Startups Archives - Ascent Conference

Accessing Capital in Today’s Market

Nov 14th, 2022 @9:30 am

We’ve seen private equity and banks already tighten, but there are other financing solutions available that have actually become more competitive in this market. In this session, Joseph Camberato covers what those solutions are so you can continue to grow and scale your business.


Joseph Camberato
CEO & Founder
National Business Capital

Sponsored by


Surviving a Challenging Market


David Ingraham
Korina Edwards
Matter Made

Sponsored by


A Conversation About Growth – Lessons Learned

Jun 15th, 2022 @4:00 pm

Most businesses have concerns around growth – how fast, where to grow, do we have the infrastructure to reach goals. Start-ups are no different. A start up business has a unique set of challenges. Growth and opportunity may come from expansion into a new sales channel, acquisition of talent in a new region or by pivoting on an overall business model. Finding an experienced advisor that can support you is vital. During the conversation with the panel, we will discuss growth, share lessons learned, and provide a framework of ideas on how best to grow your business.


Anders Hill
Account Executive, Fundraising Team
Igor Bazay
Vice President of Finance
Enigma Technologies, Inc.
Mike Rhodes
Partner, Technology Practice Leader
Citrin Cooperman
Christian Pillat

Sponsored by

How to Leverage the East Coast Startup Ecosystem

Tejpaul Bhatia, Startup Lead NY @ Google Cloud; Brandon Greer, Corporate Development @ HubSpot; Rob Pegoraro, Journalist @ Yahoo Tech

Ascent Conference 2019

Rob Pegoraro [00:00:04] So I like this panel a lot, I’m an East Coast guy, I was born and raised in the great state of New Jersey, got to D.C. as fast as I could. Any Nats fans here? Well, there’s one here. So so let’s talk about this, um. What makes the East Coast distinctive, besides the fact we have arguments over bagels, pizza in the quiet car and Amtrak, what is. What makes us not like the left coast?

Tejpaul Bhatia [00:00:32] Well, to start, the three of us are here, so that makes it very different. I will quickly introduce myself Tej from Google Part Team called Google Cloud for startups. Interestingly, my title has changed from startup to ecosystem manager. So very applicable for this panel. Was the question, why is ours better or different?

Rob Pegoraro [00:00:54] Different.

Tejpaul Bhatia [00:00:56] Different yeah.

Rob Pegoraro [00:00:56] The value.

Tejpaul Bhatia [00:00:57] So my team has eight ecosystem managers around the world, we’re a relatively new team, two years old, New York, Boston, L.A., San Francisco, London. Tel Aviv, Singapore and Bangalore, and those eight were chosen for a very specific reason, but each of the ecosystem managers is there because of our roots in each market. So I’m a lifelong New Yorker, born and raised. What makes us different, what makes all the ecosystems different usually comes down to three things. One is talent, people starting the companies capital investment coming in and customers. And I think I’ll speak specifically for New York, but we can talk about the East Coast up and down. We have all of that in 14 square mile radius. So in terms of density and convenience for my role in Google and as a founder before, it’s just super easy to get connected with everyone very quickly in this ecosystem.

Brandon Greer [00:01:57] Everyone, so my name is Brandon Greer, I run the HubSpot Ventures, which sits within the corporate development function of HubSpot Boston based marketing, sales and customer service software company. Um, so my entire career has been on the East Coast and it’s been interesting to see started out at Open Venture Partners, which is a fund based in Boston, and sort of did the whole analyst associate thing where the goal was to source deals and sort of find either diamond in the rough or bright shining diamonds a lot those were out and stuff. But the key for us was looking for opportunities that weren’t sort of like right smack in front of you. What struck me about the East Coast ecosystem was, um, there were there are a lot of legacy companies that were built here. Uh, there’s, uh, you know, obviously a next wave for most legacy companies here, next gen that, next gen this. And you’re starting to see a lot of those pop up everywhere. And a lot of those exist here. Um, know second to that, there’s an incredible sort of educational density. Right, in Boston. I think just like per capita, like super high numbers of institutions and places where you can you can sort of catch talent that makes it sort of super interesting as well from a founder perspective. But, um, those are sort of the two things that sort of I would call out. So the legacy sort of next gen theme we’re seeing. And then, of course, like the density of talent.

Rob Pegoraro [00:03:20] So we talked about what we do well, what are our weak spots like I know in D.C. there’s always this talk about funding and there just isn’t all that VC money sloshing around the D.C. area like there is in the Bay Area or the other Bay Area, as I sometimes put it.

Brandon Greer [00:03:36] Yeah, so from from our site, so so HubSpot at this point has dozens of thousands of customers and we are reaching a sizable scale, what we’ve begun to see is there are a lot of companies that aren’t properly integrated with different systems of records, whether it’s like your ERP or your CRM, all that. Sometimes I think having the proximity to some of the larger players out in the San Francisco Bay Area has been to the benefit of some startups because they have, you know, startup leaders out there meeting with you, developer advocates every which way to help folks build integrations. But I think leveraging those systems of records, even if they exist outside of, you know, sort of our four walls here in New York or Boston, wherever you might be, that’s a really important way to sort of reach scale. So so getting embedded in some of those those worlds, too, I think is a weakness today, but doesn’t necessarily need to be, um, and it’s a it’s a way to, of course, get get adoption beyond just your core market.

Tejpaul Bhatia [00:04:33] Yeah, so, uh, first and foremost, one thing I think we do terribly is whether this is true right now out of our control, but the Bay Area is not very good either. L.A. is phenomenal. Another thing that we do poorly, I think, is we don’t play to our strengths and I’ll speak specifically for New York, but I think it’s an East Coast thing. There’s a lot of this comparison to the Bay Area, East Coast versus West Coast or, you know, people saying, like, you really should move out there. If you’re starting a company, you got to be there. A lot of this is bullshit, a lot of this is telling you what you should do coming from someone who doesn’t even know what you do, right. So I think if you choose for whatever reason to build your company here or anywhere, there’s a reason you chose that because you’re from here, your family is here or it’s what’s right for your business or where you can attract the most talent. And I think up and down the East Coast, so we can talk about Boston, New York, Jersey, D.C., but also all the way down the Carolinas and Florida and Miami. There’s a lot of strength in those markets where I think people can tap into those markets, tap into those ecosystems, tap into the corporates that are in those markets, the government itself, the universities, accelerator’s coworking spaces and whatever the key industries are in those markets and really create an advantage for themselves, which just simply moving to the West Coast is not going to give you that advantage.

Rob Pegoraro [00:06:01] So we’re in Manhattan. We have to talk real estate. There are so many incubators, accelerators, coworking spaces. How is that helping us, given that real estate is one of the huge pain points of the Bay Area in particular?

Tejpaul Bhatia [00:06:18] You know, I can give a personal example, I was a founder for ten years, three companies, all three companies, investor backed. I think out of those ten years I only paid rent for two of those years and one was after an acquisition. So it wasn’t really me. It was a acquirer that was paying for it. And the reasoning is, I don’t it’s not that there’s a surplus of space, but because there’s so many opportunities, whether it’s VC firms or incubators or coworking spaces or corporate, you can actually find a great deal for a set period of time in New York if you look for it. And if you don’t, you can always grab a coworking desk, which is actually, in my opinion, pretty affordable for a desk.

Brandon Greer [00:07:07] Yeah, I mean, they’re obviously like, you know, intense talent wars happening, you know, for for for tech talent. And, you know, one of the themes that at least my company has sort of adopted is just leaning into remote work. Right. And so, obviously, you know, it’s sort of a, you know, work where you are mentality. And obviously they’re sort of making the shift to. But what I’ve noticed also was a lot of the companies we’re investing in will have sort of a distributed workforce, sort of half sort of here or wherever you’re based, and then sort of the other half all throughout. So, you know, there are a lot of folks are recruiting in Atlanta, staying in Atlanta and using that sort of as a as a hub at this point. And once there’s sort of a rhythm, you’ll start to see sort of micro communities form around your company in different areas. Right. So, like, you know, we’ve got sort of a small population in Denver, a small population in Atlanta. They meet up, whether it’s at a Starbucks or whatever. So there’s sort of community being built, but it’s not at the level of headquarters and all that. But, you know, it’s it’s a theme worth adopting, particularly when you you can’t necessarily provide the the salary, the benefit, the package that, you know, one of the larger players can so.

Rob Pegoraro [00:08:15] I think he used the phrase university density before, and it’s true in Boston. I hear Harvard and MIT are OK schools. All right. All right. You know, New York’s got a handful, D.C. We have my alma mater, Georgetown. But of course, part of our HQ to bid for Amazon was we’ll build a million square foot campus for Virginia Tech just outside the national landing area, a name no one to use for that neighborhood before. Um. Are we sufficiently taking advantage of that because it seems a lot of these you know, you have bright engineering graduates coming out of these universities and schools. Are they all staying around here or are they getting poached by companies elsewhere?

Tejpaul Bhatia [00:08:56] So, um. I would say New York is now taking advantage of it now, an engineering grad coming out of NYU or Columbia or Hunter or any of these schools, they have a lot of options and they’re getting paid a lot of money. They’re thinking about other things as well. Cost of living is not easy out in the Bay Area is not easy out here. But what you see, and I can speak specifically from Google’s standpoint issue, too, is another story. But that’s an example of large tech firms building here. And the story about Google 20 years ago when the first person in New York said, I’m going to build a campus in New York, the founders of Google thought was ridiculous. You’re never going to find the engineering talent you need in New York. Obviously not true, 20 years later, you may have read Google is expanding its footprint here significantly, and the hundred percent reason is for the talent. The talent is here. We can create an opportunity for them and have jobs that are competitive to keep them here in New York. One thing I would add, though, is that what would the big tech firms, what that shows about them expanding here is that also creates a lot more opportunity for engineers and college students and entrepreneurs to start companies here. The first argument everyone’s going to make, well, how do I compete with Google and that salary or how do I compete with Facebook? And the salary was a founder. You have to anyway. If you can’t convince someone to come work for a company with the limited resources, you’re going to have a challenge as a founder anyway. So, yes, the cost of engineering is going to go up a little bit. But now every founder starting a company, whether that company fails or they pivot or they move on, knows they have an opportunity at a significantly important tech job in New York that’s not at a bank, you know, that will continue their career. They can bounce around.

Rob Pegoraro [00:10:46] Banks are all saying their tech companies to the right. The banks are saying they’re tech companies to. Sure. Uh, that didn’t seem to be like sure. That’s right.

Tejpaul Bhatia [00:10:57] Right.

Brandon Greer [00:10:59] So there’s also like a lot of like accelerators and incubators popping up on campuses, right. And so that’s a really interesting pocket of people to to leverage to. So one thing we would see at Cornell, where there’s a pretty thriving tech community, both here in Manhattan but also in Ithaca, is, you know, folks would partner outside of the university. So whether other students at different schools or, um, you know, founders who had had fundraising experience, things that, you know, you just wouldn’t have an undergrad or even your grad program, supplementing those skill sets is something that you can probably bring to the table. So if you raise capital before you sort of have an operations background, want to lend it to folks who are who are sort of new at the game of building a startup, that’s also a huge opportunity. Right. So I think it’s a it’s a way to sort of leverage the scale of an accelerator that someone like, you know, NYU or Cornell could bring, but also kind of add, add and whatever your expertize might be to sort of build together. But but that’s that’s sort of what what I’ve seen so far in general. Like I mean, you know, what becomes an investable company is a company that has managed to keep its costs under control in relation to the revenue it’s generating. Right. And so one of the key ways of doing that is obviously the sort of costs you incur for talent. So getting creative, particularly at the early stage, you know, when you are really on a budget is one of the core ways to become optimally investable. And that’s something that doesn’t always strike people at the outset.

Rob Pegoraro [00:12:21] You use the word compete, which immediately made me think about Norn can be Claus’s another person on the East Coast with strong opinions about technology. Senator Elizabeth Warren has come out for her saying, let’s ban these things, let’s hold them non-enforceable as they are in California. How much of an impediment are they really? To someone who’s got a job they maybe don’t love, but they like to do a startup, but they signed the non compete, so they either need to move or work in some other field. Is that a real problem here? It’s above my pay grade. And I don’t know. Uh, uh, I’m not I’m not asking for any endorsements of any candidates here.

Tejpaul Bhatia [00:12:56] I’m not a lawyer, although I lawyered a lot for my startups, which I regret. Uh, pay your lawyers. It’s OK that they they earn it. Um, I would say if you’re working at a company, just be careful. You know, don’t be stupid. Don’t be working on your idea at the company on their computers. Read the contracts that you’ve signed up with. That said, most companies. Have departments where you can go and say, hey, I’m working on this and they’ll clear it. Google definitely does, we can do that for a whole bunch of things. If it is competitive, they’ll tell you. If it’s not, they’ll carve it out for you. But I also think if you’re just careful of not doing it on company time, company resources, you should be OK.

