Food For Founders #35

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Founder Education 

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

The Founder’s Guide to Discipline

Everything I’ve read on and from Mathilde has turned me into a huge fan of hers. I think I’ve watched her YC interview three times. The way she navigates building a startup from both a pragmatic and empathetic perspective probably has a lot to do with how successful Front is. 

This article on First Round’s blog features her explaining how she systematically builds out her schedule and the company’s vision. My favorite piece of the article is when she explains “the three emails every founder should send.” When it comes to startup success, typically the ones who scale the best are the ones who implement processes and consistency early. Even when it’s long before it NEEDs to, they understand that it how to scale efficiently and will be harder later. 

Consistency doesn’t have to be on major projects, sometimes it can simply be a cadence of communication to important stakeholders. Enter Mathilde’s “three emails”…

  1. Revenue Update - A daily email that reminds the early team that they’re dead in the water without revenue (she eventually 

  2. Goals for the week - A report for direct reports - as in every single person sent it to their direct reports. I’ve never seen anyone do this before reading this piece and it’ll probably be a requirement for KnowCap. 

  3. Investor Update - A monthly report that went out like clockwork. 

I also love that this article features templates of how the emails were formatted just in case readers weren’t sure where to start. There’s more to learn in here but the three email process is something I really gravitated towards. 

Business Strategy 

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

Three stories every startup needs to tell

Recently I realized that I’ve written over 13,000 words on the KnowCap IO model. That’s a lot! And I always said I wasn’t a writer.

The real reason we’ve focused on the model and not educating founders or using content to bring in clients is because we don’t need to. Without any marketing we’ve already started a waitlist for every one of the six programs we plan on offering. That leaves the people who look dumbfounded every time they hear about us…the investors. We need them even if they can’t see that they need us too. 

So, every bit of my writing patience (I hate writing) goes towards explaining our model in different ways and matched to different scenarios.  We want to tell a story of who we are, who we serve, and why we think our ecosystem model is the next phase of startup development. 

This is why I had to feature this article in the Food For Founders newsletter. Stories are everything and we’ve committed a lot of time towards just crafting our story in an impactful way. You need the following types of stories to cast a vision that is tangible to stakeholders:

  1. Origin story - what brought your idea to life? For us it was traveling the world and seeing how entrepreneurs are much better served at the local level than in the U.S. The governments fund, provide office space, partner, and make introductions. 

  2. Customer’s Problem + Solution - How certain and confident are you that you know your customer’s problems? We spent almost a year researching and asking hundreds of entrepreneurs what the pain points were to building a startup.

  3. Story of a better future - What will the future look like if you succeed? Well…if KnowCap works out…we’ll change the way startups are designed, built, and funded for entrepreneurs not located in Boston, NYC, or Silicon Valley.

See? Take these same three stories and craft one in the image of your startup. Have other people read it (outside of your family) and see if it resonates…better yet ask your potential customers how effective your stories are in explaining your vision.

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.

Treating people like influencers is the secret to Glossier’s success  

What I love about this article is that Glossier did something everyone knew was a net positive, but they built their entire business model around it - and that’s letting anyone be famous. 

I remember offers to become brand ambassadors on my college’s campus, but the Glossier team perfected the model. They have 500 ambassadors who spread the gospel of the brand far and wide. By making the customer the centerpiece of their marketing, they were able to leverage user-generated content and influencer marketing, without actually paying very much for influencers. 

One way that I believe brands will adopt this kind of integrated form of influencer marketing is in the product development stage. The ability to leverage your customers in every part of your marketing strategy - and have them falling over themselves to be involved - is the next frontier. 

Brands will build in public-facing customer engagements within their first iteration of they product/service. Investors will begin to see a shift in core business models that forget growing due to inorganic growth (i.e. Instagram Ads), and instead will have a built in marketing flywheel for featuring customers and paying them for their evangelism to their own communities. 

The future of marketing will hinge on the idea that "everyone is famous to 15 people."

Around The Startup Ecosystem

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

Diversity actually DECREASED at Silicon Valley investment firms

A report by The Information on diversity amongst Silicon Valley VCs came back that it actually decreased it’s diversity numbers. Some of this is likely due to the exodus from San Fransisco (have you seen the rent/home prices??) and the fact that many VCs were playing musical chairs in 2018. However, if you judged by all of the disdain on #VCtwitter of lack of diversity, you would think it would be more diverse. A lot of people are doing lip-service. 

This isn’t a shock, but it is disappointing. When I saw the announcement of this article I tweeted, “they only take meetings with people who were introduced to them by people they already know, what did we expect?” If you have a white VC that went to Yale, it’s likely they only know other white-male people who also went to Yale. And those people…you got it…will probably introduce those VCs to other white-males who went to Yale. That’s why 40% of VCs went to Harvard or Stanford.

The question that not enough people are asking is are VCs basically managing a self-fulfilling prophecy with their power laws and her mentality? Or are they actually good assessment of talent? The jury is out, but I’m not so sure. I imagine the Softbank Vision Fund will shed some light on the answer. Since they just threw a ton of money towards the likely winners of different startup categories, if those startups win their categories it may prove that VC dollars significantly increase the amount of success a startup has. 

If that’s true, the venture capital industry will begin going further downstream to find investments. If they can pour the most money into  a startup earlier on, they will be able to own more shares in that company and make more money when that company “exits.” Fortunately, our model of working with idea stage founders and helping them get to product-market fit plays very well in either scenario.  

The most notable findings from the recent report:

  1. Senior leadership is 84.7% male

  2. Black leadership roles are less than 1%, White roles are 73.3% of the industry.

  3. 9.8% of firms have a leadership team that is all male and all White