Do Not Believe In Any Startup Advice You Get. Not Even This.


This post is by Mayur Mundada from Startup Grind - Medium

Why Being a Founder is the Most Challenging Thing You’ll Ever Do


This post is by Elizabeth van Rooyen from Startup Grind - Medium

And why seeing the big picture is the most important.

VC Corner: Atin Batra of Twenty Seven Ventures


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

Atin Batra is the Founder & General Partner at Twenty Seven Ventures, a VC firm investing in early-stage EdTech and Future of Work startups across the world. 27V looks for entrepreneurs with an overwhelming drive to build a business that not only creates shareholder value but also leave a positive impact on our fragile world. The firm has invested in 6 companies operating in 6 countries.

Most recently, he was a Principal at the global VC firm Q Venture Partners, where he helped invest in Deep Tech & connected Hardware startups in North America. Prior to that, he led the Swire Properties’ B2B accelerator ‘blueprint’. Originally from India, Atin spends his weekends trail running Hong Kong’s beautiful country parks.

— What is your fund’s mission?

Twenty Seven Ventures (27V) is curating a group of thoughtful founders building the foundations of human learning and productivity; entrepreneurs with an overwhelming drive to build a business that not only creates shareholder value but also leave a positive impact on our fragile world.

The Fund invests in global EdTech and Future of Work startups at the pre-Seed and Seed stages. We invest globally because we believe there is untapped value in founders, across the world, learning from each other facing problems, both similar and dissimilar.

— What was your very first investment/when? And what struck you about them?

Toggle was my first investment out of this Fund. Toggle is a NY-based company building a full-stack robotics solution for rebar cage fabrication and assembly.

I was struck by the how humble the Founding team was. Both Dan and Ian had been successful in their careers before starting the company, and yet they came to work every single day looking to learn more about the construction business.

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

Investing in Founder operating outside of the traditional venture capital hotspots. In today’s time and age of software technology pervading all industries, I truly believe there are amazing companies being built by teams not within the bubble that is the Bay Area or Tel Aviv or London.

— Who is one founder we should watch?

Keep an eye out for Amanda DoAmaral, founder of Fiveable. She is the most customer-focused entrepreneur I’ve come across.

I came across Amanda because of a video where she rails against the injustices being wrought by a particular educational curriculum provider. Knew it right then that the best interests of her students was always going to be top of mind for her. That’s been the secret to her success so far! And will be crucial going forward.

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

  1. Innately curious, always open to learning.
  2. Appreciates the value of relationships and teams.
  3. Recognizes that allocation of resources (time, capital, human) is their primary job.

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

Would the smartest people I know want to work for this Founder? Would I?
IMHO, being able to build a stellar team around oneself is a Founder’s most under-appreciated quality.

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

What will the company and founding team learn/gain from this individual/firm?

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

  1. Be customer-focused from day one.
  2. Build a diverse team that is committed to the company vision.
  3. Efficiently allocate the company’s resources — time, human, capital.

— Favorite business book, blog or podcast?

Really like “Invest Like the Best” podcast by Patrick O’Shaughnessy. It’s a constant presence in my Overcast queue.

— What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?

I’m an ultra-marathon trail runner. Running long distances in the mountains keeps me sane.

— Who is one leader you admire?

Given my hobby of long distance running, I’m a sucker for endurance athletes and their stories. 2 in particular that I follow closely are Scott Jurek and Alex Honnold — both of them are at the pinnacle of their respective fields, ultra-running and mountain climbing.

I’m always finding parallels between endurance sports and entrepreneurship; the ups and downs, hitting walls, building a crew +more. Keep reminding the portfolio founders and myself that this journey is an ultra-marathon, not a marathon, certainly not a sprint.

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

I’m a thespian at heart — and was a theatre actor/director for the first 20 years of my life. Still deeply love theatre, so much so that my wife and I saw 5 broadway shows in 7 nights during our last trip to NY.

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

Strictly curate your group of mentors, advisors and investors — they could be as instrumental to your success/failure as the team (employees) you build.

Learn more about Twenty Seven Ventures here.

Or ready to make your pitch to more great investors? Show your interest to multiple companies here.


VC Corner: Atin Batra of Twenty Seven Ventures was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Bringing the cocktail effect to video meetings


This post is by Christoph Janz from Point Nine Land - Medium

On WFH, zoomalternative.com, and being late to Clubhouse

If you know Point Nine a little bit you might know that we’re extremely excited about video conferencing technology, and more broadly, about how video as a medium is transforming everything from education and entertainment to communication and marketing. In the last few years we’ve invested in several startups that use video in a variety of different ways: Confrere, a video calling solution for physicians; Loom, a beautiful tool for asynchronous video messages; PlayPlay, which lets anyone easily create professional videos; Preply, a learning platform for language tutoring sessions over video; ScreenCloud, a web-based digital signage software; Zype, which helps companies distribute, manage, and monetize digital videos; and one more recent addition to the #p9family that hasn’t been announced yet.

#p9family companies going after various opportunities “in video”

My personal interest in video conferencing is related to the fact that I’ve been working remotely for more than twenty years. If you spend hours and hours in video conferences every day you can’t help but develop a keen interest in any piece of hardware or software that might improve the audio or video quality or overall meeting experience. 🙂 (Feel free to reach out if you want to geek out on that topic.)

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for human interactions

We’ve always had a remote-friendly culture and a geo-agnostic investment strategy at Point Nine. As a result, the last months weren’t that different or difficult for us. Even so, four months of social distancing has made me realize one thing: While Zoom has done a fantastic job in bringing reliable, high-quality video meetings to companies around the world, the types of meetings that Zoom excels at represent only a subset of a much larger number of social interaction paradigms.

Think about some of the many other ways in which people meet, communicate, and interact in the physical world: A consultation with a physician. A university lecture. A sales or customer support call. A family dinner or a team lunch. Playing a board game with friends. Watching a movie together. A networking dinner. A brainstorming session. A conference.

Unbundling Zoom

If you wanted to design a software product aimed at replicating the experience of, say, a team lunch in the online world, that product would likely look very different from a tool for online lectures or software for brainstorming sessions. It would undoubtedly look and feel different from what Zoom looks and feels like today.

There is no doubt that Zoom will continue to develop its products to address further use cases. Moreover, by letting third-party developers build products on top of its platform Zoom might become the backbone of our new virtual world.

I’m convinced, however, that there are plenty of opportunities for startups to build large, successful video conferencing businesses that focus on specific niches and offer the best possible user experience for their chosen meeting types or use cases. People are already used to using multiple different communication tools depending on the context (e.g. Slack for work, WhatsApp for friends, Skype for your parents). Users may be loyal to a tool or service, but their loyalty is usually limited to certain contexts. FWIW, I’m so bullish about Zoom alternatives that I recently registered the domain www.zoomalternative.com. Let’s see what it might be useful for. 😁

How would a Zoom for dinners look like?

Continuing this line of thought I asked myself: How would a video meeting product for networking dinners with, say, 20–50 guests, look like? It certainly wouldn’t be a Zoom meeting with 20–50 participants. How would you design an application that enables social interactions similar to those at a business dinner event? With the caveats that a) I’m not an expert at dinner networking by any stretch of imagination and b) we’ll have to forget about the food for now, here are my thoughts.

Let’s imagine a dinner with 40 people, four tables with 10 participants each:

The initial seating order is either provided by the host or emerges as attendees pick seats, in which case it’s a result of the attendees’ relationships, personalities, interests, status, plus an element of randomness.

Let’s think about what’s happening here:

  • With around 10 people per table, it’s still possible to have one conversation that everyone at the table participates in, depicted by the large blue oval in the top left. (If there are significantly more than 10 persons seated around one table you will start to lose the ability to have a single conversation — unless there’s a moderator, maybe, but that’s yet another type of meeting.
  • In most cases, there will be multiple conversations per table, as illustrated by the various other blue ovals above. To be precise, the number of simultaneous conversations per table is in the 1–5 range (not counting monologues, prayers, phone calls, and assuming there are neither cross-table conversations nor people engaging in multiple conversations at the same time).
  • People tend to have conversations in “groups” consisting of 2–5 (or maybe a few more) participants, mostly with people that are spatially close to them (for obvious, acoustic reasons).
  • Groups emerge spontaneously and can be expanded or reduced in size, merged with other groups, split into subgroups, and dissolved, without any central planning, based on the behaviors of the various actors.
  • People frequently switch between groups in their proximity (for any number of reasons).

What else?

  • Occasionally, people swap seats in order to join a farther away group, indicated by the violet arrows above (because the grass is always greener on the other side).
  • Depending on the room layout, groups may span across neighboring tables, although this may require a certain amount of physical suppleness (green oval).
  • People occasionally switch to another table, e.g. for the dessert or afterwards (red arrows).

How does the switching work?

For starters, it’s important to remember why people are able to have a conversation in a noisy restaurant in the first place. How can you understand what another person is saying when there are multiple other people yelling talking at the same time? The explanation is the well-known cocktail party effect, which describes the brain’s ability to focus on one auditory stimulus while filtering out a range of other stimuli. What’s important in the context of video conferencing is that the cocktail party effect requires stereo hearing. At a dinner event, your left ear and your right ear receive somewhat different audio signals, which the AI between your ears uses to localize sound sources. Unless you use ultra high-end telepresence systems that record and play audio Dolby-style, spatial information is completely missing from the audio that you receive in a video conference, which largely disables the cocktail party phenomenon (and is one of the reasons why video meetings and IRL meetings don’t quite feel the same yet).

