Connecting startups and investors online

Person looking at smiling man on computer screen (© Shutterstock)
The marketplace platform Vintro lets fledgling entrepreneurs connect with experts worldwide. (© Shutterstock)

Startup companies everywhere seek venture capital because traditional financing, reserved for relatively low-risk enterprises, may not be an option. But the barriers to reaching venture capitalists (or even industry mentors) are high too.

That’s why Vintro — a newly launched online platform — is giving aspiring entrepreneurs access to business experts, thereby creating more opportunities for mentorship or investment.

The company compensates decision makers (known as “reviewers”) for their time used to review new ideas, products or services from entrepreneurs (“creators”), who submit 90-second pitch videos. Creators can choose reviewers from among business executives, industry experts, filmmakers, Nobel laureates and academics.

Vintro is the latest among several platforms that democratize business funding worldwide. Crowdsourcing platforms — such as Indiegogo, based in San Francisco, and Kickstarter, based in New York City — are more established examples.

Getting startups off the ground

Some startups rely on personal loans and credit or look for financial help from family and friends. Business owners lucky enough to attract media attention might find investors through the publicity (which can also reduce marketing costs).

But according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, seed funding for startups — often provided in exchange for an equity stake — has rapidly gained in popularity, and that’s what Vintro hopes to find for entrepreneurs. During 2019, the venture industry invested $136.5 billion in U.S.-based companies, says the National Venture Capital Association. That figure accounts for more than half of global venture capital investment.

A timely business model

Portrait photo of smiling woman (© Vinto)
Vintro founder Noor Sugrue (© Vintro)

Vintro, founded by University of Chicago student Noor Sugrue and based in Chicago and London, is managed by University of Chicago students and alumni, with advice from a small number of business leaders, entrepreneurs, academics and former politicians.

Sugrue says she has heard success is about “who you know,” not “what you know.” She and her colleagues don’t think that’s fair, so they are trying to fix it. “Great ideas can come from anyone, anywhere in the world,” Sugrue says.