Brandon Greer [00:13:45] Just curious, just the room, so how many folks are founders in the room? Good for you. Make most people in the room, so I don’t know if you’re safe from that, but yeah, I mean, the other thing I think and I don’t know if this is in your question, but one of the the key things that he thought or thinks about is sort of the exit story. I mean, you know, you might set out to become the next public company, but obviously thinking about the landscape of places you might consider exiting to or working with, partnering with, there are now like tools. There are some some folks actually in the back, a company called Crossbeam, that helps you better understand the overlap you might have with potential customers that can help you understand like marketing, could help you understand sort of partnership opportunities and begin to force rank how you work with partners. And that’s an important thing to do because you have sort of a finite number of calories you can dedicate to your partnerships. And you’ve got a small team and you’re the partnerships person, even as a CEO or whatever. Knowing how to smartly go about partnerships is a really good way to do it. There are now technologies out there to help you do that. But back to sort of the exit point, we don’t corp dev. So Corp Dev obviously encompasses ventures, which is my world, but it rolls all the way up to strategic M&A and, you know, full buyouts. Right. And so having a sense of the companies to which you could exit or for which you might be a super strategic acquire, sometimes it’s not always for the technology. Sometimes it’s for you or for your team and their expertize they built, whether it’s in the world of graphic design, tooling or reporting, whatever it might be. Um, you know, just getting a sense of of that landscape is super helpful, too. In the earlier you do that, the better you can sort of position an angle, which is which is sort of a unique thing you can do with the density of legacy companies out here that are also looking to kind of reinvent their wheel a bit to kind of hedge against the next next wave of whatever. Right. So you have companies like the eyes of the world that are building these, you know, sort of old school product information management solutions. And then, you know, they have to think pretty actively about sort of what’s next. Right. So if you’re what’s next, make that clear. And I think that’s something that we can we can do a lot better. Yeah.

Tejpaul Bhatia [00:15:51] So, Brendan, I’m glad you asked how many founders are in the room. I believe the title of this panel is leveraging the startup ecosystem. Um. I think it’s an extremely important thing for our founders to do to get whatever advantage you can to be as resourceful as you possibly can. You don’t want to because you want to focus on your business. But I’ll give you some insight on what that means from a corporate and from when I was a founder. When we look at a city and we decide if it’s one of those cities we’re going to go to, we look at five types of partners that we think founders can utilize. I’m going to add a sixth, which is the corporate Google and other big companies, including banks and and whatever the industry is there. But it’s the venture capital firms, the accelerators, the coworking spaces, the universities and founder communities. And we look at the penetration of those five in each market. And we’re doing it from a corporate standpoint because we’re trying to go to where the founders aggregate. But as a founder, if you can leverage your university or the university in your market, the coworking space that you choose, other accelerators, investors, there’s a lot of things you can do in terms of getting talent and capital and customers, like I mentioned. But there’s also a lot of serendipity that forms in those communities. And it’s really important as a founder to have that there’s no guarantee it’s going to give you a significant advantage. But another thing that you were asking about what we’re not doing right on the East Coast is the ability of that serendipity. Again, specifically talking about Manhattan. You’re not in a car. You’re walking around. Look up every now and then, don’t you? Don’t put the phone down. It’s OK. I first of all, I recommend it look up. It’s amazing. There’s a sky and there’s architecture, but literally just pay attention. Like, look at the faces you see there, people you’re going to see around say hello. And you never know. Like it’s going to sound like a cliche story, but a number of times one of my stories is about to fail. And someone looked at me and they’re like, you look like garbage. Why? And all my stories about the bill, what do you need? We’re running out of money. Sorry, I can’t help you. And then I get a call two days later. So weird. I was at dinner with this person and they said, they’re an investor, you should talk to them. And boom, that’s the next round of funding.

Rob Pegoraro [00:18:02] So at this point, I want to leverage the curiosity ecosystem in the room, by which you mean if some of you have questions, somebody somewhere has a mic or they’ll take one of ours. All right.

Audience 1 [00:18:22] Hello, my name is Cameron Williams, I’m the CEO, founder and CEO of a company called Ever WOAK. We do logistics automation. I’m just curious from a Google perspective, what does Google actually do for startups specifically? And, you know, what types of things can we leverage from a startup perspective because our entire platform is on GCP right now.

Tejpaul Bhatia [00:18:43] Awesome. Um, so that wasn’t a plant, but I will, uh, uh uh uh, first question. Are you paying me paying cash? So let’s talk after so the first thing we do, so I’ll give you, I guess my team is called Google Cloud for startups. We’re intentionally placed, we’re not in sales and we’re not an investment. We can connect you with both sides of our company. But again, we’re called ecosystem managers because you’re going to give us as ambassadors for Google out into the community, but advocates for founders inside Google. And the way we do that on our program is first through credits. So the first hundred thousand dollars a cloud bill can be covered by us again, not investment. Is credits only helpful if you’re on GCP, which you are second is training. So making sure you and your team have all the tools and resources your business needs to be successful. And third is community. Obviously here in New York we do a ton of stuff. But I mentioned those eight ecosystem managers. I’m the only one that’s pretty hyper focused on one market, but they’re global. Regional. We joke that my coverage area is 14 square miles, but my counterpart in Singapore is 14 countries. But we give you access to a global community of investors and founders and gigglers that can help you. And it’s unprecedented access inside Google for a startup to have a human connection inside Google. It’s not that Google doesn’t want to provide that connection. It’s not that they don’t want to help startups, but the scale that a company like Google works at, there’s maybe 50 companies in the world that spend enough money with Google to get that kind of attention. So it’s a big signal for Google to be doubling down on startups and on New York.

Man in the background [00:20:32] Get to the back here in a second.

Audience 2 [00:20:35] Hi, uh, my name is Ivan from generated photos, um, you talk about what you can give to the community and I would like to ask what you want from the community and what are your results? Uh, both of you, uh, your team skew results. What are you hoping to get from from us?

Brandon Greer [00:20:57] Yeah, so, you know, you’re talking to people who both work at your relatively sizable companies, obviously not nearly the same size, but at this point, both building out ecosystems, HubSpot is relatively new to what Google is not. And part of building an ecosystem is having a diversity of providers. Right, so that you know what we can’t fill or what we can’t do for our customer. Someone else can. And so that’s why we have hundreds of APIs that you can build on top of and create these integrations with your product. And that’s something that you really should lean into. Right. So before I even started in Corp Dev, I was building out the ecosystem of integration partners. And so, you know, you can actually see if you build a super elegant integration to Salesforce or into HubSpot to Google and you’re the only provider that does what you say you do and you sort of get good marketing around and create more community around the use case. It can be a really meaningful source of revenue for your business. Right. And it’s almost free distribution. Right, because you’re listed in a marketplace of a large provider. You know, let’s say you play in a very niche space and you target, you know, a specialized industry or something like that. It’s a good way to sort of get that scale and visibility. And I think, you know, any any large provider would benefit from that, too, because on our side, you know, the sort of peek behind the curtain is that selfishly for a large company, the reason why they want a lot of integrations is because it creates a stickier customer experience. Right. So if you become a system of record, you know, has a lot of data and I’m Salesforce or I’m HubSpot and I’ve got you wove it into six or seven different applications all pinned to my company, you know, your churn risk is materially lower, as you might expect. And so that’s actually the that’s the rationale behind Eco-Systems, is that ecosystems actually allow folks to fill to fill gaps that aren’t on the road maps of the other companies. And if you fill those gaps, you become a part of that journey. It’s not to say that you’ll always be a predicate or derivative play of the company, but it does mean that you actually can ride that wave with them, which is which is a really nice thing, you know, sort of the early stage of a business life cycle. So it’s a really like a good way to sort of get in there and get in there early. There are a lot of companies that are, you know, at that sort of, you know, beginning to be that sort of unicorn stage. And they’re building those ecosystems out. If you can get in there when when the marketplace is just beginning to form there, there are a lot of million IRR channel stories that come out of that. Um, so just something to keep in mind.

Tejpaul Bhatia [00:23:21] Yeah, it’s a very good question when a big company is saying, hey, I’m here to help. Well, what do you want from me? So those three things I mentioned, the credits, the training and the community, a lot of times founders will say, what’s the condition? And there is no condition. There’s no contract use. It don’t it doesn’t matter. Right. It’s only valuable if you’re building actually on Google. But let’s be honest. Why would a company like Google do this? Right. What’s what’s the motivation? And. Well, let me let me take I’ll give you my personal motivation, which is it makes me feel good. Selfishly, I love it. This is this is amazing for me. I was a founder for a long time. I like helping founders. I’m glad I’m not in a sales role that I can be helpful to everyone. And where that aligns with Google is Google Cloud is the biggest bet that Google has taken since Google. And I don’t know if you’re following the cloud market and it’s growing extremely fast. The market’s growing extremely fast. Google cloud is growing extremely fast and a lot of the focus is up at the Fortune. Five hundred. And that’s right. That’s where the trillions of dollars are happening. But then one of the future enterprises are the startups now. And Google has a history of playing this long game, usually with open source, with technology and developers. But we know that if you work with us and you have a good experience with us, whether you’re built on Google or not, you’re going to be hopefully successful in this startup or the next one of the one after that. And we want you to have that good experience. And if you’re doing well, that means we’re doing well if we’re working together. So it is a very nice, symbiotic relationship. And I do feel it is about the ecosystem and seeing how those ecosystems evolve and how we can actually show a tangible result because of us being part of that ecosystem.

Audience 3 [00:25:22] Um, thank you for sharing, our view is very helpful. Um, so as entrepreneur, we when we talk to the investor, we also began asking a question about, uh, how about if Google will do this? You know, if the big giant will start to enter the playground you are in, what’s your advantage? And you guys are in the ecosystem. You are helping the startups, but also to accompany your views are very innovative. Company inside must be like incubator labs. You are doing the same thing. How do you balance that out? And the question a second question is, we are a startup. We try to reach YouTube for a particular API calls because we will launch our new version and we need 10 million calls per day. But we couldn’t receive those feedback. Basically, we have to jeopardize our functionality for next version, how those things can be resolved. Sounds good. I just want guys your attention. Thank you.

Brandon Greer [00:26:29] Number one. Yeah, I mean, so, um, you know, frankly, there’s never been more of, like, an existential threat to start ups when you think about just like the the large players out there, which is why you see little political campaigns being formed around the idea of breaking that up. Right. And it makes sense. The the thing there is, um, that will always exist. Right. Like, we did not know that Amazon was going to buy Whole Foods like like those are those are outcomes that you kind of can’t quite predict. Right. And so those are those are sort of God mode, existential threats that I wouldn’t predicate your business on, just that I wouldn’t be in that mindset. I think in general, knowing the the landscape of large players is the super smart thing to do and knowing how you would work with them, think about their gaps, think about what they’re doing wrong. Think about segments that they’re actively not targeting. Right. All these companies, big and small, have sales teams that target certain segments and look with the ones that they’re not. Right. And so what’s the what’s the rubric that your your investor and I know this is dipping a little bit into sort of investment criteria, but that’s also also my world. Right. And so, you know, we we literally have this rubric and there are seven criteria, maybe, maybe 10. It’s market opportunity, its value proposition. It’s competitive differentiation. It’s economic momentum, it’s exit landscape. And these are all things that on each of those vectors, you’re going to want to have a clear answer on how you compete. Right. Because any company only exists in three markets. It’s a product market, a talent market and a capital market. Right. And so, you know, on the product market side, how are you doing? How does your product compete on a talent market side? Why you why your team and on the capital market side? You know, for me as an investor, as a potential sort of partner for you, um, what’s my endgame here where this is headed? So I think getting in that mentality of sort of the viability of the business, even even in the presence of a large incumbent, is the way to think about it.

Tejpaul Bhatia [00:28:23] Yeah, I would say, you know, you started the question with, well, a VC will say to me, you know, take the VC OUT first hand. What’s your answer? Right. Clearly, if you started this company. There’s something wrong or right about you, and we can debate which one it is that you believe, that’s not an issue, right? Otherwise, you wouldn’t start this because why wouldn’t it? Sure, they can stop. Go back, get a job like that. You don’t think that way. So if a vote is asking you that, have a good answer. I can give you some talking points if you want one of your advantages, speed, passion. There’s a ton of studies done about the large corporates doing everything, and there’s a lot of startups and unicorns that have taken one sliver of it and made a space for themselves. So looking at those gaps, so I wouldn’t let that. Bother you or deter you if you’re getting to a point where it’s a real concern, then you’re doing something very right.

Rob Pegoraro [00:29:25] And with that, we’re out of time. We’ll see you all out on the street, the subway, hopefully not on ninety five to all the startups in the room. Good luck.



What does it Take to be a Successful Entrepreneur in 2019

Michael Dermer, Author @ The Lonely Entrepreneur

Ascent Conference 2019

[00:00:06] We’re going to talk a little bit today about what it really takes to be an entrepreneur in the year twenty eighteen, and I’ll share a little bit of my background and get a little bit into hopefully insights that you can walk away with that can help you in kind of your endeavors, either being an observer or supporting them at the Lonely Entrepreneur. Our mission is really to try to turn the passion of entrepreneurs into success. And that’s, as we all know, easier said than done. Our mission to do that stems from kind of a long, sordid story that we like to call the perfect storm. I started my career as a corporate lawyer for a big New York law firm, literally a block from here, Willke, Fong Gallagher doing M&A. But I was looking to start a business and I didn’t know what it was. I was looking for something big and interesting and strategic. And this was in the year 2000 when there weren’t events like this. And Google for startups and dot, dot, dot. So I stumbled upon and started what got to be known as the first company in the US to reward people for being healthy. Somebody said a statistic to me one time that for every 10 pregnant women that don’t follow their prenatal care, it cost the health care system a million dollars. Hold on. Wait a minute.

[00:01:14] So if you just bribe these women gave them ten thousand dollars each, the system would save nine hundred grand. And people said yes. And we said, what about heart disease? And when we went down the list, we found that that the medical community knew exactly what they wanted to get people to do. They just couldn’t do it. And in every other consumer industry out there, they were using reward programs. So I left a big cushy New York corporate law job after three years and a lot of education and started the first company to reward people to being healthy in the early days. Not only was that company existent or that concept non-existent, it was offensive. The health care industry said we are never going to pay the people money to do the things that they should be doing.

