Investors, Innovators, Influencers – Micah Baldwin, Create33 at Madrona Venture Group

Micah Baldwin is a seasoned pro in the startup world. For 20+ years he has led large-scale, multi-million dollar global growth across product and business development for venture-backed startups. He has helped drive the growth of several startup ecosystems through strategic planning, partnerships, and engagement. His primary focus: cultivate strong partner relations and corporate development to create intuitive business solutions and products. Micah is truly someone you want to know.

Micah is the Executive Director of Create33 at Madrona Venture Group.

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

I started my first business when I was 9 years old. Since then, I spent my time doing “business-y” things, from a pool cleaning business when I was 14 where I hired all the popular kids from high school to my last company in 2014, and even a 3.5-year stint at Amazon. I learned plenty of lessons, but the biggest one is that I am not invincible, able to carry everything, or perfect. In fact, I learned the exact opposite, and that success came when I worked to support others, rather than always be supported. It’s funny how far people can run when you are laying the road in front of them.

What motivates you?

Other people’s success.

What do you look for in a potential investment?

I look for founders that fear mediocrity, expanding markets, and products made intentionally with a clear obsession around the customer.

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

Through my personal network, Twitter or email. Although it’s always better through friends of mine.

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

A new area I am focused on is “care-tech.” The enablement of self-care, especially around depression, anxiety, and other similar ailments, is growing fast as the reality of how many people suffer sets in. I continue to love consumer applications that make people’s lives easier with AI, robotics, etc., I don’t see that slowing down. Finally, SaaS tools that make businesses operate like startups. I think of companies like Twilio, Sendgrid, and Github.

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

Downstream Impact – for sure. It’s awesome watching ex-coworkers and friends accelerate and succeed by helping brands navigate Amazon’s ad world effectively. One of the companies I sold built similar software for Google AdWords when it first came out. It was amazing to watch how much advertising changed because of text ads. Now, Amazon is doing the same with consumer goods.

Omni – (not an investor, but an advisor) for the way they are changing people’s relationship to stuff. People don’t need to buy things when you can rent from trusted sources, such as your neighbors. I have watched several companies try and do this ineffectively and it seems like Omni has cracked the nut on it with an innovative business model and smart technology. I have known the CEO for a number of years, watching him grow as a leader and the company from an idea to a powerhouse.

Daisie – which allows people, especially young people, to showcase their creative talents. The difficulty with Instagram or other social platforms is that they are focused on marketing and influence versus talent. How do you discover that writer/artist/photographer on those platforms? Luck. Daisie allows people to put their talent first and bypasses the need for influence. The two founders, Maisie and Dom, have experienced this first-hand in their careers in acting and film production.

An unannounced company focused on making therapy and related classes as easily available as fitness classes. Everyone should have access to resources that make their lives more livable. One of the biggest trends in 2018 was self-care and I believe as we see a generational shift from Baby-Boomers and Gen-X-ers to Millenials and Gen-Z, self-care, and a fit mind/spirit, is becoming just as important as a fit body. These young women founders have truly approached the problem with empathy and intelligence, and I can’t wait for their products to be used by everyone.

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

There are a million tactics one can learn when pitching an investor, even me. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you are not competing with known companies, rather unknown companies. Investors hear pitches from lots of companies, and often they have heard pitches from companies similar to yours. The goal is not to showcase why you are better than known companies, but why the investor should select you (first) and your company (second) over all others.

How do you do that? Be yourself. Be knowledgeable. Be unforgettable.

Anything else you want our readers to know?

Building companies is both the greatest and worst thing you will ever do. It’s hard. It’s wonderful. It’s soul-sucking and it’s affirming at the same time. So why should you do it? Because you can’t imagine doing anything else; because you know you must be the one to build that solution; because you’re willing to learn if you are strong enough to do it.

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