Coming back to our networking dinner:

  • Because of the cocktail party effect, people are able to participate in the conversation of one group while hearing and capturing fragments of other groups’ conversations.
  • People may occasionally shift their attention to a neighboring groups’ conversation for a brief moment or they can use short breaks of their group’s conversation to “tune in” to neighboring groups’ conversations.
  • People can use what they’ve learned about neighboring groups’ conversations to decide if they want to leave their group and join another one.

Bringing the cocktail effect to video meetings

The above has shown that in order to replicate a networking dinner, the software needs to meet a few important requirements:

  1. The software needs to offer an equivalent to the “groups” I spoke about above. The closest thing to that in existing video conferencing software would be a “room” or “breakout room”, but I think “table” might be a better term, so I’ll use that here.
  2. People need to be able to receive cues about what’s going on at other tables. The trick is to find a mechanism to provide these cues in an unobtrusive, non-distracting way. Audio cues are likely to be too distracting, so listening in to another table’s conversation, even at a reduced volume, while following the conversation of one’s own table is probably not the right solution. Visual cues could work very well, however. Using speech recognition and a simple (tag cloud style) algorithm, I think the software would be able to provide useful cues.

People must be able to easily switch back and forth between tables.

A simple mockup might make it easier to see what I have in mind:

Bonus features:

  • Non-verbal visual cues (emojis!)
  • Option to mute/unmute all visual cues or selectively mute/unmute visual cues from specific tables (a big benefit over real dinner meetings).
  • Ability to get cues not only from neighboring tables but also from tables that are further away, filtered based on the user’s interests and preferences (this could make it possible to have meetings with 10x more participants than in the real world).
  • Being able to “tune in” to another conversation for a few moments.
  • Base initial seating order on users’ interests and preferences.
  • Optionally, there could be rules for joining tables (for example, someone joining a table could require a “thumbs up” vote of the majority of the people at that table).

The more I think about it, the more I believe that software has the potential to not only replicate but improve physical networking meetings that enable better, more meaningful conversations. What do you think? If someone has looked into this topic more thoroughly or if there are tools that I’m not aware of, please let me know!

PS: Here’s a comment from Nathan Benaich, who was kind enough to review a draft of this post, fix my broken English, and provide lots of great feedback:

Ouch. I’ve obviously heard about Clubhouse but I haven’t tried it yet, so I don’t know how much of what I described above already exists. Looks like I have to spend more time on VC Twitter. 😉


Bringing the cocktail effect to video meetings was originally published in Point Nine Land on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The New Playbook for Startup Fundraising During Covid-19


This post is by Rohan Ayyar from Startup Grind - Medium

Covid-19 hasn’t killed VC investing, but the ecosystem is definitely fighting an infection. Startups face new challenges, like difficulties in traveling, a reluctance to hold face-to-face meetings, and a general economic slowdown, forcing everyone to rewrite the playbook for startup funding.

Some are choosing to postpone fundraising, like Canadian startup Shift, which recently canceled its planned fundraising round to focus on revenue growth and refining its product because they felt they wouldn’t be able to access the value they deserve at this chaotic time.

But many others are going ahead despite the unique obstacles, striking a new path to access VC funds. If this is what you’re trying to do, then read on for some important things to keep in mind.

Covid-19 Didn’t Kill VC Funding

Q4 2019 saw an unprecedented level of investment which pushed on into Q1 2020, with $34.2 billion invested across 2,298 venture deals, and another $23 billion in late-stage deals, but that momentum is faltering.

While VC funds were sitting on around $121 billion in mid-2019 and still have plenty to invest, many are cautious about where they place it. Others may not have liquidity at the moment, and 46% of funds are focusing on existing investments and don’t have much to spare for new opportunities.

Source: https://www.slush.org/article/50-of-startups-have-6-month-to-live-other-insights-from-our-covid-19-survey/

However, others scent the opportunity to snatch up great startups while the competition is down, they have more time to carry out due diligence, and deal terms are likely to be more favorable.

That said, you shouldn’t expect the same amounts you might have scored in 2019. The general opinion is that valuations have declined by a good 20–30%. Andris Berzins of Change Ventures notes that “In the previous crisis valuations went down by 30% on average. We expect the same if not lower.”

Relationships are driving funding more than ever. The PitchBook NVCA Venture Monitor, an authoritative voice on VC activity, reported that so far in 2020, only nine first-time funds closed, compared with 49 annually between 2017 and 2019. VCs are reluctant to consider unfamiliar startups with unknown founders, so you may need to pivot towards VCs with members you’ve met before, or spend more time nurturing a relationship before making your pitch.

Investment isn’t uniform across the board. Bear in mind that:

  • Different locales have different investing climates. Baltic funds are more willing to invest now, while those in the US are still uncertain.
  • You might not be deemed as “essential.” B2B startups are suffering more than B2C, and B2B companies that serve large enterprises are struggling more than those serving SMBs.
  • Investors are directing funds towards particular sectors, with 78% shifting towards industries that benefit from the pandemic such as health, ecommerce and online education.

Yet opportunities are there for those willing to work for them. It’s just a matter of managing your cash flow until you get there.

Remote Pitches Bring Both Challenges and Benefits

Most funding pitches now take place remotely, bringing new challenges to startups seeking funding. You’ll need to research the best platform to use for your online pitch, make sure that you understand how to use it, and triple check all your links and equipment. You don’t want a dodgy internet connection or poor quality microphone to torpedo your chances.

Video conferencing makes it harder to create the trust relationship with investors that you would normally forge over several in-person meetings. It’s a particular drawback in early-stage fundraising, when investors base their decisions on their personal connection with the team.

However, you can and should take advantage of the extra benefits of pitching remotely by using a professional-grade platform like ClickMeeting. Now you can:

  • Add custom branding and branded backgrounds to your video pitch to make a bigger impression.
  • Take investors through your entire setup, equipment, and premises to share the unique atmosphere of your startup, which worked excellently for Studio Panika.
  • Present your whole team together as a united group.
  • Reach out to funds you might not otherwise have considered, because you had no way to reach them — but now that every pitch is remote, there’s no reason not to try.

Johan van Mil, founder and managing partner at Peak Capital, stresses this benefit. “With travel out of the way, the international fundraising process can happen quicker now than before,” he writes. “The opportunity for founders and investors to meet across state lines is unique — and ripe.”

During a Pandemic, You Have to be Pitch-Perfect

There was never any excuse for sloppy pitches, but today no one will put up with one. You’ll have to carry out even more practice fine-tuning your presentation, because you have to be flawless.

Investors currently have more time to look over possibilities and carry out due diligence. They are looking for solutions that are “must have,” not “nice to have,” so your case for your product has to be bulletproof. VCs want market-ready products and aren’t likely to accept an MVPP (minimal viable PowerPoint) right now.

Source: https://www.docsend.com/blog/pre-seed-fundraising-report/

Some 92% of startups that successfully landed funds in 2019 exhibited product readiness in their pitch decks, compared to 68% of startups that failed to secure funding exhibited product readiness in their decks.

Times of Crisis Bring New Opportunities

For some startups, the Covid-19 situation strengthens their pitch and sharpens the pain point they address. You may see an opportunity for a pivot, or note that one of your previously minor features is coming to the fore.

Backstage Capital VC Founder Arlan Hamilton recommends that you “Spend the next few days observing and talking to people about what they need most. Find out what people need and that other people aren’t thinking about,” she says. “Make a list. Pen to paper. Start brainstorming a list of what people are needing right now. And that’s where you’re going to find that ‘thing.’ Then you can double down and see if that works.”

As competition drops away, you could have a unique shot at raising funds. VC partners recognize that this is an opportunity to test your ability to make it through tough times. Without question, some startups will get funding, succeed, and exceed expectations because they’ve won through adversity.

Many VCs are seeking out those startups right now. Dean Sysman, CEO and cofounder of Axonius, points out that “Times of uncertainty can be the best time to give investors confidence that you can handle tough circumstances.”

VC Funding Exists, But You’ll Have to Work for It

For some startups, this isn’t the right time to make a pitch, but others can draw on new resources to overcome the obstacles. Startup funding is a long game, and this might be your hardest round, but you were always going to have at least one round that’s tougher than others.

By leveraging the benefits of remote pitching, refining your pitch even harder, and looking for new opportunities and relationships, you can still succeed in raising funds and extending your runway so you can expand your business.


The New Playbook for Startup Fundraising During Covid-19 was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Fundraising During COVID-19: 3 Essential Slides for VC Pitches


This post is by Charles LaCalle from Startup Grind - Medium

The newest question that founders can be assured that will come up when pitching VCs during fundraising is, “So, how has COVID impacted…

Nervous to Start Content Marketing at Your Startup? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Be


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

Amanda Sibley, Director of Marketing at HubSpot for Startups, is an absolute pro when it comes to using content to drive growth. Recently she visited with Startup Grind to share her best tips for getting early-stage content marketing off the ground running. With years of experience helping startups fine-tune their content engine, Amanda brought a ton of action-based strategies and tactics to the table. Buckle up, viewers. This was a great one.

Click here to watch a full recording of Amanda talk or keep reading for some of the highlights.

Key Takeaways from #SGvirtual “Content Marketing for Your Startup”

1. In case you’re on the fence — yes, content marketing is very worth the effort.

Content marketing is a scalable way to grow traffic and leads — without needing an ongoing budget. Not convinced? When you create content that’s able to be used again and again, you’re creating value that doesn’t require additional budget every time it’s reused, reshared, or repurposed.

What’s more, having a clear content strategy from the beginning can be a huge boon for a startup down the road. Organic traffic and SEO help potential customers find you and your product or service when searching online. When done strategically, investing in content now can help compound your discoverability exponentially over time. Up and to the left, please.