[00:01:55] And we said, no, no, it’s just it’s just math. So for the first five years of our company, it was incredibly lean from twenty two thousand five from 2006 to 2008. We grew like crazy. You know, we had evangelized it for five years. Companies had gone through this long, long period of time of not getting diabetics to do what they needed to do and pregnant women to do what they needed to do. So we took venture capital in 2006, grew like crazy to twenty eight, and in twenty eight we had made it all of our it was a software license business. All of our clients were the biggest health plans, Medicare, Medicaid and the largest companies in the country. And we watched the company that we had built basically over 10 years to that point, literally get cut in half overnight by the financial crisis are 60 million dollar business with just north of five hundred employees literally got cut in half. My three largest clients at the time were Washington Mutual, Countrywide Financial and General Motors. Here’s a trivia question. How many of those exist today? One, and they would they have existed without a government bailout? Maybe not. So software license business, incredibly profitable that we had built on our backs, basically gone. We spent the next two or three years battling and scrapping clothing like a lot of people did. My family had invested a lot of money. We had private equity. So there was a lot going on at that time. And we just battled and scratched and clawed for the next two or three years. Learned a lot about bourbon. So if anybody’s in the bourbon tasting business, I’m your guy. Angell’s envy if you’ve never tried. And we were just fortunate enough after about two and a half or three years to kind of stabilize and start to grow again. And then on the other end of the financial crisis, everybody was like, oh, my God, we’ve got to fix health care. And we got approached by some folks that we knew when we got bought. And it worked out terrifically, but it was an incredibly wild ride. And after that, I was just chilling, you know, ten years of building, three years of craziness, two years of M&A and just relaxing. I live about 20 blocks from here in New York City and was just helping entrepreneurs for fun. And one of them said to me, being an entrepreneur, really lonely. And I was like, mm hmm. And so we started this little company called The Lonely Entrepreneur. And in our effort to really help people turn their passion into success, you know, the one thing we all share is the struggle. But what does it really take to be passionate? And this not a new thing, but what does it actually take to get there? So hopefully I can try to learn some insights, because as you can imagine, over the ten years of building a company, we learned a lot in the two years after the financial crisis was like twenty years of learning. So hopefully we can share some of those insights. First is really understanding the the entrepreneurs or the emerging companies leaders perspective. And here’s one lens that we think about it. We call it the four PS. We are always under the influence of these four PS passion. You’re like, you know, I have these amazing meatballs and someone’s like, well, wait a minute, we live in New York City. There’s plenty of meatballs. They’re like, know not my meatballs. Right. Pressure. We’re maxing out our credit cards. We’re putting our family at risk. Right. We’re doing all these things pleasure. We like. To kid around and call this, you know, you have all these first kisses, right, your first business card, your first customer. Right. I hope people at IBM are high five when they get a deal. But it’s not like when you have your first whatever and you feel that pleasure. And then the pain right now, when an investor tells you that your business is not that interesting, it’s literally like they’re calling your baby ugly and you’re always under the influence of these of these four PS, but you also experience all of these other things that we don’t really talk about. No one no one cares as much as you do. There are actually people out there talking about their children and vacations and sports. And we’re like, what are you talking about? Like, isn’t it? It’s all about my business. Right? But no one will ever care as much as you do. We feel overwhelmed all the time. There’s things that we’re going to talk about that will hopefully help us. But that’s just the common feeling we all feel. We get advice from people that will say, just go to the movies, just take a weekend off. Right. And people are like, what are you talking about? Like, you just don’t understand. And it drives us. It drives us crazy. Your balloon is full. This is one of my favorite. And you see it all the time in the startup pitches. Somebody will an investor will ask a question in the audience and the person on stage literally can’t even wait for the question to come out before they start just like spewing.

[00:06:23] And it’s almost like if somebody had said to me in twenty seven. So do you prefer Mike or Michael, I would have given him a half hour on my pricing model. Right. We just have so much energy that’s built up over time that the balloon, the air has to go somewhere we always have and feel like we have one hundred hours of work and ten hours of time. Right. Constantly. We don’t know who to trust. We actually think we should trust the brokers that business investors. That’s silly, so and so many people are helping, hurting, supporting, and we just don’t know who to trust. We also feel that everyone else around us sucks, right? I brought in a marketing person. I have somebody working for a university and this person is working for equity. And they’re like, I’m the CEO. And they just handed me something that five mistakes in it. And like, we just think everybody around it just doesn’t have the same focus or attention that we have. And finally, you know, we’re at a tech conference here.

[00:07:20] So many people have a unique skill technology that they’re building. We’ve heard about amazing technology here. There are a doctor there, a fashionista. Right. But like it or not, you actually have to be a CEO and that might have not when you were bargained for.

[00:07:35] So this is the whole context that we all feel, plus many, many more when we’re in the struggle and the journey of being an entrepreneur. But there’s a little bit of a of a fallacy that I think we have to help each other get over. And this is what it’s really like in the year 2000 nineteen and into the future first.

[00:07:52] Passion, grit, and a good idea is not enough. When I started, it was plenty. Right, rewards for health care. Nobody is doing it if I just run into that wall harder than the next person, right? I’m good. Today, you need passion, grit and a good idea just to get on the ride, but it’s not enough. OK, number two, we actually have to develop skills as entrepreneurs. And a lot of times we don’t talk about it this way. Right. Think about any many moms in the audience. Right, when you had your first child, did you wake up the next day and go, Wow, I’m amazing at this mom thing, or you’re like, I might actually kill this little human being. Right. But what do you do? You learn you get better. Any golfer’s. Right, do you just go out there and hit the crap out of it all the time and stick it to the right, you work at it. But for some reason, as entrepreneurs, we don’t think of this as developing developing skills. And finally, while we as entrepreneurs almost always lack capital and resources, we don’t lack the ability to think differently. OK? And this is the context that we, in my opinion, that we have to learn it.

[00:08:58] So let’s think about some of the things and some of the ideas that I hope can be helpful in being a successful entrepreneur in the year 2013. First we call this at the Lonely Entrepreneur Finding Playground’s where no one else is playing.

[00:09:13] And we believe that this is by far the most significant skill you can have as an entrepreneur. If you think about it, we all have access to capital. We have access to the same technologies. We can all do social media. So why does somebody win and somebody not win? It’s not good enough to have a unique selling proposition. Right. You could all open up your email right now and there would be a legitimate hundred million dollars in there for you and you wouldn’t even see it. It’s not just about creating a unique selling proposition. Take my old company rewards for health care right at the time. Anybody want to guess at the time this is your two thousand how many loyalty programs the average American was was enrolled in. Any guesses? Two. Twenty seven.

[00:10:03] People are doing reward programs all over the place. All we did was apply it to health care and we were the only game in town. OK, we have to fight really, really, really hard to find these playgrounds where nobody else is playing. If you think about Starbucks. Right. When Starbucks started, it’s a really dumb idea. There’s coffee everywhere. It’s inexpensive. And here in New York City and places like Seattle, it’s pretty good. So here’s the plan. We’re going to go and we’re going to get a billion dollars of real estate. We’re going to put on every corner. And if nobody buys coffee, we’re stuck with a billion dollars of real estate. That’s a really dumb idea, but what they did do, if you remember back in the day, they created a community, they said, come here and meet your friends, come here and meet your business partners, actually plug in and stay. Don’t even buy coffee. All they did was find a playground where nobody else was playing it, and the reason why this is so important is because everybody has competition, everybody has access to more capital. If it’s big enough, if anybody in this room has an idea, it’s big enough. Apple and Google care about it. Right. So how do you actually win, you actually have to find we call it a plague on a niche where you define it first. If you’re going to go start a PR firm, your friends will say to you, great, there’s a there’s a conference for PR professionals at Jacob Javits next weekend. You should go. Why would you ever go where everybody else is going? You have to find playgrounds where nobody else is playing. And when you do do that, you get to define the rules. Now, what I’m saying is really hard to find and it gets harder and harder each and every day. But for you to go and follow others that have more capital than you do is really, really difficult. You have to fight and scrap and claw and try to find that playground. And if you do find that playground right, you get to define the rules. You get to define how it prices and everybody else follows you. What I think is the most important skill positioning is more important than product. I remember back in the beginning of my company, all the developers used to say we hate Microsoft products. And everybody use them. They were just better at positioning it. OK, if I if somebody from the fashion business came and said, I’ve got this amazing red dress and they took that red dress and they walked up 5th Avenue and they went to Saks and Bergdorf and Bloomingdale’s and DataDot and said, hey, guess where the amazing red dress one of those retailers is going to say? We’ve plenty redresses.

[00:12:40] But what if you took that red dress and made it part of a personal shopping experience for every new banker and lawyer that started in New York City?

[00:12:49] You’d be the only red dress in town. OK, my company rewards for health care product already existed.

[00:12:56] There were loyalty programs everywhere, rewarding people for taking behavior. We just applied it to health care. So as much as we as entrepreneurs have great pride and should have great pride in the products and services that we’re building, sometimes we have too much of an emphasis on that, right? If we build a great mousetrap, that’s what matters when positioning is, in many cases, more important than product. Next, you can’t chase every customer. We all, as entrepreneurs, myself included, would chase revenue anywhere in the early stages of our company. And it seems like the right thing to do. Well, if there’s revenue on Saturn, then I just got to get some money to get an Uber to Saturn and I’ll figure out how to get the money right. But that has some really systematic problems for us, number one. Right. We don’t learn, right. If we don’t focus on a market, we’re always bouncing around. Think about this. Every single market that you go into in an early stage company, there’s going to be challenges. What you’re doing is unique, right? If every time you go to a customer, you say, well, that’s not really working and you shift to another customer set, you’re basically starting over, right? You don’t learn. You don’t create efficiency of your sales process. You don’t hire the sales team or have the marketing pitches that apply to a certain market. Right. This is a really, really hard thing to do because in first, we don’t know exactly who our customer is, but there’s huge fallacies in trying to chase every customer as opposed to trying to stick to one and getting really, really good at, OK, why build a rocket when when there are plenty. My company today rewarding people for being healthy. I would actually not build today. If I started that today, I would take the concept and I’d go to American Express and I’d say, you already have a broad platform, right? I’m just going to do a deal with you. There are many, many, many cases where large organizations have capital and resources but lack the innovative ideas that can really be groundbreaking. So sometimes it doesn’t make sense to build your own rocket and do seed and do series A and build your team and get to a million in revenue.

[00:14:59] Sometimes it’s better just to go find a strategic partner that already has rockets sitting, setting aside in the shed. OK, next. No what inning you’re in. Any baseball fans, Yankee fans. I hope I missed the meaning the inning we were in.

[00:15:15] So we as founders and entrepreneurs often have a belief in what we’re doing. I believe that everybody I mean, today, everybody does. But I believe that everybody within five years would reward people for being healthy. OK, I thought we were in the fifth inning. We were actually in the first inning, and if you get that wrong, you don’t line up your capital the right way, you don’t line up your people the right way. And so I brought in capital early and it took us five years what I thought it would take us three years to do. And that’s where those four P’s I talked about before come into play, you know, because we have passion and belief in what we’re doing right now. We go of course, people are going to reward people for being healthy. OK, but but sometimes we just get these these innings wrong. You really have to try to be to be candid with yourself. OK, couple more investors. For those of us like myself that came from the M&A world or those of us in the audience who are from the investing community, we’re all used to all this. We’re used to series A, we’re used to dilution, released to safes, you know, all this stuff to an entrepreneur, this is literally like landing on another planet.

[00:16:22] I mean, it’s literally like a brand new language that certainly we learn. I mean, you will have somebody that will go sit with an investor, have two investor meetings in a row, 15 minutes apart, and one investor will say your ideas to different and the next will say your ideas not different enough. This is really hard. OK, so there’s things that you have to learn about approaching investors, right? First is they ask you a question, how many people, when they go talk to investors, say their product or service is awesome. Everybody does anybody go in there and say, my stuff sucks? So what do you think investors do, they just tune out to all this, OK, so what’s a better way to say your product or service is awesome? You say, listen, I think what we’re doing is pretty cool, but talk to these three customers. You know, we just got our name in the paper. Talk to this employee that just joined us from Google. Like, don’t don’t talk to me. I’m biased, right? Go talk to others. And the more you let them talk to others, right. The more credibility you get as a leader. OK, second is. Bring up your weaknesses and tell them how you’re going to address them. How many times have any of us sat in front of something? We’re great at this. We’re great at this. We’re going to Google Google. We’re going to blankety blank and blank. And investor just goes, I don’t want to invest in this person. Go up and say, I think we do this really well, I think these are the things that we’re going to need help with and we’re going to take your capital and do an X and Y and Z to address those weaknesses. These are really counterintuitive things like don’t tell them you’re awesome. Tell them what all your problems are. OK, but remember, investors see a thousand of these, everybody says they’re awesome. And another one on this, don’t you? Superlatives like don’t tell your investors that your customers love your software.

[00:18:12] People don’t love software. They love their wife. They love their dog. They don’t love software.

[00:18:17] Right. So so some of the ways you express yourself. Right. You have to be really mindful of how this comes across next. I coming out of college was a college baseball player. I was an M&A lawyer. I was a boy. None of that screams humble. And I got dumped on my butt by the whole financial crisis and probably the greatest gift. All that is to realize that when you’re actually running a company, while you have to have an incredible dose of ego to tell people, like in my case, tell a health care industry that they’re going to do things completely differently than they had done before. That ego has to be balanced with the humility to understand that you have to learn and get better every single day. If you walk into Barnes and Noble right now, you go on Amazon. How many books are there about being a CEO? Not one. It’s hard, right, and so you actually have to really embrace the journey of getting better, no different than a mom would write, no different than a mom would go. Of course, I’m going to get better at this every day. And if I have a second child, they’ll be better at it. Right. You really have to bring the humility to understand just how important just to learn on a Day-To-Day basis. What goes with that is knowing where you need help. Right. Some of the best leaders understand what it’s supposed to look like, like they understand the universe.

