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A Startup Guide for Founders - What to Know Before You Launch

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Founders and investors from the Women's Entrepreneur Festival and 33voices communities provide lessons learned and mistakes to avoid on: Partnering with co-founders, developing your product, raising your first round of capital, securing a positive press launch, and navigating the emotional realities of life as a founder.

Gain deeper insight in their exclusive Connect and Be Heard interviews and join the conversation Slack.

Connect and Be Heard on 33voices: https://www.33voices.com/we-festival
WeFestival on Slack: http://www.wefestival.com/page/996169/slack

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A Startup Guide for Founders - What to Know Before You Launch

  1. 1. A Startup Guide for Founders W h a t t o K n o w B e f o r e Y o u L a u n c h
  2. 2. This presentation consists of insights from Connect and Be Heard: An exclusive interview series profiling female founders and investors.
  3. 3. Table of Contents Page 4 Page 16 Page 20 Page 59 Page 70 Page 80 Page 85 Page 93 Ch 1 - Don’t Go At it Alone: What to Consider Seeking Co-founders and Strategic Partners Ch 2 - Establishing Your Mission: Clarity of Goals and Early Success Ch 3 - Navigating Product Development: How to Test, Iterate, and Validate Your Product Ch 4 - Funding Your Business: What You Need to Know Raising Capital Ch 5 - Securing an Influential Press Launch: How to Craft Your Story Ch 6 - Developing Your Go-to-Market Strategy: How to Utilize Grassroots Marketing Ch 7 - Entrepreneurial Grit: The Emotional Realities of Life as a Founder Credits
  4. 4. Don’t Go At it Alone What You Need to Know About Identifying Co-founders and Early Partners Chapter 1
  5. 5. “The practical reality is that there is no way you can be good at everything. Being able to talk to someone, rely on their strengths, and solve problems together helps you avoid feeling alone. Trying to put it all on your shoulders is a lot.” Inspired by Susan Solomon, Drive-Thru Branding & Women’s Entrepreneur Festival
  6. 6. Finding co-founders is situational. Nell explains when to partner with one and what to do if you can’t. Inspired by Nell Derick Debevoise, Inspiring Capital
  7. 7. “If no one is ready during your opportunity time, you just go.” Inspired by Nell Derick Debevoise, Inspiring Capital TWEET THIS
  8. 8. While it’s tempting to bring on co-founders, partners, and team members, never convince someone to join your team. “The shine of a new job wears off. If someone isn’t intrinsically motivated by your mission they aren’t the right fit.” Inspired by Ashley Smith Merrill, Lunya
  9. 9. Navigating exciting and stressful situations with current or former colleagues lays a strong foundation for future co-founder relationships. Before partnering on an independent venture, you should feel confident that the two of you can handle any challenge that comes your way. Inspired by Galyn Bernard & Christina Carbonell, Primary
  10. 10. Build a Voluntary Board of Advisors Reach out to founders and investors in your field who can guide you as you overcome the current and future obstacles you’ll face in your industry. Actively target individuals who fill in your strengths gaps. They will provide direct insight into where you need to grow your business. Inspired by Kim Plyler, Sahl Communications Inc.
