Advice for other founders… don’t forget that every founder should be trying to hire themselves out of having to do any work. Your team is the most important thing you can build - your product can be copied but your team can’t, so build an amazing team with a clear understanding of your vision and you can outstrip your competition every time. And don’t forget that your Board is part of your team. You’ve got to ensure everyone throughout the entire company understands the vision and the strategy or you will waste a lot of energy trying to herd cats.
Learn as much as you can from the people around you. Design is a collaborative and an iterative process, whatever it is that you are building. Embrace those aspects of it. However, remember all the advice you receive will be the product of someone’s specific experience. Only you know what is right for your project – so the skill lies in finding ways to grow the wisdom you receive so that it applies more widely and fits your priorities. Oh – and say yes to everything. You never know where it might lead!
It’s tough out there for female founders. We found ideaSpace and made it home. ideaSpace is a collection of brilliant minds brought together in a unique environment that encourages conversation and collaboration. From product design and development, to website development, to advice on patenting and manufacturing – almost every milestone we have achieved can be traced back to help and advice we got from an ideaSpace member. Working as a fashion business surrounded by techies, we managed to develop something that the market had never seen before by embracing the community around us.
Think big, plan in small iterative steps and do what you love.
Resiliency, perseverance and collaboration will serve you well as you navigate the ups and downs of building a team and your company. The challenge I most underestimated is how important the right positioning would be and the art of building a repeatable sales process.
Talk is cheap, building is insanely expensive. Customer development comes first and an acceptable MVP is a slide deck and a story that you can iterate as fast as you learn what the market wants. Product development should only come once you have line of sight on paying customer contracts and you are sure you are solving a valuable enough problem. Pay attention to your unit economics and be realistic and honest with your investors.
You’ll get lots of advice (from people like me), take it all in, but then you need to make a decision. It’s your company. Also a founder community like ideaSpace is a fantastic place to start a company – you get an almost instant network of people willing to share their experiences of doing the same and I’m still in close contact with many of the people I met at there. I would often ask a fellow founder over coffee/beer about the problems I was trying to solve or ideas I had for business development. That could be from grand plans to things as simple as recommendations for a good accountant – it all helps and I think adds up to a significant advantage.
Find a co-founder or team up with other CEOs. Develop good processes early to scale and get accounts signed off by accountant. Be sure to surround yourself with good people and cut those that don’t fit fast. Ask for advice but take it with a pinch of salt. Use peers’ networks as you will be surprised how far it reaches and do your best to stay focused on adding value. At ideaSpace we always felt like we belonged, had support, and were part of something bigger, which when you’re so small, is immeasurably important. We built friendships, partnerships, collaborations with some great people, often from introductions at ideaSpace.