Monthly Archives: May 2023


The Startup’s Guide to Go-To-Market: Lessons from Five Global Sales Leaders

Sales and customer growth are a top priority for the entrepreneurs building in our community at Embarc Collective. Last week, Embarc Collective hosted the GTM Summit, featuring sales leaders who have started and scaled go-to-market strategies from 0 to $1B businesses. We’re highlighting powerful frameworks and practical strategies from our line-up of sales leaders on how to amplify your GTM strategy.


“There’s No Substitute for Knowing Your Customers and Your Metrics.”

Naimish Patel | Chief Growth Officer, Red Cell Partners

On Knowing Your Customers

  • I got on a plane every week for 7 years to learn from our prospects, which led to our acute understanding of our users’ needs. We focused on user experience where everyone was focused on compliance.

On Staying Steadfast and True to a Mission

  • We knew if we got a big distribution channel to invest in our channel, it would open up doors. Make your distribution partner win with you to help you scale.

On Finding the Right Customer

  • The more you talk to your target customer, the better you can identify their needs. Overtime, you begin to build a map of the market and sort your opportunities into buckets—here are the opportunities, here are the barriers, and where you can win. You need to know who wants what and where and you’re able to tailor your pitch to them.

“Listen More to Learn More”

Emery Rosansky | VP GTM, First Round Capital

On the Role of a Discovery Call

  • The discovery call is a core tool to garner the insights about your prospects to eventually close the sale. The result of a good discovery call will allow you to qualify a prospect, arm yourself with insights for further discussions, and hook the prospect by connecting to their needs.

On Being Clear with Your Goals

  • One core element of a discovery call is the Purpose Benefit Check (PBC) where you state the purpose and benefit of the conversation at the start of the call. Your prospect needs to know the journey they are going on with you.

On Listening More and Talking Less

  • Too many startups spend too much time talking on discovery calls. Aim for a 40% / 60% talk time to listen time ratio. You want to ensure you’re spending the time learning if what you’re offering is solving a priority pain point for your prospect and the impact that your product will have on their work.


“It’s Never About You in Sales, It’s Always About Your Customer”

Ariana Alfonso | Senior Director of Sales, Jetty

On Founder-Led Sales

  • Even if you have a sales team, when a founder stops joining sales calls, it’s not a great sign. As a founder, you want to stay involved.

On Being an Early Sales Hire

  • Personal trust is key as an early sales hire between a founder. You want to find someone highly organized, which is crucial while the founder is distracted among other priorities.

On Leveraging the Data

  • Mapping historical data at each stage helps you see patterns and build a muscle and culture in your startup that maps data early and often to best understand where you need to improve and what you’re doing well.


“Don’t be Tempted by Big Company Logos and Bring in a Senior Team Member Too Early”

Alexandra Adamson | VP of Revenue, CloserIQ

On Determining Your Sales Team Needs

  • Focus on hiring “renaissance reps” – team members who are comfortable rolling up their sleeves and building decks, taking feedback to the product team, and meeting with a lot of different customers as you unearth your ideal customer profile.
  • Look at your current team and understand the gaps and opportunities – is there someone on your existing team who could move into the role?

On Evaluating Sales Talent

  • You must assess someone’s skills during the interview process. Don’t evaluate the candidate simply based on the quality of conversation.
  • And if you are looking at a seller who isn’t using numbers to communicate their metrics of performing, they aren’t a fit – they should be focused on numbers all the time.


“Make Experimentation a Business Habit”

Chad Nuss | Chief Commercial Officer, Glassbox

On Approaches to Growth

  • There are three archetypes to consider—where do you fall? Born in Product-Led Growth (PLG), Sales-Led Growth, and Product-Led Sales.

On Delivering Value to Your Customers

  • Understand when your customers are receiving value from you. Value (product usage) reached is realized at the end for traditional enterprise sales vs. upfront for product-led sales.
  • PLG drives people into your product. Your customer journey can be well managed in the product-led growth approach.


Thanks to all who attended our 2023 GTM Summit. Interested in participating in learning opportunities to support your startup’s growth? Join our community of driven and focused startup founders by applying for membership to Embarc Collective.


Featured Founder: Fred Koehler of Ready Chapter 1

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Fred Koehler of Ready Chapter 1, a data analytics platform for writers with education, networking, and streamlined IP sales.

