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Terri Mead

TerriMead

BS '92 & MBA '97, Business Administration

Meet Terri Mead (BS '92 & MBA '97, Business Administration), a Cal State East Bay alumna advocating for equal voices and representation especially for female entrepreneurs. Mead is a consultant, podcaster, blogger, startup adviser, investor, wife, and mom. It's safe to say she doesn't get much sleep. Mead is passionate about advocating for female founders and looking for ways to get more investors to shift their funding.

Shortly into angel investing, Mead realized female founders were often ignored or dismissed and weren't getting the funding for their startups because of both conscious and unconscious bias. Mead wants to shift this thinking and is actively working on activating more female investors globally. "The research and data support that investing in women makes good business sense and not enough investors are taking advantage of this opportunity." She started a podcast, Piloting Your Life, focused on female investors and growing the female founder/investor ecosystem globally.

Q& A with Terri

Why did you decide to attend Cal State East Bay?

After growing up in Castro Valley, I decided to go to Fresno State for my freshman year of college. My dad had gone there and when I went on a tour with my mom, I thought the campus was beautiful. It wasn’t too far or too near home. I am an identical twin and with two of us going off to school at the same time, so we were financially limited in terms of where we could choose to go. After my freshman year in Fresno, I realized Fresno was not for me and decided to move back home and continue school at Cal State, Hayward. It was conveniently located close to home and easy to transfer into. This also allowed me to work at my dad’s accounting firm in Hayward and become active in the Chamber of Commerce, Junior Chamber of Commerce, and participate in the second class of Hayward’s Citizen Academy and be on the Board of a local non-profit.

As for my MBA, during the summer of 1995, I was working again for my dad’s accounting firm and started dating my now-husband who was doing his MBA at Cal State Hayward. It was keeping him pretty busy, so I figured I would get my MBA too. I reached out to the head of the business school, Jay Tontz, who I knew through Hayward community events to see what I needed to do and by the end of September, I was back taking classes at night while working full time during the day. I was interested in entrepreneurialism and decided that the New Ventures / Small Business program (which was based on a Stanford program) was ideal and I felt fortunate to be able to participate in an MBA program that was both convenient and low cost despite not having the prestige of Stanford or Berkeley. Neither were options for me at the time.

 

How has your education here at East Bay helped you with your endeavors?

I was able to go to school at CSUEB to get my BS and my MBA while working and being active in the community. Because the school was so close to where I lived and worked, and was reasonably priced, I was able to get a solid education, get great work experience, and have zero debt when I finished both degrees.

I loved my MBA classes, especially the one where I developed a business plan. There were 7 students in that class and going through that effort laid the foundation for some much of what I’ve done over the last 20 years including my angel investing and starting/running my consulting company. The variety of classes in the program gave me a solid foundation and I especially loved being able to learn something in class at night and apply it to my client businesses the very next day. I got a very ‘applied’ education that was both very practical and very useful.

 

Tell us a little bit about your career as an angel investor?

I started angel investing in 2015 only after a male friend of mine suggested it to me. Even though my dad had invested throughout my life and was on various startup boards, it hadn’t occurred to me that I was qualified to be an angel investor. This is not unusual for women because there are so few examples / role models for us (which I am actively trying to change).

He introduced me to Sand Hill Angels and after two meetings I decided to submit my application. The membership guy said the Board might not approve my application because I didn’t fit the profile. I didn’t have the wherewithal to challenge this but when my application was approved, I thought they had made an exception and felt like I needed to prove myself. This led me to jumping into the deep end in September 2015 and getting involved with the Life Sciences Special Interest Group, deal sourcing, deal screening, pitch events, and more. I started investing immediately and was able to establish my portfolio and track record from the start.

I realized within a few months that I actually had an investment thesis even though I hadn’t articulated it. I liked to invest in startups that had products or services that improved people’s lives. Within nine or twelve months I narrowed my focus to digital health, specifically FemTech (women’s health) and PediaTech (children’s health) because of my desire to leverage technology to flip healthcare on its head.

