A Small Sign of Big Growth for a CEO

This post is by Phin Barnes from sneakerheadVC - Medium

In my house we have a doorway that is covered in pencil marks — they measure my daughter’s height in somewhat random increments from the day we moved to San Francisco in summer 2014 to today. We always measure on birthdays and on the first and last day of school, and compare year to year. But, we also take the time to measure whenever we get a sense that she “just seems taller” — and talk about the thing we noticed that made us want to measure.

As a start up CEO, you have to grow incredibly fast— and typically your growth is measured in regular increments — fund raising cycles, annual 360 reviews or board meetings etc — with folks looking for indications of growth like hitting goals, efficiency in the operations of the business, improvements in team culture and e-staff effectiveness, strategic positioning and planning…on and on.

BUT, there are also moments when a CEO does something and you just get a sense that they are stepping up as a leader, growing and evolving in a way that everyone can feel viscerally. These moments often go past without mention. As a partner to the CEO, I try to point out and celebrate the moments of growth that I notice, talk about what changed for them and make sure that they note the difference and appreciate the work they did to get there — and the new ceiling they have just created for their business through personal growth as a leader.

This is top of mind as I just got an email from a CEO that said,

You’ve likely noticed that that growth seems strong, and it is. However, we continue to benefit from organic growth and we remain bad at targeting customers.

This is a muscle we need to develop.

Our healthy, generic adoption has let us get away without improving here for too long.

“Our healthy, generic adoption has let us get away without improving here for too long” shows perspective on how the business operates and identifies a key priority for the organization. The CEO moved from understanding and celebrating the metrics that matter to understanding how much control the team has over these metrics. They have identified that while the company is growing really well today, to achieve it’s full potential, control over growth has to be core to their DNA — and, with plenty of cash in the bank and an incredible team with lots of momentum — as CEO, they are choosing to raise the bar on this part of their operations. Immediately.

This type of CEO growth needs to be highlighted and celebrated. It is these small shifts in the mindset of a leader that lead to massive shifts in outcomes for companies. This personal growth is the core work of a start up CEO, and I don’t think there is anything more important than supporting folks in this journey.

A Small Sign of Big Growth for a CEO was originally published in sneakerheadVC on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

How startups can rebuild trust in a broken service model

This post is by Josh Schachter from Startup Grind - Medium

How Startups Can Rebuild Trust in a Broken Service Model

Illustrations by Soyasama

If anyone from Clarisonic is listening, please help. I purchased your Rolls-Royce of face brushes nearly 3 years ago. It worked great. And then it didn’t. I’m pretty sure my warranty has expired. But maybe not. Who knows. Next time I’m buying a pack of washcloths.

Cue Woodrow Levin, Rohan Shah, Joe Moss, and Michael Darmousseh, founders of Extend.com, an end-to-end digitally native solution that eases the frictions of purchasing and redeeming warranties. They work with popular consumer brands such as Harman, JBL, Logitech, iRobot, SoClean, August Home, BlendJet, and more.

In less than 2 years, this founding team has mushroomed into a company of over 90. Their growth curve challenges those of Silicon Valley’s leading technology firms. I spoke with Rohan Shah, Co-Founder and SVP of BD and Partnerships at Extend, as he shared their team formula for restoring trust in an unlikely category of online commerce.

Illustrations by Soyasama

Josh Schachter: Tell us, what is Extend?

Rohan Shah: Extend is a technology focused platform that enables online retailers to offer extended warranties and protection plans to their customers through a modern, digitally-native experience.

Think of us as an API-first platform for product protection, similar to what Stripe has been able to do for payments, and what Affirm has been able to do in the consumer point-of-sale financing space. We also provide a seamless customer experience on the back end of the purchase that handles customer claims the way that customers expect to be treated in the modern age.

JS: You’re implying the previous way of serving warranties was antiquated. What customer insights led you to that opinion?

RS: Let’s first take a step back and look at the broader trends. Look at the incredible acceleration in e-commerce, over the last 5–10 years, and even more dramatically over the last 5–6 months because of COVID. We’ve seen a massive acceleration of new brands selling direct to consumer, powered by easy-to-operate platforms like Shopify, Magento, and Salesforce Commerce Cloud. And while that’s been an incredible opportunity for millions of creators, it’s also been opportunistic for existing brands and products that have traditionally only sold online through 3rd party retail channels like Best Buy, Walmart, or Amazon. They can now go it on their own.

The issue is that when you look at this segment of retailers, we sometimes refer to them as “the other 99%”, their online sales are enabled through e-commerce platforms, their fulfillment is enabled through drop-shippers and 3PLs, but when it comes to any sort of customer service offering on top of that, they don’t have the same level of access as the top 1% of e-tailers. They are at a disadvantage.

Illustrations by Soyasama

Affirm saw a gap in this equation as it related to financing, and have served a real need since. We saw a similar gap when it came to services around product protection. No one was enabling the mid and long tail of retailers to offer product protection to their customers. And that is our true north. We enable any retailer or brand access to innovative and modern services, in our case protection plans, that they can offer to their customers and that their customers are looking for.

In the past the issue was that customers would often get the short end of the stick after purchasing a product warranty because there was no seamless nor unified platform on the back end to manage those claims. Extend is completely modernizing how customers look at these programs by taking a more digital and customer-centric approach.

JS: Does that mean you have to rebuild the trust of the modern consumer?

RS: Trust is literally taped to the wall in our office. Trust is the #1 word that we think about when we build features for our end consumers. How do they trust us more than programs in the past? And how do we drive even more trust and loyalty between that end consumer and the brand that they purchased from?

Illustrations by Soyasama

JS: Your company has been on a rocket ship of growth. I can only imagine that this means you’ve been executing on your vision really well.

A concept that I’ve been formulating is around this idea of “execution loops”. In any organization there are all of these loops — knowledge loops (the ability to share knowledge around the organization), decision loops (the ability to make decisions once knowledge has been shared out), feedback loops for customer and employee feedback…I could go on. The idea is that the team that “wins” has the greatest velocity on these execution loops.

What are some of these “loops” that you think Extend does really well?

RS: The first thing that I think of when you describe those loops is basketball. The hoop is always 10 feet high, the rim is always the same circumference, and the ball is always the same ball. How you get it into the hoop can be different each time you run down the court. But there are several standing principles you can always use to draw up your plays.

For us, everything comes down to delivering a great customer experience. Anything we build needs to be focused in some way on how we’re driving that. The second very important thing is our merchant experience.

Illustrations by Soyasama

JS: Makes sense. But what are the processes of the working team that you’ve instilled as a leader of this company?

RS: The first thing is very cross functional engagement. We have put a lot of thought into how our teams are structured and how they interact. We have folks from the sales side who are constantly interacting with our merchants. We have folks from our operations group, which is our customer support and claims side, who are constantly interacting with customers. Our product team is heavily focused on mapping feature prioritization to the insights from our customer support interactions. And lastly it’s important to have engineering involved in each key decision, because they’re thinking about how we are going to put things together in a way that’s scalable. We emphasize at the executive level that you need to have strong relationships with everyone across the organization.

JS: What are you doing to maintain transparency, visibility, and alignment?

RS: A lot of documentation on what decisions are being made, why they are being made, and who they are impacting. People should be empowered to make their own decisions. And communicating out what those decisions are is something that we take very seriously.