2. Not sure what to write about? Keep a pulse on your customers and your eyes on the data.

Great content ideas are hatched in the intersection of “What do my customers want?” and “What is the keyword data showing me?” When considering content topics, always be sure to look at your numbers without losing touch of what your target customer actually wants or needs. Survey them. Ask them what they’d like to read. Notice trends in the FAQs you keep getting from users.

Once you’ve got a great list of ideas going, prioritize any content idea finalists based perceived impact and available resources.

3. Set goals for every piece of content and then test, test, test.

Not every piece of content will be a slam dunk. In fact, there’s often a big learning curve when you first set out on your content strategy journey. To avoid investing too heavily in a content piece that may or may not work for your audience: start simple (no need for movie-level production on your first product demo video), set specific goals for what you want to achieve from your content (more engagement? more delight? more customers?), and then test, test, test.

And when you do find something that works? A.B.R (Always Be Repurposing). Every successful content piece created should be able to be repurposed often and support multiple goals.

4. Consistency is key.

There’s no hard fast rule when it comes to the ideal posting frequency. Instead, focus on consistent publishing in the early stages. Consistency builds trust with your customers or readers while also helping you establish an editorial routine. A good way to do that is by setting a publishing goal and then sticking with it. Once per week is a great goal in the very beginning, especially if you’re resource-strapped.

And as soon as you do publish, it’s time to promote the heck out of it in order to get in front of the most eyes. The first 24–48 hours are the most important since Google’s algorithm can pay extra attention to an initial burst of engagement. After the first few days, continue to promote using ongoing email, social, newsletters, etc. Amanda has some great recommendations & templates for how to do this in her “Content Marketing for Your Startup” talk.

5. Nervous to write? Don’t sweat it. Creating content is the easy part — you just need to start.

Everyone has a story to tell and everyone can write. It’s just a matter of honing your skills by practicing, plugging into the right resources, and connecting with people who can help you elevate your writing.

Ask people to review your content. Get feedback. Seek to learn from experts. Most importantly, just start getting words on the page. Go get ’em.

And if you really don’t have the time or writing chops, you always have the option to hire a creative intern, student, or freelancer who can crank out interesting pieces.

6. Your content an expression of your brand’s language. Be sure writers have the resources to learn it.

It’s never too early to make sure your voice stays aligned across your messaging. Create a basic voice & style brand kit (it can be as simple as a Google Document) early on so that anyone in the company who’s creating content knows which voice to use, and how to use it.

7. Stuck? There are so many tools to help startups determine what content to create, create it, and measure impact.

We’re in a golden age of tools for content creation and content marketing — take advantage of that! Here are just a few content creation and content analytics tools to add to your stack:

  • Google Analytics for website traffic.
  • Google Search Console or Google Keyword Planner for keyword suggestions.
  • Buzzsumo, SEMRush, or ahrefs for keyword research.
  • Unsplash for free, high-quality photos.
  • Canva for easy design.
  • Coscheduler for headline analysis.
  • Wordlift for metatdata generation.

Want more? Click here for the full recording of “Content Marketing at Your Startup” — which includes in-depth strategy frameworks, recommendations for content promotion, and a list of the easiest types of content to start creating.

Interested in learning from other experts on how to take your startup up a notch (or 10x notches)? Have a look at Startup Grind’s calendar of upcoming events.


Nervous to Start Content Marketing at Your Startup? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Be was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

6 Uncomfortable Truths You Can Learn From My Startup Failure


This post is by Luca Rossi from Startup Grind - Medium

The entrepreneurial life can be harsh

Startup Spotlight: ShearShare


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

The First On-Demand Salon and Barbershop Space Rental App

Dr. Tye Caldwell is the Cofounder & CEO of ShearShare, the first on-demand salon and barbershop space rental app. Recognized as a tech visionary and industry pioneer, Dr. Caldwell has grown ShearShare to be the greatest engine of jobs and wealth creation for the beauty and barbering industry. By redesigning the B2B beauty industry and serving an underserved niche, Tye is enabling more than 1,000,000 licensed professionals to work on their terms and maximize their earnings potential, while salon and barbershop owners make money on unused space.

Prior to creating ShearShare, Tye owned and operated an award-winning salon in Dallas, Texas, which was the genesis behind ShearShare. He has worked in beauty for 26 years as a master barber-stylist, educator, and small business coach, offering his decades of industry knowledge as a proven roadmap.

Tye serves on the Advisory Boards for multiple beauty schools and is a frequent guest lecturer at barber colleges and hairstyling institutes around the globe. He coaches the next generation of salon and barbershop owners, and his #1 best-selling book, Mentored by Failure: A 5-Point Guide to Long-Term Success in the Beauty & Style Industry, is often used for continuing education curriculum.

ShearShare was the first Texas startup to win Google Demo Day 2018, Tech. Co’s Startup of the Year 2016, and was named a TechWeek100. Mr. Caldwell’s work has been featured in Fast Company, the New York Times, Black Enterprise, the Washington Post, Forbes, Modern Salon, and TechCrunch.

— In a single sentence, what does ShearShare do?

ShearShare is the first app that helps stylists quickly find affordable salon and barbershop space to rent by the day. No contract, no commission.

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

Empty salon space was our own problem to solve. As veteran award-winning salon and barbershop owners, we experienced this same issue back in 2012. It was then that a local stylist called us to ask if we would lease our empty suite for a couple of days. Fast forward, and ShearShare is in 600 cities and doing our part to keep our small businesses open!

— What sets ShearShare apart in the market?

This is the first time that stylists have had a chance to keep more of their hard-earned money when it comes to accessing professional space to work. With ShearShare, there is no long-term contract required or commission taken by the salon or barbershop owner. Stylists rent a suite or station where they want and at a time and price they want to pay.

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

Stylists are most excited for the ability to work when they want, where they want while keeping more of their hard-earned money!

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

Yes, lots of meetings. Startup accelerator programs. Warm introductions to investors.

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

  • Number of ShearShare stays
  • Average revenue per stylist
  • Activation rate per host per city

— How do you build and develop talent?

We hire people to tell us what to do, not to tell them what to do. Our job is to instill knowledge about the industry and train them to establish relationships.

— What are the biggest challenges for the team?

As a startup, you’re always behind the user. Thankfully our industry is very vocal about what they expect on the app, and so we’re always working to play catchup.

— What’s been the biggest success for the team?

Hearing how we repeatedly help small businesses stay open — both the salon owner and the licensed pro.

— What milestone are you most proud of so far?

Supporting the growth of the best industry in the world and seeing how that changed behavior supports local businesses.

— What advice would you give to other founders?

Just start. And keep doing things that will help you learn fast from the market.


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

HEY vs Superhuman vs Gmail


This post is by Yuval Greenfield from Startup Grind - Medium

Comparing “email at its best” to “the fastest email experience ever made”

How the most successful startups structure their work


This post is by Gavin Bell from Startup Grind - Medium

Finding a system that allows for maximum productivity, happiness and enjoyment.

As an entrepreneur, I’m obsessed with improving.

I’m always on the lookout for ways to become more efficient and more productive.

And not by “hustling” more.

Don’t get me wrong… you need to work hard in order to achieve what you want to achieve. But “hustle” isn’t a reliable or sustainable way to scale a business.

There is only so much of ‘create a massive to-do list and WORK till it’s done’ someone can do. I’m sure you know, the to-do list never ends.

A few years ago, that’s exactly how I worked. I said yes to everything, added everything to my todo list (I had no team at the time) and set unrealistic expectations on what I could achieve.

I, of course, wouldn’t finish the list, which led to me getting frustrated, not enjoying my work and ultimately burning out. It wasn’t a good time.

I felt like I was running on a hamster wheel. Doing lots of things, but getting nowhere.

Maybe you can relate to this? Most of us have been there. Entrepreneurs by nature have shiny object syndrome. We love doing stuff. We are so ambitious and excited about what we do that we try and do everything ourselves.

But it doesn’t work.

In order to scale a business, you need a system. A system that not only you as the entrepreneur can stick to, but one that your team (as it grows) can also stick to.

In my constant pursuit of becoming more and more productive, I’ve experimented with and tested many different ways of working. I’ve also done a lot of research on how some of the most successful startups structure their work.

In this article, I’m going to share three ways successful startups structure their work, so you can implement them in your business too.

Basecamp’s 6 Week Cycles

Two reasons startups fail to get off the hamster wheel is because they either:

  1. Set unrealistic expectations (the endless to-do list)
  2. Set goals too far ahead

We’ve already spoken about the first problem already. But the second one is just as troublesome. If you set your goals too big and too far in the future, they feel unattainable and therefore not motivational.

Basecamp spotted this and decided to implement a 6-week cycles working system. Many others have since adopted this methodology, such as Buffer and Intercom.

All of their work is batched into 6-week cycles. Where for those 6 weeks, they focus solely on one or two projects.

Basecamp say: “Six weeks is long enough to build something meaningful start-to-finish and short enough that everyone can feel the deadline looming from the start, so they use the time wisely. The majority of our new features are built and released in one six-week cycle.”

I love this way of working and it’s something we’ve rolled out across our business as well.

I’ve always been a big goal person.

Set big goals and then do everything I can to hit them. But as I mentioned above, there’s a big problem with that… and Intercom sum it up beautifully in their article: 6 weeks: why it’s the Goldilocks of product timeframes.

As the length of your cycle grows, your confidence in delivering on it drop dramatically.

When I set goals that are too far ahead of me — I often get lost in the day to day activities. I say yes to things that aren’t conducive to hitting my goals because I think “saying yes to this workshop won’t have an impact on my 5-year goal”.

But every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else.

Of course, we still have the main goals that we want to achieve, but the difference is in how we now approach hitting them. We will now spend time planning what things we need to do in order to hit them.

