June 12, 2017

Ask a Mentor: Christie Pitts

This post originally appeared on the Techstars' Medium publication on June 12, 2017. 

Christie Pitts is a Techstars mentor and part of the venture development team at Verizon Ventures. She is an experienced business professional in the emerging technology and enterprise space, and has over 10 years of experience in sales, marketing and operations leadership roles. Christie began her career in retail sales and moved on to lead the marketing and sales operations teams for the Northern California/Nevada/Hawaii market.

What do you love most about mentoring startups? Why do you do it?

My favorite part of mentoring is watching a company grow and being able to learn alongside the founders and leadership team. A Verizon Ventures portfolio company that I have been working closely with is Swiftmile, who won Verizon’s 2015 Powerful Answers Award in the transportation category. Subsequently, Verizon Ventures invested in Colin and his team and it’s been an honor to be part of Swiftmile’s journey, watching them refine their pitch deck, enhance their product, onboard beta customers and support their continued growth.  

What is the most common mistake you see startup founders make?

One of the most common mistakes, especially when a company is in its early stage, is chasing a high valuation (Click to Tweet). Every time a founder is actively raising funding, they need to demonstrate company growth to exceed the previous valuation. If the previous valuation can’t be exceeded, it can be painful for parties that are involved – previous investors, employees, and the founding team – who are faced with dilution, or worse, lower than anticipated value for their share. Also, new investors may be reluctant to invest. At an early stage, high valuations can be difficult to realize and can hamstring founders down the road. Having a realistic valuation and giving the company room to grow is a better long-term strategy.

What are some key traits you look for in a founder?

It’s important for founders to be coachable, willing to learn and test different ideas, and be committed to their team (Click to Tweet). A good leader should always be learning – about their business, team, industry, market, customers, product value, and more. A leader who is open to new ideas and recommendations means they are flexible and can respond quickly to changing market needs. It’s equally important for founders to be committed to their vision and to their team, who are also working towards the company’s success.

What have you learned from mentoring the Techstars Mobility program?

One of my favorite things about working with Techstars is learning from the other corporate partners, and seeing how motivated they are to work with startups to help build a solid business. This also enables me to have more context around the problems that the startups are solving. I love mentoring the participating startups in the Mobility program because it gathers passionate founders who have dedicated their lives to solving some of the biggest challenges in the marketplace today.

Did you have any mentors that helped you shape your career?

The mentor who has had the biggest impact on my career is my father. At a young age, he taught me the concept of “Rule #1: Pay Attention (Click to Tweet).” Accidental problems, or common mistakes, can be avoided if you really focus on the task at hand. Being mindful and present applies to both your professional and personal life. Anytime I make a mistake and share this with my dad, he asks me, “Christie, what’s Rule #1?” I’m lucky to count on him as one of many mentors, giving me guidance and continued support.  

What is your go-to blog or newsletter?

Favorite tech gadget?

My smartphone!

Any words of wisdom for someone launching a startup?

Be committed to your idea – If all goes well, you’ll be working on it for the next 7-10 years! (Click to Tweet)

Tags: investing , Techstars , Christie Pitts , Swiftmile