What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?

I once heard a friend describe their career in terms of shoe repair – they cobbled together a living as best they could from bits and bobs. That accurately describes my professional life up until now. I’ve worked as a writer, illustrator, creative and communications director, graphic designer, and advertising agency principal. Always balancing the ‘day job’ with the passion projects that make life worth living. Those passion projects have primarily been in the arts, typically working to license my art and stories to publishers who turn them into books. The idea for Ready Chapter 1 came from the 20-plus years I’ve spent navigating the publishing industry.

What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?

Writers, generally speaking, get their souls crushed six times a week and twice on Thursdays. Traditional publishing (IP licensing with advances and royalties) has a 99% rejection rate. To have worked so hard on something so personal and face those odds can feel overwhelming. Our community-driven solution is based on two pillars that seem, at first, almost too simple: Craft and Network. We’re helping writers grow to the top one percent in their writing Craft. Once they’re ready, we’re helping expand their network to meet the industry gatekeepers who are looking to make their next publishing offer.  And we’ve got innovative, tech-enabled tools to help.

Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?

Our challenge has been, like most of you, the balance of time and money. We couldn’t commit the time without the money, which wouldn’t come without revenue, which needed a lot more time. In the end, I bet the pool money. My family had saved up $20,000 for a downpayment on a swimming pool. (A luxury, I know, but these Florida summers are hot.) I pulled everyone together and asked if it would be okay to risk our savings on the company instead. Fortunately, my family has a lot of faith and we took the leap without knowing if we’d ever see a single dollar back. Since then, our proof of concept produced nearly the exact amount we spent ($20K), attracting angel investors who have given us a runway. And yes, the pool is still in the plans. 🙂

Where do you see your company headed next?

We’ve got our tech innovation MVP currently in BETA testing. We’ve got a runway. Next up we’ll be developing our go to market strategy and, as a fellow Embarc Collective member put it, hacking our way toward initial growth. Any fellow founders who have advice on this are welcome to bend my ear. I’ll buy the coffee.

Give us a tactical piece of advice that you’d share with another founder just starting out.

I’ll make an attempt at being clever and say Craft and Network. The same two pillars on which we’re building our company translate in every industry from investment banking to biomechanics. If you put in the hours to become the top 1 percent of everyone who does what you do AND bust your hump to become known by all the key players, you’ll be the one answering the door when opportunity knocks.

Why Tampa Bay?

I love Tampa! The food. The historic feel. The outdoors. My first memory of Tampa was coming to see the Bucs play in the old creamsicle uniforms. (Grandpa loved them, even when they were terrible.) Central Florida has come so far since then. I’m impressed and encouraged by the work that’s been done to make Tampa and the surrounding areas a place for tech founders to grow and scale. Because of what I’ve experienced in both Tampa and Lakeland, I know my company will find success, supported by an ecosystem of fellow founders all on the same journey. If you’re a driven innovator with a company to grow and that rare combination of drive and passion, you can’t do much better.

Solving the Social Isolation and Loneliness Epidemic

Last week, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued an advisory about the social isolation and loneliness epidemic, a true public health concern experienced throughout the country. In the report, Murthy said: “Given the profound consequences of loneliness and isolation, we have an opportunity, and an obligation, to make the same investments in addressing social connection that we have made in addressing tobacco use, obesity, and the addiction crisis.”

Startups are at the leading edge of solving key societal issues, and I’m lucky to learn about new bold-thinking companies from across the country each day. Well before the release of this report, I started to see an increase in new ventures tackling human loneliness. Given that “[US] stress-related absenteeism attributed to loneliness costs employers an estimated $154 billion annually,”(1)  it’s no wonder startups are emerging to tackle this problem. The size of this market is enormous.

