Columbus Women in Business: Falon Donohue, Executive Director at VentureOhio - Innovate New Albany | New Albany, Ohio

Columbus Women in Business: Falon Donohue, Executive Director at VentureOhio

Falon5 (1)Falon Donohue, Executive Director of VentureOhio, is dedicating her career to cultivating the future of Ohio’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Born and raised in Ohio, Falon is sticking to her roots because she knows Ohio has the talent and support it takes to build lucrative companies. She predicts that within the next five years, Ohio entrepreneurs will have access to the capital and resources they need to build and grow their dream companies.

“Ohio invented the light bulb, phonograph, motion picture camera, automobile, and rubber,” Falon said. “Ohio is the home of creators and innovators, and easy to root for. Plus I was born and raised here, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

How she got there

At 18 years old, Falon joined the U.S. Air Force Ohio Air National Guard. She worked as an Air Terminal Operations Controller and built a family whom she leaned on, learned from, and loved.

She began building her professional career while she was in the USAF, but realized how difficult it was to maintain focus on a second career while facing deployments. After spending 9 years on duty, Falon found it difficult to leave her USAF family when she decided to pursue her next career opportunity.

Falon learned many valuable lessons while in the USAF: “Even when you think you can’t go any further, you can. Keep going.”

She then spent time exploring new career paths including sales, business management, and consulting, which led her to work with the startup community. Falon was attracted to the devotion and excitement of entrepreneurs, guiding her to ultimately become a leader in Ohio’s venture capital community.

It takes true passion to welcome the workload of a one-person team and to achieve the goals Falon has set for herself and Ohio’s entrepreneurs, and she has that passion.

Venture capital in Ohio

Falon2 (1)Falon’s primary goals are to syndicate all of Ohio’s venture capital efforts and resources to make Ohio the number one state for investment dollars per capita.

“That means every deserving startup will have access to capital throughout each stage of its progression,” Falon said. “Access to local capital will allow our high-potential companies to remain in the state, and entrepreneurs to focus more on scaling their businesses and less on seeking funding.”

Even the National Venture Capital Association sees potential in Ohio’s inspirational entrepreneurs.

“The right pieces are in place. Ohio will see one or two major exits in the next couple years and, growth will take off, ” Falon said.

From the outside looking in, Ohio doesn’t have much to offer. But Falon knows that perception is wrong, and she is eager to bring national attention and experienced investors to the state by uniting and showcasing Ohio’s entrepreneurs—from Cincinnati, Cleveland, Toledo, Dayton, Columbus, and everywhere in between.

“It takes a lot of capital to get to a one billion dollar valuation, and Ohio doesn’t have it,” Falon said. “It’s not that we don’t have great talent, or great ideas, or great technology.”

Falon’s prediction of Ohio’s venture capital status 5 years from now:

“Ohio’s nascent entrepreneurial ecosystem is beginning to evolve, and I expect really big things to come out of it in the next couple of years. We are close to mastering the innovation cycle. Universities are graduating entrepreneurs ready to take on the world.

As these entrepreneurs find success and become mentors and angel investors, the ecosystem will continue to grow, creating new and bigger opportunities for Ohio to change the world through innovation. Seed funding is supplemented by the state through Ohio Third Frontier programs, and high net-worth individuals are leaning in and creating a robust Angel community.”

The fun is only just beginning.

Diversifying venture capital

Falon will look to her 14 fellow VentureOhio board members for advice and mentorship, as she already does, while FullSizeRender (2)pushing Ohio’s entrepreneurial ecosystem forward. She talks to at least one board member every day and considers them her biggest mentors. Out of VentureOhio’s 15-person leadership team, only two are women, Falon being one.

“[The VC community] needs to be more intentional about diversity, and it starts with education,” Falon said. “The younger the better! As entrepreneurship classes become more mainstream in middle school and high school, I hope we will see a dramatic increase in diversity in both venture capital and entrepreneurship. The National Venture Capital Association is taking this initiative seriously, and so is VentureOhio.”

Investing in the community

The results of Falon’s non-stop efforts are a testament of her commitment to Ohio’s startup community.

An active member of the community, she has helped organize and fundraise for events including Startup Grind, Game Jam for Good, Startup Storytellers (Chair), and Independents Day Festival.

“I spend a lot of my time at community events that benefit entrepreneurship and Columbus and with my awesome friends who are always thinking about the next big thing.”

A ukulele master

On top of her startup business intellect, Falon has unbelievable musical talent. About a year ago she was planning to sing at a friend’s wedding, and she wanted to learn an instrument to accompany her voice. She stopped into a music store, considering a harmonica, and left with a $50 ukulele instead.

It didn’t take Falon long to learn how to play, and her calm, melodic voice matched the instrument perfectly. Her father has always been a musician who influenced her love of music; it runs in the family.

“I grew up in a house full of instruments,” Falon said. “There were always people around and they were always playing.”

She also performed in several bands when she was younger.

“Music has always been my center and how I make sense of the world around me,” Falon said. “Although I listen a lot more than I play, I use it to turn down the noise of the day and just be in the moment.”

Musical performances are now limited to small audiences of friends and family, but Falon plays for herself regularly.

“I’ve never spent a better $50 in my entire life.”

Her advice to entrepreneurs striving for success:

“You’re better than you think you are. You know more than you think you know. Don’t be a victim of ‘imposter syndrome.’ Everything can’t happen all at once; just be patient and keep conquering.”

Content strategist by day, coffee-fueled artist by night. Passionate about journalism, art, innovation, and start-up life. Always learning, reading, and seeking inspiration.

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