The Financial Side of the Startup – Interview with Lili Balfour

by / ⠀Entrepreneur Interviews Entrepreneurship / December 10, 2013

Lili Balfour

Raising startup capital can be tricky.  Many startups fail before getting started because of financial limitations.  Despite the need of many young companies, banks aren’t exactly jumping at the chance to work with 20-30 year olds with a new business idea.  Due to the volatile nature of a startup and high failure rate, there is a substantial level of risk for banks working with early-stage companies. This risk has prevented banks and lenders from seeking out startups to work with.

After spending over a decade in investment banking and consulting, Lili Balfour decided to do something about the lack of investment banking options for startups.  Lili started spending nights and weekends working with companies for free and learning about how to best serve early-stage customers.  Through this process, Lili discovered there was a fit for both banks and startups, and Atelier Advisors was launched in 2007.   Atelier Advisors was founded based on the idea that early stage companies should have the same investment banking services as any company.

Lili is founder and CEO of Atelier Advisors, author of Master the Finance Game, and creator of Lean Finance for Startups, a course on Udemy. “The topic of finance has really gotten a bad rap,” says Lili Balfour.    Although many of us try to avoid it, we can’t ignore the importance of staying on top of the financial side of our startups.  Lili describes the most common mistake of most startups as not putting together a financial model.  “Understand the financial mechanics of your business.”

Through her passion for finance, Lii has carved out a niche with startups, but why startups? “I think helping startups is so important because it really is going to be the backbone of America’s growth.”  “(It’s my) patriotic duty to help startups.”

Q: What’s your best piece of advice for a young entrepreneur?

A: “Work on yourself as much as you work on your company.”

As an advisor who was worked with hundreds of young companies, Lili has seen it all when it comes to the startup world.  The grueling and time intensive nature of running a startup can take a toll even on the strongest 20-something.  “There is a tough and dark side of being a young entrepreneur working on a demanding startup.” Lili said that young entrepreneurs have a tendency to go overboard and fail to eat and sleep right while keeping stress at a manageable level. “Have peers!  Focus on stress reduction.”  Part of her routine includes meditation and hypnotherapy techniques.

Take some time to learn and relax today, and listen to the full interview with Lili Balfour below!

Interview Highlights

– Lili’s entrepreneurial background and growing up in Silicon Valley.

– The toughest hurdle to overcome as an entrepreneur: Recruiting.

– Common financial mistake for startups: Not putting together a financial model.

– “I think any entrepreneur out there who wants to build a startup, perhaps should go work at a startup and see what it’s like and really get a taste for it.”

-“If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you tend to be comfortable being weird or different.  When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re not really following the crowd.”

Quick-Fire Questions

What do you do in your free time to relax? “I threw away my TV a while ago.” Lili advises to read as much as possible and exercise.  She also recently got involved with animal and has adopted two dogs from city-run shelters, a Morkie named Teddy and a Chihuahua named Layla.

What is she reading? The Entrepreneurial Bible to Venture Capital by Andrew Romans.

What is your favorite alcoholic drink?  Pimm’s Cup.

Who is your favorite musician or music group?  Jack Johnson & U2.

If you could add one entrepreneur in the world to team, who would it be and why?  Richard Branson.  Atelier uses the phrase ‘rethink investment banking,’ and is trying to bring a new vision to finance and investment banking – similar to how Branson’s Virgin Airlines has been able to revolutionize the airline industry.

Listen to the full interview here:


About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.