  11. 11. Elevate your impact by developing close partnerships with individuals and companies (i.e. design firms and manufacturers) who can supplement how your product exists in the market. This is especially critical if you are a solo founder. Inspired by Kelley Chunn, Kelley Chunn & Associates
  12. 12. “It takes a village to be an entrepreneur.” Inspired by Kelley Chunn, Kelley Chunn & Associates
  13. 13. Use the parenting test to evaluate potential partners. “Your company is your baby. Don’t evaluate partners as if you’re trying to find a babysitter. Think of it like giving someone joint custody of your child. When you’re seeking a partner, you’re looking for someone to co-parent with you. If you’re not aligned on vision it’s never going to be a successful partnership.” Inspired by Brittany Hodak, ZinePak and Per Diems Against Poverty
  14. 14. Be Deliberate in Your Partnerships While numerous programs exist to help you launch your startup, be wary of companies seeking to capitalize on founders during the early days. “You don’t have to follow any path other than your own to launch your business.” Inspired by Leslie Ali Walker & Rachael Ellison, Need/Done
  15. 15. Never burn bridges. It does you no good. “Be nice, gracious, and embracive to everyone who crosses your path. You never know where people end up and who you’ll want to work with in the future.” Inspired by Joanne Wilson, Angel Investor, Blogger, Women’s Entrepreneur Festival
  16. 16. Establish a Clear Mission The Direct Correlation Between Clarity of Goals and Early Success Chapter 2
  17. 17. Articulate a Single Value to Your Audience Especially during the early days, simplicity is the core driver of customer adoption and retention. Resist the temptation to add fancy features to your product. The goal is to avoid saying ‘and, and, and’ when describing your work. Inspired by Susan Solomon, Drive-Thru Branding & Women’s Entrepreneur Festival
  18. 18. Align Your Short and Long-term Goals: Crista shares how focusing on near-term profitability during the early days negatively influenced Phin & Phebes growth trajectory. Inspired by Crista Freeman, Phin & Phebes
  19. 19. “Growth that isn’t aligned with your long-term goals is detrimental to your vision.” Inspired by Crista Freeman, Phin & Phebes TWEET THIS
  20. 20. Test and Validate Your Product How to Ensure You’re Fulfilling a Real Need Chapter 3
  21. 21. Especially if you’re self-funding your business, it’s vital to validate your product before you start developing it. Ask potential customers: Inspired by Emily Johnson, Tutorlist
  22. 22. Especially if you’re self-funding your business, it’s vital to validate your product before you start developing it. Ask potential customers: Have you ever used a product like this before? Inspired by Emily Johnson, Tutorlist
  23. 23. Especially if you’re self-funding your business, it’s vital to validate your product before you start developing it. Ask potential customers: How did you find it? Inspired by Emily Johnson, Tutorlist
  24. 24. Especially if you’re self-funding your business, it’s vital to validate your product before you start developing it. Ask potential customers: How much did you pay for it? Would you pay for this? Inspired by Emily Johnson, Tutorlist
  25. 25. Especially if you’re self-funding your business, it’s vital to validate your product before you start developing it. Ask potential customers: What did you like about it? What did you dislike? Inspired by Emily Johnson, Tutorlist
  26. 26. Especially if you’re self-funding your business, it’s vital to validate your product before you start developing it. Ask potential customers: How could it be improved? Inspired by Emily Johnson, Tutorlist
  27. 27. “Call everyone you know and ask: ‘Why is our idea bad. What are we not thinking of?’” Inspired by Emily Johnson, Tutorlist
  28. 28. In addition to phone and in person interviews, surveys are a comprehensive tool to gain a deep understanding of your customers needs. Create and distribute in-depth questionnaires to colleagues, family, and friends through Facebook and email. The results will reveal where your solution can fill in gaps in the market. Inspired by Chedva Kleinhandler, Lean On
  29. 29. After validating your idea with family and friends, demo your product where a large group of potential customers congregate, such as a food fair, farmers market, or fashion expo. When there, trade small samples for surveys and ask people to rate your products. Inspired by Crista Freeman, Phin & Phebes
  30. 30. Ask these questions to gain a clear representation of how your product exists in the market and compares to competitors. Inspired by Crista Freeman, Phin & Phebes
  31. 31. Ask these questions to gain a clear representation of how your product exists in the market and compares to competitors. What brands are you currently buying? Inspired by Crista Freeman, Phin & Phebes
  32. 32. Ask these questions to gain a clear representation of how your product exists in the market and compares to competitors. How does our brand compare to those brands? Inspired by Crista Freeman, Phin & Phebes
  33. 33. Ask these questions to gain a clear representation of how your product exists in the market and compares to competitors. Would you buy our product? Inspired by Crista Freeman, Phin & Phebes
  34. 34. Don’t outsource product demos. “As a founder, you need to see customers react to your product.” Inspired by Crista Freeman, Phin & Phebes
  35. 35. The data you glean from product demos will help inform future design and product decisions. Ensure that your marketing materials clearly answer the questions your customers asked to demonstrate the benefits of your solution. Inspired by Devin Donaldson, The Optimist Co.
