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Founder Workshops @ Venture Mechanics


Each quarter, Venture Mechanics offers a rotating series of Founder Workshops on specific topics that every startup team needs to master. These are typically 3-4 hour evening sessions given by the best of our mentors. While the workshops are intended to be taken sequentially they can be taken out of order.

Companies in the Venture Mechanics incubator are entitled to an unlimited free buffet of these workshops during their term. The workshops are also open to startups that aren't in the incubator, at the regular tuition price. Dinner is included, and parking is always free.

Scroll below to see the detailed course descriptions for the following Founder Workshops being offered:

  • Everything Legal
  • Customer Discovery
  • Branding, Customer Acquisition Strategy & Tactics
  • Human Capital Strategies for Startup Teams
  • Wealth Management for Startup Founders
  • Budget Modeling for Startups
  • Exit Analysis for Early Stage Startups
  • Cap Table Modeling and Term Sheet Construction
  • Pitch Clinic for Startup Fundraising
founder workshops at venture mechanics

"Everything Legal"

This workshop takes a deep dive into two vital aspects of protecting the value of the business you’re creating. Part I covers the corporate structure, stock distribution, and about 15-20 legal contracts that startups usually need to develop by the time they’re selling stock, hiring employees and generating revenue. Part II covers your trademarks, patents and other forms of intellectual property.

Part I: Some of the most daunting tasks in creating a new startup are things like figuring out the “cap table,” equitably dividing equity between co-founders, selecting the ideal legal entity type (e.g. C-Corp vs LLC), and starting out with rigorous corporate hygiene from the get go, so it doesn’t become an obstacle to closing a funding round later. You’ll learn about all the legal documents that you’ll need to create to support your business and protect its value, spanning from employee agreements to user licensing agreements.

Part II: You’ll learn from three highly experienced attorneys how to build a fortress around your IP. Included will be “brand protection” - everything from trademarks to domain names to trade secrets. Next up, how to structure licensing agreements - especially for software companies that will rely on these contracts for the majority of their revenue. Lastly, we’ll dive into patents, including the rapidly changing landscape of AI and machine learning patentability.

Learn from a veteran serial entrepreneur, veteran startup lawyer, an expert intellectual property strategist, and a highly experienced patent attorney on the various ways of protecting and enhancing the value of your enterprise, from inception to exit. You will walk away from this workshop with a checklist of legal documents you’ll need to create and filings you’ll need to make in order to comply with the law, optimize your investors’ and founders’ pre-tax and after-tax returns, protect your intellectual property assets, and minimize your overall business risks. 

Join us for an interactive workshop designed to equip early-stage entrepreneurs with essential skills in customer discovery. Understanding your customers is so crucial for success that Venture Mechanics won't even accept a startup into the incubator unless a substantial amount of customer discovery has already been documented. This workshop will guide you through practical strategies and tools to identify, understand, and validate your target market effectively.

Workshop Agenda:

  1. Introduction to Customer Discovery:

    • Understand the importance of customer discovery in the startup journey.
    • Learn how customer insights drive product-market fit.

  2. Defining Your Target Audience:

    • Techniques for segmenting your market and identifying ideal customer profiles.
    • Tools and frameworks to prioritize customer segments based on potential impact.

  3. Conducting Effective Customer Interviews:

    • Structuring interview questions to uncover deep insights and pain points.
    • Practical tips for conducting unbiased interviews and interpreting responses.

  4. Analyzing and Validating Customer Feedback:

    • Methods for synthesizing interview data to extract actionable insights.
    • Strategies to validate assumptions and iterate on customer feedback.

  5. Iterative Customer Discovery Process:

    • Building a continuous feedback loop to refine your product-market fit.
    • Incorporating customer feedback into agile development processes.

  6. Case Studies and Best Practices:

    • Real-world examples of successful customer discovery strategies.
    • Pitfalls to avoid and common challenges in customer validation.

Key Takeaways:

  • Gain confidence in identifying and understanding your target market.
  • Learn practical techniques for conducting meaningful customer interviews.
  • Acquire tools to iterate and improve your product based on customer feedback.
  • Network with fellow entrepreneurs and share insights.

Who Should Attend:

  • Early-stage founders looking to validate their business ideas.
  • Entrepreneurs seeking to refine their product-market fit.

Don't miss this opportunity to sharpen your customer discovery skills and accelerate your startup journey. Join us and transform how you approach understanding your customers!

"Customer Discovery"

"Branding, Customer Acquisition Strategy & Tactics"

In an ever-evolving business landscape, the ability to establish a strong brand, craft effective marketing strategies, and acquire and retain customers is paramount to the success of any startup. This comprehensive course delves into the core principles and practical applications of branding, strategic marketing, and customer acquisition strategies. It also goes into detail on how to legally protect your brand, develop a robust domain name strategy, and leverage social media opportunities effectively, especially when you don’t have funding yet to deploy paid marketing.

