From racecar driver to coder to venture capital—Tara Spalding’s journey to Interim CEO & CPO of VentureCapital.org.
In the Wild Wild West of Texas, a young Tara Spalding developed a love of drag racing. Her father encouraged her to attend a performance racing school in Canada where she excelled and had the opportunity to join the IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) as a professional racer.
But instead, she left the fast lane (and her ZR1 Corvette) to attend the University of Colorado, Boulder, and start her professional life in sales at a winery. After a few years, she noticed the company’s processes could be better and felt she could help if she knew how to code. So, she taught herself how to code!
This put her on the path to Silicon Valley and the tech space. Her experience in Silicon Valley at the turn of the century is truly “right time right place” as she grew in her marketing and coding roles there and worked in upper management for multiple start-ups. She’s also started, funded, and sold her own companies.
She is now the Interim CEO and CPO for VentureCapital.org, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization out of Salt Lake City. The organization connects mentors to investors to help entrepreneurs access financing for their businesses.
VentureCapital.org is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with the mission of connecting mentors, investors, and entrepreneurs to access capital for their businesses. VentureCapital.org works to close the gap between founders from all backgrounds and the resources they need to be successful.
There are currently 132 mentors that devote an hour of their time each week to coach an entrepreneur for 6-8 weeks. The program allows entrepreneurs to learn about their sales and pitches for capital in a non-performance-based environment.
It doesn’t cost a dime for entrepreneurs to participate; they only have to apply. VentureCapital.org has been in operation for 40 years and helped businesses raise hundreds of millions of dollars.
There’s more to professional racing than speed—you have to learn to handle pressure and react quickly. These skills have been invaluable for Tara in her career. She also shares three mindsets that racing taught her and how it’s impacted the rest of her life:
While racing, you can control your speed and the moves you make around the track, but you can’t control the track itself, the decisions of racers around you, the weather, and so much more. When you learn the fundamentals and make decisions about what you can control, you have to adapt to the rest. Entrepreneurs have to do the same.
Earl Foote, the host of TechBeat, talks about his start-up experience from 25 years ago. He and his brother had few mentors and resources—they would use AOL to look up what a business plan was. Earl shares that starting a business is so much trial and error but by having a mentor, you take a lot of the error out of the process.
Tara explains that capital is like racing: you have to have someone experienced to show you what’s dangerous, what works, and how to handle the lane (your capital). VentureCapital.org is a bridge between the idea of a business and reality—it’s an accelerator program.
There’s more to raising capital than just angel investors or seed funding. If you’re a business owner, you have access to three kinds of capital:
Tara shares that her favorite source of capital is non-dilutive because to have a successful business, you have to be able to sell your product or service, not just have the skill or product. Don’t forget to be creative—there are multiple ways to access capital beyond seed funding. VentureCapital.org helps entrepreneurs explore these options and get the resources they need.
By supporting underrepresented groups in business, such as women and minorities, the organization is creating a more equitable system for all entrepreneurs.
An abundance of resources creates an opportunity for more startups to be successful and builds an economy of opportunity. Tara and the VentureCapital.org team continue to strive for a more equitable system of capital access and better returns through diversity, education, and connection.
At the end of the day, VentureCapital.org’s mission is to provide resources so entrepreneurs can be successful—and they’re making it happen one mentor at a time.
Learn more from Tara Spalding and VentureCapital.org by listening to the full podcast episode.