The other thing that I don’t think we’re great at yet, but are improving in, is a clear definition of our communication channels. Slack is great. I love Slack. But it’s not the best tool for all sorts of communication when you’re really trying to communicate out. So we’ve also had to put in more processes and guidelines around what are the right channels for people to use. This has been especially important in the new world of completely remote work.

JS: The last question is around culture. Describe Extend’s culture and some of the core values that have led to your success.

RS: People always say it, and it rings true when you’re seeing it day-to-day, which is that culture starts at the very top. It really has started with our CEO, Woody Levin. Building a culture of transparency is super important to us. Every time we have a board meeting we share that board deck out to the entire company. Everyone should have transparency on how the business is growing. And every single Monday we host an all-hands meeting where we go over the key wins, the executives’ perspectives, and key focus areas.

We also have so many “glue people” in our company. Their attitude is tangible and their ability to bring everyone together and make it a fun working environment is so important. If you’re not having fun when you go to work every day, then I don’t know what you’re doing. Attitude is so important. Experience and intelligence can be gained, attitude cannot.

‘Inside the Pyramid’ is a blog series created by Josh Schachter, author of How Teams Can Outperform Using the Startup Ops Pyramid. In this series, Josh sits down with founders and entrepreneurs of leading tech companies to discuss the systems they’ve applied to successfully grow their businesses.

If you enjoyed this article please give it a clap below and follow Josh on Medium or on Twitter @joshschachter.

How startups can rebuild trust in a broken service model was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

6 Lessons I Wish I’d Known as a First-Time Founder

This post is by Jonathan Woahn from Startup Grind - Medium

“Failure is a great teacher, and, if you are open to it, every mistake has a lesson to offer.” — Oprah

Student Entrepreneur Innovation on Display at EO GSEA Global Finals Competition

This post is by Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) from Startup Grind - Medium

EO GSEA US Nationals took place at Startup Grind 2020.

“Anyone who wonders where our world is going or how we will overcome our current challenges only needs to look at ‘studentpreneurs’ to know that our world is in good hands with the next generation of leaders” says Carrie Santos, CEO of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). “Young student entrepreneurs impress us with their optimism and fearlessness in attacking the most serious issues of our day.”

The students who took part in EO’s annual Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) are no exception. They impressed the judges right through to the Global Finals, which were held virtually for the first time in the competition’s 22-year history.

On 30 July 2020, 50 finalists from 50 countries presented their pitch to a panel of judges in hopes of winning the top prize of US$25,000 in addition to products and services to support the growth of their company.

Tackling today’s challenges with innovation and determination

While attending college or university, these students founded companies that address some of the world’s obstacles.

Check out the winners from the 2020 GSEA competition and their inspiring companies:

· The gamification of physical therapy: Global champion Harvinder Power, representing the United Kingdom, co-founded Motics. His wearable invention engages patients during physical therapy and provides actionable insight into muscle function. Power anticipates great things from the technology, including the possibility of preventing injuries.

· All-natural horse care: First runner-up Kate Madden, representing Ireland, co-founded FenuHealth. The company produces all-natural supplements to ease gastric problems — which affect the majority of sports and racing horses. Kate was just 14 when she came up with the idea for FenuHealth with her sister, Annie.

· Simple and mobile water filtration: Second runner-up Omar Negron Ocasio was inspired to create his product when his Puerto Rico village was devastated by Hurricane Maria and didn’t have access to clean water. He founded Remora Inc., a water filtration device that is easily transportable and simple to install. Ironically, Omar gave his virtual presentation during yet another tropical storm over Puerto Rico. Omar also won the People’s Choice Award for his positive, can-do attitude.

Are you a full-time student running a company? Then you’re a perfect candidate for competing in 2020/2021 GSEA! Apply now and learn more at https://gsea.org.

Water, water everywhere

With water scarcity becoming an increasingly real threat for millions of people in the world, it makes sense that a number of this year’s GSEA competitors focused their efforts on creating new ways to provide clean, drinkable water.

In addition to Ocasio’s water filtration device, here are two other water-focused innovations featured in GSEA:

· Saving water: Muhammad Ali Khursheed from Pakistan received the Lessons from the Edge Award, which recognizes his commitment to improving his community. He founded Aabshar Solutions to promote sustainable living and assure water availability. His inspiration came in the form of severe liver damage which he developed due to a lack of available fresh water to drink. The company’s Water Optimizer installs on most faucets in seconds and can lower your water use by up to 85 percent.

· Drinking water: The winner of the Global Social Impact Award, Wong Shy Kit of Malaysia, founded Luminary. This organization is focused on establishing off-grid and autonomous systems to provide clean water for rural and disaster-prone communities. It relies on a solar thermal powered device named Light2O which distills rainwater or river water into drinkable water. Kit hopes to help the 140 million people across Southeast Asia and 2.1 billion around the globe who do not have access to clean water.

Learn more about all the winners in this press release from EO.

The first-ever virtual Global Finals

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 GSEA Global Finals competition was streamed on Facebook Live. EO members organized special sessions for the studentpreneurs to coach them on funding and business strategy, two functional areas that will help these talented students bring their ideas to the next level. In addition, the 50 global finalists had the opportunity to connect with their peers and share their personal experiences and concerns through a collaborative learning approach.

The finalists competed via a 10-minute pre-recorded presentation. For the Global Finals, the judges included:

· Derek Anderson, CEO and cofounder of Startup Grind

· Amaresh Ramaswamy, CFO at Microsoft India R&D

· Jorge Gomez, CEO at Ikon Investment Bank

· Jason Sze, EO Chair and group managing director at The AJ Mason Group

· Dave Preston, EO Charlotte member and president at People Suite

· Lynn Anstett, EO Cincinnati member and founder of Stett Transportation

· Dave Loaney, EO Arizona member and partner at Fresh Start Funding

One of many unique aspects about GSEA is that judges rate the entrepreneurs and their ability to confront and overcome the challenges of running a company — rather than the specific company itself.

Each student who made it to the intense Global Finals competition had already won their local, regional and national competitions. These talented entrepreneurs will undoubtedly go on to positively impact the world and achieve success.

Entrepreneurs’ Organization is a high-quality support network of 14,000+ like-minded leaders across 61 countries. We help entrepreneurs achieve their full potential through the power of life-enhancing connections, shared experiences and collaborative learning.

Student Entrepreneur Innovation on Display at EO GSEA Global Finals Competition was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

9 Startups Changing the World for the Better

This post is by The Startup Grind Team from Startup Grind - Medium

These startups are protecting our planet, safeguarding our data, and improving the way we live and work.

Each month we feature inspiring startups from our Startup Membership community. This time around, we’re highlighting companies focused on making our world better— whether by improving our food systems or the way we protect personal information from hackers. Keep reading to learn more about these incredible startups and give us a shout if you’d like to get an intro!

1. Bioo

Pablo Vidarte, Founder & CEO

Merging nature and technology through innovative solutions that improve quality of life.

How Bioo Got Started

“Bioo is literally a dream come true. I was studying engineering and had worked on quite a few hardware and software projects within the energy sector. One night I had a crazy dream about using a plant leaf as a solar panel. I woke up determined to see if I could create a sustainable energy source using natural, sustainable resources. I built a team of students, teachers and biotech industry experts, and we conducted a one-year independent study to unearth the potential of this concept. We discovered that we could produce electricity from soil and plant photosynthesis, and even use plants as biological switches. From there, Bioo was born.”

