Portuguese Startups – The Age of ‘Rediscovery’

Portugal Sandra Sick

Portugal

Spending 4 years living and working in Portugal, I was fortunate to be very involved with a lot of the early startup activity all over the country. This was even more profound as I was working for startups in California during the ‘early days’ and thought that witnessing this type of hyper-growth was a once in and a lifetime experience. I was wrong!

Since leaving Lisbon 6 months ago, I continue to be impressed with how fast things are moving and really how connected I have been able to be to many startups and accelerator programs, especially thanks to social media. I’ve mentored several programs since my departure and continue to stay connected. I’m also impressed with how many non-Portuguese startups are passing through the various programs in Portugal and how it’s creating such a cool international community and vibe.

And I must say that upon my return to Los Angeles, I was looking to rebuild my consulting business with local clients and voila, most of my business is now coming from European startups (with a budget of some sort) looking for marketing, growth and/or business development support. Yes, predicting the future in impossible!

In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Portuguese were all around the globe and I’m certainly seeing a revival of this trend with Portuguese startups everywhere. Additionally, a lot of other things are happening to support this global community at all levels inside and outside of the country.

So, from my view, some 5,700 miles away, here are some highlights and observations;

  • It’s almost daily that I see on Facebook a Portuguese contact that I have mentored hitting the shores of the US for other startup programs, meetings, conferences, fundraising or office scouting. Good luck startups!
  • New books on the Portuguese startup community are being published! Congratulations Nuno Machado Lopes and your release of Tudo Mundou! Can I get a signed copy? Really, I can read Portuguese! Check it out at: http://www.tudomudou.com/livro-tudo-mudou/
  • Applicants are being interviewed for the 6th Lisbon Challenge. Yes, 6th and the alum list and fundraising numbers are looking very impressive. Program highlights…

Our 160 alumni startups have raised over 50 million euros, we got 3 alumni at YCombinator, 7 at Seedcamp, 1 in tech stars and 40% of alumni got invested.

  • Additional organizations such as West to West are launching to better bridge the gap between Portugal and the US, specifically Silicon Valley.
  • West to West
  • There is now a ‘Portuguese Startup Manifesto’ with a mission to help upgrade the Portuguese startup community. Have you signed it yet?
  • And yes, Web Summit, Europe’s largest technology conference, is coming to Lisbon!

I am heading back to Portugal at the end of this week to catch up with clients as well as participate in the current Startup Braga Accelerator program next week. It’s a young program and this will be my 2nd time teaching and mentoring their startups but I was very impressed with the teams last year. I’m looking forward to the marketing and PR session and getting to know the teams better.

Startup Braga Sandra Sick

Startup Braga

2015 was a great blogging year for me and my post on ‘What I didn’t expect when I moved to Portugal in 2011’ got A LOT of traffic and really struck a nerve with many. Thanks to the many that read and shared this post.

So here’s to an exciting, productive and interesting 2016 wherever this finds you on the globe. Let’s continue to make the Portuguese startup community visible, supported, successful and well-connected AROUND the globe.

Lisbon here I come to rediscover you yet again!

Sandra

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On the Eve of Thanksgiving, I am…

…thinking about all that I am thankful for in a year that has had a lot of change and movement. Tomorrow I will spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my ‘US west coast family’ and this will be the first time in many years that I have had this opportunity. Added to celebrating and feasting with my family on this very caloric day, this holiday is followed by the wedding of my youngest niece Mary. These two specials days nearly back to back are enough to be thankful for but there is more.

Thankful

Thankful for SO much!

So 2015, here’s to the many more things I am thankful for!

  1. A good transition back to the US after 4 really amazing years in Lisbon, Portugal.
  2. The support of family and friends and the growth of my ‘global family’.
  3. For new clients and many new prospects.
  4. The very robust global entreprenurial network filled with many exciting opportunities.
  5. The ability to continue to mentor and support the startups in accelerator and incubator programs based in Portugal through Beta-i, Fábrica De Startups, Startup Lisboa, Startup Braga and others.
  6. The hope that all the violence and tension in the world will somehow ease up. It will never go away, but 2015 has been a terrible year with too much violence.
  7. Thankful for being back to the energy and opportunity of Los Angeles.
  8. For those who are reading this blog now, I very much appreciate your time and support.

