4. A degree
of the con’s 17 presenters:*
person (range 0
*excludes Sat health workshop presenters
5. Independent wealth and connections help too.
Like, a LOT. You can grow connections through
old-fashioned networking and accelerators like Y
Combinator. Money… well, that’s a little harder.
You may need a “day job” for a while.
6. A note on gender: only 17% of presenters were
ALL female founders had graduate degrees: Only
2 of the male founders went to grad school.
Schools females attended included Duke, MIT,
Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, and
7. Okay, enough demographics
What did they SAY?
✖ Get a technical cofounder
✖ Focus on your product’s identity. It
should be clear and easy to explain.
✖ Create a core set of values for your
product, and your team. The words
“purpose”, “clarity”, and “focus”
were used a lot.
Summary: it may not come fast.
“I owed $500,000 and maxed out 11 credit cards. 20
people worked for me for free for 2 years, and I was sued
by 5 of them.”
-Tim Westergren, Pandora founder
“I sold my car to fund my move to the Bay Area, got a
$500 studio in El Cerrito in the home of a retired dentist.
And then the bottom dropped out of the economy.”
- Arram Sabeti, ZeroCater founder
To get funding, you’ll have to pitch. A LOT.
Dealing with rejection is tough. Get used to it. Westergren
pitched Pandora 340 times.
Funding is not the goalpost
Funding you raise is not a predictor of how much your
company will be worth. Ebay raised $11M and is now
valued at $420B
It doesn’t count until it’s in the bank
Adam Draper of Boost VC warned of yes-men who’ll say
yes to funding in pitch meetings… and then never send
you a check.
10. “The product you launch
with will almost certainly
NOT be the product that
finds market fit.”
-Walker Williams, founder of TeeSpring
Your team is paramount.
Qualifications are fine, but
it’s better to find the right
personality fit with the
right attitude. “Our biggest
SEO successes were team
members.” - Tim Chen,
Arum Kang, founder of
Coffee Meets Bagel warned
against hiring contractors:
They don’t have
accountability or stake in
This is your most
Founder time =
freakin’ solid gold. So
automate as much as
possible. Assemble a
good team. Be agile.
Don’t solve problems
until they exist. Most
importantly: don’t get
Matt Brimer, founder of
General Assembly says
you gotta meet people in
real life before they’ll
become first users. Do 1
on 1 coffees. Dance. Talk.
Pitch early and often.
Give karma, get karma.
“Be as useful as
people to each other.
Give advice. But don’t
give away your product
Your first users will
ideally become your
champions. First 100
people on Matt Brimer’s
email list, he had met in
But balance your
membership. Get the
balance between being
“clubby” and full of
“It will take a significant
amount of time and
effort to bring in your
first users and that’s
okay,” - Walker Williams,
Small is good. It means
you’re nimble. You can
pivot on a dime. Grow at
scale, don’t worry about
growth hacking. Just
worry about the next
step, not step 10.
Heidi Zak, founder of Third Love
● PR firms are good at fashion OR tech OR consumer: they
will not do all 3 well. Even if they say they do. They can’t.
● Ask around before hiring a PR firm. Ask former clients how
they liked their experience with a firm.
● Feel free to say NO to press if you’re not ready: just ask for
a rain-check later.
Tim Chen, founder of NerdWallet
- Talking to journalists is really hard. They’re busy.
- SEO is a slog and will take years of work
- LifeHacker mention only garnered $5,000 in revenue
- If you want to reach journalists, hire a former journalist
+ Find a technical co-founder
+ Create a solid proof-of-concept that is a pain-killer for users, not a
+ Validate the concept and change as necessary
+ Congeal a distinct brand, set of principles that define the product
+ Assemble a kick-ass team of smart people I really like spending
time with and can talk openly with
+ Get a small version of product up and working as soon as possible
+ Recruit users IRL, listen to them, change the product, make users
into champions and evangelists
+ Start creating content around product
+ Prepare for the rollercoaster that is “pursuing funding”
+ Pitch continuously until funding is secured (if needed)
+ Talk to users
+ Investigate press and outreach if ready
+ Start solving problems as the product grows and changes
+ Talk to users
+ Determine if there are any tools that can get rid of regulatory
hurdles for you
+ Empower the team, keep them motivated, invest in them
+ Talk to users
+ Keep on hustlin’
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