On Overcoming a Challenge

“To-date, the Bioo research and development team has created 11 different sustainable batteries, all nourished from a natural environment. However, it wasn’t easy. The first batteries we created didn’t produce much energy, so we had to keep pushing to get the results we wanted. In the early stages of development, we actually pushed so hard we created an explosion in our lab! This glorious disaster was a true breakthrough, as it proved that with just soil and water you could literally create an explosion. It taught us to think of our batteries as not just a product but a live microorganism; a sustainable entity that needs to breathe. We now make different energy sources all with different focuses, including energy generation, improved terrain resilience and cost efficiency, but regardless of the batteries’ characteristics, we make sure to keep all of our energy sources as organic as possible, keeping this lesson in mind.”

How to Support Bioo

“Through our startup, we aim to lead the shift towards a greener future, where sustainability is the central axis and technology the main tool to achieve it. We’re working to bridge the gap between cities and how we interact with nature, creating sustainable electricity but also nourishing our cities by embedding plant life into city environments. Right now, we are actively commercializing our first market product, Bioo Installations (biological switches), preparing to launch an Agritech solution, Bioo Sensor, and are raising a Series-A investment round of 2.5M€.”

Want to connect with Bioo? Email us to request an intro.

2. BetterYou

Sean Higgins, CEO

A digital coach that allows individuals to maximize their time and stay focused on goals that matter.

How BetterYou Got Started

“If you’ve ever looked up from your phone and wondered where the last hour went you know how we started our company. I was sitting on the couch refreshing Gmail, scrolling through emails when it hit me. I had no reason to be spending time there right now. Even knowing that, I still found myself going through the motions. This got me interested in how other people spend their time. Are we intentional with where it goes or do we end up down the rabbit hole?”

On Overcoming a Challenge

“One of our early customers needed the product 3 months from our first meeting. Our first meeting was showing this customer wireframes (we were pre-product). We had to build an MVP, test the MVP, and deploy to hundreds of users in a matter of months. We plugged in 7 days a week to create the first version of the app, gathering feedback from users along the way. When you are moving fast, sometimes you find yourself playing with live ammo.”

How to Support BetterYou

Follow our journey on Linkedin and Instagram.

Want to connect with BetterYou? Email us to request an intro.

3. Umbrella

Nancy Roberts, CEO & Founder
HR & Employee Engagement

Helping companies use data to build a more welcoming, diverse, and representative workplace.

How Umbrella Got Started

“Frustrated by companies launching diversity initiatives with no clear outcomes, and relying on training and education to change behaviour, I realized that technology can provide better solutions. We look at the issues that matter (such as pay gaps and progression gaps) and use data analytics and AI to provide actionable insights and measurable results.”

On Overcoming a Challenge

“The biggest challenge has been being a social tech business; this limits the types of investment money we can accept as we don’t want to work with companies who are part of the problem, not the solution. We have bootstrapped and are choosing to grow and fund ourselves through sales — it’s not always easy but it’s the right thing for us to do!”

How to Support Umbrella

I’d love to hear from companies (big and small) who are serious about making positive changes in diversity and inclusion in their business. We know we can deliver meaningful support and help you to drive change. Get in touch to have a chat with us about how!

Want to connect with Umbrella? Email us to request an intro.

4. Nettoken

Simonetta d’Ottaviano , Co-founder & CEO
Cyber Security

The identity management platform for everyday internet users to raise awareness and control of their ever-expanding digital footprint.

How Nettoken Got Started

“Nettoken’s journey began as a college team project at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art whilst doing a master in Innovation Design Engineering (IDE). We were reflecting on the little control we have over our data. We spend most of our days surfing the web and subscribing to new services for all sorts of reasons, yet we lack a clear overview of our digital presence. What have we signed up to over the years and how do we start making sense of all this chaos? That’s when we had the idea to build a control panel for our digital identity that would combine convenience with security, making personal cybersecurity less intimidating and more accessible to everyday internet users.”

On Overcoming a Challenge

“Funding has been a tough one for us. On one hand, most investors feared that a consumer cybersecurity product wouldn’t have a chance. On the other hand, perhaps being a team of all-female founders in this space was quite unusual. Whatever the reason, we managed to get validation by experts in the industry and from investors that understood as internet users that what we wanted to solve was big, and addressing a huge gap in the market. We also got the support of great institutions such as the Royal College of Art, always a supporter of design-led innovation, CyLon (Cyber London) as well as the National Cyber Security Center (a part of GCHQ) and Wayra through their cyber accelerators.”

How to Support Nettoken

We are looking for investors to complete our current round and looking to connect with potential partners. 🙂

Want to connect with Nettoken? Email us to request an intro.

5. Hippy Feet

Sam Harper, Co-Founder

Eco-friendly socks with each purchase providing employment to homeless youth.

How Hippy Feet Got Started

“My co-founder, Michael, suffered a traumatic brain injury after falling off of his skateboard. As part of the recovery process, we realized the value of a support system, and how not everyone has one available. We wanted to create a company that served as this support system for others.”

On Overcoming a Challenge

“We originally launched as buy-one, give-one sock company, donating socks to the homeless. We went out on the streets of Minneapolis, week after week, and donated over 20,000 pairs of socks. People were grateful, but we were left with a feeling of guilt. We weren’t making the deep impact that we had originally set out to create. Giving socks to the people experiencing homelessness was just a band-aid fix. We weren’t actually helping change their situation in life. This caused us to pivot. We changed our mission to focus on providing jobs to homeless youth. This way, we can help transition young people out of homelessness before it becomes a cycle. To date, we’ve been able to provide transitional jobs to over 120 young people affected by homelessness.”

How to Support Hippy Feet

We’re excited to expand our programs to new US cities as our company grows. The biggest way we’re able to do this is by creating custom socks for companies to use as gifts and promotional products. If your company is interested in creating branded products with Hippy Feet, please reach out through our website.

Want to connect with Hippy Feet? Email us to request an intro.

6. Presentr

Tim Wikstrom, Co-Founder

AI-driven system proven to help you become a better, more engaging presenter.

How Presentr Got Started

“Presentr was created to fill the gap that has ALWAYS existed in training people to feel more confident when they are speaking. Given only 10% or less of the workforce is allowed to participate in live training it is an ineffective solution for the greater working population. Live training only provides a point in time solution. But the ability to speak confidently must be developed over time. Presentr was designed to take the best part of live training and create a scalable solution to reach the masses. I started Presentr because everyone deserves to be heard and to feel confident sharing their message.”

On Overcoming a Challenge

“Sales sales sales! Initially, we focused on sharing features and benefits of the product to sell the product. Why not, we were solving a huge problem, right? What we didn’t know or understand fully was the buyer journey. You must know your buyer inside and out. We learned the hard way, hiring a handful of “expert” sales people. That was very costly to our business. We solved this by partnering with the right people to help educate us on the sales motion as well as the importance of developing ICPs (Individual Customer Profiles). This has helped us prospect, identify alignment and recommend solutions for our customers.”

Advice from Presentr’s Founder

“Become very comfortable living outside your comfort zone. As a non-technical founder, this is not a nice to have, it is a must have characteristic.”

Want to connect with Presentr? Email us to request an intro.

7. Spira

Elliot Roth, CEO

Algae-based ingredients that replace animal- and petroleum-derived compounds.