Have a not so hectic holiday season and all the best for a happy, healthy and safe 2016.

Peace,

Sandra

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Help Change the Ratio of Female Entrepreneurs Attending Web Summits Around the Globe

WebSummit

Attend WebSummit!

Wanted: 10,000 Female Entrepreneurs!

The team behind WebSummit is extending free tickets to 10,000 female entrepreneurs at their conferences around the globe in 2016. This also includes the conference in Lisbon next year so don’t wait to get your FREE ticket. Also consider attending other conferences to tap into new markets and widen your network. Lisbon and New Orleans are both calling my name and all WebSummit Conferences are excellent learning and networking opportunities.

Reserve your ticket today and help change (increase) the ratio of female entrepreneurs at Web Summit and other tech events. Be part of the conversation and the action and also invite other female contacts in your network.

Female Entrepreneurs

Female Entrepreneurs

Change the ratio by clicking here now or send me an email and I’ll send you an invite! And hopefully I’ll see you in Lisbon, November 8-10, 2016 (and New Orleans prior)!

Spread the word and tweet this blog!

Sandra

@sandrasick

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Let The Mentoring Begin – The Lisbon Challenge Fall 2015

I am just about to start my mentoring sessions, via Skype, with the startup teams that have made it into the 5th edition of the Lisbon Challenge. I have been fortunate to watch this program form and grow and to work with the majority of the teams passing through the intense 3-month long program for the previous 4 editions.

Mentoring 20 teams in the first portion of the program will be a great way to get to know the teams early on and help with their business challenges, especially when it comes to marketing, customer acquisition and growth. And I have been known to push startups to really pick up their social media activity, conduct a PR outreach campaign, sit down and brainstorm a new name or brand identity and a lot more.

So to the 20 teams that have joined the growing and very global Lisbon Challenge program, congratulations, and I look forward to our calls and to helping you accelerate.

The Lisbon Challenge teams are also everywhere as I just saw the teams from Line Health and Planedia (2nd and 3rd edition respectfully) in New York City last week and will host the team from Tationem (3rd edition) in Los Angeles this week. We’re all connected, so current and past LC startups, make sure you leverage all your contacts and mentors as you move around the globe and grow your business!

Catching up with Planedia in NYC, October 2015

Catching up with Planedia in NYC, October 2015

Build it teams,

Sandra

PS – I have been invited back to Portugal for a startup program in early 2016 and I’ll share more details in coming posts. I’m looking forward to seeing all that has changed and developed in the startup space since my departure from Lisbon and to seeing many people.

PSS – Bashara, I miss our Instructor/Coach tag team!

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Discovering and Rediscovering (Startups) from Lisbon, Portugal to Los Angeles, CA

Lisbon Portugal

Discovering Portuguese Startups

Soon I will be back in the United States after 4 incredible years discovering Portugal. I wrote this blog while in Madeira, the amazing and must-see island that the Portuguese discovered in 1419. Madeira was an important discovery for Portugal and most of the world knows that the Portuguese had an intensive period of maritime exploration during the 15th and 16th centuries. Portuguese sailors were at the vanguard of European overseas exploration. It’s a long and important story and in some ways it feels reminiscent of the intensive period of startup growth that is happening now in Portugal.

Yes, most of the globe knows that Portugal was on a short list of countries needing a bailout from the EU. During the ‘paying back/Troika years’ a very interesting startup ecosystem came together which I have written about often in the past. If you are not physically in Portugal, it’s really worth following, very much like the high growth years in Berlin.

I am picking an interesting time to step away from Portugal as each month more and more is taking place in Portugal. Money is moving around the country, companies are hiring and the speed at which things are happening is picking up. This all adds to the excitement and the opportunities that are available in the startup space.

I am taking with me the spirit of discovery to rediscover ‘the other west coast’; Los Angeles. LA is a HUGE city with a lot of opportunity. And it is really spread out. No walking to startup events or mentoring meetings like one can do in Lisbon, unless you have a day to spare. But I am ready to rediscover LA and work on new projects and mentor and coach startups. I feel all the more knowledgeable and prepared after mentoring over 200 startups, teaching classes, running intensive coaching sessions and being a line of support and advice for many early stage startups from around the globe.