Learn from veteran strategic marketing executives about how to create a powerful, enduring brand, and a successful marketing strategy that will win profitable customers for your business. This workshop combines interactive sessions, case studies, and practical exercises to facilitate understanding and application. Real-life examples and expert guidance ensure participants gain actionable insights.

Course Objectives:

- Understand the fundamentals of branding and the importance of a strong brand identity.
- Develop strategic marketing plans tailored to startup environments.
- Explore customer acquisition techniques and retention strategies.
- Learn how to legally protect your brand and navigate intellectual property concerns.
- Formulate an effective domain name strategy to enhance brand visibility and online presence.
- Master the use of social media platforms to promote your brand and engage with customers without a substantial budget.

Key Topics:

1. Branding Essentials
- Building and managing a compelling brand identity.
- Key elements of brand strategy: vision, mission, values, and messaging.

2. Strategic Marketing Fundamentals
- Crafting a marketing plan that aligns with business goals.
- Identifying and targeting the right customer segments.

3. Customer Acquisition and Retention
- Proven techniques for acquiring and retaining profitable customers.
- Leveraging customer feedback and data for continuous improvement.

4. Legal Protection for Your Brand
- Intellectual property basics: trademarks and copyrights
- Steps to legally protect your brand and avoid common pitfalls.

5. Domain Name Strategy
- Choosing a domain name that supports your brand strategy.
- Tips for securing and managing your domain name effectively.

6. Leveraging Social Media on a Budget
- Utilizing social media platforms for organic growth.
- Creating engaging content and building an online community.
- Best practices for social media marketing without paid advertising.

Target Audience:
- Aspiring entrepreneurs and startup founders.
- Marketing professionals looking to enhance their skills.
- Business students interested in startup marketing and customer discovery.

Join us to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to create a strong brand, develop effective marketing strategies, and drive customer growth for your startup.

"Cap Table Modeling & Term Sheet Construction"

Workshop Description:

Navigating the complexities of equity distribution is crucial for any startup aiming for sustainable growth and investment success. This intensive workshop on Cap Table Modeling for Startups offers a deep dive into the principles and practical applications of managing your startup’s capitalization table. Understanding how to model and maintain a cap table is vital for founders to ensure fair equity distribution, attract investors, and make informed strategic decisions.

Join us to learn from seasoned venture capitalists and financial experts who will guide you through the intricacies of cap table dynamics, investor relations, and equity management. This workshop combines interactive lectures, real-world case studies, and hands-on modeling exercises to ensure participants gain comprehensive and actionable insights.

Workshop Objectives:

  • Understand the fundamentals of cap tables and their importance in startup finance.
  • Learn how to create and manage a cap table that reflects your startup’s equity structure accurately.
  • Explore the impact of different funding rounds on your cap table.
  • Gain insights into dilution, stock options, and convertible notes.
  • Develop strategies to maintain a balanced cap table while negotiating with investors.
  • Utilize cap table modeling tools and software effectively.

Key Topics:

  1. Introduction to Cap Tables

    • Definition and significance of a cap table.
    • Key components: founder shares, investor shares, options, and convertible securities.

  2. Creating a Cap Table

    • Step-by-step guide to building an initial cap table.
    • Common mistakes to avoid in early-stage cap table creation.

  3. Funding Rounds and Equity Dilution

    • Understanding pre-money and post-money valuations.
    • Impact of seed, series A, and subsequent funding rounds on the cap table.
    • Dilution management and strategies for founders.

  4. Stock Options and Convertible Notes

    • Structuring employee stock option plans (ESOPs).
    • Convertible notes and SAFEs: how they convert and affect your cap table.

  5. Cap Table Management Tools

    • Overview of popular cap table management software.
    • Hands-on exercises using real-world tools to manage and update cap tables.

  6. Investor Relations and Negotiations

    • Best practices for communicating with investors about equity.
    • Strategies for negotiating favorable terms while protecting founder equity.

"Human Capital Strategies for Startup Teams"

Managing human capital effectively is critical for startups aiming to build resilient and high-performing teams. This course dives into the essential aspects of human resources tailored specifically for startup environments. From planning staffing levels to designing compensation structures, implementing incentives, addressing legal considerations, structuring benefits plans, and exploring automation opportunities, this course provides comprehensive guidance to help startups attract, retain, and develop top talent.

Course Overview:

Join us for an in-depth exploration of human capital management strategies that are crucial for startup success. Led by seasoned HR professionals with extensive startup experience, this course combines theoretical knowledge with practical insights to equip you with the tools needed to build and manage a strong workforce.