How Spira Got Started

“In 2016, our founder Elliot Roth was running out of funds and decided to couch surf. At the time, the only remaining cost for him was food. After a brief investigation into vertical farming and hydroponics, Elliot decided to focus on the fastest-growing, least resource-intensive and most nutritionally-dense organism: spirulina. He had come across spirulina in a NASA article that claimed astronauts were using spirulina when doing research and writing about synthetic biology. However, apparently dried powdered spirulina tasted terrible. To survive, Elliot grew and lived on a diet of spirulina for a period of 2.5 months in his garage laboratory and discovered that fresh spirulina had no taste. Sometime during the processing the spirulina started tasting bad. By extracting the pigments from spirulina, the overall flavor improved immensely, and in addition as a byproduct, a beautiful natural blue colorant was produced. Thus the idea for Spira was born: using algae ingredients to replace petroleum and animal compounds in the supply chain for food, cosmetics and textile companies.”

On Overcoming a Challenge

“I’m less concerned about failure than I am about small success. Failure teaches me something. I initially started my company Spira by selling home protein production systems where you could press a button and get a shot of protein daily. We were seeing some early sales but it wasn’t enough to sustain the team. We wasted months attempting to scale that business without much traction. With the help of mentors from the National Science Foundation, we started exploring other opportunities. After interviewing 100s of food product developers we discovered a way of using our novel CRISPR-editing technology and extraction process to produce ingredients. This pivot happened right before we went completely bankrupt and completely saved us thanks to the help and advice of our mentors.”

How to Support Spira

“Spira is raising $2,000,000 to deliver our algae-based ingredients to waiting customers. Spira has generated over $65,000 in sales and 55 letters of intent, which corresponds to a projected $33 million in potential billable revenue. We’ve successfully piloted our ingredients with beverage, alcohol, cosmetic, textile, candy and confectionery brands and have interest from clients like Clorox and Kellogg. We’ve filed 6 patents, applied for dozens of grants, and expanded our farming network to 12 global partners producing over 20 metric tons of ingredients monthly. We raised over $435,000 to bring us to this point and presented at conferences like SXSW, Synbiobeta and partnered with organizations like the World Food Programme and the National Science Foundation.”

Want to connect with Spira? Email us to request an intro.

8. Zobi

Scott, Lever, Founder
Cyber Security

Home Intelligence bringing cybersecurity to the Smart Home, covering all IoT devices and endpoints.

How Zobi Got Started

“As a victim of cybercrime and as a cyber security consultant across multiple sectors, I wanted to find a better way of protecting homeworkers and connected householders from hackers and scammers.”

On Overcoming a Challenge

“Our biggest challenge is educating users about the dangers of cybercrime without the usual fear and confusion. To do this, we build a consumer friendly brand called Hedgehog which is smart, simple and trustworthy. It talks about cybercrime is non-tech, non-threatening language and helps users to better protect themselves.”

How to Support Zobi

“We already have 16,000 users pre-registered for our launch. We are a hardware enabled software company with an initial consumer product.”

Want to connect with Zobi? Email us to request an intro.

9. Numly™, Inc.

Madhukar Govindaraju, Founder & CEO
HR & Employee Engagement

AI-Enhanced coaching platform that improves employee engagement, performance, and productivity.

How Numly Got Started

“Numly™’s mission is to measurably improve employee performance and employee engagement through coaching and skills development. NumlyEngage™ is an AI-enhanced platform that enables coaching as an extension of eLearning, making it possible for organizations to tap into employees’ hard and soft skills and empower them to coach each other in a structured manner, while leveraging third-party learning content, expert coaches and built-in programs tailored for all corporate functional groups such as Sales, Customer Success, R&D/Engineering, etc. As a result, NumlyEngage™ helps organizations accelerate revenue, increase performance, and improve employee engagement, especially in the post COVID-19 era of working from home (WFH).”

On Overcoming a Challenge

“At the beginning of 2020, we were working with several large customers in improving their Annual Engagement scores which revolved around complaints from several employees — women and Millennials included — around work-life balance and lack of support for career growth. When the world was hit with COVID-19, the world just transformed overnight to working from home.

This was not just a challenge for us in terms of doing day-2-day business but also connecting several key stakeholders together to see the value of our products. We spoke to all of our pilot customers and immediately started developing programs for teams to Work-from-Home (WFH). Our quick innovation was received extremely well. We were able to convert a business challenge into a huge driver of business growth for us. All of our customers … CEO’s, CHRO’s and CxO’s now are focused on employee productivity and employee engagement when working-from-home. Numly was recently awarded a Hot Vendor in Employee Engagement for 2020 by Aragon Research.”

How to Support Numly

“Numly™’s mission is to measurably improve employee performance and employee engagement through coaching and skills development, enabled by AI. If you are looking for a next-gen LinkedIn platform for engagement and coaching within your company, please do send a note to mailto:ceo@numly.io. We would love to chat with you and see how we can partner in your business growth and success.”

Want to connect with Numly? Email us to request an intro.

Join Other Top Startups

Are you a startup that’s also changing the world? Join our Startup Grind Membership and get exclusive resources and network with world-class experts and peers.

And if you’re interested in seeing other great startups in our membership, check-out our previously published “Top Startup” lists:

9 Startups Changing the World for the Better was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

10 Unwritten Rules for Venture Savvy Founders

This post is by Parul Singh from Startup Grind - Medium

Because there’s no user manual for venture capital.

The 9 Least Sexy Parts of Starting a Tech Startup

This post is by Jonathan Woahn from Startup Grind - Medium

Starting a business is all fun and excitement until the IRS and legal work get involved. Then it sucks. Best you know what you’re getting…

Apple’s War on Facebook, Instagram and Google

This post is by Keith Teare from Stories by Keith Teare on Medium

Confronting Advertising and Tracking Companies

You May Have Impostor Syndrome

This post is by Avi Siegel from Startup Grind - Medium

But I’d Hire You in an Instant

Taking the Startup Stage and Pitching Like a Pro on Your First Try

This post is by Jade-Ceres Violet D. Munoz from Startup Grind - Medium

Taking the Stage and Pitching Like a Pro on Your First Try

You never really forget your first time.

Mine was in a big hotel ballroom. It was a tech leaders summit and the pitch session was a 30-minute program filler. I was a last-minute entry to the session. They made a call for entries to the event a few months earlier and I missed the cut off. Well, to be fair, during that time I had no clue I would even be a co-founder of a start up. So a week before the event, I called the organiser to beg to be included. They said yes.

It was, in every sense of the word, unnerving. My charm paid off and I got a spot but that only left me a week to get everything together. I had to learn how to prepare a pitch deck and to mentally condition myself to get up on stage and ask investors to put their trust in me (and put money in my pocket, while they’re at it!)

In the end, I had an unforgettable and hugely successful pitch session on my first try. I walked away with the funding that I needed — I was the only one that got funded that day, by the way. And here’s how I did it:

Preparing for the Pitch

There are two basic kinds of pitches — one is an elevator pitch. This means you need to talk about your concept in the time it takes the elevator to reach your floor. This usually gives you 60 seconds. This is the make or break pitch that will get you into a longer pitch session with potential investors — much like a screening session.

The second is the actual start up concept pitch. It could be a session with an investor panel or the more exciting concept of pitching competitions. You will usually be given only 5 minutes to complete your pitch and you will need to prepare a pitch deck.