I believe that my time away from the US has provided me with much more of a global business and entrepreneurial view at a time when many investors are paying more attention to non-US opportunities. The world continues to get smaller and more interconnected and I realized in these years that I am a ‘connector’. I will continue to connect companies, many Portuguese, with partners and others that can help grow their ideas and businesses.

So as I fly out, know that I am still part of the Portuguese startup family and I am certain it will continue to growth. Reach out if you need marketing, business development and operations expertise and keep in touch. And if you are an LA-based incubator or accelerator and need to add to your mentoring team or staff, let’s talk!

Thanks for helping me discover the early Portuguese ‘startup discovers’! I’m learning it’s all about effective navigation,

Sandra

PS – Thanks for sharing, commenting, liking and retweeting my recent What I Didn’t Expect When I Moved to Portugal in 2011 blog. The response was really tremendous and it’s clear that many people are tuning into what is happening in Portugal. Fantastic!

And thanks for coming out for drinks earlier this week!

Sandra Sick

See you soon drinks!

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What I Didn’t Expect When I Moved to Portugal in 2011

Just about 4 years ago I moved to Portugal with my partner who had secured a teaching position at the French school (Lycée Francais) in Lisbon. We had vacationed in Lisbon in 2008 and we both really connected with the city. It was a big move, from Los Angeles, but the decision was easy. Now I am preparing a return trip to Los Angeles to focus on more challenging work opportunities and of course I am thinking about all that has happened in these 4 years.

Here are a few things that I just did not plan for even though I had spent time in Portugal and had done a lot of research prior to our arrival.

  1. That the Portuguese are among the friendliest and most humble people on the planet. I knew the Portuguese were nice but I have encountered such amazing people who are kind, supportive and caring. I doubt it’s just good luck but people are really kindhearted and the Portuguese language uses a lot of very polite phrases. Like when you go to pay somebody, they ask if they can take the money. It’s really the little things that truly speak about a nation (especially during difficult financial times).
  2. The discovery of a startup scene. Most visible traces of a startup scene go back about 3 years now, but of course there have always been startups in Portugal. We all know that the Portuguese travelled the world ahead of the rest and created many new and innovative businesses and there have been a number of Portuguese companies that have had much success in the past few decades. But the real Portuguese startup scene did come alive not long after I arrived in Lisbon. I lived through the other West Coast startup evolution in California and I never expected to witness this incredible startup growth activity again.
  3. That the country is 2 degrees of separation especially in the startup world. Yes, Portugal is a small country, but people get out and do many things and get to know each other. When I meet somebody new, it often turns out that we know 50 of the same people on LinkedIn. You can build a network fast here.
  4. That I would be in Lisbon when the entire world is now discovering or rediscovering Portugal. If you have not visited this amazing country, add it to the top of your travel list. The energy is great, the weather quite good, the history very visible, the prices very affordable, the mix of activities fantastic and again, the people are very friendly and helpful.
  5. That I would ever give up Italian wine! Yup, my pallet has totally converted to Portuguese wine. There is such a great offering of very affordable red, wine, and green wines and when you go to dinner, the price of a decent glass of house wine can be less than the cost of a coke. Regardless of the price, the wine industry has a lot to offer and the Douro region is spectacular.
  6. My surprise to learn that there are so many polyglots in Portugal. Many people in Portugal speak 3+ languages and are comfortable speaking English. This really does help to get to know people while you try to learn their language. And it makes learning Portuguese even tougher if you speak English, Spanish and/or French. Obrigada for speaking such good English!
  7. That even after years of exploring Portugal, I feel like I have so much more to see! It’s easy to move around to other cities and popular places without a car in Portugal, but to really see a country, you need to have time to really roam and get off the main roads. We’ve done some of that but never enough.
  8. Education! It seems like everyone I meet has 2-3 degrees in Portugal. It’s very impressive and it seems like many people have been able to get really amazing educations affordably. Now all that is needed is more jobs!
  9. That I would fall madly in love with this country (when I always wanted to live in Italy where my grandparents were born). I knew when we moved here that I was really going to like it, but I adore Portugal. OK, all the car beeping, and you know who you are, is strange and out of character, but it’s a country with a lot of good infrastructure. You’ll find clean water, good transportation (when not on strike), good internet speeds for residential use, lots of great tourism opportunities, excellent language skills and so much more. And the cities and towns are just beautiful, much like the people.
  10. That I would work with and mentor over 200 startups! Meeting, mentoring, coaching, teaching, advising and networking with so many startups, and most of them Portuguese, has given me this amazing inside view of the country. I have had the great opportunity to meet many smart, educated, risk taking, global thinking entrepreneurs ready to take on the world, create a cool path for themselves and help to make Portugal an even better place. Being part of Beta-I and involved with Startup Lisboa has been key to coming into contact with so many startups. Thanks!
  11. That it would be so hard to earn a living with Portuguese clients. Like many, the lack of strong career opportunities has driven a lot of Portuguese outside of the country and hopefully salaries will start to rise and money will start to move around more.
The Lisbon Startup 'Game'