  36. 36. Approach each communication platform as a continued conversation with your customer. Inspired by Devin Donaldson, The Optimist Co.
  37. 37. Don’t expect everyone to say yes. Shadiah explains why her team built HoneyBook despite customers saying they didn’t need the product. Inspired by Shadiah Sigala, HoneyBook
  38. 38. Resist the temptation to hire outside consultants or partners to accelerate the development of your first product. There is no way to circumvent the process. It is long and unexpected. Prepare for multiple rounds of iteration, and know that positive or negative, small changes will make a big difference. As a founder, you need to be incredibly detail oriented and clear about what you want with your feedback. Inspired by Lauren Scwhab, Negative
  39. 39. Good is better than perfect. “Whether it’s a color change on your website or a word in your product description, obsessing over something for a few more hours, days, or months likely won’t yield a better outcome. Know when good is enough. Inspired by Rachel Blumenthal, Cricket’s Circle
  40. 40. Inspired by Rachel Blumenthal, Cricket’s Circle “When you make a decision: Be decisive, confident, and stand behind it wholeheartedly.”
  41. 41. Leave room for unanticipated experiments. As you develop your product, customers will cling onto different aspects of your service. Monitor their behavior and build features that respond to their demands rather than trying to validate new ideas in the market. Inspired by Nell Derick Debevoise, Inspiring Capital
  42. 42. Even after receiving positive feedback from your customers, experiments can result in different, sometimes negative, results. When faced with an unexpected outcome, go back to the drawing board and ask: ‘What is our customers real pain point here? Where did we go wrong?’ Refocusing and taking a closer look will enable you to uncover new opportunities to successfully fulfill your customers needs. Inspired by Kellee Khalil, Loverly
  43. 43. Don’t associate failure with your self-worth. The most effective way to respond to an unexpected outcome is to stop blaming yourself and move on. Inspired by Brooke Moreland and Sara Chipps, Jewelbots
  44. 44. “No matter how big, you aren’t going to be judged on a single mistake.” Inspired by Brooke Moreland and Sara Chipps, Jewelbots TWEET THIS
  45. 45. Conduct Small and Cheap Experiments
  46. 46. Hack together an inexpensive prototype. Leslie and Rachael explain how they hacked together Twilio and Slack to test Need/Done. Inspired by Lesli Ali Walker and Rachael Ellison, Need/Done
  47. 47. Embrace the MVP: Your Minimum Viable Product. Natasha shares how Coolhaus conducted their first trial with Whole Foods. Inspired by Natasha Case, Coolhaus
  48. 48. “You can do all of the analysis and marketing tests you want. Nothing tells you the truth like when your product is out in the world.” Inspired by Natasha Case, Coolhaus
  49. 49. Develop a Clear Understanding of Your Customer
  50. 50. The more you develop your product the more customer behavior you can analyze. Try utilizing products like Crazy Egg, Intercom, Mailchimp, and LeadPages. Inspired by Jean Brownhill Lauer, Sweeten
  51. 51. “Every single feature and page on your site can be tested.” Inspired by Jean Brownhill Lauer, Sweeten
  52. 52. Look for patterns when evaluating customer feedback. If one person shares an insight, note it. If five people point something out, it is not a coincidence. You have to explore it. “The patterns are what it’s all about.” Inspired by Natasha Case, Coolhaus
  53. 53. Customers will have a very strong opinion about how they want your product, but remember, you’re the expert. Know when to draw the line and say: ‘Let us do what we do best.’ Inspired by Natasha Case, Coolhaus
  54. 54. “There are times when you need to assert the knowledge you have that your customers don’t.” Inspired by Natasha Case, Coolhaus TWEET THIS
  55. 55. Avoid Unintentional Bias “Don’t make assumptions that your users will have empathy for the features that you personally want. Constantly check yourself and recognize that every single person has different needs and requirements.” Inspired by Leslie Ali Walker and Rachael Ellison, Need/Done
  56. 56. Actively cultivate conversations with individuals outside of your field. “Explaining yourself to individuals who aren’t in your industry forces simplicity and clarity and uncovers any bias you may be acting on.” Inspired by Nell Derick Debevoise, Inspiring Capital