Let’s say a goal of ours is to achieve a members retention rate of 30% for our Funnel Academy programme.

We will sit down and think about all the different ways we could do that:

  • Improve our onboarding process
  • Improve the email sequences
  • Change our pricing/business model
  • Etc.

And then rather than just going after them all, we pick the one we believe to have the most impact and we try and make it happen within a 6-week window. That is our sole focus.

Once the 6-week cycle has been completed we can move onto the next. Then the next. Then the next.

This does two things:

  1. Allows you to have insane focus on one outcome/project
  2. Allows you to structure the work better by focussing on three main parts: planning, doing and analysis

If you work on endless to-do lists, you’ll often find you don’t “have the time” to analyse the work you’re doing. And therefore you don’t know what is working and what’s not working for you.

And if you don’t know what’s working and what’s not, it’s almost impossible to continue growing.

Get things done methodology

Another methodology I like to use is the “Getting things done” (GTD) method.

This is a time management method created by productivity consultant, David Allen.

As I previously mentioned, as entrepreneurs we suffer from shiny object syndrome. We have an idea, and like a dog chasing a rabbit, we’re off!

This might be fun and exciting, but it often causes us to focus on the things in our business that don’t actually move the needle (in terms of business growth). We end up focussing on things that are fun, not productive.

GTD’s main concept is around taking the ideas and things that come into your head and instead of adding them to your to-do list or doing them right away, you record them somewhere.

Then, every day/week/month (you choose) you revisit all of those ideas and decide upon which ones you’re going to actually action.

I’m sure you’ve been there…

You open your laptop, ready to start a day’s work. You open YouTube to see if anyone has commented on your latest video.

But a video in your “recommended” catches your attention and you begin watching it…

Then all of a sudden, you find yourself down a YouTube black hole watching cat videos.

You forget why you went on YouTube in the first place. You’ve just wasted 30 minutes and haven’t achieved a single thing on your to-do list.

GTD fixes this exact problem.

Rather than clicking on the video in the first place, GTD would have you take note of the link somewhere, for you to then revisit at a later date/time. When you revisit you can decide to either action it or delete it.

Thus, you’re not being led by your shiny object syndrome, you’re being led by what’s important for you to work on at that moment in time.

Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done

Lean thinking

The third and final work methodology I found during my research is a concept called “lean thinking”.

The lean startup methodology was created by Eric Ries and is a methodology designed to “drive a startup — how to steer, when to turn and when to persevere and grow a business with maximum acceleration.”

When many entrepreneurs get started in the business, they begin with their idea. Something they believe the market wants. They then spend months (even years) trying to create the perfect product.

But what they fail to do is let the market see, feel and use that product. Until it’s “perfect.”

The problem with this is, if you never show your product to your customers (even at the very start), you don’t get feedback from the people who are going to be using it. And thus you may end up creating a product that people don’t even want.

The core message from the lean startup is around the starting up of a business — and why you should build a minimum viable product (MVP). But actually, this philosophy can carry over into the running and scaling of a business, which is why I have included it in this article.

Your business can be 10 years old, yet still, adopt a lean way of thinking. Every new product that you bring to market, you can build it on the same philosophy.

Every time you make an assumption about something — whether product-based or marketing or something else — you can ask yourself: is this my assumption or something the customer actually wants?

I’ve had an agency for a few years now and a few years ago I know I wanted to help businesses on a larger scale — including the ones that couldn’t afford my agency services. I decided to create a course for them — covering all aspects of running Facebook ads.

It was brilliant. It had literally everything you could ever want to know about Facebook ads in it.

But there was a problem…

I assumed that’s what the market wanted. I didn’t do any research in finding out what my customers actually wanted. I spent months creating this course. It was incredible.

But when I launched it, the sales just weren’t there.

A few people purchased it, but not at the level of scale I was hoping for.

And it was then I realised… business owners don’t want to learn how to run Facebook ads. They want the results that Facebook ads bring them.

So, I decided to try again… but this time using the lean method.

I had a free Facebook Group teaching ads at the time and I surveyed the members, asking them:

  • What do you want to learn — why are you in this group?
  • Why do you want to learn it — what would it mean to your business?
  • What obstacles are in the way?
  • How would you like to learn all of this?

By asking these questions, I very quickly saw what the market needed. They told me their problems, what they wanted to achieve and over 70% of respondents told me they wanted to learn via a membership.

They gave me the exact ingredients I needed.

Whilst I was building the membership, I would let people in to check it out and give me feedback.

When we launched the membership we got to over 100 members very quickly and it’s been a success ever since. And I continue using lean thinking… by regularly surveying members to ask what they want from the membership!

This has saved me an enormous amount of time, energy and stress as I’m able to focus all my time on the things that my members actually want.

The key to effective working is finding a system that works for you, your team and your culture. It’s not smart to force a working methodology onto your business just because you read this article or came across the latest system.

In my business, we’ve taken elements of all three of these methodologies and made them work for us. If we find ways to improve that in the future, great!

Find a system that allows for maximum productivity, happiness and enjoyment.

How do you and your team work? Let me know in the comments below!

Meet the author

Gavin Bell is a multi-award winning entrepreneur, speaker, podcast host & director of Fat Pony, a Facebook advertising agency that works with brands across the world. Gavin helps brands across the world to utilise Facebook in a way that not only builds their audience but turns that attention into revenue. His work has been featured on the likes of Virgin.com, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur on Fire, KissMetrics and Social Media Examiner.


How the most successful startups structure their work was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Is the Future of Hotels Contactless?


This post is by Powered by Battery from Powered by Battery

This season of the Powered by Battery podcast features portfolio executives representing companies from various geographies and technology sectors. The views expressed here are solely those of podcast guests, not Battery. If you’re interested in learning more about these companies, or others in the Battery portfolio, you can access more information here.

Travel and hospitality have been some of the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic, though they’re slowly recovering now. Venture-backed startups selling into these sectors are, in many cases, operating in unchartered waters.

We talk to the founder of one of those startups, hotel-software provider Mews*, in this episode of Powered by Battery. Mews’ founder, Czech-born Richard Valtr, comes from a family of hotel operators in Europe and has a far-reaching vision of how hotels can offer better service to customers—through technology. Valtr talked to us in late May about the tough business decisions Mews had to make earlier this year as global travel ground to a near halt, but also offered thoughts on how his company’s products can help hotels create engaging and more contactless experiences for guests in the future.

Key Takeaways:

  • Economic crises force companies to make tough decisions, and executives need to respond quickly. Mews made the difficult decision in late March to shut many of the local offices it had painstakingly opened across Europe to be close to customers, which also meant laying off some staff. Now, the company has a more centralized model, operating out of Prague, London, Amsterdam and New York. But Valtr says it’s the right strategy for the current climate in which smaller companies need to put a premium on cash and reduce spending.
  • External events can also sometimes force clarity on your business model. Mews, as an example, decided recently to more-narrowly focus its sales efforts on “technology-forward, lifestyle hotels”, which Valtr says are naturally more receptive to the company’s offerings, rather than going after the entire hotel market. So far, the strategy is “resonating a lot with the market,” Valtr says.
  • Some industries use incumbent technology that may seem impenetrable—many hotels run older, on-premise software from Oracle, for instance, which requires a human to come onsite to make daily updates in a shocking amount of properties (known as the night audit). Startups shouldn’t be afraid of challenging the status quo, no matter how big and powerful the incumbent player, especially in situations in which their nimbleness will be seen as an asset.
  • Sometimes great ideas bubble up within an organization, and a flat leadership structure allows those ideas to flourish. At Mews, employees started a program to urge hotel operators to offer low-cost rooms to medical personnel who needed places to stay during the pandemic. In the end, hundreds of hotels across the Netherlands, UK, USA and most of Western Europe ended up participating and offering thousands of bed nights for essential workers and their families.

The information provided in this podcast is solely intended for the use of entrepreneurs, corporate CEOs and founders regarding Battery Ventures’ potential financing capabilities for prospective portfolio companies. The information is current as of the date it was published. The contents are not intended to be used in the investment decision making process related to any product or fund managed by Battery Ventures. Battery Ventures provides investment advisory services solely to privately offered funds. Battery Ventures neither solicits nor makes its services available to the public or other advisory clients.

*Mews is a Battery portfolio company. Investments identified above are for illustrative purposes only. No assumptions should be made that any investments identified above were or will be profitable. It should not be assumed that recommendations in the future will be profitable or equal the performance of the companies identified above. For more information about Battery Ventures’ potential financing capabilities for prospective portfolio companies, please refer to our website. For a complete list of portfolio companies, please click here.

Content obtained from third-party sources, although believed to be reliable, has not been independently verified as to its accuracy or completeness and cannot be guaranteed. Battery Ventures has no obligation to update, modify or amend the content of this podcast nor notify its audience in the event that any information, opinion, projection, forecast or estimate included, changes or subsequently becomes inaccurate.

The post Is the Future of Hotels Contactless? appeared first on Powered by Battery.

Unemployment in USA hits 47 Million. Racism Exposed. How will Tech Respond?


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

Google Launches Accelerator in North America to Support Women Founders


This post is by Jason A. Scott from Startup Grind - Medium

In collaboration with Ashley Francisco, Head of Startup Developer Ecosystems — Canada

At the end of 2019, 20% of newly funded startups globally reported having a woman founder or co-founder. Despite these numbers doubling since 2009, women entrepreneurs remain severely underrepresented and continue to struggle to raise as much capital as their male counterparts. In fact, a recent study showed that women founders own just 48 cents in equity for every dollar men own.

