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Texts with Founders: 30 additional ideas to wrap up ODF19
Parting thoughts on de-risking your startup, focus, and SF.
This is the 21th weekly post from Texts with Founders — tested tactics for early-stage startups. This is a special issue to coincide with ODF19. We’ll be back next week with scheduled programming.
30 additional ideas to wrap up ODF19
We just wrapped 19th cohort of ODF — our program to help prospective founders go “from idea to conviction” over an intensive one week in San Francisco. In the 19 cohorts thus far we’ve helped over 1,000 companies get started and raised over $2B.
Last week I shared 20 ideas from the halfway point of ODF19. Here are 30 additional ideas about founders, startups, San Francisco, sales, fundraising, and more taken from the second half of the program — sourced from fellows, guests, and me (blame me for the ones you disagree with most vehemently :)).
The more you get your ideas and interests out there, the more likely others will send potential collaborators and opportunities your way.
"We wanted to de-risk the business to the point that if we [the founders] were Sequoia, we would invest in the seed. That took 6 or 7 months."
The more traction you have, the more the potential fuckups caused by fundraising inexperience will be non-factors.
Investor inbound when you aren't raising: rarely a good idea to meet. Investors will judge you harshly, probably as severely as if you were fundraising.
People (including customers) can only be helped when they're ready to be helped.
Smiling can change your brain chemistry and positively impact your mood and mental state.
Unicorn founder: "The energy I saw in 2011 in SF is returning."
Your previous strategy extrapolated can cause you to become unfocused.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is trying to grow by doing more and more things.
CEOs frequently take it too personally when employees quit.
“Part of reaching conviction was determining if we liked working for these customers.”
The "founder-market-fit" narrative is less relevant to the founders but is vital to prospective teammates and investors.
Culture should be polarizing.
Heads down until 1 person loves the product → heads down until 5 love it → then til 100 love it, and so on.
Embed your team in a channel of your early customer's Slack (or set up a WhatsApp group)
Every startup either has execution, market, or technical risk - you need to figure out which it is for you.
If you have market risk, spend time on validation. If you have execution risk, start serving customers ASAP.
Avoid confusing your type of risk, thinking it's execution when it's actually market, etc.
First-time founders often focus on product, and second-time founders on distribution.
True story: a startup that focused on distribution had a 24x higher valuation than the competitor that focused on product
First-time founders get easily thrown off their talk track when fundraising or doing sales. Practice having people try to throw you off and get back on track.
If you get the question more than twice, make a slide, then appendix it. The next time you get the question, you can immediately flip there and look like a Jedi.
"We had 60 conversations before we built anything. It ended up with us building something different than we had thought we would build beforehand."
You should know your competitors better than investors.
Every time you say "and," you decrease your chance of conversion by 20%. ("We help product managers and growth teams and CEOs do X and Y and Z")
Target investors you wish you could recruit to join your team full-time.
Think of fundraising like job-hunting: run the process in parallel with multiple firms.
One clear takeaway per slide. Readable in less than 5 seconds.
The difference between $0 ARR and $5k ARR is significant because it shows proof of demand and ability to build and sell.
Pay attention to how customers describe your service.
Remember #1 from the prior post was "Are you ready to work ten years on it?" Almost every ODF alum who came to speak during the second half of ODF19 also said some flavor of this.
Looking to explore starting your next thing?
ODF20 kicks off in late January. Learn more and apply here.
Here’s what one ODF19 participant had to say about their experience last week:
ODF provided the best possible environment for intense and focused thinking — whether by bouncing around ideas, or by being surrounded by other likeminded driven people.
That’s all for this week — thanks for reading.
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The Student (Dis)Advantage - Overcoming the credibility gap
Company Values - Use them to attract and repel
Support - Create the headspace to help others
VCs that Ghost - Dealing with investors that drag out the process
Intros and Forwardable Emails - Make it easy for connectors to facilitate introductions
App Launch: Valuation Calculator - Counterintuitive fundraising strategies
Tranche Fundraising - Give early investors a "buy-it-now" price
MFNs - Are they a lousy deal or free money?
Weekly Investor Updates - Keep investors close and yourself on track
Check Size Doesn’t Matter - Forget minimum amounts and optimize for quality people
Raise the round behind you - Avoid a drawn-out process and optimize for the best investors.
Conditional Commitments - Why they aren't commitments and what to do about them.
Handling Inbound From Investors - Avoid distractions and keep potential investors warm.
How “Good Guy” Phrases Torpedo a Pitch - And how to win over customers and investors
Avoid Hiring Too Early - Navigate external pressure focused on vanity metrics
Customers understand before investors do - And some investors will never understand
The Benefits and Downsides of Responsiveness - Where it can help and where it can backfire.
Avoiding Gossip - Nimbly navigate an awkward scenario.
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