[00:19:40] Right. And then they go, what am I good at? What am I not good at? What do I like? What I don’t like. There are technologies that literally will stay up 24 hours a day and write code and be thrilled about it. All right, but if you ask me to do a financial statement, they’ll want to jump off the building. OK, you have to know what you’re good at.

[00:20:00] You have to know what you’re not good at and you have to know what you like and what you don’t like, because how many times have we seen founders and entrepreneurs go, you know, I’m just going to lock myself in a room and learn finance when you could literally go to NYU and get an intern for free. Delp, you do your financial status, OK, a good amount of being happy and fulfilled through this struggle is understanding what you’re good at and understanding what you what you like. Next is managing the chaos of the day. OK? For some reason when we’re entrepreneurs, we think that as soon as we put the little E on our chest that we’re allowed to be morons, like we’re allowed to just throw out the window. All the basic business concepts we learned, as if we as if we didn’t work in a larger company. Right. If you walked into IBM and you said and you did your strategic planning session, somebody said, I have an idea, we’re going to do everything. I’m going to do everything today, they would just take you to your desk and walk you out of the building and they’d never hear from you again. But as entrepreneurs, we’re like, I can’t prioritize. Right. There’s certain things that you have to be able to do as an entrepreneur that are really counterintuitive. Part of the managing the chaos of your day is certainly setting priorities not just for the day, but overall, everybody says, well, you got to set priorities.

[00:21:11] And a lot of entrepreneurs say, no, I can’t, which is just wrong. OK, you have to do that. But even within the context of your day, how can you take your day and make it more efficient? So a couple of different things. One is do the hardest thing first thing in the morning. I mean, the stuff that really requires your brainpower, like when my company was crumbling and we were working 24 hours a day. Right. And we were barely sleeping for years, like first thing in the morning, you had to do the stuff that really took the most the most brainpower. Secondly is picked the five things you’re going to do that day.

[00:21:47] And don’t worry about the 95 five that you’re not going to do. OK, if you think about the ninety five, you don’t do to ninety five, of course, then you don’t do the five well and you feel it, you feel like you’re swimming in quicksand. You ever seen the movie Apollo 13. Right. And spaceship is blown up and everything’s going wrong. And Tom Hanks, his character is trying to keep them aligned. And I think it’s Kevin Bacon character says, well, what does this happen in the heat shield and the thing and the thing and thing? And Tom Hanks says, listen, we need one hundred and eleven things to go. Right. We’re on number six. Work the problem. As entrepreneurs, we always have one hundred hours of work and 10 hours of time, go to work, pick the five things little, leave a little time for number six. Right. But don’t worry about the nine to five that you’re there not doing. And then finally and kind of the last thing is, is not evaluating your life in the middle of the fight so many times as as entrepreneurs, you know, this is hard and so many times as entrepreneurs, we never evaluate whether we want to be an entrepreneur. When we just win a deal, like let’s say you say you come back for an investor meeting and you said, yep, we agreed on valuation, we’re signing tomorrow, we’re gonna have ten million dollars. I’m going to sit down now and decide whether I’m going to be an entrepreneur or not. That’s never when we do it. We always do it when shit goes bad, right? When we lose the deal, the employee leaves. We lose the big customer. That’s not the time to evaluate your life. OK, you absolutely. We you know, anybody who’s entrepreneur knows this is hard. So especially in technology, right. You absolutely have to evaluate whether you feel fulfilled. But that should be on a weekend with a with a friend having a glass of wine. It’s not on Tuesday afternoon when your investor told told you that nobody else will ever invest in your company. OK, so evaluating your fight in a middle matter in your life, rather, in the middle of the fight is not productive in any way. And if you think about these ten or so insights, these are a lot of these things are really counterintuitive, finding a new playground. Right. Not chasing every customer, saying these types of things to investors. These are once some of the many skills that that we really believe that you have to develop as an entrepreneur. Because remember, the context of what we do is not only it’s difficult, but why is it difficult? There’s obviously a lot of reasons, but one of the main reasons is that that the competition is intense. More and more people are doing it. Capital can come from anywhere. We in this room could lock the door was an amazing idea. Have a website by the time we left right. And we walk out and say great and find out that somebody just did it in China an hour ago. I mean, it’s unforgiving. So how do you actually apply some of these techniques? Because if you find a playground where nobody else is playing right, it doesn’t matter that people that people do the things. Remember, there were people in twenty seven loyalty programs when I started my business. OK, hopefully these are some of the techniques that can help us have a better chance of success that range from going to market to to how you manage your day. And finally, you know, obviously the experience that that we went through was somewhat unique, not that others didn’t go through the same thing in the financial crisis, but what it really made me realize is that is that being an option is not a job, it’s an identity. And when we wrote the Lonely Entrepreneur book and we were telling this whole story when this when this really came to life for me was when I was trying to write the ending. And it turns out, unfortunately, my my father was very sick and he was in the hospital and I was with him and he was dying. And I remember, despite all these emotions and all this terrible stuff that was going on around us, there was they would put an oxygen mask on his face every day and it fell off every day. And it was like somebody. Can work, just get in here and can somebody just get in here and come up with an oxygen mask that actually stays on the like, what you realize is that, you know, being an entrepreneur is not a job. It’s an identity. And if you really embrace that as an identity. Then you embrace the learning that goes with it and hopefully each and every day you you don’t just rely on passion, grit and a good idea. You actually develop the skills it takes to be a to be a better engineer. So thank you very much for listening. I’m happy to take questions. You can find lonely entrepreneur, lonely, outspoken and all over social media. So I’m happy to take questions.

[00:26:11] Thank you very much, everybody. I appreciate it.





Nailing your First 100 Hires

Maren Kate, Founder & CEO @ Avra ; Matt Hoffman, Partner/Head of Talent @ M13

Ascent Conference 2019

Matt Hoffman [00:00:02] Welcome, everyone, we are we’re thrilled to talk about building and scaling organizations and nailing your first hundred hires, arguably the most important hires you’ll make regardless of what size you are. So to start, I’m thrilled to introduce Maren Kate. So Maren is an entrepreneur, a writer, and probably most important and relevant to this one, a pigeon fancier. So Maren scaled her first venture back, Sarepta, over 400 people. And she did that by leveraging a diverse workforce and creating strong, healthy, resilient cultures. Now she’s CEO of Avra Talent, which is a recruiting firm that’s focused exclusively on growing organizations and companies with vetted remote talent across the country.

Maren Kate [00:00:43] Yeah, thank you, Matt. So Matt’s a partner and head of talent at M13, which is a venture firm with studios in L.A. in New York. He’s responsible for working with their portfolio companies to help them scale their teams and accelerate their cultures. Hence why we’re talking about this today. Previously, Matt was VP of people at Digital Ocean, where in four years he nipsco the organization from under 100 people to over 500, which is definitely tough. And then prior to that, you spent some time leading people ops at Return Path, which was named one of Fortune’s best places to work in the U.S. So that is a little bit about us. Yeah, just to get started, as we said, nailing your first hundred hires, which is obviously or not obviously necessarily, but definitely one of the most important things as a founder you can be obsessed with, especially in the early days. All right. Well, first, talk about culture.

Matt Hoffman [00:01:39] So it’s not necessarily intuitive to think about culture when you’re thinking about hiring. Right. Especially at the early stages. There’s this desire to just fill the roles as soon as possible and everything is going on. There’s just this kind of sense, this this urgency to just hire the next person and hire the next person and hire the next person. It’s very active. Right. And it makes sense. But what we’re here to argue is that thinking about culture from an organizational perspective is actually one of the most important things that you can do to scale and elevate your hiring process. Right. And so what does that mean? It’s around. What do we want the company to look like? What do we care about? Where do people work out of? How do they connect with each other? What do we reward? What do we promote on thinking about those things? May seem like a really big company problem, right. But it actually is something that’s even more important at early stages, like I imagine most of you are at, because when you’re really small, every single person that you add is actually a huge percentage of the company. And so being really thoughtful about who you’re adding and why and issues around, how do you add to the diversity you have? How do you make sure that people share the values? That’s not something you do later on. It’s actually going to do really important really early on, and it’s more important to do that. So when you’re hiring, what are the values that you care about and how do you make sure that you’re asking questions that will help assess or ascertain whether someone shares those values? How do you think about things like working from home, working in the office? What kind of hours do you keep? What type of behaviors get rewarded, what’s acceptable, what’s not acceptable? Building that into the early interview process, asking questions about how they think about that is one of the best ways that you can build a really healthy organization. And the more that you have those conversations up front, the easier it is when you’re the CEO for have other people do it right because you want everyone to share that experience. And building a healthy, cohesive culture means everyone knows what to ask and when. And so having questions about that and really having those conversations early on will actually make you hire and scale much, much more quickly.

Maren Kate [00:03:44] Yeah, and just to kind of outline what we have here to the four ways to think about it is leading with a big vision, because if you don’t know, if you’re not clear about where you’re going, it’s even harder for those early people to join and to get behind that vision. Everybody be driving in the same direction. And then, as Matt said, the core values, even your V one core values are really important as you’re bringing on your cultural co-founders. These people that are going to be building your company with you operating principles is another really important one. There’s an amazing book by Ray D’Alessio called Principles. It’s pretty thick and deep, but if you spend time going into it, the first year or two of your company can make a great difference in how you think about operating and how everybody aligns the same way. And then, of course, as you said, environment in terms of whether you’re a company where it’s really important that you you have a lot of face time. Maybe the founder is the one that stays ladies. Everybody doesn’t leave before he does versus a remote friendly or a remote first company. And that actually ties directly into hiring because once you get this set, it will turn off people who aren’t into that culture, but it will really get people excited who buy into your vision. So hiring really is it’s a formula, it’s similar to sales people think of sales and build out their funnels and put a lot into your product roadmap. But often when we’re thinking of hiring, especially in the early days, we don’t necessarily feel the same way. So hiring starts out with I mean, sourcing is an important part. And then the recruiting funnel is an important part and we can go through each of those points. But do you wanna.

Matt Hoffman [00:05:30] Yeah, having a standardized process early on will help you do that. We talked about the framework and understanding. What do you want your company to look like? What do you want great talent to look like? And how do you create the container and a system to do that? But having a document process around the way you source do you just go through your network? Do you just go through your PVCs network? Do you only take in inbound candidates? Do you take the time to look for passive candidates? Those are intentional decisions that are worth making overall because they help expand the pool, they create more diversity and they give you different types of talent rather than what’s faster. Having those conversations where you care about is really important and working with amazing recruiters like Narron. Are you doing things internally or being an external recruiters to help? And then as you go through each stage of the funnel. Right. What is your application process look like? Where do you have consistency? What are you screening for? What are you looking at? Do you do coding tests? What are those feel like? Are they in person or are they online? How do you check for culture fit culture? Add again some of the things we talked about earlier. Then when you dig in deeper in the organization, once you’re here, what does that look like? What are the questions doing that work up front and making sure that you’re focusing on? Can they do that technical ability? Have they worked at a scale that’s relevant to what you’re doing in an industry that’s relevant? And then do they add to the culture? Those are all really important things to understand what that looks like and checking each one of those across the process.

Maren Kate [00:06:48] Yes. So with hiring what I’ve learned over the last decade and change is it’s first really important to start with kind of the end in mind, like thinking through what’s the why behind this role. Often when we take on some venture money or start to grow organically, we think, OK, I need an X, like I need an operations person, I need a digital marketer. But you don’t instead stop, take a minute, step back and say, what are the business goals that I want with this role? So break those down into objective outcomes. Those objective outcomes will be super clear, like this person will grow our user base from X to Y or this person will put together OK and roll them out all across the country, our country, across the company. And when you have the objective outcomes, then you can build a compelling job description and the job description will actually take pieces of the vision and the culture you had. And it’ll tie into this specific role. A great hack that I’ve suggested to people in the past and used myself is if you haven’t hired for a role or done the role yourself. Tappa domain expert. So this is somebody in your network that’s really good at one thing. So digital marketing, maybe their technical product, lead your hiring for a role similar to that, get them a coffee, buy them lunch, maybe even offered him to pay for an hour of their time and get them to vet what you think you want versus what you really want. It’s some of the best money you can spend.

Matt Hoffman [00:08:17] It’s such a it’s such a great point. One of the biggest mistakes that I’ve seen Early Stage company makes is they hire for the person they hire for a very specific need instead of figuring out what is the company need, what is the organization need, what are the success metrics and the outcomes we’re trying to do and it hire for that. So build out the organization and figure out what gaps need to do rather than just I need this person, I need this person. And it’s a much more strategic view that will get you a better long term stability. And that’s where you can really bring in outside expertize to say, oh, you need to do this. Here’s a good way to do that. Here’s a good example of what good looks like. And you can assess your candidates in that way.

Maren Kate [00:08:51] And lastly, with hiring a big mistake we all make sometimes is referring too much on referrals. But you really want to have this tripod effect. You want to do outbound sourcing, which is you or someone on your team going through angel list, LinkedIn going to meet UPS, then you want to have inbound, which is just putting your job out there and putting it on job board aggregators like ZIP recruiter or specific job boards like built in New York that are very tied to a specific thing. And then the last piece, be referral and you want to run all three of those at once. That’s incredibly important. And the one thing that huge take away, if you take anything away from the hiring portion of this is reference checks. Make sure when you’re close to the end of your process with a few candidates that you talk to, people they’ve worked for, people they’ve worked with and people that reported up to them, that shows a ton.

Matt Hoffman [00:09:45] Yeah, there’s a huge difference between how people show up in interview and how they show up in jobs and you can design really good questions, etc. But actually speaking to people who’ve done that is a really helpful way. Getting that 360 perspective do in a transparent way, always let people know who you’re speaking to and why, but getting that objective. Perspective is really important.

