Advisor Highlight: Elisa La Cava
March 2, 2023
We have the ultimate privilege of having Elisa La Cava on our Advisory Board. Elisa is an investor at Madrona Venture Group in Seattle, focusing on software startups that are building intelligent applications with machine learning/artificial intelligence.
Prior to joining Madrona, Elisa held positions at MATH Venture Partners and AT&T Corporate Development / M&A. Before receiving her MBA, Elisa worked at Deloitte Consulting, where she held roles as U.S. West Region chief of staff and consultant. Earlier in her career, Elisa gained startup experience at biofuel manufacturer General Biodiesel where she wore several hats, including business development, project management, and HR. Elisa has a BA in environment-economics-politics and Spanish from Claremont McKenna College and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Read our full interview below with Elisa to read her advice to tech startups, the tech startup that she wants to help amplify, and how she hopes to create change in the industry as an FV advisor.
What excited you most about tech startups?
I love the passion and desire to create something meaningful that makes a difference. I worked at a startup out of undergrad and know what it feels like to be part of a scrappy and cohesive team that bands together and uses every split second of valuable time, and every bit of available resources, to build a business. Now as an investor, I look for the same break-down-doors level of passion in the entrepreneurs I meet with, because I know those teams will stop at nothing to make their dreams a reality and build a big business.
What change are you hoping to create in the industry by serving as Find Ventures advisor?
A key trait I see in successful founders is they have learned over time how to effectively “speak at the right altitude” to the various audiences of the “different hats” they wear every day: as a product builder, as a salesperson, as a recruiter, as a fundraiser, etc. But how does a founder learn how to do this well? One answer is through repetition and having opportunities to continually refine your pitch. Another answer is through access, and opening doors to various support structures, networks, and communities that can put you in front of the audiences you are trying to reach. Find Ventures’ aim is to help founders with both of these things in addition to the non-dilutive grant funding it provides, and I think that is a powerful combination.
In your experience with startups & entrepreneurs, what’s one of the Founders’ biggest hurdles? What advice would you give Founders facing similar struggles?
The adage that “everything is harder, and takes longer, than you think it will” is often true! Plan accordingly so you have extra cushion (such as cash runway or time) to achieve your next set of key milestones that will help you reach the next phase of your business.
Name one tech startup & its Founder(s) that you really believe in and want to help amplify.
Lexion (follow on LinkedIn) has built an intelligent workflow and repository for contract management that is eye-popping in its machine learning and generative-AI capabilities. I am a proud investor and supporter of everything CEO Gaurav Oberoi and team are building.
What one piece of advice would you give to a Founder that is thinking about launching their own tech startup?
Drive quickly toward getting customers to pay. An approach we often see with early stage startups is to bring in an early set of customers as a “design partners” to provide feedback while you are building the product, then convert those partners to pilots (short term contracts, can be paid or unpaid), and then convert those pilots to full (annual) paid contracts. Feedback from paying customers is always so much more valuable than unpaid or free customers because it helps you get closer to Product-Market Fit, and so think through what your strategy will be for moving your early customers along the sales process to get to “signed on the dotted line” and paying for a contract.
You can connect with Elisa on LinkedIn or Twitter.
Connect with our community by joining us at our upcoming Community Happy Hour on Thursday, March, 16th from 4 PM – 6 PM.
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To see a full list of all of our advisors check out our Team page.