At Google, we remain dedicated to leveling the playing field for all founders across the globe, including providing accessible programming specifically designed for women entrepreneurs. As the world shifts to digital, we have launched a series of adapted programs — including an online community events series, a virtual Residency program and a 12-week immersion program that provide skill-building and mentorship for women founders in Europe, and a web series “Founded” from Google’s Women Techmakers focused on highlighting women entrepreneurs solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

To further scale our investment in women founders, we are pleased to announce that we will be launching a virtual Google for Startups Accelerator for Women Founders based in the US and Canada.

As part of the Google for Startups Accelerator, selected women and women-identified founders will outline the main challenges facing their startups, and be paired with relevant experts from Google and the industry to solve these challenges.

To ensure that the program meets the needs of our audience, we have built a strong roster of women leaders, from Google and the wider tech community, to deliver workshops, talks, and 1:1 mentoring sessions. In addition, alumni from the program will be invited to join our global Google for Startups Women community — a peer-led community of women entrepreneurs from around the world.

We are committed to supporting the startup community in North America, and we’re thrilled to bring this additional offering to the US and Canadian startup ecosystems. Our focus is to create opportunities for all founders, and in this program we’ll use the best of Google’s people, network and advanced technologies to help women founders build and scale successful businesses, bridging the gap between men and women in the startup ecosystem.

Applications for the Google for Startups Accelerator for Women Founders open today until July 22 and the cohort will kick off on September 28.

For more information and to apply visit g.co/womenfoundersaccelerator.

Jason Scott currently serves as the Head of Startup Developer Ecosystems, US — managing Google’s regional Accelerators and startup developer engagement programs across the United States.

Ashley Francisco works as the Head of Startup Developer Ecosystems, Canada — bringing the best of Google’s people, product, programs and technology to startup teams across the country.


Google Launches Accelerator in North America to Support Women Founders was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Generating PR for Your Startup


This post is by Denise Quashie from Startup Grind - Medium

Launching a startup means playing tons of roles — including the hype person. And while it can seem like there’s no more natural PR rep for a company than the person who started it, founders can make plenty of slip ups that wind up getting startups noticed for the wrong reasons.

Now, authenticity is valued much higher than meaningless social stats or outdated press releases, especially during an era when media coverage is focused on the ongoing pandemic.

But fear not! You might be surprised at how easy it can be to avoid PR mistakes, and make the moves that will get your startup in the news for all the right reasons.

Don’t oversell.

This is a tough one for many startup founders. You’re going to change the world, and you want everyone to know! But remember that your company is still evolving, and content lives online forever. Soundbites that sound charmingly enthusiastic in the moment — ”We’re the Uber of astrology!” or “In one year everyone on Earth will have our smart clock!” for instance — can become embarrassing clips that could haunt your career if you fail to deliver.

Instead, hone your company’s message in a way that leaves room for growth. Even if your product or message evolves, positioning yourself as an innovator or thought leader in a space will allow you to talk about the future of that industry in a way that won’t become embarrassing quotes later on.

Don’t send a PR blast to hundreds of journalists.

With a few exceptions, press release blasts are a thing of the past.

“If I get a press release, it’s already old,” said Connie Guglielmo, editor-in-chief of CNET. “I’m not interested because it’s already been out and I don’t really care. We want to break news. That is part of what the media does. You should put a blog post on your website announcing whatever news, but the days of [press releases] are very long past.”

Instead, develop organic and earned relationships with a few select reporters, micro-influencers, or local bloggers that cover topics exactly related to what your startup is trying to do.

Follow them on social channels, engage with their work in a natural way, and offer to meet (whether virtually, via phone, or in person) to talk about your company before making an ask. You might even offer them exclusive coverage, or the chance to shadow you, allowing their eventual story to be filled with the kind of color and character that gets talked about and shared.

Additionally, pay attention to the details, says Lara Sorokanich, editor at Fast Company.

“Don’t spell people’s names wrong. Whenever I get a L-A-U-R-A, it’s just a little sloppy and [spelling it right] can help you to not get put in the delete box immediately,” she said.

Don’t think everything is news.

Six-month anniversaries or mid-level hires might be great milestones for your startup, but they’re not newsworthy. And it’s great if your company is woman-led or sustainable, but that alone isn’t a story, either.

“Think about what your story is,” said Guglielmo. “‘What is the headline on the story you want the reporter to write? What is it that makes you different?’”

Maybe you’re a David taking on a Goliath. Maybe you’re in a legacy, set-in-its-ways industry that doesn’t get much coverage, but you found new tech that upends the way that business gets done. Maybe you got into the space after a personal tragedy. Those stories are the guts of your company, and they’re the kinds of human connections that reporters and audiences want to see.

Don’t forget about the free resources.

There are plenty of free ways to generate PR for your startup (and they’re not just crossing your fingers for a viral clip). Check out tools like HARO or SourceBottle, which can help connect you with reporters working on stories connected to your startup; Canva, which can help you create professional-looking, shareable graphics; and even simple Google Alerts or a free trial of Mention to figure out who’s talking about you.

Don’t go overboard on social.

Too many startups think they need a presence on every social platform, but then don’t take the time to develop nuanced content and engaged followers for each account. That sends the wrong message. A Facebook page with two posts and 35 followers spins a far sadder tale than no Facebook presence at all, and a Twitter account where you try to post about a viral Instagram meme just shows you don’t ‘get’ social.

Social is only successful if you’re super organic and authentic on it.

Choose one or two social platforms that best fit your company, like Tik Tok if you’re a startup selling a product to Gen Z, a LinkedIn premium page where you can write in-depth blog posts for a niche tech crowd, or Medium as it’s a free and easy way to get up and running with your own content or by contributing to other Medium articles. Tailor your communications so they’re sharable on your chosen platform, take time to curate your feed, and engage with micro-influencers in the space to carefully build the organic social presence that will pay off in the long run.

To learn more about building a startup on Amazon Web Services: https://aws.amazon.com/startups/


The Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Generating PR for Your Startup was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

7 Women-Founded Startups You Need to Know About


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

From personalized cancer therapeutics to social virtual and augmented reality experiences, the following startups are shining examples of companies that are changing the way our world works. We’re honored to have these brilliant women-founded startups in our Startup Program and excited to highlight them here for you.

1. My Personal Therapeutics

Laura Towart, Founder & CEO
United Kingdom
Bio Tech
mypersonaltherapeutics.com

Offers cancer patients worldwide access to the most advanced personalized cancer therapeutics.

How My Personal Therapeutics Got Started:

“I was introduced to Dr. Ross Cagan, the Mt. Sinai Professor who invented the technology (also the Director of the Center for Personalized Cancer Therapeutics) and was immediately captivated by the potential of the platform to be transformative for personalized medicine.

After years of awaiting the first clinical outcomes data and tinkering with commercialisation strategies, I founded My Personal Therapeutics in London in August 2018. After finalising a licensing and partnership agreement with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt Sinai and securing funding in April 2019, I began the search for a Chief Scientific Officer and wider team. Through my extended network I was introduced to Dr. Nahuel Villegas, an experienced drosophila biologist who had been pursuing similar work in his own lab and who was also friends with Ross. We then set out to build a world class team.”

On Overcoming a Challenge:

“I attempted to commercialise this technology for the MENA region, and the licensing arrangement was prohibitive for investors. It ultimately failed and I worked with Mt. Sinai to restructure for the global license with the institution as a partner. It was a very difficult time and I lost personal funds I had invested in the previous venture. But in the end I was grateful for the chance to try again.”

How You Can Support My Personal Therapeutics:

“We are a small team and can use your help to shine some attention on our unique solution. We’re always looking to expand our partnership network so if you are an oncologist, cancer center, foundation, healthcare concierge service or any other other potential stakeholder and are interested please get in touch!”

Want to connect with My Personal Therapeutics? Email us to request an intro.

2. CEEK VR

Mary Spio, Founder
United States
AR/VR
ceek.com

Premium social virtual and augmented reality experiences, simulating the communal experience of attending a live concert, being in a classroom, attending a sporting event, etc.

How CEEK VR Got Started:

“I sold multiple satellite streaming patents to The Boeing company, and helped create Boeing’s Digital Cinema platform, which enabled the digital distribution of movies over satellite. This offered a cost savings to the movie industry; thus, all studios were eager to switch to the technology.

Many of them came to me to help with the transition, being just one person, I created my first company to help studios with the transition. I later saw a vast underserved independent film market and launched an online video platform, after exiting that company; I created CEEK a virtual reality streaming platform for virtual events and experiences once again to fill a massive industry need.”

On Overcoming a Challenge:

“Raising capital for female founders is a huge challenge, Fortune magazine reported that last year only 2.2% of VC money went to female founders, the numbers are even worse when you look at black founders.

I focused on offering CEEK’s technology to companies that were looking for VR solutions to generate revenue to build the CEEK VR platform. We managed to get Facebook, Google and Berkshire Hathaway’s Richline as clients which helped in getting the attention of funds for black and brown founders to build our initial platform and partner with the likes of Universal Music, Google and Apple. I also applied to many startup programs, got credit from Amazon to help offset initial server costs and made it into Microsoft for Startups.

It’s been an arduous slow grind, but the process has helped me in building a phenomenal company. Rough waters do really make good sailors; most of the companies that had millions piled on them have gone out of business or been acquired in fire sales, while CEEK is patent-awarded, revenue generating and continue to lead the mobile VR market. We’ve had exclusive VR experiences releases featuring the likes of Demi Lovato, Bon Jovi, DL Hughley and more.

We just extended our partnership with Universal Music and have a pipeline that’s bursting at the seams. We are now being very selective of the kinds of investors that we’ll consider for growth capital.”

Advice to Founders from CEEK’s Founder:

For all female founders who may be struggling to raise capital despite checking all the boxes, my advice is do not cut corners by playing the game.