  57. 57. Go Beyond the Data. “It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day of running a business but you can’t forget to stop and appreciate who your customer is and what their demands and needs are; Not just in a tangible way but in a very emotional way. It goes along the lines of how you speak to them, when you speak to them, and your brand’s visual identity.” Inspired by Rachel Blumenthal, Cricket’s Circle
  58. 58. “An emotional understanding of your customer makes you a prime candidate to acknowledge the psychology of their problem and address it in your solution.” Inspired by Rachel Blumenthal, Cricket’s Circle
  59. 59. Funding Your Business What You Need to Know About Raising Capital Chapter 4
  60. 60. You don’t have to raise outside capital to launch your business. Brittany shares how her co-founder and her used American Express charge cards to maintain 100% equity at ZinePak. Inspired by Brittany Hodak, ZinePak & Per Diems Against Poverty
  61. 61. “Once you give your equity away it’s very hard to get it back. Hold on for as long as you can.” Inspired by Brittany Hodak, ZinePak & Per Diems Against Poverty TWEET THIS
  62. 62. Funding is critical to launching and scaling your business, but it’s never wise to partner with an investor solely for the capital. After working with two angel investors, Natasha distinguishes the difference between a value additive investor versus one who is toxic. Inspired by Natasha Case, Coolhaus
  63. 63. “Your partnership with your investors should be about empowerment, trust, and an alignment of vision complemented by different skill sets. When you’re taking money you have to think: This person is so lucky to be involved with my brand.” Inspired by Natasha Case, Coolhaus
  64. 64. Value your time fundraising. Before securing a meeting, ensure that an individual is an accredited investor who is looking to invest in your space. Inspired by Elham AyoubZadeh, Zvelle
  65. 65. “When you fundraise, you’re taking time away from your business to achieve a set goal: You need the money.” Inspired by Elham AyoubZadeh, Zvelle
  66. 66. Own your pitch! Every individual you share your business with will have an opinion about the direction you should pursue, who you should hire, and the best way to structure your business model. Listen to their opinions but don’t let them run the conversation. Prepare for meetings by getting into a state of mind that: ‘No one knows this better than me. I’m going to be confident and speak up.’ Inspired by Sara Hicks, Ongo Works
  67. 67. Be patient choosing investors. You’re going to meet with a lot of investors who have differing beliefs about your business. Stick with your convictions. Don’t let outside opinions undermine the way you believe your company should exist in the world. “You’re going to find an investor who is like-minded and passionate about the same idea. They are the right partner for you.” Inspired by Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell, Primary
  68. 68. “If you believe in it, stick with it.” Inspired by Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell, Primary TWEET THIS
  69. 69. Be 100% confident in the role a potential investor expects to play in your company. They aren’t there to run your business. Inspired by Joanne Wilson, Angel Investor, Blogger, Women’s Entrepreneur Festival
  70. 70. Crafting Your Early Story How to Secure a Positive Press Launch Chapter 5
  71. 71. It is entirely possible to do your own press during the early days. Spend many months pre-launch reaching out to and building relationships with editors at key publications in your industry. If you’re capable, dedicate a day each week to meet writers and editors. Inspired by Marissa Vosper, Negative
  72. 72. “Your launch story is your easiest story to tell. Everyone wants to know why you started.” Inspired by Marissa Vosper, Negative
  73. 73. Alex and Jordana explain how they used an ambassador program and close relationships with the media to ensure an organic press launch for LOLA. Inspired by Alex Friedman and Jordana Kier, LOLA
  74. 74. Avoid this PR Misstep “Companies expect that they’re going to launch and be on TV right away. Your story has to be applicable with current events and the right fit for a specific publication. Don’t worry about being published in The Wall Street Journal. Find the media outlets that are appropriate for your business, and build relationships with them.” Inspired by Kim Plyer, Sahl Communications Inc.
