What to do when your investor heads to another firm (issue no. 30)

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Founder Education 

This section is meant to help you grow as a leader, manager, or entrepreneur.

A Simple Goal-setting Framework for Teams and Managers

As someone who is bad at managing externally motivated employees, I had a tough time when it came to achieving goals and deadlines. In my mind, if they came up with their project scope during their “creative days” and I gave them a deadline (which they committed to), I should be able to forget we ever had the discussion. That’s not how managing works. Learned that the hard way. 

In reality, it’s better if you have more frequent discussions that hold your team accountable. This framework does a great job of simplifying the process. It details a specific cadence for discussing goals with your team and encourages readers to make these goals transparent. In other words, everyone in the company will know if there’s a person or group that is consistently falling short of their goals.

By having a meeting every Monday to determine goals and then accountability meetings on Fridays, you are making sure that you can course-correct discouraging behavior early. Once you add in the one-on-ones, daily standup (if you’re into that),  and all-hands meetings, you create a management feedback loop that helps your team stay on track. 

There’s a piece of me that wishes that my first management experience was not in a virtual setting. I relied way too much on the idea that team members would reach out to me as soon as they needed help and feel if it was in person…things would have translated differently. Towards the end (when my company established a physical location), I had team members going over my head to my boss for small issues instead of coming to me that’s when I knew there would be a change with my next role. 

Live and learn should be the mantra of all inexperience managers, yet even with all of the warnings, you genuinely do have to learn with experience and shift your management style with each individual employee.

Business Strategy 

This section is designed to help you improve your skills as a strategist and tactician.

We also failed to build a startup unicorn

I believe that there is a lot of merit in "studying the dead.” We do it with anthropology and archeology studies, yet not enough entrepreneurs study the dead within their field. In a sense, reading non-fiction business books and listening to business-related podcasts both qualify as you can hear experienced people discuss their good and bad.

I strongly encourage you to hone in on the bad.  This will help you navigate the choppy waters of starting a fast-growing business (assuming you have founder-market fit).

There have been many lessons I’ve learned by simply exploring the missteps of others in front of me. It allows you to grow at a faster rate than if you were also suffering through the same drudge and overcoming the same obstacles. With the power of Google and technology, there is no need to beat our heads over issues that have already been solved and discussed ad nauseam. 

In this piece, a founder talks about their experience of failing to build a startup unicorn ($1B valuation), yet had a very nice exit at the end of their run. It shows why choosing your investor matters in the long run, as they are one of the key obstacles in a founder realizing the upside of all of their hard work. 

It’s an open secret that in reality, many VCs don’t have the founder’s best interest at heart. Instead, they care more about their investors and will many times push a company to unsustainable limits because of the ROI they need to see in their investments. They would rather fail shooting for a 600% return than successfully navigate a 300% return. Making it incredibly important to choose your investors wisely.

Mental Snacks

This section was created to introduce ideas that may not related to starting a company, yet is important to your success as a founder.

Your VC just quit her fund, what should founders do next?

This is a very real scenario as VCs are playing musical chairs these last 6-9months. When a startup gets funding from a VC firm, they are championed by a partner who is there advocate to the rest of the firm. Yet, the deal is legally between the VC firm and the startup. 

When a partner quits or leaves, the founders/team is in a pickle: do they try and find a new advocate? Do they try to leverage a buyout? Do they suck it up and hope that whoever draws their straw is on-board with their vision? 

The VCs at Homebrew (portfolio: the Skimm, Chime, Cheddar, Gusto, Anchor) have a pretty good decision tree for any founder looking for how to gauge this complicated situation. 

I have never seen this play out with any startups I’ve consulted with or one I’ve worked for, but I imagine it feels like a rug has been pulled out from under you. Especially, when you may have already negotiated the terms of a follow-on investment in your next round. Without a champion of the deal, you have to start from scratch unless you are leading with rocket ship growth. That isn’t a position that you want to be in while managing your other priorities as an executive team. 

If this continues to happen, I can see one of two outcomes: 

  1. More and more solo VCs will begin launching and raising money from connections and larger VC funds (they become scout funds)

  2. VCs begin going independent and setting up Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) which firms will start investing in. In this scenario, any investment position that the partner signs off on can be sold or navigated with another VC firm if the first firm can no longer stomach that particular investment.

Around The Startup Ecosystem

This section was built to update you on important events, opinions, or pieces happening in the world of startups.

 Goodbye Silicon Valley, Hello Atlanta

We are currently on the fundraising trail, and one thing that gets me extremely excited is all of the articles being written about Atlanta recently. These articles mainly focus on the fact that it is quickly becoming the best place for minorities in the tech industry. I’ve seen this coming since I first moved to Atlanta 4 years ago, and it’s one reason my wife and I moved back after traveling the world. 

The momentum of the city is beginning to ratchet up a notch every three months, and I wanted to be a part of building the ecosystem for black founders within it. One key thing I see in this piece is that in Atlanta, 1 out of 4 employees in tech are African-American. That is a staggering number and will probably grow over time. 

News that A3C (the U.S. biggest hip-hop festival) becoming more focused on startups and tech, Walker and Co (recently sold to Proctor and Gamble), Blavity, Capway, and Women Who Code all moving to Atlanta…this is just the beginning. 

And it’s been an exciting week as we’ve spoken with a few prospective investors interested in partnering on our first ecosystem in Atlanta.