Boston Speaks Up (BSU) is a podcast owned and operated by Value Creation Labs.
Kristen Craft is the new Vice President & Business Partner Manager at Fidelity for Startups, one of the largest brokerage firms in the United States, headquartered here in Boston. She’s a major catalyst supporting Fidelity in its efforts to help fill the startup banking void in Boston.
Craft is working closely with the team at Shoobx, a Cambridge-based fintech Fidelity acquired in January 2023. Shoobx helps companies with equity and board management, storing and sharing important business information, and bringing together startup leaders, lawyers, and investors in a single collaborative hub.
Similar to her previous roles, Craft’s role at Fidelity entails her helping startups navigate the financial moments that matter most: fundraising, cap table management, access to investors; alongside all of the other financial expertise and services that Fidelity has long been known for.
Craft is a proven entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in enterprise software and digital marketing. With a passion for entrepreneurship, she’s become well known around the Boston startup community for her passionate support of founders and VCs.
In her role evangelizing the Boston-area startup community, Craft also recently supported the production of a 2024 AI report from Value Creation Labs – Boston Startups Put AI and Data to Work in Vertical Industries and Enterprises. Download the report for free here.
Craft is also a previous guest of Boston Speaks Up, and folks can learn more about her previous career journey in the episode from 2022. Her past experience includes leadership roles at Animalz, Tettra, Ovia Health Wistia, and Transparent Language, as well as launching her own start-up, Brown Box Storage.
In her return to the Boston Speaks Up show, she is eager to share best practices on go-to-market strategy, fundraising, and other vital aspects of the startup journey. Drawing from her decades of experience as a startup operator and angel investor, she's gathered a great deal of wisdom and is enthusiastic about making the startup journey smoother for others.
Before we dive into the written Q&A, here’s Craft sharing her excitement for the aforementioned AI report.
In your role at Fidelity, you focus on assisting startups in crucial financial moments. Can you share a specific success story where your team made a significant impact?
There’s a local founder who has joined for one of our community events. At this event, the founder met the person who became a lead investor in their round, as well as some others who came on as advisors. I hear of these matchmaking stories all the time, and it feels so wonderful to know that we’re helping to facilitate these introductions and success stories.
With over 15 years of experience, you've been a part of various industries. How do you bring a cross-industry perspective to your role at Fidelity?
Though I’ve spent most of my time in B2B SaaS, I’ve also done stints in consumer, healthcare, and services businesses. These various experiences have helped me to understand the similarities (and differences across industries) when it comes to growth, fundraising, and company building. Additionally, I also spent a couple of years as GM of the largest SaaS content agency, giving me exposure to hundreds of company growth strategies.
Having launched your own startup, Brown Box Storage, how does that entrepreneurial experience influence the way you engage with startups now?
I learned a lot about how NOT to do things! But I also learned the importance of just getting started – with an MVP, with a marketing campaign, with hiring. So often, founders overthink things vs taking a bias to action.
What specific challenges do startups often face in cap table management, and how does Fidelity address these challenges?
Too often, founders don’t set themselves up for success when it comes to due diligence. Ie they manage things on a spreadsheet for too long, or they don’t keep their data room as clean as it should be. This causes issues when they’re trying to close a round and are going through due diligence. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also say that they fail to lean on companies like Fidelity that can do so much more for them beyond the cap table management itself. We can serve as a hub of information and connectivity in a way that almost no one else can!
In your role, you engage with various stakeholders in the startup ecosystem. What excites you the most about the current state of the Boston startup community?
The generosity! I believe this is the best place to start and grow a company because people are generous with their time, advice, introductions, and support.
Your team at Fidelity assists startups in fundraising. Can you share insights into the evolving landscape of startup fundraising and the trends you've observed?
So quickly, we moved from an over-heated funding landscape (in late 2020 and through 2021) to a very slow one (2023 and 2024). Investors are looking for very different things than they were just 2-3 years ago. Now, traction metrics and revenue numbers are the most important things to show.
As a startup operator and angel investor, you've gained valuable insights. What's one piece of advice you wish you had received when you were starting your entrepreneurial journey?
I wish I’d tried to scale faster. I was scared that I didn’t know the “right way” to grow a company. I now realize that almost no one does! Even serial entrepreneurs are learning as they go, since every new company is different!
With your commitment to making the startup journey smoother, what role does mentorship and networking play, and how can founders effectively leverage these resources?
Strong opinions loosely held! Ask very directly for what you want, but also ask for feedback about whether these are the right things. Be open and humble when people disagree with your stance. Show up and be helpful to others.
Looking ahead, what trends do you foresee in the startup ecosystem, and how can startups prepare to thrive in the evolving landscape?
We’re living through a moment when business basics are paramount: generate revenue and be frugal with resources. And I see this as an exciting thing! Learning to generate revenue is ever a bad thing!
FINAL QUESTION: We like the idea of ending our episodes with a challenge for the listeners/readers. Whether it be reaching out to an old friend, reading 5 pages a day from a book, creating a new healthy habit… what is one challenge you have for the listeners?
I’m a big reader, so I’ll go with the book theme: reach out to friends for book recommendations and take the time to read/listen to those books.
(As a bonus, check out Kristen’s latest recap of the books she read and themes she noticed in 2023: A Year of Shared Experiences: 2023 in Books.)