The Lisbon Startup ‘Game’

So as I prepare to depart in mid-July, thank you to all of you with special thanks to the team at Startup Lisboa, Beta-I, Portugal Startups and Startup Pirates the IPN team in Coimbra, Startup Braga and to each and every startup I have had the opportunity to meet and work with through many different programs. There is DEFINITELY something happening in Lisbon!

Thank you for welcoming me into your lovely country and I will be back. And you are all invited to ‘my Los Angeles’ where there is a lot of startup movement. Think of me as your connection to ‘the other west coast’!

Bjs,

Sandra

>>>Keep up-to-date by following me on Twitter @SandraSick and KEEP TWEETING PORTUGAL!

 Here are some pictures from startup activities;

Sandra Sick SandraSick @SandraSick

Wrap-up for #LIS15 – Beta-i Team!

Sandra Sick SandraSick @SandraSick

Lisbon Challenge Startup Teams

Sandra Sick SandraSick @SandraSick

Sandra Sick Moderating Startup Pitches

Sandra Sick SandraSick @SandraSick

Sandra Sick and Magnafinance

Sandra Sick SandraSick @SandraSick

Panel for SVC2Lx

Sandra Sick SandraSick @SandraSick

Presenting to the President of Portugal

Sandra Sick @SandraSick Startup Weekend

Startup Weekend Coimbra

Sandra Sick @SandraSick Startup Pirates Lisboa

Startup Pirates Lisboa

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The Final Week of The Lisbon Challenge Spring 2015 (4th Edition)

It’s upon us, the final week of The Lisbon Challenge Spring 2015 edition and the 3-month accelerator program has progressed rapidly. From my vantage point as a coach and a mentor, I’d say that this edition went even faster than the previous! The focus and intensity of the teams has been non-stop! This week will be jammed with preparation for the final pitch at The Lisbon Investment Summit on June 4th and 5th as well as working aggressively on products, websites and overall preparation for more visibility for each startup.

sandra sick Lisbon Challenge

Getting to know the Lisbon Challenge teams – Day 1!

I have had the pleasure of being involved in all 4 editions of The Lisbon Challenge, the first two as a mentor and the last two as a coach and mentor. Coaching digs in much deeper and you work with teams on a weekly basis, so you really see their direction and progress and can have a big impact in areas. It’s a great opportunity and it certainly is rewarding.

And each Lisbon Challenge edition has it’s own vibe. It’s all group dynamics in the end, but I can see how the program has grown and as much as the Lisbon Challenge/Beta-i program team does not ‘babysit’, the expectations do keep rising both from the teams that apply and the results throughout the program.

sandra sick clinkpic

Working with the ClinkPic team on new branding.

Sandra Sick Eggy

Pedro from Eggy presenting during the MPV Session.

Technically there is no ‘winner’ in this edition of The Lisbon Challenge, but there are ‘perks’ that will be awarded at #LIS that have a monetary value. But really, each team that is accepted and goes through the entire program is a winner. They win a wider network of contacts including a long list of instructors, coaches, mentors, speakers, investors and other guests, they gain 3 months of focus on their product or service and often go through some level of rebranding, pivoting or new direction. Most teams also make serious progress and solve a lot of business problems (often specific to recruitment and rebuilding).