Maren Kate [00:10:02] Absolutely. And the third stage.

Matt Hoffman [00:10:06] So a lot of people think that the hiring process ends when they sign the offer, and that’s that’s actually not the case. In fact, the biggest way that you can set up a great hire for success is never really thoughtful onboarding system in place. Right. And it makes sense if you think about you spend all this time, all this money to get them in the door. And then so many companies, especially early stage, just leave them to their own devices or it’s like, here’s your computer if you’re lucky. Right. Here’s your email. If this if it’s set up and then you’re not really showing them how to do it right. And so you want to really make sure that you’re investing the time in setting them up for success. There’s a couple of great ways to do that. The first one is, is to be really clear about what success looks like in the job and the same way that an employee would have, you know, a performance feedback conversation after a certain amount of time. And you want to set goals. You want to make sure that any new person joins has a clear understanding of what good looks like and that you or the manager is having regular feedback conversations to get them completely aligned with what success looks like. Right. And taking the time to, you know, in the way that we said think about what success looks like when you’re starting the hiring process. Now that you’ve done that work, share that with the person you hired. Right. And then how do you make sure that they fit into the organization or set up success? Right. We’ve seen great success results come up with a buddy, someone who’s been there for a while and kind of understands the unspoken rules and norms about how to operate. And the company helps them figure those things out. That works really well, making sure they understand the unique language and unique culture and your organization, that stuff that doesn’t just happen. You really want to be thoughtful about helping people understand what that looks like and how to communicate and how to be successful in the organization and then give them access across the organization. What tools do they need? What systems do they need? How do they connect to the right people? Some of the best onboarding processes I’ve seen as a person will have their first two weeks laid out in a schedule before they even get there. And it can feel overwhelming like you get in, your email is full and you’ve got all of these meetings, your calendar, but you also know that you’re setting up the time really, really well. So they’re meeting with all the key stakeholders as soon as possible to really give the context and the framework for all of the things that are going to be learning from. So they’re not just drinking from a fire hose, there’s a container around it. There’s a framework that helps them be much, much more successful.

Maren Kate [00:12:13] Yeah, absolutely. So just kind of in summary and then we’ll open up to questions and figure out your culture first, spend the time and energy it takes to make that at least a version, one your culture will change over the next five, seven years. But get that version one and that should be you, your co-founders. Early employees put together a hiring process and follow up whether you’re hiring an intern or a VP of Ops. That’s incredibly important. Make sure you’re doing your reference checks at the end. And then lastly, like Matt said, get onboarding down to at least basic science where people feel engaged, involved, and it all should tie in. At the end, they were going to be productive members of your team.

Matt Hoffman [00:12:56] That was our Rapid Fire. We know we set this up as a Q&A. I want to make sure we have time to do that. So please ask us lots of questions.



Why New York and Other Non Bay Area Cities are Primed to Take Over the Startup & Venture Scene

Sydney Thomas @ Precursor Ventures, Peter Boyce @ General Catalyst, Rob Pegoraro @ Freelance, and Allison Williams @ Newark Venture Partners

Startup Grad School Stage
Ascent Conference 2020

Allison Williams [00:00:00] Eco-System and what we say it MBP is. Thank you, Newark, for allowing us to kind of by being outside of New York, it allows us to think about investing differently. And we we make our own rules. And a role that we’ve had since the day the firm was founded is that there are great entrepreneurs everywhere. You don’t have to be in one of the hub cities or to be a really excellent founder. So from the beginning of our fund, we really have had a strong outbound marketing effort. We do a lot of reach out to founders. A lot of that’s through email, cold calling. And sometimes it is when we find a great entrepreneur actually educating them on the venture ecosystem and showing to them, showing them the opportunity. And many times we were the first VC capital into the company and we’re really proud of that. And we have a very are we invest in firms all over the country, all over the world. We want to be one of the top seed funds in the world. And we know we need to invest in founders everywhere in order to do that. And some of our best investments are in places that are really considered out of the ordinary. And it’s proven our original thesis is true, that there are great founders of the world.

Rob Pegoraro [00:01:24] I grew up in New Jersey, I am not unfamiliar with the notion that New Yorkers regard the Hudson River as a very, very wide body of water. It’s an ocean.

Allison Williams [00:01:33] Yeah.

Rob Pegoraro [00:01:34] Peter or Sydney. Who would like to.

Peter Boyce [00:01:39] I’ll hop in for a minute, you know, we our firm is founded in Boston, you know, and so, you know, kind of that we can talk about that kind of incredible ecosystem of founder talent and how that’s evolved over the last few years. So I think it’s kind of been in our fund’s DNA, that part of why we have multiple offices. We’ve been doing partnership meetings over Zoome, you know what I mean, for a very long time. Right. And so so I think that’s one. So it’s, I think structural to our firm. And I think the second piece is a number of our portfolio companies have had either satellite offices in addition to their existing headquarters, wherever they may be based, and also just fully distributed teams. And so, you know, we’re investors and companies like get lab and remote dotcom and others kind of prior to the last six, seven months. And so I think it’s been interesting and exciting to hear the way founders of basically kind of been invited into this notion that, oh, by the way, now that we are not thinking about geographic barriers in the way that we were, we can actually make that engineering higher in Bogota, Colombia. We can make that higher in Austin, Texas. We can put someone into business and in Charleston, South Carolina. And so I think that the rise in the merits of distributed teams, I think it’s also something that’s just been kind of amplified in this moment, but it was something that was preexisting. So it’s really just accelerated.

Sydney Thomas [00:03:01] I would I think the thing I have to add is, you know, we had been investing in companies that we thought we haven’t met before. I think, though, that where we’re still finding it difficult is, you know, I just got off a call with somebody in Minneapolis yesterday whose company I really love, but we had no luck, no type of connection to him. And so we didn’t have any other founders who were in Minneapolis. We didn’t have any other investors who we knew who are in Minneapolis. We I’ve only been to Minneapolis once. And so I think like four founders who are building in places that are so far removed from anybody at a firm. I do think that’s still a structural challenge because for us, what we want to make sure to is that once we invest in the company, that because we don’t do traditional background checks, we think those are kind of just what’s the point, people? It doesn’t really show us that much, frankly. And so what we were what we’re still trying to figure out is how do we make investments sight unseen with people who have that removed from us? I mean, we’ve made investments in other founders who we’ve never met, but who may be a founder in our portfolio or maybe an investor who we know knew. And so that kind of like bird, I guess, like. Two to three people removed, but never like five, six person that lived in that, I think is where where the chasm is that we’re still looking at. We’re still trying to figure out how we how we close it.

Rob Pegoraro [00:04:38] If it makes you feel any better, I have not been in Minneapolis either. I do feel bad about that. Any city that has given the world, both Prince and the Replacements, clearly some place I need to check out at some point. So I’ll try to get to it. Twin Cities next question I have may upset my Bay Area in-laws a little bit, but what is actually so bad? They they usually have pleasant weather. The skies have been kind of orange lately. It’s a nice place to live. Bagel supply is not quite as good here. What are the competitive disadvantages that we think other cities can take advantage of because they have something different to offer? US one on one certainly comes to mind. I hate that highway.

Peter Boyce [00:05:22] Totally. You know, look, I think there are two things that I think are interesting, maybe compliments to the way folks are thinking about company building right now. And I think I think it’s, you know, ends up being anchored in just the ways in which, you know, personal and professional, everything’s kind of gotten blended. I think one is the you know, is the cost of living, you know? I mean, like, I think there are some toggles on that front or just, you know, the set of lifestyle factors that I think everyone is trying to integrate right now, whether that’s space in your home to help educate your child, you know, so that’s the priorities that you can get that done. I mean, like in Wyoming or wherever you want to go as opposed to where you may have been before. So I think that’s one which is just the cost of living calculus, which I think is really important. And then I think second is, you know, there is this notion around, I think, proximity and access to diversity in industries that you want to have a relationship with that I think are interesting right now. Right. And so, look, I think that’s one of the things that’s been so powerful, the company building in New York, which is you’ve got you know, if you were interested in building at these intersections, which I think, you know, so many great technology companies do, whether it’s education, fashion, financial services, places like New York and kind of offering you that talent, offer you those commercial relationships. And so I think in areas where, you know, beyond just beyond kind of engineering talent, beyond software, but how that remix intersects with some of these other industries I think is getting kind of, you know, kind of uncoupled right now, becoming much more available. And I think that’s one of the things that’s gotten us always excited about as New York is an ecosystem because you have so many of those industries here.

Rob Pegoraro [00:07:05] We want to make a case for particular cities, I know Alison does, as where startup types and investors should be taking a look at where maybe they had overlooked before.

Sydney Thomas [00:07:22] I think, you know. I’ve gotten really excited about Austin. I know that’s actually not actually even like weird to say anymore, actually think Austin is becoming one of those other ecosystems that is just as built, just as built as the, I’d say, some of the ecosystems outside of San Francisco. So like in Oakland, I would say that Austin feels like Oakland to me. I also obviously keep for Oakland. I think it’s just a really amazing city with a lot of talent. And, you know, we’ve also done investments in Baltimore, we’ve done investments in Florida. And so I think what’s been so interesting to see is how different I think ecosystems, particularly under the pandemic kind of to Peter’s point, because they’re surrounded by different industries, they are sometimes getting some really exciting tailwinds from kind of like this all e-learning stuff. So the investment, for example, in Florida was a is a tech company and they are just booming right now.

Rob Pegoraro [00:08:39] Where In Florida.

Sydney Thomas [00:08:40] They are in oh, my gosh. It’s not it’s not like a Miami or Fort Lauderdale. So that’s why I can’t.

Rob Pegoraro [00:08:46] Orlando?

Sydney Thomas [00:08:47] Its not even Orlando. It’s a tiny town. But there’s but what they’ve been able to do is take advantage of because they’re kind of a small fish and also a small pond. But then Florida itself is a larger pond. They’re the only folks within maybe 50 hundred miles from these huge universities that are looking for support with their e-learning programs. And so I think that has been really interesting to see there two.

Allison Williams [00:09:18] So my answer to this question is a bit obvious, I think, but, you know, Newark, New Jersey is an amazing city and we feel that it offers many advantages to our founders. I mean, for one, cost of living is is much better than what you find in Manhattan, where else? Only an 18 minute train ride from New York City. And then I want to also mention that there’s actually incredible corporate space in Newark. It’s kind of a little bit of a hidden secret. And it’s because of these corporates that New York venture partners exist and where we have one hundred million dollars under management and we’re mostly funded by corporates based in Newark Audible and our W.J. being two of them. But a variety of others you find on our website and across our LPs, we actually have five hundred mentors who have volunteered their time to support our founders. So it’s a bit of this big fish in small pond. You get a lot of attention and there’s so many resources that are provided to our founders and they’ve added has added a lot of value to our portfolio. The thing I’ll add to that is, you know, we don’t mandate that our companies are based in Newark. We expose our founders to Newark, and we hope that they see the benefits and perhaps some amount of their team based in the city and out of our portfolio of eighty six. Thirteen of our companies are based in New York and we think that that’s great. I think with covid, it kind of has made that question a little bit of a moot point. And I think that’s really interesting. So, you know, a founder can be based wherever and, you know, it just it’s less of a topic, I think, today because of covid. And I think that’s that’s really interesting. And I’m curious to see how that changes the venture portfolio makeup going forward.

Rob Pegoraro [00:11:05] I will put in one personal plug for Newark. When you get out of Newark, Penn Station, walk into the Ironbound neighborhood, go to the Portuguese bakery, is going to pass the not so good. So, Peter, what’s your nomination?

Peter Boyce [00:11:17] You know, it’s interesting. Look, I go down to Austin for board meetings, for our voices. We got great companies there. So I love that. You know, we were investors in jet dotcom. You know, you can create a few billion dollars of enterprise value in New Jersey. So I miss going to those board meetings in Hoboken. So we love both of those cities. We’ve been so unbound in our evolution as a firm precede through late stage financing across verticals and across geographies. Now, you know, if I would say that we’ve been really excited to see talent, I mean, across the country, you know, and honestly across the globe, you know, I mean, that would be maybe part of my answer here, too, which is just, you know, if I if I look at the roster of companies that we’re spending time with, I mean, they are you know, they are in definitely in Oakland. I would agree. You know, we’ve been seeing definitely interesting talent in Florida. And my little brother lives in Orlando, so I wouldn’t mind being on the board there to see him. That would be fine. Toronto has been really interesting as well. There’s a good community. There were investors in a company called Flash Food that scaling really, really well there. You know, I also think that, you know, I think we’re in the early innings of seeing what the next cluster is going to become. I’ve been really intrigued by what’s going on in the Carolinas, you know what I mean? Like, I think that it’s not getting talked about a lot. I mean, but it’s like so I’m excited about that. I think Atlanta, you know what I mean, already has an existing thriving ecosystem. You’ve got companies that have scaled there. So you’re going to have talent that’s going to be able to recycle. You’re going to have angel investor community. So I think Atlanta is going to get enhanced. But but if I’m being honest, I mean, we’re just we totally kind of uncoupled our lens and our aperture. And I look at my calendar. Look, it’s it’s this is the most varied and diverse ever. And it’s it’s so exciting to not I mean, in a way, exciting, maybe not too exciting. There’s no there are no travel budgets, you know. I mean, there’s a calendar, right. Like I mean, there’s there’s none of that. So you can basically take the pitch from the entrepreneur that’s in DC or Virginia and that’s what’s taking place.

Rob Pegoraro [00:13:34] Yeah. Toronto is definitely interesting case to watch because I’ve heard people there say we have an advantage because we don’t have U.S. immigration policy. So the people you won’t give visas to, we tell them to come here. Ivan Watson is not about.

