Top Takeaways from Embarc Collective’s First-Ever Founder Summit
As many know, building a startup is difficult and often lonely. To support Embarc Collective member companies with the ups and downs of the startup journey and to reinforce the strength of the startup community, Embarc Collective hosted its first-ever Founder Summit for current Embarc Collective member companies. We curated a half-day of learning and reflection about how to build bold, scalable, thriving companies. The day was inspiring, and we were lucky to learn from renowned startup founders and investors from around the country.
Here's a quick look at the lineup of speakers from the Founder Summit.
Co-CEO of Established, which he launched after founding and successfully exiting previous media company, TechCo.
Nashville-based investor at Mucker Capital and founder of BuildInSE.
Atlanta-based serial entrepreneur and Managing Partner at Loeb.ATL.
CTO and co-founder of Boston-based Drift.
Board Chairman of Embarc Collective, Partner at SPP and Owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Our all-star speakers had a lot to share with Embarc Collective members. These were a few key lessons from the event:
COMMUNITY IS EVERYTHING
During his fireside chat, Frank Gruber discussed the importance of building Tech.Co, formerly known as TechCocktail, a media company that covered tech startup news, events and resources to connect and build startup communities. He noted that it is important to create a community of like-minded people to help build ventures and solve problems collectively. He attributes his success to the connectivity of startup communities and in turn, helped build a few as well. As a startup founder, you can often work through your toughest challenges with the support of members in your startup community.
REVERSE ENGINEER WHAT YOU WANT TO MAKE YOUR DREAMS HAPPEN
Once you determine what your ultimate dream is for your startup or your professional growth, start to reverse engineer how to get there. During his fireside chat, Frank prompted founders to imagine what their ultimate dream is. If you see your startup making a successful exit or you envision your company going public, think about the steps it takes to get there by working backward. You know to exit successfully, you need to pitch to buyers. To pitch to buyers, you need to create a reproducible system or product that has value and can generate revenue. How can you improve your current business to refine a reproducible system that will be attractive to buyers? And that's where you start. Approaching your goals with reverse-engineered thinking is key to making your dreams happen.
MAKE YOUR INVESTOR COMMUNICATIONS HUMAN
During the investor panel, each panelist strongly expressed how important it is to keep communications with investors human. While it may be easy to send communications to investors in mass, you are working against your interest by keeping the conversation sterile. Tailor your cold outreach via email or Twitter by understanding their stage, sector, geographic focus, and existing portfolio. Investors are in it for the long haul and want to get a sense of who the people are behind the companies they are investing in. Connect with them authentically to build memorable, lasting relationships.
BE TACTICAL ON HOW YOU SPEND TIME WITH INVESTORS
Scott Lopano recommends founders do their research on any investor they plan to engage with. It's important for founders to get a sense of where prospective investors are spending their time and money. If they haven't invested in a city before or don't make trips to that city frequently, the likelihood they'll be a value-add investment is low. They most likely won't be able to give you the time and support you need as an early-stage company. Spending 15 minutes digging through an investor’s or fund’s portfolio to better understand what type of companies and where they are making investments can save you time and wasted money on travel. Check investor’s social media accounts, especially Twitter and Medium, to see what they are sharing and writing about. Their online activity can also tell you more about their investment style.
BOTH FOUNDERS AND INVESTORS NEED TO WORK ON CHANGING THE INVESTMENT LANDSCAPE
Christy Brown says founders in our region shouldn't need to leave their region to find capital. However, for founders to stay, local investors need to change the message in the Southeast. Investors have the ability to bring capital to the ecosystem. There are funds and investment groups who don't know about the founders or opportunities in the Southeast. When companies go west, investors here lose out on the opportunity and in turn, companies here don't get capital from local investors. Christy says the Southeast has the natural ability to scale and grow with the capital we need. She encourages investors to do a better job championing this message. Scott Lopano reminds founders to consider local capital as well. There are plenty of opportunities that can bring investors to the city. Those who are willing to fly out are also those that are willing to write checks in those communities. At the end of the day, it does take diligence on your end, and theirs, to find a good fit.
STAY SUPER LEAN UNTIL THERE IS SOME SEMBLANCE OF PRODUCT MARKET FIT
Monique Villa says Mucker Capital invests in early-stage companies that closely resemble a replicable sales model. If you have no revenue, but you have done real groundwork to define your ideal customer profiles, create a clear picture of what the competition looks like and you have some form of creative hack to out-compete the competition, this is attractive to investors — regardless of what you have under the hood or not. If you have a thoughtful plan on how to go to market, it makes sense to bring in money. Having some version of the product that's functioning with a list of customers you know you can deliver to is also important to investors in the consideration process.
ALWAYS COMMUNICATE CULTURE AND PRINCIPLES AS YOU SCALE
When managing a team that's scaling fast, Elias Torres advises founders to define culture and principles up front while keeping a solid structure in place. At Drift, he explains they keep the customer at the center of everything they do and work in small teams. Elias and his co-founder borrowed a few structures they created while at Hubspot to help form their early dev teams. However, Elias says Drift is growing and learning every day. Whatever they did wrong the day before, they actively work on improving it the next day.
LEARN HOW TO TELL A STORY
Elias recommends that all founders need to learn how to tell a story. He describes that storytelling is fundamental to how we communicate and retain messages. When pitching for investment locally, you need to develop a story that's ambitious and courageous with a big goal. Not only does the story have to be compelling, but you need to show a clear path on how to get there. Once founders find their story, he tells them to focus in on the story and tell it a thousand times.
WE NEED TO BRING IN YOUNG TALENT BY BUILDING THRIVING COMPANIES
Jeff Vinik shared with founders that to make Tampa Bay progress 20 years in 10, the stories of interesting companies here need to continue to grow. It's important these stories not only ring in our community but beyond our market to attract promising talent to Tampa Bay. We have to lift together in order to accomplish our goal.
To build better, we have to leverage each other. This was the ultimate theme shared with speakers at Embarc Collective's first-ever Founder Summit. As the entrepreneurial community grows in Tampa Bay, members of the community need to continue to celebrate the success of thriving companies, lend a helping hand to others (even if you don't receive anything in return), and provide a support system that encourages more founders to build impactful companies in this region for us to truly make 20 years of progress in 10.
Interested in joining Embarc Collective? Nominate your startup today!
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