Advice for Startup Entrepreneurs in a Virtual World with James Leaverton


After a decades-long slump, the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new wave of startup activity. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans filed paperwork to launch 4.3 million businesses last year. That’s a 24 percent increase from the year before and by far the most in the past decade and a half.

While the pandemic has inspired more people to take the plunge into entrepreneurship, the journey of a startup founder today looks somewhat different than it once did. According to entrepreneur James Leaverton, the startup community thrives on connection. However, with many startup programs and events shifting to virtual, Leaverton says founders are increasingly isolated. 

“COVID has obviously turned a lot of things in a different direction,” Leaverton says. “In the past, a lot of startup programs were very hands-on. Once COVID happened what was lost was that personal connection. Now that everything has moved to a virtual environment, for the startup community as a whole that connection has been lost.” 

At Founders Network, we’re striving to maintain that spirit of connection and provide founders with virtual programming that helps them succeed. On Feb. 8, 2022, Leaverton will be hosting Office Hours for Founders Network members.  He’ll provide private 1-on-1 opportunities for founders to get answers to some of their most pressing questions.

Want to hear more advice for startup entrepreneurs? See if you qualify for membership to attend Leaverton’s office hours on Feb. 8, 2022.

Leaverton is the Partner Marketing Manager at Equinix, a digital infrastructure company that serves startups and other businesses. His last venture, StackPath raised $180 million in a single round to disrupt content delivery markets, and his expertise spans years as an entrepreneur in the startup community. Here are a few of the lessons he’s learned along the way and his advice for startup entrepreneurs in a virtual world. 

Having key relationships is very paramount. Share on X

Investing in relationships

Leaverton’s advice for startup entrepreneurs starts with recognizing the value of relationships. Startups often fail and while initial instincts might tell you to cut your losses and cut ties after a failed startup attempt, it’s vital to maintain the relationships you forged during that startup journey. 

“Relationships are key,” Leaverton says. “An insane percentage of startups don’t work out for whatever reason and you want to keep the relationships you built intact because you never know when that’s going to help you in the future. Having key relationships is very paramount.” 

In the current climate with fewer in-person events, founders might be inclined to put their head down and spend less time on efforts like networking, but Leaverton says investing in relationships has never been more important. 

“Focus on building those relationships that don’t seem that important today or tomorrow but somewhere down the road might be a huge asset for you,” Leaverton says.

There’s quite a bit out there for startups if they take the time to look. Share on X

Tapping resources 

According to a recent report, 50 percent of U.K. startups report that lack of finance is a barrier to starting a business. The second largest barrier cited by founders, accounting for 17 percent of responses, was knowledge.

Whether founders are deficient in knowledge or finances, Leaverton says there are resources available for both. 

“Use everything you can. Always keep your options open,” Leaverton says. “People do a disservice to themselves by not fully utilizing everything that’s out there for them. There’s quite a bit out there for startups if they take the time to look.” 

A great idea without a business plan is just a hobby. Share on X

Finding a balance

Successful startups are three times more likely to have a 60-year-old founder than a 30-year-old one. Experience matters, and in the startup community, it can be the difference between success and failure.

That’s why Leaverton advises startups to ensure their founding team has a balance of both business and technical expertise. As one of his friends in the startup community often says, “A great idea without a business plan is just a hobby.” 

“One thing I’ve seen a lot in the startup community is a lot of founders have genius ideas,” Leaverton says. “But they struggle to turn it into a viable business, and oftentimes, they don’t, not due to any fault of the founder.”

Want to hear more advice for startup entrepreneurs? See if you qualify for membership to attend Leaverton’s office hours on Feb. 8, 2022.

Share With Your Network

Looking for startup advice, connections, and insights?

Tap into a global network that enables you to answer questions, build relationships, and gain the perspective you need to move faster.
Peer mentorship with fellow tech founders
Pitch practice with Tier 1 VCs
Accelerator grade discounts