I have to be honest.
I did not know what I was getting myself into when I decided to attend the global Startup Grind conference in Redlands, CA.
I was given a ticket from the startup grind director in Santa Clarita and stepped out on faith while being open to the experience.
If you are like me and unfamiliar with Startup Grind, I will share with you a little about it.
Startup Grind is a global community of entrepreneurs. Startup Grind is the largest independent startup community, actively educating, inspiring, and connecting more than 2,000,000 entrepreneurs in over 600 chapters.
This year's conference was in Redlands CA Feb 11th and 12th. There were over 8000 in attendance and nearly 300 startup and exhibitors. Over the two days, there were concurrent workshops on ventral capital, community, marketing, diversity, pitching, storytelling and much more.
The event was filled with startups, entrepreneurs, ventral capitalists, CEO's, CTO's, CMO's etc. This event was filled with energy, optimism, and it was infectious. The amount of information was a little overwhelming. Still, I was able to take away a few gems that I believe entrepreneurs and businesses can implement for their companies in Bakersfield.
Your business should be data-driven.
What does it mean for your business to be data-driven?
Being data-driven speaks to how you make decisions for your company. Are your decisions based upon feelings, or are they based on data?
To move your company to become a data-driven company, you must first know what you want to track and ensure that you have consistent data practices.
As companies, we should strive to become data-driven. Being a data-driven company allows you to have a strategic advantage over your competition. The better information that you have to make decisions, the better your choices are and the better your company will be.
Additionally, we can leverage the data gained from our customers. Every step of the customer journey, we should seek to provide a customized and personalized experience. Based on the information that we get from our customers, we can determine what type of marketing mix is best for our customers.
Listening to your customer's wants and needs will help you to provide a better product add more value to your customer.
What it takes to scale up your startup.
Often startups are working with limited personnel and financial resources. In this scenario, what does a startup do when they are trying to scale, and they are facing these limitations. In this instance, you have to take a deep looking into your operations to see what can be systematized and automated. The first step you can take is to understand your customer's journey.
If you have tasks that are very time consuming, but they don't bring lots of value to you are your customers, these tasks should be automated or eliminated. On the other hand, if you have tasks that are time-consuming but bring an exponential amount of value they task should be accelerated through technology.
When you are looking to scale up your business, by automating things it helps you to augment human efficiency. It can be overwhelming to try to optimize every part of your business; that is why you should focus on one thing at a time.
Inherently there will be low hanging fruit. If there is a repetitive thing, these things can be automated. Some things don't require a human touch. If this is the case, then these tasks should be eliminated.
Build a moat around your through the community.
In ancient times castles were protected by putting a moat around them and putting additional hazards in the water. Today when we talk about moats, we consider our businesses the castle or fortress and the moat is what we do to protect our business from its competitors. At one breakout session, we talked about how a community is the new moat for businesses.
Typically when a software company takes about community, it's talking about its supporters who are so excited about the project that they invest their time in making the product better or moderating support for the product. Most of us do not have software companies, but we can still build an engaged community around our brands.
When you develop a community or a fanbase around your brand, you make your product more sticky. With the right community, you will be able to scale and expand your brand quicker. Community is an effective moat because money can not buy a community.
Your competitors might be able to outspend you, but you can not purchase raving fans for your brand. Your community is something that you cultivate over time which is based upon social capital and social transactions.
To begin to build a community, you must start with things that do not scale. The scale is not about the quantity but the quality of the interactions. When you are developing community, it takes time so give your self at least a year to build your community. Lastly, understand the community that you are serving so that you can connect with them effectively.
Discover how to make it through the ups and downs. Scott Belsky
Scott Belsky talked about how to endure the highs and the lows of business. He described how we visualize the journey of our companies as a continuous slope upward. He showed how the reality is that there are highs and lows at every point of your company. Success is how do you endure the lows, and how you deal with the highs. He asserted that you are not your best at the highs or the lows.
The key for companies is to stick around long enough to figure things out. Part of this success understands how to motivate your team. To motivate your team, Scott talks about how you need to short circuit your team's reward system. Jokingly he stated that the most significant addiction is heroin and a weekly salary.
Scott talks about how companies navigate through the messy middle.
The future is created by those who do work they don't have to do. Sometimes we try to boil success down to some magic formula, and we have to just put in the hard work that it takes to build world-class companies. If you are looking for a silver bullet for your company that it does not exist, just show up and put in the work.
Resourcefulness over resources. When you are building a company, you will not always have the resources that you need. Some founders and teams will let this stop them dead in their tracks. There is a resiliency that uses creativity to be resourceful with the resources that we do have rather than the ones that we do not have.
Tackle organizational debt and kill the elephant. These are decisions that haven't been made that need to be made. In technical projects, there is a term called technical debt. Technical debt is a technological deficit that a company experiences when poor technical decisions are made earlier. The same can be said about organization debt, and these are the decisions that a company does not make our puts off making early on with leads to organizational debt.
