Danielle D’Agostaro

Field notes on Danielle D’Agostaro
Danielle D’Agostaro | VC Hunted!

Listen to “DANIELLE D’AGOSTARO | Alchemist Accelerator – The #1 B2B Startup Accelerator in the World? – S1E9” on Spreaker.

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First and foremost, I’d love to thank Ash Rust for this introduction! It was refreshing to have Danielle on the show. If I remember correctly, she was impressed that I was able to pronounce her last name on the first try! 🙂

How did Danielle D’Agostaro get into VC? Well, she considers herself a contrarian. How does a Berkley graduate with corporate experience from Adobe become one who rejects popular opinion?

I’m guessing its the friends. 🙂 – She wanted nothing to do with NorCal. “Just school,” she says and then get back home to her family and most likely go the standard corporate route… but then she got looped into VC through a relationship (isn’t it always about the relationships) into an operational role at the Alchemist Accelerator where she helped create the programs for it’s many successful startup classes. Continuing her success in her roles, she has finally accepted the fact that startups are her life now.

Discussing how we both completed undergrad in 2.5 years! We’re beasts, we know.

“Being an efficient person. I found the quickest way to get a degree… once you understand how units work, then it’s a numbers game from there.”

Danielle D’Agostaro – VC Hunting S1E9

Now it all made sense to me. I understood how she is now Managing Partner & COO of Alchemist, it’s because she’s a grinder. She gets things done. She’s efficient and good at her work (which she readily admitted in the very early moments of our conversation)!

So what makes the Alchemist Accelerator such a great place to take part of as a startup? It all started with Ravi Belani who found leaders of companies needing more education around how to make B2B companies. YC at the time was doing tons of education to the B2C space (2010+) but there wasn’t enough for the business to business world. Boom. Opportunity taken!

“Our mandate at Alchemist is to build the best B2B companies in the world. We’re looking for the next billion dollar businesses.”

Danielle D’Agostaro – VC Hunting S1E9

How do they do this? One way is that while other accelerators have increased their class size, Alchemist has self-constrained their classes to 25 companies. This allows them to give each company as much face time and individual time as possible. Quality over quantity?

Ravi Belani and Danielle D’Agostaro – Guess who loves stickers more?

A second way they do this is that Alchemist’s programs are generally longer than other accelerators out there: 6 months to be exact! – To me, that’s a solid chunk of time to dig deep in with a company. It helps to have that relationship-building time with the founders and team, while also accounting for the longer sales cycle that B2B companies have.

Having earned the trust of the overall community, it’s nice to hear that companies see Alchemist as a trustworthy resource to help them build a great B2B business, and that might be their secret sauce: they have a really great accelerator program:

“Call it an MBA for startups. We [Alchemist Accelerator] meet with each of our companies over six months on a weekly basis and created a structured curriculum which is focused on accelerating sales and fundraising. For first time founders or technical founders, this is what they really need in the early stages. They need someone to tell them: This is what you need to do or think about next.”

Danielle D’Agostaro – VC Hunting S1E9

What’s so neat about their program is the access they have to many different verticals with thousands of network contacts that can help their companies succeed globally, from Europe, to India, to Taiwan and beyond.

Danielle is great from the stage answering founder questions

Digging a bit deeper beyond the work. I noticed that Danielle has experience being a life-coach. Something that I haven’t seen too often in the VC world. I asked her about it and wanted to know how she is able to leverage that in her work, and it’s really awesome. Danielle works with European Innovation Academy during the summer which is a program that helps people build a startup in 4 weeks. She sums it up in a simple way:

“When things are all falling apart, they just need someone to talk to. That’s what I do as a life-coach for startups.”

Danielle D’Agostaro – VC Hunting S1E9

As a Chief Mentor at the European Innovation Academy, she helps startups with the investor side of things, helping them understand how venture capital works, investor feedback, pitch feedback, and fundraising.

I particularly enjoyed our conversation about her family and her past. How her mentors really came from her close family ties. Being Italian-American doesn’t hurt, with the family-unit being a cultural priority. The more that Danielle discussed family, the easier it seemed for her to talk about the ‘why’ behind ‘what’ she’s doing now. It’s because she wants to give back to a world that may not have had the opportunities she had:

“What I like to do is give back to people who didn’t necessarily have the guidance that I had in life. Working with kids, starting with them young and trying to provide that has been very important to me.”

Danielle D’Agostaro – VC Hunting S1E9

On giving advice to new startup founder at work:

“I make the reality known of what startup life is really like to [new startup founders]. It is hard, it is a lot of hard work, it is not a TechCrunch article… not enough people tell founders how hard startups really are, how much you need to sacrifice, and it’s not for everybody.”

Danielle D’Agostaro – VC Hunting S1E9

But then again, this is why Danielle and Ravi are in business. To help founders do the impossible. To follow their passion and to do the irrational. It’s an interesting tension to tread and clearly Danielle is able to balance both worlds and help founders traverse these experiences together at Alchemist Accelerator:

“Why do it alone? Even if you’ve built a company before, there are a lot of learnings that have come through working with hundreds of companies within Alchemist. Why try to do it from scratch?”

Danielle D’Agostaro – VC Hunting S1E9

According to some sources, and Danielle’s words herself, Alchemist is the best B2B accelerator in the world. Why would you ever want to go the road alone when there are people willing to help? In some of Danielle’s final statements she asks that each founder reach out to alumni of accelerators, to get their story of how things worked, get feedback so you can understand what all your options are. This is sage advice, but with the confidence Danielle has in Alchemist, you’d almost expect her to say such a thing. 😉

“My superpower is simplifying chaos.”

Danielle D’Agostaro – VC Hunting S1E9

It was great to be refreshed by a young, thoughtful, and successful leader like Danielle. Remember… she doesn’t believe you have the hustle… you’ll have to prove it! Enjoy my retrospective:

Danielle D’Agostaro Retrospective

Peter Saddington

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