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  • How can I get an investor to pay attention to me/my company?
    Success is the best way to attract attention to your company. After all, perception is reality. When companies can quickly gain traction in the marketplace while showing they are self-sustaining, investors will notice and look for opportunities to collaborate. I know this may sound counterproductive, but the best time to recruit money is when you have enough of it. When you get a chance to present to potential investors, you need to showcase meaningful revenue growth, maybe a “lighthouse” account success — not just a “hockey stick” of growth you hope to achieve in the future. Build a Board of Advisors of significant influence in your market, along with a world-class management team that contains strong experience. Show your commitment to diversity and inclusion as well. And most of all, offer an innovative technology that solves a complex problem with ease in the market so that the opportunity for growth is real. Also, there’s nothing better than a personal introduction. Getting a personal introduction from a credible colleague to the partner of a VC firm is a great start. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
  • What are the biggest challenges to starting a new tech startup?
    When you start the journey, you should never think about the end. The “why” behind it shouldn’t be about the money and it shouldn’t be about your career. If you’re doing it for those reasons, you need to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself if you really want to go and build that company because it’s not easy. Money: A shortage of capital and cash flow is the first major challenge for new tech startups. No employee, not even a co-founder, can survive without a salary. Make smart financial decisions by stretching each dollar with employees, marketing, sales process and real estate. Your equity is even more important. However, for early recruit employees it could mean giving up a portion of the salary to enjoy the fruits of the potential exit in the future. Planning: Another challenge is the business plan — oftentimes it doesn’t showcase how the technology makes an impact in solving a major problem in the market. Your business plan needs to prove how the technology will enable a strategic go-to-market that is grounded in reality, adding real value, quickly to your target market customers. Solving a major problem for a large addressable market will help. Execution: If you talk the talk, then walk the walk. You need to build your strategy and then execute it at every level — even if things begin to fluctuate. Consistency is key. However, having the foresight to pivot at a dead-end is just as critical. I know a few very successful companies that have pivoted multiple times to a successful exit. Attracting the right partners/prospects: Locking in your first development partners and customers is far from easy. You must be able to withstand the frustration of rejection. Stay confident and trust your instincts. It’s a process to find your footing in the market. Finding the right employees: You need to create a “player/coach” hybrid management structure of employees who can wear multiple hats. As a startup, you won’t be able to afford a management structure that only manages. Discovering these employees costs time and money, but the return on investment is worth it. On the contrary, knowing when and how to cut ties with poor employees is essential to building a firm organizational culture that aligns with your mission and vision. Time management: Time is the most valuable currency in today’s fast-paced world. It is vital to manage your time first, then manage your timeline later. Know what needs to be prioritized. And respect others’ time: treat your partners/customers calendars like they are your own.
  • What is one thing people underestimate about operating a growing business?
    People underestimate the loneliness of being a CEO. I would recommend finding other entrepreneurial co-founders to join them. Three entrepreneurs is the magic number, but if you can at least have two, that will help greatly. I can’t tell you how many times I called my co-founder to vent and bounce ideas off of him throughout the process. If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together. You find strength in numbers.
  • How does organizational culture affect the success of a growing business?
    Culture must be a priority when building your team. Culture is built over time on a continuous basis. You need to make sure you’re promoting a diverse and inclusive culture where different minds all have a seat at the table in the decision-making process. The attitudes of your management shapes the culture of your company. So at the management level, you need to make hires based on attitude over knowledge. You can hire the smartest person in the room, but if they don’t have a good attitude, it will hurt your business productivity. Meanwhile, you can build knowledge by training employees with positive attitudes.
  • As a company grows, how should you approach finding the right VC partnership to expand the business?"
    Find VCs who will be your partner for life. Treat it like finding your significant other. You’re not looking for a partner for a year, two years or five years. You want to find partners who have shared interests and collaborate with value for life. Don’t just look at it for the money. Money is an important component, but have they done similar investments in the past that they were successful with? Do they have templates that can help you? Do they know analysts? We call it their village. Do they have people they know who can help guide you through your journey? Just because you have money doesn’t mean you’re going to succeed. You need to have the right network and guidance, which can be provided by your partners.
  • How do you define a successful exit?
    A successful exit is defined by the value generated to your shareholders and the human factor. It should do more for your employees than just put a little extra money in their pocket. Did the exit help promote their careers and position them to prosper? If you look at the teams I had at Demantra, they’ve all gone on to become executives at IBM, at McKinsey, at PepsiCo, at Oracle, and other places. The exit helped elevate them to the next step in their professional journey. So while money comes and goes, how the exit affects your people is what ultimately matters most to me. Another important aspect is your customers, will the new shareholder continue and invest in R&D, making your customers even more successful? Continue to impact their career too?
  • What makes more sense for a growing business: horizontal integration or vertical integration?
    It depends on the circumstances, but overall I would go for a focused-first (vertical) approach because the traction will be much faster, and then you can expand into another industry at a later stage. That approach is easier than starting in the beginning with one retail customer, one CPG customer, one electronic manufacturing customer, one industrial manufacturing customer, and so on. Because, then, you are nothing to everyone, rather than something to someone. Having lighthouse accounts in your addressable market is critical, people will follow. In order to move to a new vertical, you need to change the DNA of your company or the business unit, not an easy task. You need to be able to speak the language of that vertical. In order to do that, the best way would be to hire a general manager from that vertical to lead your go-to market strategy, gain success and spread the good within the new vertical.


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