Accelerator Activism with Elizabeth Scallon
An award-winning leader in the Pacific Northwest startup ecosystem.
Elizabeth Scallon is the Director of Incubation Enablement at HP. Elizabeth is a scientist, mentor, and 15-year leader in scientific and technological innovation, known for a keen ability to locate disruptive and innovative technology. Previous to HP, Elizabeth was an innovative business development lead for the Grand Challenge team at Amazon and previously were the leads for the Go To Market & Operations for the Amazon Alexa Fund and Startups team, where she engaged ambient and immersive startup founders and investors through startup programs, business development, and technical support. Prior to Amazon, Elizabeth led the launch of WeWork's startup and incubation arm, WeWork Labs in US West and LATAM, and previous to WeWork Elizabeth led the team at CoMotion Labs at the University of Washington coaching and growing the robust bench of NW tech and biotech startups.
Elizabeth grew up in Seattle and plays the connector and mentor role in building the startup and innovation economy. Sundays usually mean farmer’s markets and family brunch with her wife and daughter.
Eve #wealthwednesday Highlight 76: Elizabeth Scallon, Director/Lead of Incubation Enablement - HP
What was your first investment?
I was in the biotech space and I joined a community called Women in Bio. I wanted to support the group so I found ways how to participate or give back to the community by providing content, my time, and expertise. For me, that was my first investment.
I’ve been volunteering and helping different organizations grow. Board services are critical for organizations that provide valuable services to our community and I donated my time to Boards such as National Public Radio (NPR) - KUOW in Seattle, PSA - an organization that helps the Indigenous population of Rwanda, World Affairs Council of Seattle, and Find Ventures. We can work 40 hours a week but we can also give at least 5+ hours to amazing community organizations to help them grow.
As for my first tangible investment, In my twenties, I was able to save up enough money and have my first co-op condo in Seattle. I was able then to take that into a single-family home.
How/why did you get into your space? From Biotech into Startup Incubation?
I was previously working in a big biotech company called Amgen. One of the innovators of Amgen’s drug Embrel started his own company and I immediately applied for a position as a research associate under his company, VLST. We were a team of five to six people but we are part of a bigger accelerator and were working with multiple startups. We love the idea and the whole process of a startup working with other startups, exchanging services to help each other, and everyone had this big audacious goal of trying to cure different diseases. I fell in love with the idea of a small startup with simple resources and a system that can have the impact of a big company.
As our company grew, we ended up having extra space and so I served my own incubation services from that company. I started incubating other cool companies like Adaptive which eventually IPO’d. Eventually, the University of Washington wanted to start one of these as well and I joined that team to watch their bigger initiatives which we then turn into CoMotion Labs at the University of Washington - Incubating.
The University of Washington is a global leader in biotech research and life and science research. That is their core of excellence but then started branching out into AI blockchain. We had an AR and VR laboratory incubating as well with other startups in Seattle. All these new technologies with innovators and founders brought new disciplines into my program and I was able to learn and deep dive into them.
As your role in the wealth space, how do you select startups that you’re going to support?
For our first launch of Find Venture’s cohort in early 2022, we partnered with the Washing State Department of Commerce. The grant from them paid for internal operations but they did not give any direct funding to the startups. With that collaboration and partnership, we focused on Washington State Startups that were all in high-tech areas and that came from underrepresented backgrounds - Black, LGBTQ, women, and even those that are outside of the major city limits as well. We had a good geography and industry mix. We had people part of the judging criterion from the state department as well as our Advisors on our committee that have the “know-how” expertise of what it takes for Founders to go from an idea and scale up.
I would have loved to have more funding and be able to take more founders because I think there is a huge need. There is no pipeline problem, it’s just a problem of deploying capital to these companies. The decisions on whom we picked at the end of the day were extremely hard and I wish we could have more funding to be able to provide to these startups that applied.
What do you believe is the most exciting thing you’ve learned and want others to know in terms of going from idea to scale up and what ultimately ends up attracting the resources, the capital, and the service to the world that actually clicks, has success and is worth the risk.
It’s the “why”. Why does a company exist? Why does it need to exist? Is it only for convenience? Or does it solve a real humanitarian need? If it does, there are paying customers that will pay for a solution.
It has to be a worthwhile problem solving and is the founder emotionally invested in a 10-year process? Is this a problem that when a founder wakes up every day thinking about solving? The founder’s solution will pivot as new technologies and information come. Being obsessed with the problem and the customer that is being affected will increase the chances of success.
We live in a world of innovation. Business is never 1:1 transactions. It now has multiple layers being strategically aligned to solve and help bring solutions to reality.
Another piece of advice would be to determine who are the partners you want to go with. Who are the stakeholders and you must understand the entire stakeholder ecosystem? Who can bring in to help and validate your solution and business model? What is the talent that you should bring? And make sure to keep your stakeholder engaged - That would be my first piece of advice to any founder.
Is there a person or a company that’s really inspired you?
Findventures.org has 10 companies that I love. I believe in all of them and they’re doing great and cool stuff. Everyone should check them out.
What advice would you give to someone or to a mom getting started?
Attend every networking event you can go to and talk to two people. You don't need to know the entire room and know everything. Just be curious and meet two people. When you have those interactions, try to see if you can glean something about them that you didn't know before. When you keep doing that, you will start to have this healthy network and figure out what are the right ways to engage in that network. Is it through LinkedIn? Email correspondence? Is it through adding to a newsletter that you may have?
Keeping in contact with people and getting to know more people will open up new opportunities for you that you never knew. People hold opportunities, not companies. It’s not abstract things, it's deep relationships with people. Great things can happen. Volunteer your time, go out and set manageable goals for yourself. In the innovations community, people are excited to share what they're doing. They get very excited and want to talk about their visions. So listen and be curious. It’ll be fun to see what happens from there.
How can we stay in touch?
LinkedIn would be the easiest for me. I also post sometimes on Twitter.
For findventures.org, we have a newsletter that we send out monthly. I suggest everyone sign up for that. You will hear about our founders, how we are supporting them, and what we’re planning for the future. Join our community to help make entrepreneurship for all a reality.
Have thoughts on this week’s topic or question for me or Elizabeth? Post your thoughts in the comment section. Until next week.🙂
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DISCLAIMER: The thoughts and views expressed in this video do not constitute financial or investment advice.
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