The report outlines the three vital components of social connection:

  1. Structure: the number, variety, and activity related to a person’s relationships and interactions with others
  2. Function: the degree to which a relationship serves a person’s needs
  3. Quality: the positives (and negatives) of a relationship in a person’s life

Three member companies at Embarc Collective are addressing the components of social connection in interesting ways:

  • Krew Social: Helps to improve the structure of social connection and create engagement between individuals across a network, organization, or group to build deeper relationships and trust, thereby increasing satisfaction and retention. The relationship between individuals within an organization is becoming increasingly sparse – how well do you really know your co-working, apartment neighbor, or fellow churchgoer? Krew Social aims to help organizations foster friendship-making within their communities.
  • Maka Social: The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and a more remote lifestyle have caused many to not know where and how to meet others. Maka Social supports the structure of social connection by providing the tools to make meeting people easier, essential for those of us navigating shyness and social anxiety.
  • Pulse: Specifically focused on improving the function and quality of social connection by making it easy to remember those in your network and the context behind those relationships. With the tool, a person is able to be proactive and intentional about fostering individual relationships and social connections overall.

The lack of social connectedness has immense negative effects on a person, including both physical and mental health consequences. Embarc Collective member company Cope Notes is leading the charge in dealing with the mental health challenges that the lack of social connectedness can cause:

  • Cope Notes: Through one text a day, Cope Notes helps people improve their mental and emotional health. The regular habit of being mindful of one’s mental health can lead to positive outcomes.

When being all-in on building a startup, the challenges of social connectedness and loneliness can be even more pronounced for an entrepreneur. That is why Embarc Collective has assembled a community of 125+ focused and driven startup teams to create a strong peer community. Being a part of a connected community delivers positive economic outcomes. According to the Surgeon General’s Advisory, “members of these connected communities are more likely to recommend job and educational opportunities to one another, collaborate on ideas for innovation, build partnerships for local businesses, and directly advance economic progress in their communities.”

Additionally, Embarc Collective keeps mental health maintenance top of mind by offering Wellness and Burnout Prevention coaching and programming to member startups with support from the Florida Blue Foundation. This helps ensure there is less taboo about openly discussing one’s mental health needs and clear ways to find connection with and support from fellow startups affiliated with Embarc Collective.

The Surgeon General’s Advisory demonstrated just how complex, intense, and pervasive social isolation and loneliness are across the United States. There is room for more problem solvers to bring new ideas to the table, like what the teams behind Krew Social, Maka Social, Pulse, and Cope Notes have done. If you are building a solution in this space and are Florida-based, join our peer community of focused, driven startup builders at Embarc Collective.


(1) Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation 2023, US Department of Health & Human Services


Featured Founder: Alex Cusell of Jisell

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Alex Cusell of Jisell, a universal platform where gift card brands can engage and incentivize their gift card holders to drive redemption.

What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?

I was a software engineer, but I always knew that I wanted to be a tech entrepreneur. After about a year, I quit my engineering job and moved out to Silicon Valley to pursue a Master’s Degree in tech entrepreneurship. During that time is when I launched Jisell. I had a bridal shower, where I received countless gift cards and unwanted gifts that were returned for store credits. My wallet was bursting at the seams with plastic cards, which was a frustration I had experienced many times before on holidays, birthdays, graduation, etc. I searched for years for an adequate solution to this problem. The more I explored this industry, the more I fell in love with the problem. Jisell brings together the best parts of existing solutions and new features that our users love!

What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?

The state of Delaware alone makes $40M/yr from unredeemed gift card money. Brands WANT you to redeem your gift card, but they have no way of interacting with you or even knowing who you are. Jisell solves this problem by providing brands with a universal platform to connect with and incentivize their card holders to drive redemption. For consumers, Jisell is a mobile wallet for all of your gift cards.
One thing that drives me is a deep desire to inspire future female entrepreneurs.

Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?

Shortly after receiving our first investment, I went through a pretty difficult co-founder breakup. For a while, I didn’t think I could do it on my own. I tried to rush into new partnerships, and I had a great mentor who convinced me that I could do it on my own until I found the right person. Since then, I’ve been a one-woman show, still open to finding the right partner.

Where do you see your company headed next?

Currently, we are focused on identifying and partnering with local franchisees to help them maximize their gift card programs.

Give us a tactical piece of advice that you’d share with another founder just starting out.

I would say that as a founder, your mental health is critically important and under constant attack. I would encourage anyone entering this journey to set a standard of prioritizing their sanity, personal values, happiness, etc. Some methods that have helped me: therapy, podcasts, meditation, journaling and volunteering.

Why Tampa Bay?

Many of my close friends grew up in Tampa. Every time I visited them, I fell more in love with the city. I’ve always been excited to move here, and I’m thrilled to finally call Tampa home!