What I mean by the game is adding a white male co-founder, graduate from this school or that school and other nonsensical requirements that have nothing to do with your product quality, company or its long-term success.

Don’t fill their racist/sexist checkboxes just to get the money. Instead build a really great company that can be revenue generating and stand on its own. It may take longer, but it can be done. It’s the only way we can change the current prevailing mindset — if you keep feeding their views it will never change.

There are good people out there looking for great opportunities. Grind until you find them. Protect your IP, because there are a lot of copycats out there. 😉

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

3. LetsBab

Bonnie Takkar, Founder
United Kingdom
Retail / eCommerce
letsbab.com

Makes it easy to share the things you love with friends, get paid for it, and support your favorite charities.

How LetsBab Got Started:

“Where to start? My journey over the years has taken me through the heady heights of the fashion world. From the Chief at Earl Jean, to the deputy at Jimmy Choo, back in the driving seat at Halston and Charlotte Olympia.

In 2009, whilst at home on maternity leave, I came up with the idea of launching a platform for people to make and receive recommendations to their trusted friends and family. Looking for a means to channel my energy and natural skillset, and well aware of the power of a personal recommendation, the origins of LetsBab were born.

The sentiment of ‘if I had a dollar for every time I recommend this’ was something I had heard time and time again, but which had never been realised. I saw a clear opportunity to enable others like myself to be empowered and feel connected, whilst doing something they naturally already do — sharing ideas and recommendations.

At LetsBab, we are setting out to democratise the voice of recommendation. Everyday we share our taste with friends. Currently the only people getting paid for their influence are influencers and bloggers, with companies spending billions on influencer marketing. We’d like a big chunk of this to go to you.

We’ve also set out to create the ultimate shopping experience — a digital mall at your fingertips. With LetsBab you can browse through all your favourite brands with swipe and a click.”

On Overcoming a Challenge:

“As a startup app it was hard to get our ‘voice heard’ with a limited marketing budget. We solved this by forming key partnerships with our wider network.

Examples include:

  • Hosting the LIVE London Fashion Week schedule within the LetsBab app as their official app partner, notifying all attendees with up to the minute notifications of show start times and delays, giving us mass exposure to the fashion community through the provision of this service.
  • Being our charity partner, CoppaFeel’s official 2019 University Partner. We helped them achieve >7,000 text sign ups to get students to check their breasts for early signs for breast cancer, and raised awareness of our app as a new way to donate across 52 UK universities.
  • Becoming the Official App of the Baby Show, the UK’s largest parenting show with 25,000+ attendees. Again this allowed us to engage with an active shopping community by providing a key service.
  • Leveraging our WeWork membership to host a number of ‘download for a donut’ activations across their offices to raise awareness.”

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

4. SenSanna Incorporated

Jacqueline Hines, Founder
United States
Manufacturing / Industry
sensanna.com

Brings connectivity to the industries that operate in the world’s harshest conditions.

How SenSanna Got Started:

“While leading the R&D effort for the largest cell phone filter manufacturer in the USA, I realized that the devices we made to filter radio frequency signals in cell phones could also be used to monitor a wide range of physical, chemical, and biological measures. I founded ASR&D Corp (now SenSanna Inc) to take advantage of the commercial opportunity for wireless sensors in harsh environments.”

On Overcoming a Challenge:

“Initially, sets of sensors would interfere with one another — so the response of sensor number 5 would depend on which other devices were present, and on the relative positions of the sensors. This made it impossible to extract calibrated measurements from the devices. We invented a new type of radio frequency identification (RFID) approach that enables us to produce sets of sensors that operate simultaneously in the field of view of a reader, without interfering. This capability spurred interest in our sensors among industrial customers.”

How You Can Support SenSanna:

SenSanna has just announced the start of our Series A raise, and is looking for investors with expertise in the industrial internet-of-things (IIOT) field.”

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

5. Virtual Gurus

Bobbie Racette, Founder
Canada
Talent-as-a-Service
thevirtualgurus.com

A virtual assistant marketplace that matches businesses and entrepreneurs with freelancers using a proprietary algorithm.

How Virtual Gurus Got Started:

“I started it in 2016 while being the only freelancer to work for my company, I bootstrapped it up to $1.3M ARR before closing a funding round of $1.25M.”

Virtual Gurus On Overcoming a Challenge:

“I started it in 2016 while being the only freelancer to work for my company, I bootstrapped it up to $1.3M ARR before closing a funding round of $1.25M. Building a Marketplace you will always run into a Chicken and Egg situation; should you attract buyers or sellers first and once you start attracting both sides how do you maintain? Virtual Gurus focused on bringing in just enough suppliers and had those suppliers bring in the demand by doing their own sales, from there we quickly grew and built our own sales team to take the torch.”

How You Can Support Virtual Gurus:

Virtual Gurus is launching an app called askBetty that will be available to any Slack user where you can download the app and delegate tasks in 15 minute increments costing $6 — $8 per task directly through Slack. We’ll be looking for strategic partnerships — please reach out to bobbie@thevirtualgurus.com.”

Want to connect with Virtual Gurus? Email us to request an intro.

6. Fashwire

Kimberly Carney, Founder & CEO
United States
Design & Fashion
fashwire.com

A discovery and shopping marketplace democratizing the fashion industry by offering all fashion-conscious consumers, no matter their demographics or geo-graphics, a direct link to designers and fashion worldwide.

How Fashwire Got Started:

“As an experienced store owner with a background in tech, I saw a need for brands from around the world to exist on one platform with a data hub to increase brand awareness, costly ordering decisions and improve margins.” — Kimberly Carney, Founder & CEO

On Overcoming a Challenge:

“I hired my first developer in 2015. We learned at the end of 2016 that it was not a viable app and built on poor technology with unusable code. In order to start over, we had to find a new developer and raise more money.

As painful as it was, I was straight forward with my shareholders about having to start over and they agreed to increase their investments. In May 2017, we found an amazing development partner at a tech show and launched in May 2018 with an incredible platform and a Google partnership.”

How You Can Support Fashwire:

If you’re interested in investing in fashion tech, we are in a Series A Round for private angel investors.”

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

7. INGU

Anouk Van Pol, Co-Founder
Yvonne van den Berg, Co-Founder
Canada
Manufacturing

ingu.com

How Ingu Got Started:

“INGU actually had two starts (I guess common for a lot of startups 😊). Initially, we started as a spin-off of a private sensor research institute with a strong technology push. In our search for clients, we came on the radar of Shell and Chevron and it became clear to us that the actual use case was pipeline safety. Both super majors started to do trials with us and it really got going when we became a participant in Chevron’s Catalyst program in 2017.

Following that we joined the Creative Destruction Lab program where we met Scott Saxberg, one of the mentors and a former CEO of Crescent Point Energy, who provided the opportunity to run our Pipers® in the first operational pipeline.”

On Overcoming a Challenge:

“During the early stages of the company we got the opportunity to join the 500 Startups accelerator. This was a pivotal moment; it became clear that we were totally product focused and not at all market focused. The best example of that are the close to 100 VC rejections we received.

We effectively restarted the company after this experience with one single focus on one specific market. 3 years later we closed our Series A with Chevron and Energy Innovation Capital as investors, have over 30 clients and hit our first million in revenue in the traditional oil & gas space.”

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

Are you a stellar startup? Join our Startup Grind Membership to get exclusive resources and network with world-class experts and peers.


7 Women-Founded Startups You Need to Know About was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

How Startups are Stepping Up to Support Other Startups


This post is by Denise Quashie from Startup Grind - Medium

No one understands startups better than other startups. This includes everything from understanding the pressure of trying to find profitability before your runway dries up to being as efficient as possible in times of uncertainty. The kind of insight that only people who live and breathe startups can offer their fellow entrepreneurs.

Take the current COVID-19 pandemic. With most of the world’s startup hubs under shelter in place orders and businesses of all stripes and colors losing sales and customers, lots of startups are feeling the pain. Still others are feeling another kind of pressure, a massive wave of customers testing the limits of a product or service as they too work from home.

In either scenario, that hasn’t stopped dozens of startups from sharing information about how they’re now operating and offering support — both financial and operational — to fellow startups on how to weather the storm. For example, some startups, like Cryptocurrency platform Coinbase, are making their coronavirus planning materials, such as sample internal communications emails, publicly available on their blog, and staff safety management startup SafetyCulture has released free COVID-19 response templates and tools for businesses.

Other startups are offering business solutions, ranging from discounts and free accounts for up to three months, or removing all restrictions for their subscription services for students and front-line health care workers. (See our full list below.)

For example, SaaS search product startup Algolia is making its pro plan free to any developer or team working on a COVID-19-related, not-for-profit websites or apps and email and email platform MailChimp is offering free accounts for its more feature-rich service to local governments, school, healthcare providers, and others that need to communicate critical health information.

Meanwhile, the expense management startup Expensify is reimbursing families with SNAP benefits $50 when they make a purchase with their SNAP card- noting online that they hope the extra funds helps families take care of themselves in tough times — and for one’s mental health, meditation apps Headspace and Calm are both offering free meditations and movement exercises, while HealthUnlocked, the world’s largest social network for health, has launched a new online community where self isolating individuals can support one another and ask for advice.

Some startups are even helping out governments and healthcare systems directly. Odilo, which provides technological platforms for remote learning and educational content, has closed agreements with Spain, Italy, Mexico, and four other governments to provide remote learning and free libraries to their citizens, while Swedish telehealth start-up KRY has launched a free and secure platform for healthcare professionals to conduct video appointments with patients-in 10 different languages, including English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

To learn more about what tools, discounts, and services startups are offering other startups (and the business world at large), check out our running list of offerings here. Note: some offers may be subject to expiration dates outlined on the offering startup’s website.

