Sara Flamm on Galvanizer at Stanford

An interview with Sara Flamm, the Director of Founder Programming of Galvanizer, on how they support female founders at Stanford.
February 25, 2024
Facebook LogoTwitter Icon
Black LinkedIn Icon

Background

Sara Flamm is a Stanford MBA and MA Education candidate. She joined Galvanizer earlier this year and is the Director of Founder Programming. Galvanizer, founded in 2020 by Stanford students, is a non-profit that aims to close the female founder gap. They primarily accomplish this by running a female founder startup accelerator program. Galvanizer has 240 alums who have collectively raised $60 million in pre-seed and seed funding.

Highlights

  • While Galvanizer primarily receives applications from female founders at top MBA programs for their accelerator, they will consider any female founder.

  • Galvanizer’s application process looks for female founders with passion, founder-market fit, and a willingness to commit to the program and give back to the community. They also consider how much effort one puts into the application and supplemental materials.

  • Galvanizer is actively looking for new sponsors and advisors who are excited and aligned with helping to close the female founder gap. To get involved, you can contact them here: hello@galvanizer.io

Interview Transcription

Edited lightly for clarity.

Kieran: Thanks, Sara, for joining me today. To kick us off, can you introduce yourself?

Sara: Thanks so much for having me. I’m currently a student at Stanford pursuing an MBA and Master in Education at the Graduate School of Business and Education. I am the Director of Founder Programming at Galvanizer, which I’m excited to discuss today. In addition, I’m the President of GSB’s Education club and am involved with a few other clubs on campus, like Women in Management. Before school, I was a consultant at McKinsey and worked at Guild Education. I’m originally from Chicago.

Kieran: How did you first learn about Galvanizer?

Sara: I first learned about Galvanizer last year when I saw their 2022 pitch day. I was immediately drawn to the community, which is founded by women and for women, aimed at closing the female founder gap. I’ve always been passionate about community building, and coming to GSB, I wanted to find a way to immerse myself in the startup ecosystem in Silicon Valley. So, when the time came to apply to Galvanizer on the leadership team, it was really a no-brainer for me.

Kieran: So, Galvanizer is a student-led non-profit that runs a female founder accelerator for graduate students at Stanford. There is no funding attached. The program’s cost for founders was $200 this past summer, or ~$25/week. You represent Galvanizer at Stanford, but the organization is also on 13 other graduate campuses nationwide. Is there any other important background information that people should know about the org?

Sara: That’s a great summary. A couple of other details. Galvanizer was founded by Stanford students in 2020. Our mission is to support female entrepreneurs in their journey to scale companies of consequence. Our main program is the accelerator. We support female founders from MBA programs across the country and around the world. As of this year, we represented 15 MBA programs, and our founders came from over 20 cities in the US and five countries. So, we have a very dispersed founder footprint. There are 240 alums as of this latest cohort, and our founders have raised $60 million in pre-seed and seed funding.

– let’s start with questions directed to help female founders considering Galvanizer – 

Kieran: Can you give an overview of the application process for the accelerator program?

Sara: Our application runs once a year in the late spring. We predominately target female founders from MBA programs around the country. Every year, we accept a handful of standout non-traditional applicants like Ph.D., medical, law, undergrad, and even folks not even in school. It depends on their story and startup. During the application process, we mainly look for a few things in candidates. The first one is passion. How enthusiastic are they about starting their venture, and how much have they put into it already? The second thing is their background and founder-market fit. We look at the quality of their application. How much time and effort did they put into their application and supplying the supplemental materials we sought? Finally, we look for how much time we think they will commit to the program and give back to the Galvanizer community.

Kieran: The program comprises Gal Groups, Expert Office Hours, and Community Connections. Can you share more details of how the program is structured and what topics are covered?

