Investors, Innovators, Influencers – Julie Harrelson, Cascade Seed Fund

Julie Harrelson is the Managing Director of the Cascade Seed Fund. Recognizing that being an entrepreneur is hard, she recommends building a strong network of close advisors, people who love you no matter what, and experts.

Tell us about the professional journey that took you where you are today. What major lessons did you learn along the way?

My sales career began in Campfire, selling mints. I wanted to win the pin for selling the most mints! Seriously, I rode the wave of telecom deregulation and IT expansion. Below are some lessons learned. It’s important to:

Do what you say you are going to do – it’s amazing how much success comes from simple follow through and communication.

Listen, be curious and speak up – keep learning – most people talk more than they listen and aren’t that curious about possibilities. It’s important to listen. A big part of being a successful executive/founder/CEO is being able to sort options, make a decision and make it happen. Rest and fun are important. Every high performance athlete gets rest. As leaders, if we don’t rest and come back to our center in whatever way we need to, it’s like creating a repetitive motion injury to self.

What motivates you?

Making a difference.

What do you look for in a potential investment?

  • You are working full-time on your company
  • Your business is a legal corporation (C-Corp preferred)
  • You are a technology company or technology-enabled consumer goods/products or medical/biotech business
  • You have revenue or strong early traction with a clear growth path. We do not invest in pre-revenue companies.
  • You are focused on a market opportunity where there is a realistic expectation of an exponential financial return to our investors (4-5X as a starting point)
  • You are interested in and prepared for an equity investment in your business (we will also invest via a convertible note)
  • You are an Oregon-based business. We have a preference for Oregon, but will evaluate strong investment opportunities in Washington, Montana, Idaho, and Utah as well.

How do you find and curate your deal flow? What are the most effective ways for a founder to connect with you?

We find our opportunities through entrepreneurs who know us and refer to us, through events and other contacts across the PNW. The best way to connect with Cascade is to review the criteria and if it’s a match, apply.

What are the major trends you are seeing in your investment space?

We are seeing an increase of scalable consumer products companies and a gap in available seed funding.

What are a few of the investments that you are the most proud of, regardless of the company’s success?

Cascade has a dynamic and diverse portfolio. We are proud that 25% of our companies have a woman CEO/Founder and that over 50% have a minority on the executive team. We are industry agnostic and have several thematic areas:
Enterprise/B2B Orchestration
Tasks, workflows, & processes enabled by software, data, and intelligence
Internet-based businesses and those companies that enable them
Elevated Consumer Experiences
Products, services, & technologies that redefine and improve the consumer experience
Access to Essential Services
New Approaches to Health, Education, and Financial Services Frontier Technology Emerging technologies like robotics, blockchain, machine learning

What do you wish founders knew about before meeting you and other investors? What about female founders specifically?

It’s important to know that we don’t invest in pre-revenue companies. Also, for the business to be investible, it must be scalable.

Anything else you want our readers to know?

Being an entrepreneur is hard. Build a strong network of close advisors, people who love you no matter what, and experts. What you can expect from us:
  • An efficient process – your time is valuable and you need to be working on your business! Average time from pitch to decision is 60 days or less.
  • To provide a clear understanding of status, open items, and next steps – we invest $150,000 – $250,000 in 4-7 companies per year
  • Clear communication – not every company is a fit. We’ll do our best to provide direct and actionable feedback.
  • Great people – we are serious about what we do, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We seek the same in entrepreneurs.
  • Help when you need it – we have broad knowledge and experience in all aspects of starting, growing, and scaling businesses.
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