AWS is committed to supporting our employees, customers, and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic including creating the the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative to facilitate innovation in patient testing, making the AWS COVID-19 data lake publicly available to accelerate COVID-19 research, and waving fees for services like AWS IQ to support startups in need of AWS expertise. For daily updates on our COVID-19-related relief initiatives, check out the Amazon COVID-19 blog.

To learn more about building a startup on Amazon Web Services: https://aws.amazon.com/startups/


How Startups are Stepping Up to Support Other Startups was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

5 Straightforward Strategies for Getting Hired at a Startup


This post is by Sanket Mittal from Startup Grind - Medium

You got this. I believe in you.

Startup Q&A: DUCKT


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

The World’s First Universal Micromobility Charging Infrastructure

Cagri Selcuklu, CEO of DUCKT, has 15 years of Automotive and Mobility experience, including OEMs such as FIAT and projects such as New York Taxi, after graduating from transportation design in Italy with a scholarship. Selcuklu also has several public transportation solutions mass-produced and used in both EU and US markets. He is a country manager of Interaction Design Foundation, helping people from different industries to better integrate user centered problem solving into their business.

Here’s what Selcucklu had to share about how DUCKT is sweeping the transportation industry with their functional and beautiful micromobility solutions.

In a single sentence, what does DUCKT do?

We develop and operate world’s first universal and dedicated micromobility charging infrastructure.

Describe how DUCKT came to be. In other words, what was the problem you found and the ‘aha’ moment?

We love micromobility. We want to be an integrated solution to the urban life. But we’re also aware of the problems threatening its existence. So we looked into those problems.

There’s disorder in public space, vandalism, and theft towards vehicles. Pedestrian safety is an issue. And — on the other side of the coin — firms are spending 60% of their income on operations and charging with lots of extra carbon emission.

This has led to disorder, no regulation, and inefficiency. This will hurt the industry and our cities, just when we need efficient, affordabl,e and clean personal mobility solutions the most.

So this is the moment we started to develop DUCKT. We didn’t start with the ambition of a charging station. Our ambition was to define infrastructure standards just like EVs or your home. And of course a plug standard.

Who is your market? What are they looking for with DUCKT?

DUCKT has three potential customer segments:

  1. Public Space Owners (Key Stakeholder). There is disorder being created by mobility services in public space. While service operators are visitors of the city, people & the local authority are hosts — and the hosts of the city are the ones who will observe severe changes in their daily life. DUCKT helps create order, gives access to the valuable data stream, and creates new income models for these stakeholders. It also creates a new stream towards public transportation.
  2. Sharing Operators (Primary Stakeholder). Operators and manufacturers do care to make a positive change in people’s lives. But currently, vandalism and theft towards vehicles and pedestrian safety is an issue. Firms are spending nearly 60% of their income for operations and charging. Operational efficiency is the next mountain to climb. Our studies show operators can cut from their extra operation times, especially for charging during the day. DUCKT stations provide safety against vandalism both during the day and night hence longer lifetime for the vehicles.
  3. 3rd Party Businesses (Secondary Stakeholder). Our innovation will also help integrate 3rd party businesses to MaaS, by having DUCKT stations in their facilities or near their businesses. Parking operators, energy suppliers, coffee chains, EV station, shopping centers, holiday resorts, petrol stations, and many other businesses get to become mobility service hotspots with new client streams. And we help our clients achieve this in style, because cities are for everybody and they need both safe, functional, and beautiful furniture in their streets.

What makes your company/product different in this market?

We believe ever-expanding micromobility solutions need a dedicated and universal charging infrastructure. We also believe there are three really important aspects to that:

  1. It needs to be universal. An infrastructure cannot be suitable only for one or two vehicles in the market. Then it will become another clutter in the street. It has to be universal. It has to work with every vehicle in the market right now and the future. Hence we developed and internationally patented our smart adaptors. Just like defining a plug standard for EVs, our ambition is to define a plug standard for micromobility.
  2. It needs to be simple, elegant & technologically integrated. It has to be simpler than it is right now, because people choose to use easier options. With the help of our adaptors, it will be easier to park a vehicle to a DUCKT station rather than to leave it in a designated parking zone.
  3. It needs to have the right business aim. Rather than aiming to have several stations in a city, we aim to define an infrastructure solution for the cities where the city (locals) become a business partner to the solution. They can own their city, while they are also keeping it organized and carbon free.

What milestone are you most proud of so far?

We are the black swan of tech community because we are hardware people. But at the same time, we’re invited or selected to every tech event. Because every app needs to work on a cellphone. And we like to think ourselves as the “cellphone” of micromobility. We’re really proud of our recognitions and market traction so far.

Some examples:

  • After starting our marketing — over a period of 5 months — we had more than 300 clients contacts and from this, 44% of these contacts reached us directly. At the moment, we have more than 40 sales pipeline activities and 4 key PoC activities.
  • We’ve had several recognitions around the globe. DUCKT came first in the Startup Estonia competition in Turkey. We were invited to startup week in Estonia and also won the smart city competition held by Tallinn municipality. DUCKT also got picked as ‘TC Top Pick in mobility 2019’ by TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin. We won a pilot in SOL Mobility Lisboa smart city competition with the Lisbon city council support and finally, this year, got elected in one of the 20 ‘Accelerate Startup’ globally as top %1 in Startup GRIND by Google Startups held in Silicon Valley.
  • A Medium article declared DUCKT as one of the top 7 startups to watch in 2020.
  • We were also recently picked as one of the startups of the year by MovinOn Challenge in Canada and MassChallenge in Switzerland.

What are people most excited about when they get to know DUCKT?

We are proud of hearing how logical our product and service is, and also how people like the way it looks. Since it is a “city furniture,” functionality is the most important thing BUT it’s still going to be something you will have in your streets for years to come. It needs to earn that place in your life. And it seems this is a quality we have that excites people.

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

We are pre-seed funded via our corporate investor and we are about to close our seed round right now. For our pre-seed, being a corporate spinoff startup, we were lucky to convince our corporate in the idea we had. That brought us all the way to mass production. But from mass production round to scale, we started looking for our seed round.

We have already onboarded a semi-governmental infrastructure and energy fund to invest. To reach the right people has always been more important to us than to reach a lot of people. Because we believe in what we do and we want likeminded people with us. We used our network and the organizations that we joined (more concentrated group of people) to reach our contacts.

How do you build and develop talent?

I care about EQ. Maybe too much. So inside my team, any development has to base upon a person being able to express their approach. That flexibility is hard to handle at the start. BUT given the opportunity, if you followed up a good hiring process, this style of management always ends up with people on your team add value to what you have. And that is why you should have a team in the first place. Not copies of your best performers.

How do you manage growth vs sustainability?

To us, sustainable growth means repeatable, ethical and responsible — to and for current and future communities. That is what we based our product and services around. Hence our company structure. We have now more responsibility post COVID-19 world to make sure we manage this. When you keep sustainability as one of your core values, growth is inevitable.

What are the biggest challenges for the team?

Being an agile startup in growth stage, the biggest challenge is growing and execute at the same time. Onboarding new people is always a hard challenge that you need to keep on doing.

What’s been the biggest success for the team?

Never ending ambition to achieve the next target. This has never changed since Day 1. It’s more important to create an environment that breeds success, than have one big success. Again, sustainability is the core value.

What advice would you give to other founders?

A few very important things:

  • Stay resilient and hard working. Always true and hard to do. M.Ali was counting his push ups AFTER it started hurting.
  • Listen. Listen to your customer, your investor, your team. Really listen. There will always be clues for you to understand if you are on the right path or not. Be open to adjusting and learning from them. At the end take your own decision.
  • And finally, take action. Anything you think can’t be done is being achieved by somebody around the world. Somebody who started to take the steps one by one to that goal. So start with the first step. You’ll love the first taste.


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

Unpacking Lemonade’s S-1 Filing


This post is by Nima Wedlake from Thomvest Ventures - Medium

Lemonade, a technology-enabled renters & homeowners insurance company, filed for a $100M IPO last week. The $100M figure is a placeholder and will likely rise in the actual offering. The company plans to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “LMND”.

Founded in 2015 by Daniel Schreiber and Shai Wininger, Lemonade has built a full-stack property and casualty insurance carrier in the U.S., Netherlands, and Germany. It offers consumers customizable insurance policies delivered via an easy-to-use app experience. The company has scaled quickly since launching in late 2016 — premium volume grew from $9M in 2017, to $47M a year later, to $116M in 2019. There are 730K active Lemonade policyholders as of March 2020.

In April 2019, the company raised $300 million of Series D venture funding in a deal led by SoftBank Group, putting the company’s pre-money valuation at a $1.8B (a hefty 27x multiple on revenue). SoftBank also led the company’s $120M Series C financing a year earlier at a pre-money valuation of $450M (meaning a nice 4x self-markup at the Series D).

The S-1 filing comes at an interesting time, both due to the pandemic and resulting macroeconomic environment, as well as the specific stage and scale of the company. While Lemonade’s top-line revenue run-rate recently crossed $100M, the company remains far from profitability having recorded a net loss of $36.5M in Q1 2020.

In this post I’ll dig into the company’s financials, product ambitions and valuation expectations as a public company. I see two key factors in pulling off a “successful” public offering: first, convincing investors that there is a clear path to profitability, and second, demonstrating how its technology platform and growth rate warrant a valuation premium over traditional P&C insurance carriers.

