Seasoned business executive Virginia Persons loves it when an entrepreneur can take an idea, make it a viable product and enjoy success. What’s even better is when she can play a part behind the scenes in making that happen.
Persons, an investor and what she calls an “executive-in-residence,” has an extensive history working with emerging companies and new technology.
Persons helps entrepreneurs manage operations – establish controls and procedures for accounting and finance, cash management, human resources, customers and vendors, and facilities management – freeing up their time to focus on product development and sales. She also brings her wealth of strategic planning and fundraising experience to bear with those to whom she provides advice.
“I provide basic wisdom and do a good job of establishing rapport and building trust,” she said. “Someone looking to build their business and who can appreciate having a sounding board to bounce off things that are keeping them up at night, will benefit from my experience. I find that role very rewarding.”
An avid runner, Persons has qualified multiple times for the Boston Marathon.
“I am really passionate about running and believe running is a good metaphor for life. Particularly when you are racing, you are forcing your body to do something it is often telling you to stop. But you have to force yourself to keep going when you may want to give up,” she said. “And building a business is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to figure out how to deal with the things that aren’t in your control, have a good understanding of what you can control and start with a good attitude.”
Persons has been honing her skills for many years at various businesses. After earning her Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Denver University and her master’s degree in business administration from the University of Illinois, Persons moved to Atlanta. Her work at the Emerging Business Department at Deloitte marked the beginning of her fascination with early stage technology companies.
“I think my love of technology grew out of a general love for business. I think business is fascinating, in particular entrepreneurship,” she said.
Persons’ fascination for technology grew while serving as senior vice president at INVESCO Retirement Inc., a growth-stage division of INVESCO during the late 90s and the dawn of the internet age. Her involvement with the Atlanta Chapter of the MIT Enterprise Forum in the 2000s gave her the nudge she needed to dabble in angel investing.
“That pushed me more towards technology and ultimately I started investing in some technology companies as an angel investor. I ended up becoming deeply involved and found it was more fun than just writing checks. I also realized in terms of outcomes that my chance of success was higher if I was actively involved in the company. So I decided that from that point forward, I was only going to invest in companies I will be involved in,” she said.
Most recently, she invested in Verdeeco, an early stage data analytics company, joining the team as CFO and assisting in a successful sale to one of the world’s largest smart meter manufacturers.
The Next Investment Opportunity
Persons is president and founder of Collaborative Advisors LLC, a closely-held entity which invests in early stage technology startups. She is currently working with ATDC member company Cognosos and continues to look at other investment opportunities.
“I am looking for a fairly specific situation in terms of where I think I can provide the most value,” she said.
Tonya Layman is a freelance writer who has successfully generated hundreds of newspaper articles and other written content related to current business and industry. She resides in Marietta with her husband and child and enjoys traveling.