  75. 75. Whether or not you’ve officially launched, you can start conversations around your brand using social media. With an engaged community of over 21,000 Negative fans, Marissa explains the team’s three-pronged approach — showcasing the brand, humor, and inspiration — to drive sharing and engagement. Inspired by Marissa Vosper, Negative
  76. 76. “You can have all of the budget in the world but you can’t put a value on creativity.” Inspired by Marissa Vosper, Negative TWEET THIS
  77. 77. Countless marketing and social media channels make it tempting to experiment with them all. Hone your team’s efforts on the three primary channels where you have the highest potential. Execute to the best of your ability and master your approach. Inspired by Gayln Bernard and Christina Carbonell, Primary
  78. 78. Don’t underestimate the power of your network. Camille discusses how First Round Capital pooled together 30,000 of their contacts to announce The Review and developed an initial subscriber base of 6,000 readers. Inspired by Camille Ricketts, First Round Capital
  79. 79. “People don’t think as broadly or as big as they should when it comes to who they know and who their community is. It should be a combination of everyone you know, everyone your team knows as well as anyone your supporters know and are willing to reach out to. You need to think as broadly as possible when you’re launching a very important initiative. Inspired by Camille Ricketts, First Round Capital
  80. 80. Developing Your Go-to-Market Strategy How to Meet and Interact with Your Early Customers Chapter 6
  81. 81. Before and after launch, the most effective way to raise awareness for your new brand is going out and physically talking to your customers. Lara and Lindsey explain how to use grassroots marketing to meet your initial customers. Inspired by Lara Crystal and Lindsey Andrews, Minibar
  82. 82. “It’s easy to get a few customers if you have a good product. The difficult part is figuring out why those customers should use you in the future.” Inspired by Lara Crystal and Lindsey Andrews, Minibar
  83. 83. In an era where we have thousands of places to shop, customers have a deep craving to feel valued. It’s more effective to go the extra 30% and blow away your existing customer rather than paying to buy a one-time customer. Inspired by Ashley Smith Merrill, Lunya
  84. 84. “Making your customers feel valued is timeless.” Inspired by Ashley Smith Merrill, Lunya
  85. 85. Cultivating Your Entrepreneurial Grit The Emotional Realities of Life as a Founder Chapter 7
  86. 86. Beware of The Dip. “The Dip is the highs and lows of running your own business. The highs are amazing but the lows can be so discomforting that you almost feel suffocated. Nothing can prepare you for that feeling of nauseating, suffocating, can’t breathe discomfort.” Inspired by Crista Freeman, Phin & Phebes
  87. 87. Always default to perseverance. It’s common to assume that when things don’t go your way it’s a sign that you shouldn’t be pursuing your idea. Remember that growing pains are a part of the process. Next time you face a challenge tell yourself: ‘This is normal. I’m going to push through.’ Inspired by Kimberly Dawson, K.Dawson Company
  88. 88. “You’ll never know if you can succeed unless you stick it out.” Inspired by Kimberly Dawson, K.Dawson Company TWEET THIS
  89. 89. Every day running a startup will present a new challenge for you as a leader. The most instrumental habit you can develop is trusting that you’ll be resourceful in the moment. You have no other option. Inspired by Camille Ricketts, First Round Capital
  90. 90. “The only way to learn something is to spend every day experiencing it, learning from it, talking to people, and moving forward.” Inspired by Joanne Wilson, Angel Investor, Blogger, Women’s Entrepreneur Festival
  91. 91. Embrace the Unexpected Journey. Joanne on why you shouldn’t prescribe a set path. Inspired by Joanne Wilson, Angel Investor, Blogger, Women’s Entrepreneur Festival
  92. 92. “Being an entrepreneur is about learning to juxtapose self-trust with never being satisfied. Always be thinking about the next big thing.” Inspired by Grace Garey, Watsi
  93. 93. INSPIRED BY the founders and investors in the WeFestival community? Join them on Slack and learn more about their experiences in their exclusive Connect and Be Heard interviews.
  94. 94. CONNECT WITH US Tell us what you think Jenna@33voices.com Presentation by Chase Jennings Insights by Jenna Abdou

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