A closer look at Raleigh-based Malartu Funds

Now that the 2016 Innovators Program Raleigh has officially kicked off, we’re taking a closer look at each of early-stage, high-growth startups embarking on the three-month journey. Our first feature in this Q&A series is with Sean from Malartu Funds, a Raleigh based online investment platform.

Malartu is on a mission to efficiently deliver capital, deal flow, and domain expertise from accredited investors to startups, VC’s, accelerators, and investment groups. Simply put, the company seeks to optimize the seed fundraising process for early-stage startups. The founding team includes Sean Steigerwald and Jon Spinney, both NC State alumni, as well as Lewis Sheats, Director of the NCSU Entrepreneurship Clinic. They’re been fundraising over the last year to gear up for their upcoming launch, so if you’re early-stage entrepreneur looking to raise, a VC ready to invest, or a startup competition in the market for a new partnership, make sure to keep an eye on these guys!

Innovators Program: What made you want to apply for the Innovators Program?

Sean Steigerwald: The companies from years past were really strong and with the launch of our new business intelligence product, we thought it was perfect timing to join the program, get focused, and execute.

IP: What are you most looking forward to in this program?

SS: We sell to and work with accelerators all over the country, so we are really excited to join a top program like Innovators to help establish a strong direction for our product map and rollout. [We’re also interested] to understand the dynamic between the accelerator and the companies within, since they are both our customers.

IP: What skills / backgrounds do you each bring to your team? What makes you two great co-founders?

SS: Jon and I have similar backgrounds in finance but have very different approaches to problems, which are incredibly complimentary. Jon tends to take time and fully analyze a situation before tackling the problem and I like to move very quickly toward a solution. The combination leads to well-thought out and swift solutions to problems, which is incredibly important as a startup in a highly-regulated space. We move like a startup, but we stay within the confines of the law.

IP: Why did you decide to start Malartu?

SS: We knew that fundraising was a huge pain for any company and we knew we could find a better way. As we rolled out our investment platform, we started to notice an array of more specific problems leading to this pain point, like measuring performance, managing your team, and meeting potential investments at the right time. Originally we thought the solution was simply that the administrative part of fundraising was antiquated, which it was, but we also learned that was the tip of the iceberg. With the introduction of our business intelligence tool, we’re confident we’ve made a big step toward bringing efficiencies to the whole financial growth process, not just the collection of funds.

IP: Any big takeaways from the kickoff design sprint that you’re excited to integrate into your business?

SS: Absolutely, we’re feeling great about where we are after the sprint. It helped us to really focus on a few specific things to reach our goals of launching the platform within the next 2 months.

IP: Were there any lessons from the expert coaching sessions that really left a mark?

SS: Our coach, Alex, gave us a few fantastic ideas about our rollout strategy and where the key moments would be in our user on-boarding process. Really, really valuable stuff for our next few weeks.

IP: A lot has been happening for Malartu over the past few months. Any recent milestones, updates, etc. that you want to highlight?

SS: We just spent the last week in Silicon Valley (San Jose, specifically) at the Innovate | Celebrate Conference. The conference brings together their top 50 startups from all over the country (narrowed from a pool of 1000 top accelerator graduates and pitch competition winners) and narrows them down to 5 finalists. We have just launched a Malartu Fund to invest in all 5 companies and have had tremendous traction with the fund. We’re expecting to invest at least $100k in each company within the next 60 days. The fund is also getting interest from some heavy-hitting celebrity investors that we’re excited to announce…[coming soon!] Working with this conference has set the standard for working with future conferences, accelerators, universities, and corporates that is surely going to set us on an exciting trajectory.

IP: Being an entrepreneur is a roller coaster ride. What keeps you motivated? How do you stay energized?

SS: There are TONS of ups and downs. The most valuable thing about being cofounders so far is that we don’t usually experience the ups and downs at the same time. We have had a lot of success dividing and conquering, and our wins have been able to balance out the other’s setback so that we’re always moving up and to the right with a good attitude. We also make a real effort to take breaks. We realized early on that it’s impossible to tackle a problem as big as ours while burning a candle at both ends. Although it’s not always possible, we make an effort to disconnect from work on at least one day of the weekends….We also drink a ton of Mati.

Read more about Malartu in features on WRAL TechWire, Forbes, and a recent inside look from Sean himself on ExitEvent.