‘Many founders assume venture capital is the only way to fund a company’

6 Feb 2019

Kristina Bergman. Integris Software

Entrepreneur Kristina Bergman has some advice for budding investors – and it’s not all about the money.

Kristina Bergman is the CEO and co-founder of Integris Software, which last year announced a $10m Series A financing round and it continues to expand rapidly.

Bergman previously came from the venture capital world, having served as a principal at Ignition Partners focused on cloud, big data, security and IoT start-ups. There, she sourced, evaluated and advised potential portfolio companies. Prior to Ignition Partners, she was a product manager at Microsoft.

Bergman will be speaking at RSA Conference next month as part of a fireside chat entitled ‘How to Start a Company’.

Describe your role and what you do.

I am the CEO and co-founder of Seattle-based start-up Integris Software, a leading provider of data privacy automation. Our platform is leading the charge in helping organisations build and maintain a defensible data privacy strategy to meet requirements such the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

In your opinion, which areas of science and technology hold the greatest scope for opportunities?

I believe there are great discoveries yet to happen when it comes to genomic research and the convergence of data science and healthcare. The ability of machines to analyse massive amounts of data quickly means we will have huge leaps forward in terms of healthcare treatments and options, which will change the outcome and quality of many lives.

Are good entrepreneurs born or can they be made?

I think it’s both nature and nurture. Good entrepreneurs have to have certain innate qualities, such as a fire in their belly, so to speak, and that fire can come from adversity early on in life or from a natural curiosity and drive. But, that fire has to be groomed and refined to the point of being able to lead people, define new markets, and engage with investors and customers in compelling dialogue that can drive positive outcomes.

What are the qualities of a good founder?

Other than persistence and raw intellectual and emotional horsepower, the most important quality is humility. A good founder needs to be able to recognise when an organisation has grown beyond their own capacity as a leader. Knowing when to step aside and bring in someone else to take the company to the next level is crucial, as every stage requires different qualities. Some people have the capacity to expand to different stages, but oftentimes where a company stumbles is when leadership doesn’t recognise its own limitations.

‘Recognise that there will be good moments and bad moments, sometimes all before lunchtime’

What does a successful entrepreneur need to do every day?

An entrepreneur needs to persist and keep going every day, which calls for emotional resiliency and toughness. Recognise that there will be good moments and bad moments, sometimes all before lunchtime. You have to be able to ride the ups and downs on a regular basis while keeping your team on course.

What resources and tools are an absolute must for your arsenal?

Having an outstanding team, because that’s the only thing that matters. A good team amplifies each other, so make sure you spend time finding the right people for your team and workplace culture.

How do you assemble a good team?

As a best practice, we do a pretty thorough interview process to make sure someone is the right fit for our team. For senior leadership candidates, we have them do case studies in which they present their work and walk us through an exercise or discussion for several hours. This tells us an awful lot about what the candidate is like to work with, how they think, how they communicate interpersonally, how prepared they are, and how they respond to feedback and challenges.

We also do routine check-ins on how someone is ramping. We’re looking both at quality and quantity of contributions, as well as cultural fit. People are expected to perform well across all categories.

What is the critical ingredient to start-up success?

First and foremost, be in a quickly growing market. That means being able to perceive and quickly recognise market opportunities.

What are the biggest mistakes that founders make?

Many founders assume that venture capital money is the only way to fund a company. However, it’s only appropriate for a very small percentage of the population. Think critically about how quickly the market is moving, what you want the outcome to be, what your end goal is and what the market is going to permit. Then you can determine what funding resources make the most sense.

Who is your business hero and why?

That’s still to be determined!

Whats the number one piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs?

Within every challenge lies an opportunity – you just have to reframe it.

Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.