Here are some tips to prepare for your first investor pitch:

  1. Create your pitch deck — Limit this to 10 slides only. This would help you really control your time. There are many templates out there, but the most essential slides would include a brief introduction about your startup (this could include your value proposition), a statement of the problem, the solution you offer, the opportunity (market size), your competitors, your business model, your roadmap, the marketing strategy, your team, how much you’re asking for and where you plan to spend that money. Keep it as simple as possible, with less words and more images instead.
  2. Know your material — Commit it to memory. Don’t read from the slides — people can do that themselves. Plus, I already mentioned to use less words. Your audience wants to hear you talk about your startup. So be prepared to do that. Your slides are a visual aid only, not the actual pitch. YOU are the pitch.
  3. Practice your clicks — This is one of the technical aspects of the pitch that you need to master. When you get to a pitch stage, you will only have a microphone and either a laptop to control your presentation or a clicker plus the timer. Practice talking and clicking through the slides so you know when you are spending too much time on one slide.
  4. Get the timing right — In a timed pitch session, there are no do-overs and no extensions. If you reach the time cutoff, you must get off the stage. Going over the time when it is called will hurt your chances of getting a potential investor. So get the timing right.
  5. Create your own pitch style — Stage presence makes a big difference if you are pitching against several other companies. Watch how the now-gigantic startups did their pitch session or watch episodes of Shark Tank for inspiration. Find a style you like, you’re comfortable with and you know you can pull off.

The Pre-pitch Wait

When the call time for the pitch sessions arrives, everything you’ve prepared for goes out the door. Well not really, but it will feel like it.

Despite all the practice and preparation I did, I was still a jittery blob of nerves when that day came for me. I was pitching against 3 seasoned startup veterans. They were serial entrepreneurs presenting their third or fourth business to these potential investors. The only one that has never done it before was someone presenting a social enterprise and deals with government agencies often. I was a real newcomer to the scene.

I personally think that this is the most important moment of any pitch session. Our call time was lunch time and we were to pitch when the convention restarts after lunch. So we had about an hour to get ourselves ready.

The waiting game gives you an opportunity to practice the speech in your head, get valuable feedback from others in the same situation and basically let you pace and sweat out your fear.

Here’s a little trick I learned: acknowledge the stress and the fear so you can rid yourself of it before you step on the stage. Find a space where you can be alone for five minutes. Close your eyes.

Recognize how the fear and the stress are manifesting in your body. Feel the entire weight of it on your head. Acknowledge the dull throbbing in the back of your brain, your watery eyes, your clenched jaw, even the stronger bite in you back molars and the dryness of your throat.

Now, think about how the stress is making your neck feel a bit stiff, the extra weight on your drooping shoulders, the heaviness in your chest, the butterflies in your stomach.

Feel yourself shifting your entire body’s weight from one leg to another.

Then, stomp it out. You’ve acknowledged it. You recognized that it’s done quite a number on you. Now, it’s time to let go. You’ve done it. You’ve gone through the worst of the physical stress.

The Final Countdown

When you’re mere moments before your pitch, it’s time to mentally condition yourself. Breathe in. Breathe out. And again. Cleanse yourself of the fear.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has some great tips for conquering stage fright. My favourite from their list is to “practice ways to calm and relax your mind and body” This can mean deep breathing, meditation or simply focusing on the positive thoughts. Their tip about giving up trying to be perfect also makes sense. “Know that it is okay to make mistakes” — this proves true during the pitch session as well as in your entire entrepreneurship journey.

Then, finally it is time. Your name will be called. You’ve got this! You know your material. You’ve expelled the stress monster. Do a countdown in your head as you take each step going up that stage.

Pitch, you rockstar!

Taking the Startup Stage and Pitching Like a Pro on Your First Try was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Angels as Lead Investors in Seed Rounds

This post is by Stephanie Luebbe from Startup Grind - Medium

Do angel investors actually lead rounds? Are lead investors required prior to pitching Angels? Which one comes first…

Angels as Lead Investors in Seed Rounds

This post is curated by Keith Teare. It was written by Stephanie Luebbe. The original is [linked here]

Do angel investors actually lead rounds? Are lead investors required prior to pitching Angels? Which one comes first…

Continue reading on Startup Grind »

Joining a Startup: What to Know Before You Leap

This post is by Jennifer Lum from Startup Grind - Medium

To stay at an established company or embark onto startup wilderness? This a question that loves to torture MBA students and seasoned business professionals alike.

The decision to transition to a startup will likely be one of the toughest in your career. I know that firsthand. Many years ago, I found myself wrestling with whether I should stay on the fast track at a consulting company or take a chance and join a startup. A mentor saw my excitement for the startup’s vision and encouraged me to take the leap. That leap changed my career for the better, empowering me to subsequently build, and invest in, many other startups.

As an Entrepreneur in Residence at Harvard Business School, I spent time with MBA students who are interested in joining startups. I’m frequently asked: How should I go about joining a startup? What are key decisions to consider? Which role should I target?

I went to the best source of advice: MBA-holding executives who joined startups early-on and helped lead their companies to scale. For those of you aspiring to transition to a startup, here is what you should consider before making your move.

Evaluate Three Dimensions

A thorough deep dive into a startup will help you understand if it’s in a position to succeed. To determine a startup’s funding status, dig into Crunchbase or Pitchbook to uncover how much funding the company has raised and who their investors are. For insights into company culture, don’t forget to look at Glassdoor and LinkedIn.

Katie Burke, Chief People Officer at HubSpot, recommends thinking about a startup’s growth potential on three dimensions: whether the company’s industry is likely to grow, whether the company is well-positioned to take advantage of that growth, and whether you can grow personally and professionally.

Burke says asking the right questions is key. “Make sure you ask how decisions are made, how the company cares for employees when things are hard, and about how the organization prioritizes culture and values.” Get specific, she advises. “Most people ask vague questions on that front ‘do people like it here? do you value culture?’ and the real value is in the specifics ‘can you give me an example of when something wasn’t working and how you fixed it?’”. Drill into all three dimensions to know if the startup you’re considering has a culture that you will thrive in.

Get in Early, Make a Mark

When I left consulting to join a startup, I tried to keep an open mind and took on anything and everything that came my way. This led to rapid increases in responsibility, and that gave me a real voice in where the company was headed.

As a first-year HBS student, Yi Chen seized the opportunity to join a startup called Toast, working directly with its founders. Toast was working on an idea to transform technology for small and medium-sized restaurants, just like the one Chen’s parents had. Chen recognized the chance to apply his personal experience and passion to the company as Toast’s fifth employee.

“I got the chance to see that they valued my opinion, strategic vision, and listened to my experiences growing up in a family restaurant,” said Chen, who today is Vice President and General Manager of Consumer Products at Toast.

If you join early on, your insights and actions become the critical ideas that shape what a company becomes. Leaders rely on you for your productivity, problem solving, and ability to scale. It’s a golden opportunity to leave your mark.

Forget the Job Description

I work with MBA students who are fiercely goal oriented and attracted to well-defined roles. When it comes to joining an early-stage startup, its not always possible to map to a specific job description. If you are willing to consider a flexible role, you can focus on what really matters: learning a ton.

“You’ll never learn more than when you build a business,” said Colin Raney, Chief Marketing Officer of the online pharmacy PillPack which was acquired by Amazon last year. “From working through technical issues, designing processes, figuring out operations and people management, you will have a chance to gain knowledge across the entire business. You’ll learn five times more at a startup than you would at a bigger company,” Raney says. “There’s just so much more personal development that comes from building something from scratch.”