I also realized that female founders were often ignored or dismissed and weren’t getting the funding for their startups based on both conscious and unconscious bias. This led me to focus more on advising and advocating for female founders and looking for ways to get more investors to shift their funding. I moderated a panel in Helsinki at Slush in December 2017 on Shifting Demographics and the Need to Shift Funding With It. I also started talking about creating a mesh network of like-minded investors to invest in female founders and I speak on this regularly.


I am now Board Observer for SendaRide.

I believe that innovation happens everywhere and that there are opportunities to invest in founders and startups that are outside of the Silicon Valley and that don’t pattern match to what the primarily male VCs invest in. I also don’t follow the investor hype around university pedigree.

I recently put on a day-long training track for women interested in becoming angel investors at the Serendipity conference in San Francisco in October. I am actively working on activating more female investors globally.

My podcast, Piloting Your Life, is also focused on female investors and growing the female founder/investor ecosystem globally. The goal is to create the mesh network of like-minded investors and get more capital into the hands of female founders.

In 2019, I will continue to focus on investing in FemTech and PediaTech and building the investor ecosystem for these startups.

 

Tell us a little bit about your career journey?

I started filing for my dad’s accounting firm in Hayward at the age of 9 and by the age of 16 was doing tax returns and financial statements and at 20 was doing audits and reviews. I helped start a candy and nut distribution company the summer after my freshman year of college and I worked for various local businesses throughout college and after I graduated from CSUEB in 1992. After underestimating my capabilities after I graduated with my BS, I was a controller and HR manager for a local business and eventually got my MBA and left Hayward to live and work in SF.

I fell into system implementation work at Norcal Waste Systems and realized that I’d found what I was meant to do and was able to use a lot of my experience leading up to the point. I did a short stint in consulting before getting hired in IT by a biotech company managing commercial systems. I was laid off after three years and most of us in IT went to another biotech company. I was laid off again after three years and decided to take control of my own destiny and started my own consulting firm, Solutions2Projects. We work with biotech, medical device, diagnostic, and digital health companies on IT strategy, IT compliance, IT system selection, IT project management, computer validation, and vendor audits. Recently I added expert witness services for failed IT projects.

About four years ago, I was complaining to a fellow helicopter pilot about my frustrations with life science companies not leveraging technology and he suggested that I start angel investing. I didn’t even know that was an option for me. Turns out it was exactly what I was looking for and had been preparing for all my working life.

I started investing with Sand Hill Angels in 2015 and began making investments my very first month. Within a year I was on the Board and then Vice President of the group. I left Sand Hill Angels in August 2017 and have been investing on my own since then. I’ve made 12 investments and have doubled and tripled down on a few of them.

As an investor, I advise founders, primarily female, on the business and fundraising strategies, and make introductions to help advance their companies.

To become a better investor, I listen to a lot of podcasts. After a while, I got tired of the white, bro-show and figured I wasn’t the only woman frustrated by the lack of equal voices and representation. I decided to launch my podcast, Piloting Your Life in September 2017 to give diversity of perspective and provide inspiration to those who might need to ‘see it to be it.’ In August 2018, we finished season one with episode 67 and a decision to narrow the focus to interview female investors and those who are actively supporting the female founder/investor ecosystem to activate more female investors and get more capital into the hands of female founders. We released episode 80 at the end of November with no end in sight.

I continue to consult life sciences companies to fund my investing habit and support my family as my husband has stayed home with the kids for the last 11 years.

 

If you could share one piece of career advice with our young alumni, what would that be?

You don’t have to have it all figured out. If you see an interesting opportunity, take advantage of it and learn all that you can from it. I am a firm believer that the path will present itself. This is especially important when you don’t quite know what you want to do. I didn’t fall into my career until I was 27, after my MBA, and it was totally by accident. But everything that led up to that point prepared me for the system implementation and project management work that I’ve been doing successfully for over 20 years.

If you realize you made a mistake in your career, see what you can salvage from it, don’t be afraid to say you made a mistake, and exit gracefully. After I graduated from my undergrad, I went to work in SF for an ad specialty company. After a few weeks, I realized I was totally overqualified for the job and had made a mistake. I talked with my boss to see if there were going to be other opportunities and was told no because of the nature of the business. I gave them four weeks’ notice, helped hire my replacement, and left on great terms.

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