Peter Boyce [00:13:48] Yeah its a whole lot more story. So true.

Rob Pegoraro [00:13:53] so Sydney’s comment about the start up in a small town in Florida, is there a reason that cities have to win this? Because in theory, any place, as long as you have a fast broadband, no data cap, it could be small towns wherever, where I guess you maybe can focus a little more. Is this automatically something where a city still has a built in advantage?

Sydney Thomas [00:14:19] Oh, that’s a really good question. I think it’s one that I think about often and I’d say kind of like taking out kind of the founder or like investor. It’s just when I talk to my friends who are talking about where they’re going to live, all of their questions are around. You know, is this just a blip? Is this is is are things going to go just back to back to what they were like maybe like a year, I guess six months ago, nine months ago? I don’t even know how long in maybe another year or two. And so should I take the big leap of buying a house in maybe Wyoming or Minneapolis or, you know, a small town in in North Carolina when like maybe in two years I’ll just be on the plane again to San Francisco or just be on the plane again to Atlanta. And I think that’s kind of what we’re all in right now. There’s not really we can’t as much as we’re trying to we don’t really know, you know, the future. That’s why this stuff is so. But you don’t really know what the heck is going to happen in the future. You just kind of make guesses and make your best hypothesis. And so I think that’s the eternal question. But I think regardless of whether or not somebody from Oakland moves to West Virginia, which is where my mom is from, I still want to find other communities in West Virginia of people who are interested in building tech companies, who are interested in getting some sort of support from technologies that could help them switch jobs for maybe they were a coal miner and they lost their job. They need to figure out how to get how to get trained on each back. Like those are communities that I am deeply interested in, regardless of whether or not, you know, like my best friend who moved to Oakland decides to move to West Virginia.

Peter Boyce [00:16:19] Yeah, my quick thoughts. I spent time with a early stage New York founder this morning, we were talking about how invigorating it feels to be here in New York because there is this sense of kind of mission and alignment and togetherness, you know what I mean? That we feel. So I’m really excited about that. What that’s going to hold for for all of us on this call. You know, one of the things that the way that I think about that question, Rob, is every town in every community is going to be a software community that is the world that we are heading in. It’s not it’s not going to go in any other direction over time, like in twenty one hundred, you know what I mean? Like, every city is going to be a technology city. So I think it has to do with just like the time and the acceleration. And that’s what density affords. Right. And I think what we’re talking about in a way is that San Francisco has 20 plus years of density kind of ahead of where New York is in any of the other cities that we’re talking about. So I think it’s almost like just where are these cities in these communities, like on the timeline in a way, and just realizing that we’re all heading in. What’s super clear, though, is we’re all heading in one direction, you know what I mean, which is software is our universe that we live and operate in. And so so I think it’s just almost just like a matter of time and how quickly these cities in these communities evolve. But I would say you I think wherever you’re choosing, you know what I mean, to be in business today, I think it’s kind of been proven that you can do really great business. I mean, from wherever you may be sitting in the world, whether you’re sitting on the beach in Mexico, you know what I mean? Which is something we can talk about how fantastic Mexico is and like how great the engineering talent is there. Or, I mean, whether you’re in Virginia or New Jersey or anywhere. So I think it’s just a matter of just time and speed and density.

Rob Pegoraro [00:18:10] So as a Virginian, I have to ask I’m speaking to you from Arlington, where, of course, we have we’ve placed a large civic bet on Amazon HQ, too, in the hope that not just will have a lot of jobs created by Amazon, but all the companies that will rise up around it except Amazon types will start their own startups to have a sense of, you know, have we have we spent our money wisely in our civic capital?

Sydney Thomas [00:18:40] That’s a hard question, maybe Alison or Peter can answer it because New York was the one who decided not to

Allison Williams [00:18:47] Yeah, no I think I think it’s really wise. In fact, Newark was really trying to get the second headquarters in the city of Newark, which we felt made a lot of sense for for many reasons. And you see, with with covid, it’s just it’s accelerated the growth of Amazon. And we’re seeing we had we had been investing in the theme of the death of brick and mortar and the rise of e-commerce and the technologies that power that. And it has been an acceleration of that trend. So, I mean, I think having Amazon or Amazon headquarters is great will bring a lot of jobs and create an ecosystem around it. You know, and it’s unknown about the future, too, you know, as things things open up, you know, geography will mean more. So, you know, I think it’s kind of a little bit of unknown time right now. Yeah. It’s great for someone to move to wherever and work remotely with their team. But, you know, there is a benefit of being close to your team and communicating face to face. I know new venture partners. You know, we miss working in the same space together and there is some benefit there. So, yeah, I think it’s obviously a huge win for you guys and it’s very exciting.

Rob Pegoraro [00:20:02] So last question I have here policy, are there any policy moves we should steal from California? The one I’m thinking of is they don’t hold non compete clauses enforceable. Anything else we should steal from our friends in the Golden State.

Sydney Thomas [00:20:18] OK, well, there’s one that’s not a California local issue, but this is I think it just actually is getting overturned today where insurers are no longer going to support telehealth, essentially like appointments. And so you can’t use copay for telehealth equipment. So if you’re if you’re communicating with the doctor, I’m in Oakland and I’m communicating with the doctor who is not licensed in California. They’re licensed in Virginia or New Jersey or somewhere else. Previously, there is a law that actually would not count that doctors visit. Like I actually need to meet with a doctor who is licensed in California for it to get kind of like credit to my insurance. And that’s currently, you know, that was completely dismantled at the beginning of covid. And now we’re seeing it kind of like go back to previous to what was said previously. And that scares me because I think that was ridiculous. I should be able to talk to any doctor and they all went to the same schools. My dad is a doctor. He went to school in Colorado and now he practices in San Diego. But he why does it matter? Why can’t he why can’t he practice on patients who are in Colorado? And so that’s one of the things that I think is really silly. And we’ll just continue to erode access to health care.

Rob Pegoraro [00:21:44] That sounds like a good thing to fix. Hopefully we can come back next year and talk about how all of our cities are doing that much better as startup hubs. Thanks, everybody, for watching.

Allison Williams [00:21:55] Thank you.

Peter Boyce [00:21:57] Thanks again for having us.


The Life Cycle of a Startup

Cheryl Contee, CEO @ Do Big Things

Startup Grad School Stage
Ascent Conference 2020

[00:00:00] Hello, everyone. Good morning or afternoon, depending on where you’re tuning in from. I’m so excited to be here at the Ascent conference and thank you for joining me. I’m Cheryl Contee. I am the CEO of Do Big Things to Big Things is a digital agency that specializes in providing the world’s leading causes and campaigns and corporations with the new narrative and new tech that week for the new era in which we all sense that we’re living. And I’m here to talk to you about another company of mine. Attentively, attentively, as far as we know, is the first tech startup with a black female founder on board myself to be acquired by a Nasdaq company. Blackbaud And I want to tell you more about that story and also talk through the life cycle of a startup. I think that especially for those of you who are either new in your startup or you’re thinking about launching a startup, this isn’t always something that’s fully articulated. And I know it was helpful for me when someone spent that took the time to walk me through it. So I call it Riding the Mechanical Bull because I wrote a book based on my experiences called Mechanical Bull How You Can Achieve Startup Success. But more on that. All right. So attentively, what was it? Well, it was a tech startup is a tech startup, of course, that’s still alive over at Blackbutt. But many of you probably may use now marketing, automation or social listening tools and attentively was a tool that brought together social listening, influencer engagement and marketing automation very much geared towards non-profits. So here is our team. We never really got bigger than this. We were small but mighty. And because you might notice something a little different from us, it’s pretty it’s pretty chick to stick in there and diverse. We worked hard to have a startup that looked and felt a little different. And because we looked different, we had even though we were small as a team, we had a lot of visibility, particularly in our space. And here you can see we got a lot of coverage and a few awards which were delightful y attentively was acquired in twenty sixteen and I actually that was of July twenty sixteen and my son Collin was actually born in August twenty sixteen. And I like to joke that he’s my new startup. I don’t have an exit strategy yet and it seems like it’s like a twenty year runway or something like that. So what happened was. Yeah, you know, we saw my my business partner and I Rossland, she also goes by, you know, we saw some of our peers in the causes and campaign space who were also entrepreneurs launching their own startups. And they said, wow, you know, they don’t they’re not smarter than us. You know, they’re not more talented. They don’t have a better idea. You know, surely we can do this. And so that was our plans were like, how hard could it be? Bliss sometimes is ignorance. As you can see, for those of us, particularly those of you who are in a startup, I mean, it is rough. You know, in the book I talk about the fact that, sure, it sounds great, you know, being your own boss. Right. And working from home in your pajamas, setting your own hours. And the reality of the situation is that, look, you know, instead of one or two bosses, when you launch your own company, you have tens of thousands, millions of bosses, and those are your clients and customers. And if you’re working from home in your pajamas, I mean, before in the before times before the pandemic, if you were in your pajamas, it’s because you can’t afford an office and you haven’t stopped working in maybe twenty four to forty eight hours. You know, there’s no time to for, for removing pajama bottoms. So look, if that still appeals to you, please, by all means launch that startup. But yeah, it can be rough. I mean you see like where it’s raining at the end and I mean absolutely like going through due diligence and the figuring out an acquisition. It is it is really challenging. However, I learned a lot from this experience and I definitely want to share some of that with you. So let’s talk about the lifecycle. So we already talked about, you know, are you really an entrepreneur? Does this really appeal to you? And look, starting your own business, it can be a great path towards a work life balance. Once you are successful, it can be a great avenue for wealth generation and job creation. That’s real, where you helped to create jobs for for not just for yourself, but for other people. But first, you have to have to have an idea. So maybe you have an idea. And sometimes I see this especially with minority entrepreneurs where they will hold on to an idea. They want to keep it secret. They’re worried that someone will steal it. Relax, OK, most people are not as ambitious, OK? They are not as driven. You know, they are not interested in starting their own business fundamentally. And they might be easier than you. OK, so they don’t worry about anyone stealing your business idea. Instead, you want to talk to as many people as possible about it, because that way you can start to focus group. You can start to attract hopefully investors, clients, team members, partners. You know, the more you talk about it, the more you’re actually going to get also some feedback and input and ideas that you can synthesize to then start to build that team. Right. And team a lot of people, especially women, especially minorities, you’re so used to being a team of one. And I get that. I definitely have had that experience where you’ve had to propel yourself fairly independently through life. And yet no startup is successful without a diverse team and diverse in terms of backgrounds and genders. Certainly all of the studies that I’ve seen show that diverse companies are more productive and they are more profitable. And I don’t know about you. I like making money. So that sounds good, but also diverse in terms of specialties. You might be the visionary, maybe you are the idea person, but then you might need a tech lead. If you’re building something, you need someone who knows something about manufacturing, who is your product or UX person, you know, who is handling sales and marketing, who’s crunching the numbers, who is your white haired advisor who has had some experience? Any investor is going to look for that that diverse and make sure you have a way to move things around if someone isn’t able to perform at startup speed and then you’ve got to make a decision. Are you bootstrapping or are you self funding? Right. You know, we bootstrapped internally. We we sort of hothouse attentively inside our former digital agency vision. But at some point it became clear that in order to really take the product to the next level, we needed some capital and it needed its own team. So that’s when we started to look for funding these days. That was almost ten years ago. These days, there’s a lot more funding out there, whether it’s angel investors, whether it is accelerators and incubators, whether it’s just straight up. Loans from places like Kabbage, there’s so many different places where you can get funding now or even the PPP, you know, if you’re lucky and then you launch, right. You’ve got to get it out there at some point and see you’ve got to get post revenue. There are some advantages to being pre- revenue. It’s all theoretical and it can sound good. But ultimately, you’ve got to start to get it out there, which is when you’re going to start to experience burn. All of a sudden, as soon as you launch the company, you get your funding, you launch the company, and every minute you spend, you are burning down your capital and you’ve just got to make sure that you make decisions as quickly as possible. I mean, honestly, you know, not even three months every six weeks reevaluate all your decisions because time is money and eventually you’re going to start to run out of money, which is when you pivot at some point in the process. And this comes straight out of lean startup. At some point you’re going to see after you launch your company. And angel investors know this better than anyone else that they’re investing in you, the entrepreneur, not necessarily the product, because the product, you know, its audience, its orientation might shift gears. And that’s OK. Take in all the data and figure out what is it that people really want? What is it what are they responding to in your in your marketing and your messaging and give them more of that. Everything else, try to weed out all of the chaff, try to sift all of that and actually just provide that, you know, that thing that people are really glomming on to and start to enhance that. That’s how you get to success. And then you’re going to start if you’re really successful, you’re going to start to experience growth, scale, traction, all of those things. Look, 90 percent of American small businesses fail in their first year. And of those, 90 percent of those fail in their third year. And so, you know, you’ve got to keep your eye on the ball the whole time. And studies show that a business that has maybe just a couple of employees looks very and acts differently than a business that has 12 employees. And that’s true. When you hit the number, say, between twenty five and thirty. That’s true when you hit 50 and on and on. And so you as a leader, if you’re really experiencing growth and scale, you’re going to have to figure out, OK, how do I reinvent myself and how do I maintain healthy culture and real revenue generation even as we’re growing? Right. And that’s a really great time to ask for help. You probably at that point will need to shuffle your management team a little bit. And that’s OK. That that is a good thing. And then finally, exit.

[00:10:46] Have you thought about your exit?

