An Oasis for the Lost Startup Founder
I had the great opportunity to interview Jason Kraus and Steve Vilkas of Prepare4VC, an organization that aims to provide resources, mentorship, and accelerator programs for startup founders and entrepreneurs. Their purpose is to prepare Startups to be Angel Investor and VC ready. Their Oasis has provided an amazing space of care for founders.
AMY OUZOONIAN: Thank you Jason and Steve for taking the time to meet with me and for doing this interview for MoodConnect. How are you feeling?
JASON KRAUS: I'm feeling good, thanks for asking! Looking forward to the interview.
STEVE VILKAS: I’m feeling good!
AO: Good to hear! So, Jason and Steve, I never saw myself as an entrepreneur until last year, though I've always had a spirit of community and have been an independent contractor for many years. I have wondered if entrepreneurs develop their entrepreneurial spirit or if that's something that develops over time. What has your experience been? Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit? Or was it something that you've developed over time?
JK: I always had the entrepreneurial spirit but didn't always envision starting a company. In middle school I started selling baseball cards, I always made up games to play with friends and family growing up and I worked on launching a mobile app in college. It was the opportunities and problems I could solve that lead me to jump feet first into the company creation side of entrepreneurship.
SV: It’s developed over time. I would say that I’ve always been curious, I’ve always loved to learn and am still in the process of doing both…and now as an intrapreneur there’s lots of opportunities to satisfy serving others and self-development. AO: Interesting. So, what is Prepare4VC and who does it serve?
JK: We describe Prepare 4 VC as a startup oasis: a place early stage technology founders can turn for all of the resources they need to grow and scale their business. This includes individualized consulting and support, our flagship accelerator program, and our community with events, resources and on demand content.
SV: Yeah, in addition, Prepare 4 VC is a global, on-demand, Startup Oasis. We serve early-stage entrepreneurs and operate as a safe refuge, pulling together integral resources, diverse relationships capable of creating significant global connectivity and finely curated access to people, places & things - brought together in Purposeful Prosperity.
AO: Awesome. You are filling a much needed resource in the world of founders and and entrepreneurs. How long have you been working on Prepare4VC?
JK: We launched in 2016 as a startup consulting firm and expanded as an accelerator and community in early 2020.
SV: I joined Prepare4VC in September of 2020 as their Chief Dot Connector.
AO: Cool title! Jason, why did you start Prepare4VC?
JK: I have a background in the Venture Capital space and saw how many great founders fell through the cracks because they simply didn't know how to interact with or what to pitch to investors. I wanted to change the fact that less than 2% of startups ever get VC financing and support the great entrepreneurs in creating great companies.
AO: And likely less than 1% of those are female or BIPOC, I'm sure. I'm glad that you are helping to increase the likelihood of startups getting VC financing. You both are so inspiring, so I wonder, who are your mentors? Are there any principles that you have incorporated into Prepare4VC that came from a mentor that you'd like to share?
JK: I like the phrase that you learn from those you teach. I learn every day from the founders I've worked with and invested into, they are all doing amazing work in their own domains and I am constantly learning from these leaders every day to build awareness in helping the next founder.
SV: I have had many mentors, but the one who impacted me the most was my mother. She taught me true strength, giving first, and remaining resilient.
AO: All amazing principles to live by. Thank you both for sharing. Jason, what were you doing before you started Prepare4VC?
JK: I was working for a venture fund screening deal flow and reviewing dozens of pitch decks to decide who met with the investment committee. This led to the origin of Prepare 4 VC and helping entrepreneurs from the investors' perspective.
AO: How about you, Steve? What were you doing before you joined Prepare4VC?
SV: I was involved in a startup before I joined Prepare4VC. I was still in pursuit of my purpose. Once I joined The Oasis, it was a joyful experience and I haven’t looked back.
AO: What is one great success that has affected you?
JK: Being named Chapter Director for Boston's Startup Grind chapter really gave me the confidence to reach out to everyone and speak to them in a format that was educational for the audience of startups and inspiring for myself, getting to learn from legendary entrepreneurs and investors.
SV: Every accelerator cohort graduation, every startup we’ve successfully worked with, creates an indescribable sense of happiness and gratitude.
AO: Alternately, what is one tragedy that has affected you?
JK: There are too many cases of entrepreneurs who had the perfect solutions to some of the world's biggest problems and got stuck. Everything from lack of network, business model adaptation, team dynamics, and pure burnout from the ups and downs of life as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is not easy and it takes a community of support to create the success stories that change the world.
SV: The death of my mother.
AO: I am so sorry for your loss. Her spirit lives on in the work that you do to help others now. Where do you see yourself in 10 years and beyond?
JK: Being at the center of a sustainable startup ecosystem where the founders I work with today come back with their future successes to mentor, advise and invest in the startups of the future. People will still be the key focus of anything I do, working with amazing people to create a better world and bring ideas to reality.
SV: I have no idea, and I like it that way.
AO: Life is a mystery, right? Well, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions Jason and Steve. Is there anything that you want to share that I didn't ask you about?
SV: You connected all the dots.
JK: Great questions! We welcome all startup founders and entrepreneurs to join our free startup community at http://community.prepare4vc.com
Thank you both for sharing with the MoodConnect community all of the great work that you are doing to shift the paradigm of startup and founder culture to one that is more supportive and educational. And for the reader, if you want to get updates on what is going on in MoodConnect and the communities that we are connected with, like Prepare4VC, please subscribe to our newsletter and get a free 8-minute guided meditation.