Mentor Network Newsletter

CTNext’s Mentor Network launched in 2019 to help Connecticut’s smartest early-stage entrepreneurs find expert advisors to help their companies achieve the next level of success. Each issue of this newsletter will introduce to two of our mentors and one of the exciting companies in our current cohort.

Vol. 1.1 – November 24, 2020

Company Spotlight: Aced My Interview (Fludder)

Dan Thornberg, Co-Founder

Leadership: Dan Thornberg, Co-Founder & CEO, Tanya Wallace, Co-Founder & CMO, Manish Balakrishnan, CTO

Profile: Fludder is a professional development app that empowers users to gain confidence and improve their interviewing skills by answering industry-specific questions reviewed by real pros.

Five years ago, Dan started Aced My Interview as a service to help young professionals improve their interviewing skills via live mock interviews. The company has transitioned to the development of a mobile app that simplifies the process and provides greater access through a freemium model. The app launches very soon.

“Fludder helps people set themselves apart from other candidates by enhancing their industry knowledge, formulating smarter and more specific questions, getting feedback from professionals, and more,” said Dan. “In the current pandemic-influenced environment with extreme job displacement, that edge is even more beneficial.”

Dan said the same approach has helped his company move forward. “I tell entrepreneurs, know your competitive landscape and do your research. Nothing ever goes as planned, so you have to be able to adapt and pivot effectively.”

As an example, Dan described how tough things looked for the company late last year: “December of last year we were hanging on by our fingertips. We had exhausted all funding, most of the team had departed for better-paying positions, and I was sleeping at the office trying to figure out a way to save our company. Worst of all, the U.S. was dealing with a job report that featured almost record-low unemployment. (This is not good for a company that focuses on helping people get jobs.) We knew that in order to come out of this in one piece, a pivot was in order.

“One night as I lay on my air mattress tossing and turning, the great pivot came to me. The truth was, we were heading in the right direction. People need help interviewing, and they need real professional feedback. We just had to change our method of delivery and better embrace the very technology that made us possible. Fludder was imagined and soon would become a reality.

“Flash forward to March 2020, a pandemic raged across the world and unemployment grew to record numbers. This all was happening as we were embracing a new strategy for delivering our service. The world has turned to virtual means of communicating and working. Fludder, our new mobile app is positioned better than ever. Thankfully, we stuck with it!”

Mentor Spotlight:

Kate Putnam, Managing Director – Golden Seeds, Partner – Meristem Partners

Mentoring Experience: MIT and MassChallenge, adjunct I-Corps instructor, board member, and investment committee member, impact fund.

Why are you a mentor? “After 20 years running a company, I’m now at the stage of wanting to learn from others and sharing what I’ve learned. I love learning from startups and helping them move forward.”

Career Experience: Eight years in corporate banking and treasury, consulting to small business, 20 years running a custom machinery manufacturer, now a mentor, consultant, and angel investor.

Education: BA – history, MBA – Finance, NYU; Kennedy School of Government at Harvard for negotiation and leadership; Kellogg-Northwestern for corporate governance; Center for Creative Leadership for strategic leadership.

Areas of Business Expertise: Finance, corporate banking, corporate treasury, customer discovery, strategic planning, creating a business model.

Best Advice for Companies: Know your customer’s problems.

Current Project: “I’m working with a group of community leaders to determine if we should form a community development corporation. It’s good networking and I’m learning a lot about how to help small business.”

Insight: “Recently I have been burned in two portfolio companies who failed to structure a good board of directors. It reminded me that founders can go so deep in their area of expertise they forget to anticipate what needs to happen outside their expertise to help the business succeed.”

Mentor Spotlight:

Eugenio Perrier, Partner – Sevendots, Principal – Sandalyon LLC

Mentoring Experience: “I’m a multi-cultural executive with 28 years in the Food & Beverage industry, who helps brands to accelerate growth and regain relevance or enter new markets.”

Why are you a mentor? “My desire to give back and to be exposed to new disruptive ideas that can change the food business.”

Career Experience: 28 years in F&B industry, internationally. Former Global CMO – Sabra, VP Marketing Americas – Barilla, and Global Marketing Director – Wasa.

Education: MBA at MIP Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy

Areas of Business Expertise: Marketing, food & beverage industry

Best Advice for Companies: “Start with asking WHO? (Who do you want to serve and which needs could you serve.)”

Current Project: “I have several, but one I can talk about is leading the U.S. marketing strategy for Parmagiano Reggiano.”

Insight: “Keep the ingenuity, which is the only way to imagine the unimaginable and make progress happen.”

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