Key Topics Covered:

  1. Planning for Proper Staffing Levels:

    • Understanding workforce planning in the context of startup growth stages.
    • Strategies for forecasting staffing needs and optimizing team structures.

  2. Compensation Structures and Incentives:

    • Designing competitive and equitable compensation packages.
    • Implementing performance-based incentives to drive motivation and productivity.

  3. Legal Issues in Human Resources:

    • Compliance with employment laws and regulations (e.g., wage laws, discrimination laws).
    • Addressing legal considerations in hiring, employee contracts, and termination.

  4. Benefits Planning:

    • Structuring benefits plans that meet the needs of startup employees.
    • Evaluating options such as health insurance, retirement plans, and perks.

  5. Automation Opportunities in HR:

    • Leveraging technology for streamlined recruitment, onboarding, and HR processes.
    • Exploring HR software solutions to enhance efficiency and scalability.

Practical Applications and Case Studies:

Participants will engage in practical exercises, case studies, and discussions to apply theoretical concepts to real-world startup scenarios. Through interactive sessions, you will learn how to navigate challenges and capitalize on opportunities in human capital management.

Who Should Attend:

  • Founders and co-founders responsible for HR and team management.
  • Startup executives and managers overseeing human resources functions.
  • HR professionals transitioning into startup environments or looking to enhance their startup-specific skills.

Don’t miss this opportunity to gain valuable insights and practical strategies that will empower you to effectively manage human capital in your startup. Whether you’re scaling your team, optimizing compensation structures, or navigating legal complexities, this course equips you with the knowledge and tools needed to build a strong and resilient workforce. Join us and elevate your startup’s human capital strategy to drive long-term success.

"Budget Modeling for Startups"

Effective budgeting is essential for startup success, providing a roadmap for financial management and strategic decision-making. This workshop is designed to equip startup founders and financial decision-makers with the skills and knowledge to develop robust budget models tailored to their business needs. From initial projections to ongoing monitoring and adjustment, participants will learn practical techniques and tools to navigate financial complexities and optimize resource allocation.

Workshop Agenda:

  1. Introduction to Startup Budgeting:

    • Importance of budgeting in startup operations and growth.
    • Key components of a startup budget: revenue projections, expense categories, cash flow management.

  2. Building a Startup Budget Model:

    • Step-by-step guide to creating a comprehensive budget model from scratch.
    • Utilizing financial forecasting techniques and assumptions.

  3. Revenue Projections and Sales Forecasting:

    • Techniques for estimating sales revenues and forecasting growth.
    • Incorporating market trends, customer acquisition costs, and pricing strategies.

  4. Expense Management and Cost Control:

    • Identifying and categorizing startup expenses (fixed vs. variable).
    • Strategies for optimizing costs while maintaining operational efficiency.

  5. Cash Flow Planning and Management:

    • Understanding cash flow cycles and managing cash burn rates.
    • Implementing cash flow forecasting to ensure liquidity and financial stability.

  6. Scenario Analysis and Risk Management:

    • Conducting sensitivity analysis to assess financial risks and opportunities.
    • Creating contingency plans and adjusting budgets based on different scenarios.

Key Takeaways:

  • Develop a practical and scalable budget model aligned with your startup’s growth trajectory.
  • Gain insights into effective revenue forecasting and expense management strategies.
  • Learn to use budgeting as a tool for strategic decision-making and resource allocation.
  • Access templates, tools, and resources to streamline budgeting processes.

Who Should Attend:

  • Startup founders and entrepreneurs responsible for financial planning and management.
  • CFOs, finance managers, and financial analysts seeking to enhance budgeting skills.
  • Investors and advisors interested in understanding startup financial operations and budget modeling.

Join us for an interactive workshop where you’ll acquire essential skills in budget modeling to navigate the financial challenges and opportunities of startup growth. Whether you’re preparing for fundraising, scaling operations, or optimizing cash flow, this workshop equips you with practical knowledge to drive financial sustainability and success in your startup journey.

"Wealth Management for Startup Founders"

Strategies for Startup Founders to Maximize Their Wealth After Exit

As a startup founder, navigating the complexities of taxation during and after an exit event is crucial to maximizing your wealth. This workshop provides essential knowledge and strategies tailored for large founder stockholders aiming to minimize tax liabilities and preserve capital gains. Whether you're preparing for acquisition, IPO, or another exit scenario, proactive tax planning can save millions in potential taxes.

Workshop Focus Areas:

  1. Understanding Tax Implications for Founder Stock:

    • Overview of capital gains taxes and their impact on founder stock.
    • Key tax considerations during various stages of startup growth and exit planning.

  2. Strategic Estate Planning:

    • Early-stage estate planning strategies to optimize tax benefits.
    • Utilizing gift tax exclusions and other legal maneuvers to preserve wealth.