I will share a few more of Scott's findings as bullet points. For the full story, I would recommend checking out his book the messy middle.
- Optimize products without adding complexity
- Stay grounded with your newest customers first miles of experience.
- Empathy before passion.
- Empathy with those suffering vs passion for the product.
- Gain confidence from the doubt.
- If everyone thinks you are crazy, you probably are our you are just smart.
Navigating the messy middle podcast.
Tips on how to raise money.
Fundraising for your startup is not easy, and it takes lots of hard work.
In this presentation, the facilitators share with us some pointers to consider when raising money. The first question is, how do you find inventors in the first place? When you find those investors, how do you get a meeting with them? Almost universally, investors prefer warm introductions from someone in their network.
Some investors will accept cold pitches, but most institutional investors prefer and introduction. Before you meet with the investor as the entrepreneur, you have to understand that investor. This means understanding what their investment thesis a what size check that they write. It is better that you know ahead of time that you are or are not a good fit before you waste lots of time.
Meetings not might always be meetings, and sometimes a meeting will be walking, or golfing or biking. As an entrepreneur, you should be prepared to give your pitch with or without the use of technology.
During your pitch, you also have to remember to bring to light why you are doing this, and why it is so important to you and the world.
As far as possible, do a product demo and explain to the investors why you built the product this way and why you added this particular feature.
The next thing is the follow-up with the investor. Instead of just sending a standard follow-up email, you should give the VC a reason why they should follow-up.
You should set yourself a reminder to follow-up with the person. When you do this, you should not just ping the person, but you should give the investor updates and progress that you have made with your startup.
The investors want lines, not dots. They are looking to see trends, not isolated exceptions. Make sure you are not bluffing you will be eventually found out, and it will tarnish your reputation as an entrepreneur.
When it comes to getting rejected, investors will give you different versions of you are too early. Even if an investor says that you are too early, you want to make sure you stay in contact with them.
One thing that you can do this is by providing your investors with quarterly updates. You want your startup to be something that investors want to discuss. VC's are looking for someone who can move mountains. They are looking for someone who sees's a challenge and figures out of the way to make it happen.
Another thing is that VC's looking for is founder market fit; this means does the startup match the founder. During the pre-seed and he seeds rounds, ventral capitalists are looking to see if the team can execute on the startup. If you are not able to afford a competent team, you can augment your team with an advisory board. Ultimately it is in your best interest to not raise money, and it is your best interest to bootstrap as long as you can.
How to Stand out in a crowded market
One of the things that business will face at one time or another is competition. What do you do when your market becomes crowded. When you have the right product, it is easy to the market.
When trying to stand out in a crowded market, it's more fun to be the underdog. It's essential to stay focused and to stay humble. It is also important to remain practical and move swiftly. When it comes to hiring people for your team, you need to find people who are doers. As founders and as a team, you never graduate from getting stuff done mindset.
From a management perspective, you must let a person do what you hired them for but stay close. Also, as an entrepreneur, there should be no shame in asking for help. As a team, you have to start with just putting one foot in front of the other and continue to move forward.
How to utilize marketing automation tools.
When it comes to marketing, there are so many channels that you can choose from. Social media and google are the right channels, but these are not owned channels. Email is an excellent owned channel.
Even social media companies know the importance of email, when you do not engage on their platforms, you get emails to encourage you to participate on their platforms. When marketing, some people want to blast with no specific considering for the audience.
The more targeted you get with your marketing messages, the more customers will listen and engage with your content. Customize email's based upon the data that you have received from the customer. Emails triggered by customer actions have a 40% higher response rate. In addition to this, emails must be sent at the right time.
Learn to tell your brand's story.
As a business, we must learn to tell our story because your story is everything. Your story is what connects people to your brand and what humanizes your brand. A compelling narrative joins your brand to the brain of the customer.
One of the places that you can talk about your brand is on your blog. You need to think of your blog, not as a place to share a neat idea but a place where you can provide thought leadership. With your story, you are drawing a path to your audience.
To start with, you have to determine what your why is, what is the reason for your existence, and why should your customer care. In your story, there are not always good points, but you should keep these points consistent. When you are sharing your story, you also start with the community. When you are beginning to share your content, you should create a ramp-up plan.
Your ramp-up plan allows you to be consistent with delivering content and your brand's story. This is something that does not need to happen at one point, but it can happen incrementally.
In summary, a few takeaways.
- Make sure you are building a data-driven company.
- When scaling your startup stay focused, stay humble and move quickly.
- Ensure that you are developing some form of defensibility into your startup.
- Discover how you manage the highs and the lows of your business journey.
- Raising money is hard, plan and be prepared for the long road.
- Hire your team manage them well and empower them for success.
- Develop targeted marketed campaigns based on your customer's preferences
- Make sure you two your brands story and tell it consistently.