When you move from a large company to a startup, you may give up the comfort of a well-defined job description but in exchange you’ll be rewarded with learning and experience that exceeds any one title.

You Just Jump

I’ve seen talented professionals rule out startups because they feel too risky. Startups can be a wild ride, but they can also lead to a deeply fulfilling career. Anna Marie Wagner, a Senior Vice President at the synthetic biology company Ginkgo Bioworks, spent a decade on a steady career path before redefining her relationship with risk. “Once I started reflecting, I realized I was more scared of waking up in 20 years and regretting not having thrown myself at a problem I was passionate about than I was of joining a company that went belly up,” she said. When she entertained the idea of joining Ginkgo, her mentors urged her to give risk a chance. “Now that I’ve tasted the thrill and the responsibilities that come with being a leader in a startup, I’m not sure I could ever go back,” she said.

For those who are prepared for hard work and aren’t afraid of uncertainty, there are few things as exhilarating as joining a startup. Before you make your move, do your research, and be honest with your expectations. When you come across the right team, don’t waste the opportunity. In the words of Sheryl Sandberg: “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”

Jennifer Lum is a Managing Partner at Biospring Partners and an Entrepreneur in Residence at Harvard Business School. Twitter: @lum

Joining a Startup: What to Know Before You Leap was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Startup Q&A: Supermoney

This post is by The Startup Grind Team from Startup Grind - Medium

With over 25 years of experience as a highly skilled Insurance Broker and more recently as a founder of two fintech startups, Mark Abbott adores his work. In particular, building value into networks and delivering powerful block-chain solutions in automotive, healthcare, financial services and logistics sectors.

Mark also happens to be the COO of Supermoney, a UK-based startup that provides a suite of products, tools and services for the creation of business networks, using distributed ledger technologies. Supermoney improves business process efficiency and creates opportunities for new business models within use cases like asset tracking, self-sovereign identity, closed loop payments, loyalty programs and escrow. In addition, the company has worked with multi-national corporations in a number of sectors including automotive finance, recruitment retail, financial services and healthcare.

— In a single sentence, what does Supermoney do?

Supermoney is a next generation accounting ledger, distributed to facilitate the creation and management of hyper efficient business networks.

– How did Supermoney come to be? What was the problem you found and the ‘aha’ moment?

In 2018 and after a number of years of running a successful International Payments Company, the Founders, Joel Smalley and Mark Abbott realised that conventional legacy IT Infrastructures and legacy manually intervened processes within most businesses were significantly affecting the levels of business process efficiency.

Utilising the powerful capabilities of Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT), Supermoney developed a unique business model whereby the transacting of tokenized goods, services, money and all other real-world assets, created a huge gain in business process efficiency through the integration of Payments, Logistics, Asset Tracking/Provenance and Loyalty on the ledger.

The “aha” moment was realising that the opportunity for Supermoney was to build a simple, flexible and scaleable toolkit to allow businesses to build blockchain networks and solutions quickly and cheaply, in order to verify and validate whatever use-case was required within their own businesses. Digital transformation is key — that is Supermoney’s core USP!

— What sets Supermoney apart in the market?

Supermoney is the only company in the market that is able to create a Proof of Concept (PoC) deployed in live environment, within a matter of hours and at a price-point that is accessible to any business in any sector.

Our customers love our flexibility and ability to realise their PoC’s, whilst employing our lean product development methodologies to get quickly and cheaply to Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

— What are people most excited by when they first see Supermoney ?

Partnering with Oracle and Oracle for Startups in 2019. That was huge for Supermoney!

— Have you pursued funding and if so, what steps did you take?

We have successfully raised in excess of £1.2m through a private HNW/UHNW personal network.

— What KPIs are you tracking that you think will lead to revenue generation/growth?

With over 25 current PoC’s in play and plenty more in the pipeline, across such a wide industry-sector base, let alone use-cases, the key is to migrate as many of these into MVP/Full Production deployments as possible.

— How do you build and develop talent?

Very careful selection for our Internal Tech Resource — we now have a robust, highly skilled and dedicated team.

Our most recent Board appointments are:

— What are the biggest challenges for the team?

Choosing the right people to join the company. Working in a startup presents a world of challenges and one normally has to wear many “caps” initially due to scant resource and hence demonstrate a deep level of intuition, role flexibility and an enormous amount of hard work and dedication.

It is not uncommon that high-flyers from previous successful employments within large global companies, struggle to succeed within the startup environment. They may have strong skill-sets in certain defined areas, but quite often, are not able to adapt into the much more challenging environment of a startup, where they are on their “own” and not supported with additional and significant departmental resource.

Continued belief and passion will always help you get through the tough times!

— What’s been the biggest success for the team and how did you celebrate?

Our biggest win at the moment is a partnership with HSBC, via Oracle, who have agreed to provide the payment structure for all of our solutions.

We have some big names in automotive finance, too.

And as for how we celebrated? Probably a selection of celebratory emoji’s on Whats-App between the team!

— What’s something you’re constantly thinking about?

Other than my beautifully amazing family, Supermoney is always in the forefront of my mind (and probably conversation, too). Most likely because I’m so excited about it and people love hearing about the clever stuff we do. I love it!

Being a petrol-head, Formula 1, and MotoGP are somewhere up there, too.

— What advice would you give to other founders?

Be true to yourself, always.

— Have you been or are you part of a corporate startup program or accelerator? If so, which ones and what have been the benefits?

We are part of Oracle for Startups. Two Collaboration Labs through L Marks — we were finalists at both BMW Financial Services North America and Volvo Financial Services North America in 2018/2019. It provided hugely valuable insight into that industry sector and the business challenges they face. In both cases, very valuable and on-going engagements.

— Who is your cloud provider?

Oracle — OCI

— Is there any question you wished we’d asked you?

Do we believe that Supermoney will gain the coveted Unicorn Status? Answer is yes!

You can learn more about Supermoney by visiting their website here.

Startup Q&A: Supermoney was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Two Tribes Go To War — DC versus Silicon Valley

This post is by Keith Teare from Stories by Keith Teare on Medium

The anti big-tech stance of DC is a replacement for any genuinely innovative or progressive outlook from either of the main political…

How Larry Ellison might have predicted the future and other pandemic pivots

This post is by Jason Williamson from Startup Grind - Medium

It was a little surprising when Larry Ellison told me in early 2019 to pivot the startup program to 100% virtual. That directive seems prescient now.

A little history: When the startup program started in 2017, we had co-working facilities in locations across the globe. We believed the co-working spaces were a strong benefit of the program — the data proved we were wrong. In the aggregate, our nine facilities sat at around 20% occupancy. Although the startups were actively engaged with the program, they simply didn’t need a physical space to work. That wasn’t of value. They already had offices, worked from co-working facilities, or worked from home. Brick and mortar was a beautiful offering in theory, but in practice impeded our ability to support more than a handful startups at a time.

What mattered most to the startups was more access to cloud technology, customer connections and marketing exposure. They wanted to scale their businesses and needed Oracle’s technology and business resources to do so. In fact, we did a small experiment with a virtual program in 2018 to see if that was true. It was.

So, during that pivotal meeting, Larry told us to shutter the physical centers and reinvest the savings into more valuable resources for the startups. He granted startups in the program a 70% discount on all infrastructure and PaaS services for two years. We doubled-down on our resources to enable customer introductions, migration assistance and marketing exposure. And we began to accelerate our virtual resources and build out our online startup portal.