Accelerator programs are not intended to be easy and The Lisbon Challenge teams have been working as Beta-I as they expand their office space and take on a much bigger role for their operations which is involved in a wide range of projects, events and programs. The Lisbon Challenge has also become a very internationally known accelerator program and the number of applications per edition is impressive.

So, with days to go before the startups find themselves on the #LIS stage, here are a few words of encouragement for the member of each startup team;

  1. You made it this far, so stay focused on your key milestones.
  2. Get your feet on the street and continue to sell and get users.
  3. You now have a much larger network, remember to use it and use it wisely.
  4. You earned bragging rights for being a Lisbon Challenge alumni. Keep in touch, share your journey and brag where it makes sense!
  5. Tweet, retweet and share your news on TWITTER!
  6. Remember that most investors are looking at momentum, management team, market size and money.

And lastly, since we all know that startups have a high failure rate, ‘It’s more important to fail at something that matters than to succeed at something that doesn’t’.

Happy pitching teams!

Sandra (@SandraSick)

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Sure Signs of a Growing Startup Environment

As I’ve written in the past, there is a lot of growth in the startup scene in Portugal today. It’s an incredible amount of growth in a short time. Rapid startup growth is happening all around the globe and the number of startup incubators and accelerator programs in Europe alone is HUGE. It’s all good news.

As somebody who works closely with startups, I see a lot from the ‘edge’. I meet, speak with, teach, mentor, coach and work with a lot of different startups. Nearly all of them are looking for money, which is not surprising to anyone. Really, I can count on one hand the number of times a startup said, ‘we’re not taking money now’. Good for them!

Tough decisions when it comes to investing can take too long!

Tough decisions when it comes to investing can take too long!

The flip side is that many of the startups looking for money go through such a painstaking process that the challenge of raising funds seems larger than the effort to get their product to market. Yes, this is the reality of leading the charge while bootstrapping and looking for cash to grow.

In the recent months, we have seen some back to back investment news that is a sure sign that the startup scene is growing up in Portugal. Yes, Farfetch, JOBBOX.io, Bica Sudios, MyGon, B-Guest and others have announced investments. All this is great news but for many, they are stuck in what seems to be an abnormally long process of getting a yes or no from investors. Not all, but many.

I am a big fan of Brad Feld, a managing director at Foundry Group in Boulder, Colorado. He invests in software and internet companies around the US. He recently wrote an article on “Why We Pass Quickly on Things‘ , and I highly recommend reading his blog on an on-going basis.

To quote the article, ‘As part of our strategy, we have purposely constrained our fund size ($225m per fund, which lasts about three years and covers about 30 investments) and our partnership size (four partners, no associates.) As a result, our goal is to say no in 60 seconds‘.

OK, 60 seconds is fast, but in the life of a startup, this is like days and a long process of application submissions, revisions, meetings, more meetings, lots of indecision and more really takes away from a startup focusing on their product and/or business development.

So the article is a good read and when we start seeing investment decisions getting to a yes or no even faster, we will know how much more the Portuguese Startup ecosystem has grown up.

Feel free to share your story of getting funding, regardless of where the money came from for your company. Roughly how long did it take and what did you learn?

Have a great day and thanks for sharing this post,

Sandra

@sandrasick

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The Portuguese Startup Scene is Really Growing – FAST!

The 4th edition of The Lisbon Challenge is about to kick off and 22 teams are making their way to Beta-I in Lisbon to spend the next 3 months challenging themselves and accelerating their development efforts and business activities. I’m looking forward to coaching the 4 teams assigned and mentoring the others!

Many strangers come together in these programs and it’s great to watch all that happens on a business level as well as witness many friendships form. Welcome to Lisbon Challengers and it’s hard to even remember when this accelerator program did not exist!

More good and impressive fundraising news; JOBBOX.io, a tech hiring marketplace with a peer referral rewarding system, just raised €750.000 a seed investment round that was led by Portugal Ventures. The list of companies with impressive funding is growing and growing. Fundraising is an important milestone in the growth of an ecosystem. Congratulations JOBBOX.io and click here to read the news.