  3. Timing Considerations for Tax Efficiency:

    • Importance of timing transactions and capital gains realization.
    • Strategies to implement before fundraising rounds or priced valuations.

  4. Legal Structures and Vehicles:

    • Evaluating tax-efficient structures such as trusts and family partnerships.
    • Incorporating these structures into long-term financial planning.

  5. Case Studies and Practical Examples:

    • Real-world examples of successful tax planning strategies in startup exits.
    • Pitfalls to avoid and lessons learned from past experiences.

Key Learning Objectives:

  • Gain critical insights into tax planning strategies that can save millions during an exit event.
  • Understand estate planning steps applicable before fundraising rounds or exit scenarios.
  • Learn about legal maneuvers and structures to optimize tax efficiency and retain capital gains.

Who Should Attend:

  • Startup founders and executives with significant founder stock holdings.
  • Entrepreneurs anticipating an exit event (acquisition, IPO, etc.) in the future.
  • Advisors and investors interested in maximizing wealth preservation for startup founders.

Don't miss this opportunity to equip yourself with essential knowledge and actionable strategies to navigate tax implications effectively. By proactively managing your tax liabilities and optimizing wealth preservation strategies, you can retain more of your hard-earned capital gains and secure your financial future post-exit. Join us and empower yourself with the tools to make informed decisions that safeguard your financial success.

Exit Analysis for Early Stage Startups

  1. Understanding Exit Strategy Fundamentals:

    • Overview of different exit options (acquisition, IPO, merger, etc.) and their implications.
    • Strategic considerations in choosing the right exit strategy for your startup.

  2. Researching Potential Acquirers:

    • Techniques for identifying and evaluating potential acquirers.
    • Building relationships and understanding buyer motivations.

  3. Exit Valuation Methods:

    • Key factors influencing startup valuation in exit scenarios.
    • Valuation methodologies (DCF, market comparables, transaction multiples) and their application.

  4. Negotiation Strategies and Deal Structuring:

    • Effective negotiation tactics to maximize exit value.
    • Structuring deals to optimize financial outcomes and mitigate risks.

  5. Legal and Regulatory Considerations:

    • Overview of legal aspects in M&A transactions (due diligence, contracts, regulatory compliance).
    • Understanding the role of legal advisors and navigating complex legal landscapes.

  6. Case Studies and Practical Insights:

    • Real-world examples of successful exit strategies and their outcomes.
    • Analysis of failed exits and lessons learned.

Learning Objectives:

  • Develop a strategic roadmap for planning and executing a successful exit.
  • Acquire skills to research potential acquirers and assess exit valuation.
  • Understand negotiation techniques and deal structuring strategies.
  • Gain insights into legal considerations and regulatory challenges in exit transactions.

Who Should Attend:

  • Startup founders and entrepreneurs preparing for an exit event.
  • CFOs, executives, and advisors involved in strategic decision-making and exit planning.
  • Investors and stakeholders interested in maximizing returns through successful exits.

Don't miss this opportunity to master the intricacies of exit analysis and position your startup for a successful transition. Whether you're aiming to sell your company or explore other exit opportunities, this course equips you with the knowledge and tools to navigate the process with confidence and achieve optimal outcomes. Join us and unlock the pathway to a successful exit for your startup.

Pitch Clinic for Startup Fundraising

Learn to build pitch decks that keep investors engaged. With investors, first impressions are important. When you show investors your pitch, whether by email or live, you need to be clear, concise and compelling. This pitch workshop at Venture Mechanics Incubator/Accelerator will provide you with the necessary tools to create a winning pitch deck.

Learn how to:

  • Think like an investor
  • Prepare a pitch that is sharp, to the point and powerful
  • Save time in developing the narrative and the deck
  • Avoid ‘Powerpoint Poisoning’

Don't miss out on this chance to elevate your pitching skills! Discover how to craft a compelling story that captivates investors. Find out why having more than one deck is crucial and what elements to include in a teaser deck.

Join us for an evening workshop with Q&A, practice sessions, and dinner included. You don’t need a pitch deck ready to benefit - this workshop will kickstart your progress.


  • Dana will provide feedback on each participant's deck after you've had time to create it.
  • Bring up to two co-founders with a single ticket

About Dana Sather Robinson
Dana is an angel investor, pitch trainer and creator of the Pitch 4 Impact Framework. As a professional presentation skills trainer, she understands how to help clients communicate with impact, clarity and authenticity. Dana is an active member of E8 Angels, an innovative cleantech angel investing group. The Pitch4Impact program was created from two perspectives, as an investor and as a trainer of presentation skills. Dana emphasizes how to make the most of your own natural style to be memorable and authentic.

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