Product Offering

In September 2016, Lemonade launched its renters and homeowners insurance offering in New York to much fanfare. TechCrunch described the product as “pretty freaking cool” (a very rare phrase in the insurance industry). Policies are sold directly to consumers online, a deviation from traditional carriers which typically rely on agents to distribute policies (more than 93% of homeowners insurance policies in the U.S. are sold via agents). As such, the product appeals to younger, more tech-forward customers: approximately 70% of Lemonade’s current customers are under the age of 35.

The company offers competitive pricing (as low as $5 per month for renters insurance) and a mobile chat-based buying experience. Users can also file claims through the Lemonade app in minutes and with zero paperwork. This “delightful” buying and claims experience has led to meaningfully higher customer satisfaction rates relative to its peers. According to Lemonade, it achieved a net promoter score (“NPS”) of above 70, compared to an industry average of 17. Over time, the company plans to launch additional insurance products on its platform, including travel, pet, auto, life & umbrella insurance.

Gross Premiums vs. Gross Profits

When an insurance policy is purchased, Lemonade is on the hook for any claims associated with that policy (for instance, lost or damaged possessions as a result of fire, theft or vandalism). The costs incurred by Lemonade as a result of any claims paid relative to the premiums the company collects is known as its loss ratio. This ratio can vary based on a carrier’s ability to underwrite and price policies correctly. It can also be impacted by unexpected natural disasters or catastrophic events which may lead to a spike in claims.

To help control these fluctuations, Lemonade engages in a practice known as reinsurance in which it transfers a portion of the premium it collects, along with any claims associated with that premium, to third parties. In return, the reinsurer pays Lemonade a commission (known as a “ceding commission”). This gives Lemonade better control over its gross margins and reduces capital requirements for the business. Lemonade plans to offload more than three-quarters of its premiums to reinsurances, most of which have 1–3 year contracts with the company to buy policies.

The resulting gross margin for Lemonade is approximately 20% — i.e. for every $100 in premium written, about $20 flows to the company net of reinsurance, loss expenses, and other direct costs (for example, credit card processing fees). The graphic is our attempt at showing the flow of premiums from policyholders to Lemonade. While its gross margin are relatively low, the company can improve its margins by a) lowering its loss ratio via enhanced underwriting, b) increasing premiums over time and c) negotiating more favorable reinsurance agreements.

Financial Metrics

Lemonade is growing incredibly quickly — since launching in New York in late 2016, the company has grown to capture approximately 7% of the in-state renters insurance market, and continues to scale quickly both in New York and across the geographies in which it operates. In Q1 2020 the company reported $26.2M in total revenue (including earned premium and investment income), up 141% from Q1 2019. Its in-force premium (the aggregate annualized premium for active customers) is $133M, up 133% from the prior year. There are 729K active customers as of Q1, the majority of whom have renters insurance policies (the company reports only 12K condo insurance policies in its S-1).

While the hyper-growth is impressive, the company is generating a relatively small amount of gross profit. In 2019, Lemonade reported only $13.1M in adjusted gross profit — its total operating expenses over the same period of time was $119.8M. As such, the company is generating a large net loss, coming in at -$108.5M in 20 19. The silver lining is that losses are shrinking relative to revenue — adjusted EBITDA margin improved from -141% to -73% between 2019 and Q1 2020.

Operating expenses relative to revenue are very high, but improving (see chart below, and note that Q1 2020 G&A excludes a one-time donation the Lemonade Foundation). Most notably, sales and marketing expense clocked in at 73% of total revenue in Q1 2020; this is potentially troubling given the company’s low gross margin (20%). Without a gross margin improvement or better operating leverage, the company would need to more than 5x its premium volume to get to breakeven.

Marketing, Retention & Customer Lifetime Value

Lemonade has been a prodigious spender of marketing dollars since launching. The company spent $131M on sales and marketing in 2018 and 2019 (combined) to drive $163M in gross written premium over the same period. Of course, marketing efficiency has improved over the last several quarters, and according to the S-1, the company “currently spends $1 in marketing to generate more than $2 of in-force premium.”

Outside of direct-response advertising, much of Lemonade’s marketing investment should be attributed to brand building. The company has developed strong brand recognition, particularly amongst younger consumers. While the S-1 does not breakout paid vs. organic customer acquisition, I would expect that the volume of organic and word-of-mouth traffic will grow nicely over the next several quarters.

Ultimately, the company will need to demonstrate that it can sustainably acquire users and retain them as active policyholders. Unfortunately, Lemonade’s customer churn (both voluntary and involuntary) is relatively high compared to its peers. Annual customer churn is about 33% (blended rate based on year 1 and year 2 churn), compared to an industry average of 16%. Lemonade customers who do renew their policies tend to spend more — about 16% more per year, on average. This means that net dollar retention (a metric more common in the SaaS world) is about 77%.

Using this data along with other metrics shared in the S-1, we can triangulate both customer acquisition cost (CAC) and lifetime value (LTV) in the most recent quarter. To do so, we first infer the volume of new gross written premiums (GWP) in Q1 2020, as we are only focused on new business generated by customer acquisition spend in the quarter. In Q1, Lemonade spent $19.2M in sales & marketing to generate $25.4M in new GWP (or $0.76 for every $1 of GWP). From there, we can use the metrics around retention and gross margin provided in the S-1 to estimate customer lifetime value. As you’ll see in the graphic below, $0.76 in marketing expense yields $0.85 in lifetime gross profit, for an LTV/CAC of 1.13.

This ratio is low when compared to both insurance carriers (we ran a similar for analysis for Allstate, which has an LTV/CAC > 7) and SaaS comps (typical LTV/CAC benchmark is 3 or greater). As a public company, Lemonade must demonstrate that it can meaningfully improve the underlying metrics that drive this acquisition cost, customer lifetime value and ultimately profitability. Over the next several quarters, the company can pull the following levers to get to closer to profitability:

  • Increase gross margins by improving loss ratio: Lemonade touts its technology platform as a key differentiator in evaluating risk. According to the company, it “generates close to 1,700 data points” before quoting a home insurance policy, vs. 20–50 data points at traditional carriers. The company must prove that it can use this data to its advantage — i.e. a better loss ratio relative to incumbents. Doing so will allow the company to capture more gross profit per policy and improve customer lifetime value. The challenge ultimately will be be in balancing aggressive top-line growth with the more conservative underwriting approach required to drive down its loss ratio.
  • More efficient customer acquisition: As mentioned in the marketing section, the company has invested meaningfully into its brand building and customer acquisition efforts. It will need to demonstrate continued marketing efficiency improvements over the next several quarters. For reference, Allstate spends about $0.26 to acquire $1 of new GWP whereas Lemonade currently spends $0.76.
  • Improved customer retention: Key to building a sustainable business is Lemonade’s ability to retain customers for several years in order to pay back the marketing expense required to attract those customers. This is an important lever for the company — for example, increasing annual customer retention from 66% to 76% doubles LTV/CAC from 1.1 to 2.2. There are a few encouraging signs here: first, retained customers tend to spend more with the company (resulting in higher net dollar retention), and second, as the company introduces more insurance products it may be able to better retain customers by bundling these products.
  • New products with an attractive attach rate: Core to the Lemonade strategy is its ability to successfully launch new insurance products to compliment its core renters product, as discussed in the S-1: “Our regulatory framework, technology stack, and brand are all extensible to new lines of insurance, and we anticipate that these will contribute to our growth in the future.” The strategy makes sense given the size of the renters insurance market ($3.8B) relative to other categories like homeowners ($105.7B), auto ($288.4B), life ($868.5B) and pet ($19B). One could argue, however, that going after new insurance lines is analogous to starting a new companies within Lemonade — the approach to underwriting, policy creation and claims management can vary greatly. The bet here is that the Lemonade team and technology platform is extensible enough scale into new product lines, and that selling into its large base of existing customers (730K and counting) will yield marketing efficiency advantages.

Valuation Expectations

Lemonade’s last funding round in Q1 2019 valued the company at more than $2B on a post-money basis. At the time of this financing, the company’s gross written premium run rate was about $77m — meaning the round valued Lemonade at a 26x multiple (which is rich even for fast-growing SaaS businesses). Applying this same multiple to the company’s Q1 2020 GWP run rate ($152M) would value the company at just shy of $4B.

It will obviously be difficult for the company to justify such a valuation without a strong belief in the long-term growth story around improved loss ratios, better retention and successful cross-sell / up-sell of new insurance products. Lemonade will also need to convince investors that it should not be valued as a traditional insurance carrier (which typically trade on a multiple of net income or book value). Fortunately the company has an impressive growth profile (see chart above) and is early enough in its journey to get a “pass” on its lack of profitability. In the insurance industry especially, companies tend to see profits only after several years of operations.

The company would clearly like to steer investors towards SaaS-like multiples (the S-1 includes more mentions of “digital platform” than it does “insurance carrier”). But the gross margin profile and customer retention issues may scare investors off, at least until Lemonade demonstrates sustained improvement across those metrics.

The table above shows some valuation scenarios across different comp sets, including the company’s last private round valuation multiple. As you can see, there is a broad range of outcomes depending on the company’s 2020 growth rate, as well as the set of peers public investors decide to benchmark Lemonade against. Also included on the table is Palomar Holdings (PLMR), which is another fast-growing property insurance carrier that is trading at a healthy multiple as compared to other carriers.

Lemonade is strong example of how technology and digital customer acquisition can lead to outsized growth within industries usually dominated by large, slow moving incumbents. It will be interesting to see if the company can transition from market share acquisition to profit generation over the next several years. Regardless, their IPO is a nice win for the broader insuretech community.

Thanks to Eddie Ackerman and Moriya Blumenfeld for assistance on this post.


Unpacking Lemonade’s S-1 Filing was originally published in Thomvest Ventures on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.