[00:10:49] And I tell I counsel entrepreneurs today to think as you’re launching the company about your exit strategy and you might think, oh, well, but this is my new life. This is my new career in this volatile world that we’re living in, the average startup tends to last or at least shift gears majorly within seven to ten years. OK, so that’s your horizon. That’s your window. Sometimes it’s five to ten, but usually in that five, seven, 10 year mark, you’re going to start to and there are only a few ways to exit. Right? There is failing, which again, is likely. We’ll talk about that in a second. How to handle that? There are there’s acquisition and acquisition comes in four flavors. There is. Maintain your dignity. And look, there’s no price on your dignity. That’s often called at a higher rate. You’re really just brought in because you’re you’re smart. There is. And then there’s new car. New house. Don’t have to work again for the rest of your life. And look, most acquisitions fall in those first three, and that’s fine. And then finally, the a sliver, maybe one to three percent of those who make it after their third year. So this is a very tiny amount. Might IPO, right. And maybe maybe that’s you and good on you. But that’s not necessarily going to be most people’s experience. Now, if you exit, if exiting for you looks like we’re going to have to shut this company down, it’s OK. It’s fine, because, look, you might think, oh, you know, and this often holds a lot of people back, especially women, especially minority founders, from going forward because they say, oh, what if I fail? I’ll be I will be l’chaim. My entire family and everyone who knows me. And that’s just not the case at all. In fact, in what most employers are going to see, someone who dare to dream. Who is ambitious, who performed at an executive level, you are now qualified for a much higher level of authority and executive action than you were before you launched your startup. So there is no failure here. There is only a trajectory up, even if you have to exit. So a few more points and then I’d love to start to take some questions. A few things I know for sure in terms of your startup boy, you have got to pick people who are ready to ride or die. I mean, you need to figure out your policy. My business partner and I look I mean, there are things she knows about me that my own mother doesn’t know. I mean, it is a very intense, very intimate relationship. And look, if it’s not working right away, you know, you should you should figure out, a, you should make changes, know don’t don’t don’t think that it’s going to work out because it might not. It’s different when you look different, the experience of the guy on the right and he seems like a nice guy is but is going to look really different from the woman on the left. You know, and I know that from from my own experience, that if you are you know, if you look different than your typical entrepreneur in any way, it’s going to take you much longer to raise money. It each fund around or even an acquisition round. You know, it takes six to 12 months minimum. And if you are a black woman looking for funding, not only are you likely to raise much like a fraction of the guy on the right, but it’s going to take you longer. And look, don’t let that hold you back. I didn’t let it hold me back. But you have to build that into your into your estimates. You have to build that. If it’s going to take you 12 months rather than six months to reach your next to complete your next funding round, that has real implications on your your roadmap for your product, for your payroll, for all of those things. And look, more people clearly need more resources. We can’t solve the problems of the future if we’re only tapping into a small group of people for the best ideas. Know if we want the amazing apps, if we want cool new products, you know, groundbreaking new services, that means we need to expand access to capital and knowledge of how to launch startups to as many people as possible. And that’s not just a moral imperative. That is an economic imperative.

[00:15:30] So here’s how I’ve created more impact via trying to create more opportunities for folks I launched some years ago. Yes, we code through with my old friend Van Jones of CNN. It’s now called Dream Core Tech, but I’m really proud of the work that they’ve done over there. It’s all about helping over one hundred thousand low opportunity youth of many colors to find high quality tech jobs. Because our jobs are amazing, right? More people should know that. Then I also wrote this Amazon best selling book, Mechanical Bull. It’s pretty funny. I used to in the before times, I called it a good airplane book, but maybe you some of you are still writing airplanes, not me.

[00:16:15] But, you know, it’s it’s funny, but it’s really packed with a lot of practical insights, not just for entrepreneurs, but for investors as well, because I know there are investors who really do believe in democratizing access to capital and bringing the best ideas and innovations forward.

[00:16:36] So check that out. It has a lot of my personal experience in it, but a lot of experience from other other founders, other investors. So some good stuff there. People often ask me, hey, Cheryl, you’re a single mom as CEO. When when on earth did you find time to write a whole book? I work with great media. Those guys are amazing. And I really recommend checking them out. And look, you know, what are you doing to help democratize access to capital or show that great ideas can come from anyone else? You, too, can ride the mechanical bull. That’s Ross Lemieux right there, my old friend Shewan showing us how it’s done. So thank you so much. I’m super easy to find after this.

[00:17:23] And I’m I’m also but also happily take questions from the chat. Do you guys have any questions?

[00:17:42] Otherwise, I will just keep talking. OK, well, until we get questions, I can I can tell you guys some of the frequently asked questions that I get if that’s useful. So I would say frequently asked questions that I get are, look, Cheryl, I’m more of a techie than I am a you know, a visionary. You know, I’m not really sure where to where to where to start. Right. With, you know, I don’t know how to network. And networking right now is a lot more difficult because of the pandemic. I get it. Know, it’s not like you can just show up at event. And for some people, that’s not very comfortable. The good news is that there are some really great spaces and social networks that you can see where you can start to connect and find people who are interested in the same things you are. Because I guarantee you there are people who, you know, they want to participate in a startup, but they don’t necessarily have the idea. Right. You know, they’re looking to join a team. So great places to look. Angel list for six are great places. There are so many. LinkedIn is a really amazing place. And if any of you listening are, I’m happy to connect with you on LinkedIn. Just tell me where where you came from that you were that you saw me on ascent. Otherwise, I think you’re just a random stranger and I probably won’t accept you, but LinkedIn can be an awfully powerful tool in starting to provide that access to, OK, who where is my posse? Who is my team? You know, not only, of course, team members to fill out your startup, those those archetypal startup roles, but also those folks who could be investors potentially or connect you to capital, because, look, this is really harmful for those folks who are, you know, minority, you know, like, look, you know, and I joke about I wrote a Harvard Business Review article that that mentions this and I mentioned it in the in the book. But look, if you’re if you’re a black or brown technologist or a startup founder, you’re probably already making the most in your family like there is no friends and family. Right. If I had gone around when I was launching my startup attentively, if I have gone around in my family and said, hey, I’ve got this cool tech startup, you know, social listening, marketing, automation, influencers, online, etc., here’s what would have happened. A whole bunch of people would have owed me twenty dollars. All right. That’s that’s all that would have worked. So you look, you have to do a lot more networking, you know, if you don’t look like the typical entrepreneur because you know that friends and family around, it’s just a nonstarter. And I do hope that investors listening, you know, really take that to heart because, you know, there are you know, if you’re coming from behind the eight ball a bit, you need more startup capital. You need more networking access. I think that’s something that investors can provide. The best investors are going to provide you with a lot more information than money. You know, the best angels really want to help you succeed, not just with their check, although that is a pretty big you know, hey, I believe in you kid kind of moment, but I really do lean on your investors to give you advice and to help connect you, including looking at, hey, do you know a tech lead or a manufacturing leader? I need a product person or I’m looking for my next. Is this the time to start? My next rounder’s is the time to start to look at acquisition partners. Another frequently asked questions. Another frequently asked question is, what about investor relations like how does that how does that best work? Well, you know, investor relations, once you have your investors, you want to keep in touch with them. Right. And I would we wrote maybe quarterly reports along the lifecycle just of like, hey, here’s how we’re doing, you know, and those were fairly lengthy updates. But another product with which I was associated, proud tangle. We helped vision. My company helped to provide the source code. Some of the early source code for tango and tango actually ended up being acquired itself by Facebook as part of its journalism project, which was really exciting because as minority shareholders, we also participated in that acquisition. But recruiting goals sent out super quick monthly updates that were maybe a few bullets. And I think those in a way, I think that investors really like that now. You know, in especially in your first round, you’re going to talk to an awful lot of investors, the great majority of whom are not going to invest in you. However, a lot of times when investors say, look, we’re not ready for this first round, but keep us posted, a lot of people think that that’s just nice. You know, they’re just being nice. You know, they say that to everybody, but that’s actually not true. Investors, generally speaking, are serious when they say we’re we don’t we’re not ready now, but we’d like to watch your progress. So create, you know, a special, you know, include them in the investor updates, you know, all those people who didn’t invest in you, because chances are if they see that you’re achieving growth and scale, some traction is happening. They actually might want to invest in you. And that’s something that happened to us, actually. You know, we got recommended that we had a major angel fund that actually turned us down in the first round. And then they came back around in the second round because we kept in touch with them and they ended up becoming major investors and helping to lead the subsequent round. So that’s something to keep in mind. And this is a relationship, you know, when people sign on for that first check, they’re actually they’re actually committing to making to writing more checks. And I think people don’t realize that. And then finally another. We only have one more minute left. People ask, well, when you say, Sheryl, I should have my exit strategy in mind at the beginning, what does that mean? That feels like I’m not committing fully own. And I know what this is about strategy, because when we launched attentively, we thought, oh, well, this isn’t likely to get big enough to IPO. That’s not likely to happen. If we’re successful, this is probably going to be an acquisition. And so along the way, from the very beginning of our process, we formed strategic partnerships and alliances with the types of companies, big companies that might acquire us. And look, an acquisition happens because, you know, people either have been watching or talking about your software, but more likely it’s because you have created these amazing relationships. All right. I think we’re out of time. I hope this was useful. I really wish you luck in your startups. Get out there. You can do it. If I can do it, I’m like the worst coder ever. I know you can do it. Thanks for joining me today and enjoy the rest of Essent.


The Art of the Killer Pitch

Precious Williams, CEO @ Perfect Pitches by Precious, LLC

Startup Grad School Stage
Ascent Conference 2020

[00:00:01] Today, everyone is showgirl, Precious Williams and I am the proud founder and CEO of Perfect Pitches by Precious and I want to welcome you. Welcome. We welcome you to Secrets of the Killer Pitch Master, The Art of the Killer Elevator Pitch. So happy to be here with you all today. I apologize if this isn’t going to be as interactive as I would like, but we’re still going to go ahead and move forward. For all of you who came here to learn about how to make a killer elevator pitch, this is for you.

[00:00:30] So here’s our agenda for today, we’re going to learn more about an elevator pitch, why do you even need one in the first place? How does it really serve you in your business, your career and even your life? Then we’re going to talk about how to use an elevator pitch to truly differentiate yourself in the marketplace. What makes you so different and what makes you so appealing to an investor, to media, to tech people to at networking is what makes you so juicy. And we want to keep the conversation going. And number three, since we’re going to take it from a regular basic elevator pitch, we’re going to go into what a killer pitch actually looks and sounds like. OK, so I hope that you all are with me and let’s go.

[00:01:15] So in case you don’t know anything about me, I am Precious Williams. I’m the the founder and CEO of Perfect Pitch by Precious. And yes, I’m a world class master communicator. I’m a 13 time national elevator pitch champion. My work has been featured, including myself and my clients. We’ve been featured on Shark Tank. I was in season eight and twenty sixteen. I’ve been on I’ve been a CNN Wall Street Journal, Forbes magazine, movies, documentaries, television shows around the world that have to do with business and pitching, you name it. I’ve been there and done that. I’m an international professional speaker, a serial entrepreneur, and I love what I do for a living, which is create a killer. Elevator pitches, media pitches, investor pitches, speaker pitches at interview pitches.