Today, we work with thousands of startups across the globe. All virtually. Certainly, our virtual headstart made the transition during COVID-19 a bit easier. However, just like everyone else, the pandemic has impacted us. From pressing down on digital efforts to fast-tracking new ideas, we are trying to reimagine relationships through this new pandemic paradigm.

Below are six key lessons we have learned:

Digital Transformation Can Be Accelerated: In the pandemic, all timelines are compressed. And that’s testing our limits. What we once projected to take four to six months is now getting completed in two. Take, for example, our online portal that gives the startups on-demand access to a variety of resources from additional credits to migration assistance to customer connections. Our product roadmap has been accelerated and we are rolling out new features like Venture Capital Connect and a Virtual Library ahead of schedule. We can iterate and operate faster now — successfully. Something we learned because we were tested. Out of problems, come solutions.

Startups Want Hands-on Migration Support: If this pandemic has done anything, it’s shown the importance of having flexible, elastic and rock-solid infrastructure. Whether you had to scale up to keep up with customer demand, or scale down to weather the storm, elasticity is key to adapt and survive. Our program offers free migration assistance to startups, something that’s been on the rise since the pandemic. Startups need resources now and our tech experts are stepping in to help. We’ll continue to double-down on our migration assistance, offering more hands-on help to startups who want to future-proof their technology.

Experiment with Storytelling: Audio is the new black. Look no further than podcast popularity. To seize on that, our team rolled out a new audio storytelling feature that’s short and sweet — only 120 seconds. The new “Meet the Startups” audio shorts allows us to highlight and amplify a startup’s story in a quick and engaging audio format. We’re experimenting with how we tell our stories and will continue to test and learn: Check it out on Soundcloud.

Webinar Fatigue is a Thing: Yep, it’s real. And our team is fighting it by stretching our creative limits and trying new things. We hosted a “Startup Idol” webinar for global analysts that pitted six startups in a pitch competition allowing the analysts to engage and vote. The response was positive noting it was “unique” and “engaging and fun” in a sea of sameness. We are also conducting “Meet the Startups” roundtable webinars, giving customers and partners insights into startup solutions for their particular industries. And we’re tackling diversity and inclusion head-on with webinars like, “The F Word: Females, Funding, Future.” Testing and learning. Keeping things fresh. Check out what’s coming and what’s on-demand for our webinars.

Humanity and Respect Priority №1: 2020 has been hard. Every person is experiencing it in their own unique way. Humanity has to come first. Whether helping startups with financial aid or offering virtual outlets for our team, we are putting on a focus on people and relationships. We’re trying new things, connecting on a human level. Our new team-wide competition we call “House Cup” (think Harry Potter) has been really inspiring and fun. We are also learning to respect each person’s unique working patterns and schedules, and some of us have some really unique ones. When you make respect and relationships priority №1, everything else will fall into place. We already knew that. 2020 has helped bring it back into focus.

The predictions that I made at the beginning of 2020 didn’t exactly predict a global pandemic, but we had some foresight of our own. Our ethos is to constantly test, learn and iterate. Doing so helps us better prepare for the future — whatever that might be. And, of course, a bit of future gazing from Larry always helps.

How Larry Ellison might have predicted the future and other pandemic pivots was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

VC Corner Q&A: SC Moatti of Mighty Capital

This post is by The Startup Grind Team from Startup Grind - Medium

SC Moatti is the managing partner of Mighty Capital, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, and Products That Count, one of the largest and undoubtedly the most influential network of product managers in the world.

Previously, SC built products that billions of people use at Facebook, Nokia and Electronic Arts. Andrew Chen, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, called SC “a genius at making mobile products people love.”

— What is Mighty Capital’s mission?

Mighty Capital is an early-growth Silicon Valley venture capital firm. We deliver outstanding returns by investing in great products that are also great businesses, like Airbnb, DigitalOcean and Amplitude. Amplitude calls us the “best value for the dollar invested.”

Our moat is exclusive access to a global business acceleration platform which helps our portfolio companies drive sales, hire talent, validate ideas, and exit via corporate M&A: Products That Count, one of the largest and undoubtedly the most influential networks of product managers. That’s why top-tier venture firms like USVP, Mayfield and Aligned Partners have invited us to co-invest with them, and why Business Insider says we’ve come up with “a new way of doing venture capital.”

— What is one thing you’re excited about right now?

Times of hardship are when the best companies are founded because that’s when the most brilliant entrepreneurs come up with their most creative and resilient ideas.

— Who is one founder we should watch?

Charlie Silver, founding CEO of MissionBio, and Spenser Skate, founding CEO of Amplitude.

— What are the 3 top qualities of every great leader?

Integrity, humility, tenacity.

— What is one question you ask yourself before investing in a company?

If I’m only able to make one investment this year, is this the one?

— What is one thing every founder should ask themselves before walking into a meeting with a potential investor?

Spend as little time as possible telling your story so you can spend as much time as possible build a relationship with your investor.

— What do you think should be in a CEO’s top 3 company priorities?

Sales, hiring and fundraising.

— Favorite business book, blog or podcast?

Crossing the Chasm is a classic. I also often read Stratechery. And with the risk of sounding self-promoting, I love the resources we produce at Products That Count (www.productsthatcount.com) -they are meant to help all of us build better products.

— Who is one leader you admire?

Jeff Bezos. I admire his strategic mind and vision, his ability to execute, and his boldness/courage.

— What is one interesting thing most people won’t know about you?

I sing in a rock band.

— What is one piece of advice you’d give every founder?

You are ready.

Ready to make a pitch? Startups looking for an opportunity to pitch Mighty Capital can apply here!

VC Corner Q&A: SC Moatti of Mighty Capital was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

We Need More Anti-Racist VCs

This post is by Kasem Rodriguez Mohsen from Startup Grind - Medium

A Society in the Crucible

How Do You Raise in a Time of Crisis?

This post is by The Startup Grind Team from Startup Grind - Medium

Startup Grind’s Q&A with the healthtech startup that didn’t let a pandemic get in its way of funding — or better healthcare.

Every quarter, we select a truly stand-up startup from our Startup Community to feature in-depth. This time around we’re looking at Promaxo, an Oakland-based startup focused on designing customer-centric MRI systems and robotic guidance tools for live diagnosis and treatment in a physician’s office. Promaxo has exhibited brilliant creativity and ingenuity over the last several years and recently closed their Series B-1 funding— in the middle of a pandemic, no less. Keep reading for our Q&A with Promaxo’s CEO, Amit Vohra.

As the COVID crisis unfolded in March, Promaxo was in the midst of raising their Series B-1 round. Simultaneously, they’d been working aggressively on meeting their timelines for product realization and regulatory clearance. As a medical technology company developing capital equipment, the process required some team members to be physically present at their office to operate the MRI scanner and continually optimize the MR images.

On one hand, the pandemic had an impact on some of their investment commitments. On the other hand, it restricted Promaxo from running full-tilt as an organization. Most importantly, they knew they had to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees and loved ones.

Promaxo acted quickly and focused their attention on a plan to operate effectively during the shelter-at-home order. They clarified their classification as an essential business and once they had the confirmation, they implemented a creative company-wide work schedule. The team made sure that the majority of their employees worked from home.