And I doubt anyone missed this news, but just in case; Fashion Marketplace Farfetch Raises $86M Led By DST At A $1B Valuation. Now that is a high watermark for a company started in Portugal. Keep them coming startups!

There is now a Twitter Portugal account (@TwitterPortugal) and as much as I’m not sure what to expect from this account, it just could be a sign that people in Portugal are starting to value Twitter even more. #Finally

We’re seeing a lot of new events, meetup and other gatherings throughout the country. Again, another sign of a growing startup/tech ecosystem. One event to add to your schedule is the Productized Conference which is a 3-day event happening in Lisbon from October 7-9th with a focus of how to turn ideas into well-designed products. Get details at: http://www.productized.co

There is a growing list of coworking spaces in Portugal, as you’d expect with so much startup activity. I was recently at the soon to be open Mouraria Creative Hub and it’s a very impressive space. I have to say that the design of the offices, tucked in a very old and not popular part of Lisbon has this really cool energy. The light and little slices of unique views of the city from the many windows is inspiring and part of a great story to transform this space into this creative center. Check it out or apply to work there!

Every growing ecosystem has its share of publications and news and if you have not been reading these two, you’re missing out on the latest and greatest news and interviews on Portuguese Startups (in English);

And remember to follow them on Twitter!

I’m heading to Porto next week to give a marketing and sales workshop to a group of young entrepreneurs involved in Startup Pirates Porto. I have lost count as to how many Startup Pirate weekends have happened around the globe since the team kicked off this program in September 2011, but the number is impressive. I have met a lot of great people and mentored many teams during the 4 Startup Pirates Lisboa events. Again, it’s hard to remember when this intensive startup program did not exist in Portugal.

Startup Pirates wine 'Startup Community Contributor of the Year’ Award from Microsoft Portugal

Startup Pirates wine ‘Startup Community Contributor of the Year’ Award from Microsoft Portugal

So congratulations Startup Pirates on winning the ‘Startup Community Contributor of the Year’ Award from Microsoft Portugal at the #AtivarPT event. It’s well deserved and thanks for continuing to grow pirate families around the world! Here’s a link to the story behind Startup Pirates; https://vimeo.com/80857265

And learn more about the exciting new initiative from Microsoft – AtivarPT! Their mission focuses on ‘bringing together the best of the best to help Portuguese Startups build successful, world–class businesses in the future’.

So it’s clear that more money is coming into Portugal or Portuguese companies, corporate partners are increasing their support and investment (Microsoft and others), new events are getting added to the calendar and the Portuguese startup news is spreading around the globe (also validated by the Portuguese team invited recently to SXSW). Let’s look for more job creation and even better opportunities for those in the ecosystem as this very lively space continues to grow.

Please continue to share all this good news with your network. Obrigada,

Sandra

And make sure you follow me on Twitter!

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A Crash Course on ‘Inside the Startup Funding Game’ from The Pitchdeck Podcast

The Pitchdeck Podcast

The Pitchdeck Podcast

The podcast world is really evolving and we’re now seeing a great offering of all types of content with very high levels of production. Startups have all types of content, tools, online classes and more to learn as they grow their business and podcasts can be very helpful. Since October of 2014, The Pitchdeck Podcast has been interviewing a very long and impressive list of VC’s, investors and other influencers in the early stage capital raising world.

We all know that raising capital is challenging and these podcasts allow you to get insight directly from 50+ key venture capitals and angel investors. The interviews are well hosted by Gavin McCulley who is an active Angel Investor, Startup Mentor, and Entrepreneur living in Charleston, South Carolina. He is also the founding chapter President of Keiretsu Forum – Charleston, a nationally syndicated group of over 1100 angel investors. He knows his stuff and gets the most out of these smart interviews.

Learn more about raising capital and search iTunes for The Pitchdeck Podcasts for specific people or VC firms of interest to you.

And follow The Pitchdeck on Twitter at @the_pitch_deck and@Gavin_McCulley today!

This extensive podcast offering will give you added insight, real-time suggestions and boost your confidence as you move through the process of looking for capital, especially in the US, but not exclusively.

Enjoy and podcast away,

Sandra

Marketing consultant, mentor, advisor and coach

@sandrasick

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