Sara: The program runs for 8-weeks over the summer. It consists of a weekly Gal Group, a mastermind session of 5-6 founders who meet at the same time every week. The goal is to help them stay motivated in advancing their ventures. Sprinkled throughout the 8-weeks, there are a bunch of Expert Office Hours sessions. We cover everything from finding product-market-fit, early go-to-market and sales strategy, product, and fundraising. Fundraising is a really popular topic for a lot of our founders. We bring in a bunch of VCs and experts to speak to our founders and dive deep into their topics of interest. Then, we also have community socials. Those are mainly in-person in our biggest cities, New York and San Francisco, but we also do a couple of different virtual community networking events like coffee chats. We believe it’s crucial for our founders to feel like they are a part of a community. As a founder, especially a female founder, the journey can feel very lonely. We want to create a strong community for them. The other thing that I’d add is the eight-week program culminates in a Demo Day. Traditionally, it’s done virtually. We have a panel of judges who are partner-level VCs across a range of firms. They will come in and evaluate the founders. Every year, we switch it up a little. Sometimes, it’s a competition where there is money on the line, but ultimately, it’s a great way to showcase all the progress they’ve made over the summer and get to know investors as they are going to seek funding.

Kieran: When startups enter the program, what stage are they at?

Sara: It’s a mix. About 25% of the gals in our cohort have either started or successfully raised funding. A lot of them have customers who are paying for their products. 50% are still in the prototyping phase, where they don’t have paying customers for their product yet. The last 25% are in the earlier days. So, think about folks who have taken some startup classes but have yet to dedicate themselves fully to their venture.

Kieran: By the end of the program, what do you hope the founders and startups have accomplished? What does success look like?

Sara: Ultimately, success would be to see 100% of our alums continue with their ventures after graduation from whatever school they’re in. Honestly, we want our founders to have the confidence, tools, and network to be female founders, whether that’s right now with their current venture or later down the line. So, that is what we see as our success metric for the program.

Kieran: What percentage of founders you work with continue on their startups after graduation?

Sara: Over 50% of our founders continue to work on their startups after graduation. Many of them have told us that without Galvanizer, they may not have continued their ventures after graduation. So, we’re really proud of that.

Kieran: What do you see as the biggest opportunities to improve Galvanizer in terms of how you support founders?

Sara: As a leadership team, our biggest opportunity is supporting alums after the program with their ventures. Whether that’s continuous programming and helping them fill gaps in their knowledge or just connecting them with Galvanizer alums, previous founders, and investors, there’s a big opportunity for us to play a role after the accelerator program.

– now, let’s transition to questions to help MBA students who want to join the Galvanizer internal team –

Kieran: When do you recruit new internal team members?

Sara: We recruit every year in the late winter or early spring.

Kieran: How many members is the internal team? I saw on the website four people, but maybe that is just the leadership team. Are there more people working on this?

Sara: I wish. There are only four members on the leadership team. So, my role is the Director of Founder Programming. There is a Director of Strategy & Ops, Partnerships & Development, and Marketing & Communications.

Kieran: How do you work at the other chapters at Galvanizer?

Sara: We have contacts at all the leading entrepreneurship and VC clubs at schools around the country. We’ll shoot information to them about our application that year and the program’s timeline, and they will help spread the word on campus.

Kieran: I saw you guys want to bring on advisors and sponsorships. How do you work with both those groups? What’s the best way to plug in?

Sara: We look for advisors to mainly support with our Expert Office Hours to help founders that way. We also want to build our Advisor network and offer ongoing mentorship to our founders. If you want to get involved as an advisor, email hello@galvanizer.io. That’s our official email address to get in touch with us, and we would absolutely love to have you and add you to our Advisor network. In terms of sponsorships, we had sponsors a couple of years ago. One of them was Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). We all know what happened there. We’re actively looking for new sponsors, and most of that would be to help out or pitch day by offering prize money for the winner and any other grants to some of our founders. So, any corporations or organizations looking for new partners and are inspired by our mission, please reach out to the same email. We’d be happy to chat with them.

Kieran: Is there anything I didn’t ask about that is important to know if you’re considering Galvanizer as a student founder or someone who wants to join the internal team?

Sara: In terms of folks who are looking to join the Galvanizer community, more than anything, we are looking for passion and belief in our mission. The belief that we should close the female founder gap, and communities like this one play a key role in doing that. If you’re a leader and mission-aligned in that way, we’d love to chat with you. If you’re a founder, like I said, we recruit non-traditional founders, so you don’t need to be in a top MBA program to join our program. We’d really love to get to know any female founders.

Kieran: What’s the new data for female founders at venture-backed companies?

Sara: I don’t know if our website has the most up-to-date stats, but I think the key thing to emphasize is that only 3% of venture-backed startups have a female CEO. That’s the number that I was thinking of in my head. While some startups may have a female co-founder, they are often not the CEO of their business. All the women who participated in our program were CEOs, which is really important to us.

Read next