For employees needed to run the scanner, they implemented social-distancing protocols at work and started working in two shifts to keep in-person interaction at minimum. They consistently communicated the critical timelines and schedules to their team & investors, met virtually through Zoom/Uber conference, and kept the team motivated and engaged in these unique times. The quick reaction and adaptability of their team to this adversity allowed them to stay on course, ultimately allowing them to close the first tranche of their Series B-1 funding.

SG: You’ve done so much in regards to the portability of high-tech specialized healthcare. Tell us more about how Promaxo came to be and how it’s evolved over time.

Amit Vohra, CEO of Promaxo: From the very beginning, our goal has been to make MRIs more adaptable and accessible to the physician and patient communities. I had exited my last venture in Spring 2014 and had decided to pursue an Executive MBA at Duke. I chanced upon Promaxo’s underlying MRI technology at a NC Biotechnology Center Event in Fall 2014.

The project was at that stage funded by NIH and NSF and the platform nature of the technology got me excited. I spoke to my advisor and better half, Abhita, and we initiated our own due diligence process. As part of the process, Abhita introduced me to Michael, who ended up being the co-founder of Promaxo. The Company was incorporated in Jan 2016 and we started the journey to realizing our goal. Since inception, we have raised $17.3M in dilutive capital and grown to a team of over 20 employees and interns in Oakland.

Our amazing team has brought the portable single-sided MRI from an early concept to a 60601 certified prototype ready for clinical launch in the US urology market within the next few months.

Promaxo’s vision is “to improve quality and speed of healthcare delivery to those in need while reducing cost. To build and deliver value to shareholders and society in doing so.” A vision without actions is a daydream and with our portable MRI and robotic platform, we are fully committed to our vision of making healthcare more accessible.

SG: Promaxo has raised before, closing a $3.5 million Series A round in 2017. What was different this time around?

Fundraising is about building relationships with the investor community, and each round can take months to materialize. The single biggest lesson I learnt after raising the last round was to start working right-away on the next round. This meant researching all investors relevant to our industry and funding stage, and initiating a conversation with their principals through my network. I agree with the wise folks who stated that a startup CEO stands for “Cash Extraction Officer” and is always raising. I try to be “that” CEO.

Our current round is led by Kineticos Disruptor Fund and we have known the fund founders and partners for several years. We had been communicating on our current round since late 2019 and even though we had a couple of challenges (including the pandemic), the mutual trust between us allowed us to close the round.

SG: Why was this raise so important for Promaxo?

Every round is critical in a company’s growth. Promaxo is on the path to a clinical launch and commercialization in the US urology market and any delays in financing could have slowed our growth curve. The fact that we were able to bring in capital in these unprecedented COVID-19 times makes this even more important. We can go full steam with all resources in place and focus on delivering our next milestone.

SG: How did you find the right investor? Did you pitch multiple?

Fundraising is never easy and requires kissing a lot of “frogs” and “princes/princesses.” So yeah, I am always pitching even when I am not presenting to a bonafide VC or angel investor. The person I am chatting with might not invest but could open doors for us through her/his network.

For the current round, we have the right lead investor in Kineticos Disruptor Fund. We keep presenting to multiple investors though to plan for our next close and the subsequent financing rounds.

SG: How did you overcome funding rejection and what lessons did you use to your advantage?

A startup CEO needs to be thick-skinned and not be disheartened by the frequency and unpredictability of ‘no.’ I strongly believe that ‘no’ accompanied by a reasoning for rejection is way better than a ‘maybe.’ The unpredictable no can be exhausting but it must be taken in the stride. Every investor has a sweet spot and I used most funding rejections to define the right investor for the round in play and subsequent rounds. For me, a ‘no’ in the seed round from a VC or corporate strategically could mean a yes downstream once measurable growth milestones have been achieved.

SG: If you had to pick one, what do you think was the biggest key to your fundraising success?

The biggest key to our fundraising success has been transparent and regular communications with the investor community. This has helped us build a strong relationship with the VCs and angels and helped them witness our progress in real-time.

SG: Being a health tech company, how do you see Promaxo and other tech companies fitting into the future of healthcare?

I authored an article which details my perspective on this.

A couple main excerpts:

“Healthcare is a space that moves slowly. Given the amount of money pouring into it every year, which amounts to 18 percent of GDP in the United States, that’s perhaps not surprising. Yet in recent years it seems like technology is finally catching up with healthcare, and it’s changing things more rapidly than anyone could have ever imagined. That’s true for the patients, who now have increased access to wearables and to platforms like telemedicine, allowing them to have more control over their health and to access their care from anywhere.

The role of the doctor, meanwhile, is also changing thanks to robotics, imaging and machine learning, which are meant to help process the more mundane, repetitive tasks to allow physicians to practice at the top of their skills and licensure.I see the role of the doctor as managing all these technologies, making the call on what needs to be done and where. In my perfect world, a doctor would be a conductor in an orchestra: they do not need to perform all the musical instruments, they masterfully choreograph the procedure.”

SG: You’re also currently the co-founder and Director for a new startup called 8chili, technology built for the future of remote collaboration in surgeries. How have the lessons, success, failures (if any) of Promaxo made this possible?

As an entrepreneur, I keep learning every day. The most important lesson I have learnt over the years is to surround myself with the “right” people. These “right” people are employees, advisors and investors who have a positive impact on the company culture and bring diverse and complementary skill sets. I have learnt that empowering the employees, keeping them motivated, and allowing them to express themselves is critical to a successful startup.

SG: What’s kept you going after all these years?

I am motivated every day by the fact that the work we are doing is going to positively impact lives and make a meaningful change in the healthcare domain. What else could I ask for from a lifestyle and a career!

SG: If you had to give advice to anyone fundraising in the current climate, what would it be?

Eric Reis defined a startup as “a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” The current climate embodies uncertainty. I would advise the fundraising CEOs to be adaptable and action oriented in the COVID-19 world. Communicate with the investors in your network and keep them apprised of any updates and developments. Keep a laser focus and devote all resources to executing on one measurable milestone that could convince the investors that the team can deliver in these uncertain times.

SG: If you had to give advice to anyone in the health tech space — who really wants to make a difference — what would it be?

Healthcare space is ripe for disruption on several fronts. However, it takes time to change the status quo in the health tech domain and needs buy in from all stakeholders including patients, providers, and payers. The first and foremost goal for any startup in the health tech space should improve and save patients’ lives. Simultaneously, they should ensure that a value proposition exists for physicians and payers.

SG: What is the most exciting thing on the horizon for Promaxo?

We’re looking forward to our MRIs being deployed in urology clinics and practices in the US in the coming months. The most exciting thing on the horizon for Promaxo is when our system provides an enhanced and comfortable MRI experience for patients. That would be a truly gratifying experience!

SG: Lastly, what attracted you about the Startup Grind community?

We were excited to join Startup Grind as it provides a global community where we can connect with and learn from like-minded individuals across a wide range of industries. Startup Grind provides us with an opportunity to forge lifelong friendships and leverage a global ecosystem of entrepreneurs, investors and potential partners. As a growth stage medical technology company transforming healthcare through our deep-tech robotic and imaging platform, we embody the spirit of Startup Grind.

Visit Promaxo to learn more about their technology & team. And if you’d like to meet other excellent startups like Promaxo, explore the Startup Grind Membership which brings the best startups in the world together in a supportive & global community.

How Do You Raise in a Time of Crisis? was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Andreessen to Gurley — “Spac-Off!”

This post is curated by Keith Teare. It was written by Keith Teare. The original is [linked here]

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