[00:02:06] And so you’ve come to the best. Why do they consider me the best? Because I am high. But Fortune 500 companies, corporate executives, nonprofits, foundations, successful speakers and entrepreneurs to have them. What has like, oh, competition. My secret sources. I really work primarily with women entrepreneurs, speakers and corporate executives. And I teach them how to be bad bitches with power pitches. Now, for some of you, you may think that that’s pretty crass. It’s really not as a champion speaker, as someone who’s been in the game twenty five years, I really specialize in teaching women how to get out of their own way and have to have the confidence to truly pitch themselves no matter what. And then also created a workbook that also helps you pitch yourself no matter the environment. You’re what I’m saying. And so I want you to have my contact information just in case something happens with the feed. Take down my contact information, take a picture. I want you to know that my website is w w w that perfect pitch is by precious dot com. You can reach out to me on Facebook at I’m at perfect pitch p on Twitter. I am at perfect pitch P on Instagram I am perfect pitches P in on LinkedIn. I am Precious L. Williams Killer Pitch M.. And so now let’s get started. Who is ready for the secrets of a killer pitch master? The art of the killer pitch begins now. So before we even get there, I want you to truly know that the secret to getting ahead is simply just getting started. What did I say? The journey of a thousand steps begins with just one. So many people out there are looking at Shark Tank and think that teaches you all that you need to know about fishing and it really, really doesn’t. And I want to share some of my story today, but I also want to share how you can move forward, no matter what, with the right mindset and also how to kill it every time you’re on stage, how to kill it if you’re meeting with an investor, how to get media attention on you, how to get the job or the position of your dreams. Let’s get it. Let’s go. So before we begin, let’s do some truth bombs. Let’s deal with them truck bombs, because before we could even get into teaching what a basic pitch looks like and sounds like, I need your mindset to be right to bomb number one. We can’t become who we want, but remaining who we are. I need you to take off everything that you feel has been holding you back, whether it’s family, career, past relationships. Take it all off right now. If you truly want to have a successful business, a multimillion dollar, multi hundred thousand dollar, multiple, six figure business, multibillion dollar business, you have to let go of all the things that hold you back. You can’t go to the top utilizing the same skills that they got you to where you are right now. So trust me, this is part of the pitching game. I want you to come out of the gate smoking, I want you to come out fighting for your position, because this is a battle, business is a battle, and I want you to fight to win. Do you hear what I’m saying? Truth Toubon Number two, don’t let someone dim your light simply because the shining in their eyes. Let me tell you something. I’m known as the killer pitch master, and I’m not for everybody. Some people love me because of my my audacity, my ability to always show up different, my ability to run different wigs, my ability to kill it every time I’m on stage or every time you hear me speak. I don’t worry about it from somebody else’s eyes only shining with the light that God gave me. So don’t if you have good news and you want to put it out there, put it out there, you’re not bragging. You are giving the most high. What is do so shine bright. You are born in abundance to shine bright like a diamond that you are. So let’s get into it, an elevator pitch, what is an elevator pitch, something if you are shafting the teacher here, but that’s not true. An elevator pitch is a short, brief way of introducing yourself, your business, your brand, your book, your product or service in a very unique way. What you’re really doing is giving your audience a juicy, juicy morsel of the full meal that you’re juicy morsel, not a little bite, but a morsel. And why do you want to do that? Because you want to keep the conversation going. You want to get to that next meeting. You want to get to that next phone call. You want to get to that next chick. You want to get to that sales call that’s going to that’s going to blow everything away. So remember, give them a juicy morsel of more to come. That’s why I pitched doesn’t have everything in it. It has the highlights that you want people to know about you, your business, your brand, your book, your product or service. How does an elevator pitch help you now in the future? The truth of the matter is when you learn how to pitch yourself on a short timeline, it really helps people know if they’re for you or not. And you will be wasting time on people who can never afford you or are not not right for you. So the minute you pitch yourself, like when I wrote the book Bad Bitches and Power Pitches, right. This book is for every woman is for the unapologetic woman who’s ready to step into her greatness. Does that mean every woman? No, some women are going to have a problem with the title. But remember, the book wasn’t written for everyone, is written for a very specific group of women. And once you learn that, remember, you’re not selling to everyone and you’re not trying to get everybody, you want to get the tribe to fix your book. How does it help you in the future? Because if people are hearing you today, they will start referring you to other people down the road. So make sure that your elevator pitch is crisp. You see that they really get you. And why does everyone need one? If you don’t have one? What you do is you keep saying different things every time you talk. And no one, no one has gotten used to your consistency. You don’t have a consistency. Why do you think when I interviewed. Here’s one of mine. Here’s one of my short pitches. Ladies, ladies, raise your hands if you want to be a bad bitch with a power pitch. Fellas. Raise your hands if you want to be a bad man with a master pension plan. Well, you’ve come to the right place. My name is Precious Williams and I’m a proud founder and CEO of Perfect Pitch. But Precious and I literally teach the art and the science of the killer. Elevator pitch, media pitch. Investor pitch, speaker pitch in interview pitch. Why why do Fortune 500 companies, corporate executives, foundations and non-profits hire me? Because I help them. What hashtag sle all competition. So if you’ve already tried the rest now you should try the best again. Precious Williams hashtag killer pitch master hashtag play no games, high stakes legal competition. Do you see how different that is. Is called pattern interrupt and being able to get people’s attention quick. Passing in a hurry. Quick pass in in a hurry. And we can say that over and over and over again, people will always remember bad bitches and power bitches. She specializes in pitching. I need her for elevator media or investor pitching. You see how different that is? What are the basics, the essentials of a basic pitch? So take it like you’re in an elevator and you only have at most 20, you must have like twenty one floors to go to floor. No one. Who are you? It was very clear that my name is Precious Williams. What do I do? I create a killer. Elevator pitches, media pitches, investor pitches, speaker pitches, interview pitches. What makes me unique? I am a 13 time national champion who is used pitching to get on top television shows along with my clients. My clients make me look better because they’ve done it to. So not only are you dealing with someone who’s been who’s been judge, you’re dealing with someone who can write it for you and show you how to do it, how do I do it? I do it. I do it through just I’m great at pitching. I’ve been a speaker since I was 16 years old. And so I’ve been doing this a very, very long time. And who does it affect? Mostly successful women, corporate executives, speakers and entrepreneurs. Do you see how quick it is? You want to make sure that they know that they know that’s quick, fast and in a hurry. That’s basic. So now I want to get into and I know that it seems like I’m flying through. It’s just that we have a certain time period. And I really thought I was going to have enough time to really get to you the way I want it to. So before we even get into the basics, the wood takes it from a basic pitch to a killer pitch. Let me share some things with you. This is only ten forty one.

[00:11:02] Pitching isn’t easy, but it sure is fun, is sure is fun.

[00:11:09] Once you learn the basic pitch, you can start taking it into overdrive, you can start getting people to really understand what it is you do and why they should be a part of what you do. It depends on what network that you’re part of. Every one of us is probably in a networking group. If you’re not getting referrals, maybe it’s because people don’t know how to help you. Make it easy, tell them what you need and make sure that your pitch really addresses certain pain points. Remember, if your pitch does not address any pain points, then you will be treated like everybody else, like you don’t matter. So it’s very important as you start building up into a killer pitch, then we’re going to start getting into the killer pitch. Now, here are some killer pitch tips that I want you all to know. And yes, this is me with the blond wig. This is at the Women of Color and Capital conference that happened last year. And this was an amazing, amazing conference. I so I stood on stage for six minutes. I got an opportunity to speak at Microsoft, and I think it was Merrill Lynch that day, I was on stage for six minutes. Think about that. That’s how great a pitch can be. So when you express your whys, why so important to remember? Simon Sinek wrote the book, Start with why. I don’t want you to start with the I want you to express your why. Why did you start your company, your organization or career in the first place? Why did you start it? What is the point of who do you want to help and why? It has to be clear who you want to work with. When you say I work with everyone, which is what most people say in their pitches, it’s a horrible thing for you to do. You don’t work with everybody because everybody is going to like what you do. There has to be a specific niche you want to fill, and once that niche knows who you want to fulfill, they’ll come to you. They’ll come to you and then you have to make it clear, why are you the ultimate person or resource to handle those specific pain points? Do you know what when they come to me? Do you know what companies and corporations come to me because they have a problem with messaging. They have a problem with attracting their target market. They have a problem with beedi attracting and securing clients, customers deals. They’re not just wanting to pitch for pitching sake, they have that real pain point, and I can help them with that.

[00:13:38] What is the pain point that keeps your audience up at night? You have to know that. You have to know what your audience pain points are. Remember the target market, not everybody. Women usually struggle with competence, so I have a thing that I call rock star confidence that I teach to women in addition to pitching and speaking. What is your unique selling proposition, what is it you do better than anyone else? What’s your secret sauce? What is that you see more so that they need to take away from your pitch? What is the thing that makes you stand out? What credentials do you have? What abilities and skills is that no one else possesses but you? What is it you have to express your watch. Why should you be chosen in the first place?

[00:14:28] Why you start it, why are you continuing it and why are you the ultimate resource? Make sure you express that in your page. Number two, you want to be a master storyteller. It’s very important that when you’re telling when you’re pitching that people know why you’re doing it. So I’m going to give you part of my pitch from Shark Tank. I know you want to hear that.

[00:14:50] Ladies, it’s Valentine’s Day and you finally met a man of your dreams. Know what time it is? It’s time to find some sexy, sexy, sexy lingerie to set the mood off nicely. But you weigh over 200 pounds. Was a big girl in the city supposed to do well for anything like me? That you went to Victoria’s Secret and you found out that they don’t even make a bra in your size. So then you would actually still reeling, right? He didn’t really like the selection finally as a last resort. She went to Macy’s, which is her black base in white again. Was a big girl supposed to do well? That’s why I created curvy girls lingerie at curvy girls lingerie with ultimate shopping experience before big divas and plus sized fashionistas. And just so we’re clear, over 40 million women less fortunate, larger in the United States, just like me and we all want pretty underwear was just about the most mainstream. Lingerie companies don’t create products for women my size again. What’s a big girl supposed to do?

[00:15:49] So I know what you’re thinking. Let’s talk dollars and cents, right? What time is it? Right. In our first six months, we cross six figures. How do we do it? With our innovative website. And then we created our own direct sales model. We had women actually buying into our company to be able to sell our launch right to their network, to our home party model, and then we go on tour with our lingerie. Every quarter to a different city, just to let them know what we’re doing in the marketplace, remember, curvy girls matter. And if there’s a lot of them out there, that’s an untapped marketplace. So sharks, if I were you, I would get on this train and let’s ride it out. When I tell you we celebrate curvy women and all that we do, we truly do. I started this company at three hundred twenty seven pounds and I’m always going to be a full figured diva and a plus specialist. My name is Precious Williams. They is Curvy Girls Lingerie. Thank you. So what did I do when I told a story? What was the story? I couldn’t find lingerie on my side of a red hot relationship. Is Valentine’s Day satisfying the audience’s mind of where you want them to go? Be bold, unexpected. When I walk Noshaq, I got a low cut, canary yellow peplum dress, extreme makeup and extreme apro. Why? Because I bring drama, energy and intensity to what I do. I am. I’m the killer monster, not a pitch master killer. I slay all competition. And number three, no, I study your audience. You may not know who’s judging you, but you have an idea if they’re funniest of their general at their finest professionals are general audience. Speak to that. But give them a story. Give them give you more juicy morsels to hang their hat on. OK, can you captivate, intimidate the audience? This I will run to very, very quickly because I think you all understand this. You must grab the audience’s attention in the first ten seconds of your presentation, which means that you have to ask a question, a startling statistic, a fact, something that stands out. Hold on a second. Excuse me, excuse me. And the reason why you want to do that is because you want to interrupt the pattern of everybody starting with my name is Precious. This is what I do. You don’t want you to come at it from a totally different perspective. How do we do that? I want you to be somebody nobody thought you could be. And that means even yourself, if you don’t think you can. Why are you doing it? Because, you know, somebody needs it. Someone to start off with a bang in with fireworks. Why do you think they call me the ultimate bad bitch with a power pitch? I don’t hide from that. I stand I stand strong, tantalized down. I’m going down with it. I’m like the captain. I’ll go down with the ship. This is my playground and it’s your playground. So you want to captivate tidally every time you into a row and you want to challenge the status quo. I walked into rooms with people who look nothing like me. And they all thought I was going to talk about food and what did I talk about, a red hot love affair with a Hollywood actor and that’s what started my company. And they couldn’t believe that I had the audacity and the audacity now captivated titillate. And finally, we’re coming up towards the end. I want you to know what is your secret weapon. Before we begin that, let’s look at these let’s look at these chips. You did not wake up today to be mediocre, just like to see no mediocre. So don’t show up. Mediocre, show up, ready to do battle fearlessly. Be yourself. That means that to see if everybody is telling you how they think you should be, show up as you are ready and don’t lose your real self in the search for acceptance by others. A lot of people don’t accept themselves. So why are you looking for acceptance from them? The people who stand out the most of the people who are willing to go toe to toe to show why they’re the best in the world at what they do? I’m a goat. The greatest of all time. Or you will go. So let me ask you, what is your secret weapon? Some people say is their courage, their confidence, their conviction. I say your perceived flaws are your secret weapon, age, race, class, sex, gender, sexual orientation, all of that. Those are your secret weapons. Why? Because they never see you coming. What about when I walk into a room? Sometimes just because I’m black. They will dismiss me or assume I have children, multiple baby daddies, no education. I have a B.A. in English from Spelman College and I have a law degree from Rutgers. Passed the bar on my first try. But you wouldn’t know that by looking at. And I like being I like being dismissed. I like being when people don’t recognize my greatness because it didn’t come in a package that they thought, which means that when I hit the stage, I blow them away because they weren’t expecting it. Let your per their perceived flaws. They’re not real flaws. Their perceived flaws be your secret weapon. They’ll never see you coming. Speak authentically, own your magic. Why don’t you get into that space? Because you deserve to be there and remember, like Broadway, every time you pitch to Showtime and you can make a pitch conversational or you can stand up and do it. Remember, you you adapt to the environment. OK, so let your perceived flaws, but your secret weapon, they never see you coming. There are opportunities for you to pitch everywhere, everywhere. Go to events, virtual networking, public access podcast. Get out there and get your pitch together. Here is a free resource I want you to take advantage of. Please take a picture. And I believe that you also will get a video of this, a recording of this. But go to w w w that perfect pitch is by precious dot com slash kwi is it. Take my free six question quiz which will teach you the type of pitch person you really are and how you should start your pitches off. So trust me, you’re ready. And please take this is a free quiz. And here is my contact information as we come down to the very end, please take down my contact information.

[00:22:00] Finally, if you’re interested in the book Bad Bitches in Power Pitches for women entrepreneurs, it’s because only it’s on. Amazon is also on my website. W-W that perfect pitches by Precious that dotcom go to the work with me page and you’ll also see a way to get this book and also my companion workbook. I hope that this has been so beneficial to you all. I’ve enjoyed being here with you all and as you all know, I’m very interactive. So I hope that you got a lot out of this. And I really, truly appreciate everything that you’ve done to be here with me today. You all, Rob.

[00:22:35] My contact info again, and I thank you, thank you, thank you so very much, and I believe that I did it on time.

[00:22:45] I think I did so anyway, if I had any questions, like how did I get in the kitchen, just know I started with negative four hundred dollars in my bank account. And I went on, I pitch to the producers of a national television show, and I took four hundred dollars and turned it into five hundred thousand dollars from one television appearance. And the producers told me you need to enter more pitch into pitch competitions. And that’s how I became a 13 time champion and I won over one hundred fifty thousand dollars more. So I started with six hundred fifty thousand dollars to really get my business off the ground. So if you don’t think the pitch can help you, I promise you that it can. And that is how I became the killer pitch master. Because every time I stood on stage, a slate, all competition, I walked in knowing that they day dismissed me early so that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. And so that’s why I think it’s very important that you take pitching very, very seriously and that I hope you enjoy this presentation today. I truly love showing up different and showing up for my people. So if you’re a woman entrepreneur or speaker or corporate executive, please check me out. I am here and available. If you want to launch a book, a product or service, a new brand new business, I am here at your service. They call me the killer pitch master. My name is Precious Williams and I’m so delighted to be here with you all today.

[00:24:04] Britney, did I do it all right?

[00:24:09] And again, please don’t judge me with your questions. Excellent, thank you. Thank you so much. You all have a wonderful day. Precious Williams ProFounder SEAL Perfect. Just by Precious.