B flooding into the space, up from $4B in 2014, which exceeded the sum from the previous three years combined.  This is both exciting and overwhelming. Payers, providers, pharmaceutical companies, and tech companies have all started to make major strides to meet the demands of our new healthcare regulations, but there is much more to come. The antiquated — and ineffective ­— fee-for-service models, which rewarded quantity over quality, are being flipped on their head.  We’ve started to see the new models rolling out, accountable care organizations, preventative care incentives, penalties to providers for re-admission, bundled payments and more. But, now we need the next wave of technology companies to deliver the necessary infrastructure, and innovative solutions to enable better patient access, user engagement, data sharing/interoperability, etc and ultimately deliver on the promise of value-based care. Patients are now savvy and connected “consumers”. We all have on-demand, connected access in nearly every other component of our world, why not in our health? The promise of the future is wired, on-demand, mobile, less expensive, health care with improved clinical outcomes and healthier population. We’ll see how this all plays out.

What’s your favorite trail?

Ooh, that’s a tough one – I enjoy eating dirt on my mountain bike.  In Bend, perhaps racing down Tiddlywinks, or over the mountains in Oakridge, Oregon, Alpine trail is phenomenal.

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley