These debaters know it will be a struggle to make facts great again

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK—There was no faking it. The Daily News Innovation Lab meetup last February 8 at Microsoft was packed for a good reason. The debate, “Proposition: We can solve fake news” had people giddy with anticipation. The debaters would not disappoint.

The hopefuls were Sally Kohn, political commentator and columnist, CNN and The Daily Beast; Dean Pomerleau, co-director, Fake News Challenge; and Melissa Ryan, expert in politics and technology.

The skeptics were John Borthwick, CEO of Betaworks; David Carroll, associate professor of Media Design at Parsons The New School for Design; and Jane Elizabeth, senior manager at the American Press Institute.

Justin Hendrix, executive director at NYC Media Lab moderated the debate with an equal dose of Orwellian seriousness and aw-shucks disbelief following the rise of fake news on social media platforms in the 2016 presidential elections.

Continue reading “These debaters know it will be a struggle to make facts great again”

Thinking of doing a startup? Do hackathons first

NEW YORK—Nine out of 10 startups fail, studies say. Why? Because many of these startups make products no one wants. This is almost common knowledge by now if you’ve been reading up or attending meetups, at least. Being aware of the high failure rate can be discouraging, of course, but that shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dream.

There are still ways to lessen the risk — and among the three panelists speaking at the Tech in Motion meetup last October 20, it was Dom Tancredi who probably gave the best advice, summed up in three words. “Do a hackathon.” In 48 hours of creating a product, he added, you’ll learn (a lot of things you can bring to your startup). It’s like a “microcosm of a startup.”

Even for someone already established in his web and mobile development business, Dom & Tom, he said, “I make it a point to attend 3 hackathons a year to keep myself relevant.”

Tancredi admitted to failing with 2 of the 3 startups that he started with his brother Tom. Unlike other startups, Tancredi started with 3 startups and proceeded to concentrate on one when the two other startups wouldn’t cut it.  He has more than 18 years of experience as a full-stack web developer and has led Dom & Tom since 2009.

He gave more tips: “Just know where you are spending your time. Spend 30 percent of your time on your customers another 40 percent on your product and 30 percent on yourself. Strive for equal balance.”

Josh Brenner, founder and CEO of bTreated, a yield management technology platform for the wellness industry, thinks failure starts even earlier. “People build this big idea in their head, but who (unfortunately) did not talk to people to validate their idea.”

“Immerse myself in the business. Everyone is better for it in the end,” he said.

Drew Silverstein, CEO and founder of Amper Music has a different take on the 9-out-10 failed startups observation. “5 of those 10 should not have started.”

He agrees with Brenner, though that you need to test each idea at its core and then validate that. Again, we go back to what you need to do: talk to customers.

Tancredi cautions though that talking to your customers is just “half the battle.”

When do you think you can reach some measure of success? For Tancredi, you’ll need to have to have “IP, the technology, the team and your efficacy and sustainability.

Silverstein has a more practical measure of success. When he hits his goal for 90 days, then he thinks he’s had some measure of success.

Brenner took his turn in giving cautionary advice. “People underestimate how much it’s hard to (build and run) a startup. You can be very successful one day and be a failure another day. You will have extreme highs and lows.”

To keep going, Silverstein said, “It is incumbent upon you to find a mentor. Ask a mentor for coffee. Solve one problem at a time.”

Brenner, for his part, thinks that “if you have a passion outside of your job, it helps (to give you ideas). “You don’t have to kill yourself, you need (time) to be creative.”

“You cannot overanalyze,” he added. “Just put out an MVP (minimum viable product) out there,” he said.

As for growing your startup, everyone agreed that you should learn marketing as well.

Healthcare tech offers opportunities if you can answer pain points

NEW YORK—Opportunities abound in healthcare technology, but many challenges prevail. It takes its sweet time to scale. It takes some pivoting to reach product-market fit.  It’s better narrowed down to a particular category than spread out. And perhaps the most challenging of all, it’s tightly regulated that every time a healthcare specialist or entrepreneur opens his mouth, you hear HIPAA compliance all the time. HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which requires protection and confidential handling of personal information, among others.

At Workville last October 11, Jason Malki’s Alley Boost meetup assembled a great panel of startups in the health space to talk about health technology.  The guest speakers were Ram Swaminathan, founder and CEO of Buddi Health, a startup innovating on a disruptive deep learning platform focused on the US healthcare revenue cycle space;  physician Atul Kumar, mentor and angel investor  for healthcare IT startups; physician Philip Christian, DreamIt Ventures managing director for health; and Samir Malik, SVP/general manager of Genoa Telepsychiatry.

Many healthcare technology startups are looking for automated and interoperable healthcare information solutions to improve medical care, lower costs, increase efficiency, reduce error and improve patient satisfaction while also optimizing reimbursement for ambulatory and inpatient healthcare providers.

Other than the tight regulations in this vertical, the panel thinks many health tech startups have not pinned down this one thing: the pain point they are addressing.

On core pointers when launching a startup

Christian: Ask yourself how big the problem is; every good idea does not turn into a business

Malik: (Startups rely) bias-to-action (thinking). Listen to the market, interact with the market, talk to them. Healthcare moves in cycles that Snapchats don’t. It takes a lot of time.

Kumar: Think of what status quo (is doing). What is existing paradigm? Think of the workflow. Starting point (for learning) has to be with providers

Swaminathan: (Be aware it is) compliance-heavy. Do your market research. Who’s going to pay—payer, provider or patient? Study why other startups fail. Look at sales cycles.

Why healthcare industry is slow to change?

Christian:  A physician will ask himself, why he is risking himself and the patient (for a new health technology). Onboarding is real headache

Malik: Decision-making is not as liquid

Kumar: Healthcare is highly regulated but (people know) it’s where opportunities are.

Swaminathan: Policy changes may take 10 years. Liability for a provider is so high. Liability and regulation stifle innovation. You have to win over lots of people, so many decision makers. It probably takes 2 years to get into an agreement, not 8 months.

What are the best ways of cutting sales cycle?

Christian: You have to understand your customer in and out.

Malik: (Develop) personal relationships, spending time with (potential clients), do cold calls, send them articles, listen to their (concerns) as we did for more than 8 months (at one point)

Swamanithan: Pivot a problem before you sell. Keep pivoting until your startup/service becomes a good product-market it. Linkedin works; reach out to physicians there.

How can startups stand out?

Christian: There are lots of copycats, 8 to 15 companies (may have the same platforms). They don’t have bad ideas, they’re just redundant. Make sure your (personal) story connects to your startup. Be realistic where the market is now.

Malik: Turn things into actionable data. Incorporate machine learning

Kumar: Differentiation is so critical. Success lies in metrics. Look into case studies—before and after.

What are exciting emerging trends?

Christian: Technologies that can manage costs

Swamanithan:  Locking up data sets, how algorithms can crack the code, how to better assess risks. Reach out to Google and Microsoft (for partnerships)

Leadership lessons from young digital founders

NEW YORK – “I think AI will co-create our reality,” said Aaron Nicholson, co-founder of Studio Transcendent who was at the IBM Think Leaders meetup last October 4 at Rise, along with Ita Ekpoudoum, founder and CEO of Tigress Ventures and Josie Hines, co-founder of Art Frankly.

Nicholson’s Studio Transcendent is a maker of premier virtual reality experiences with focus on cinematic storytelling for many big clients.

Asked how he started, he said candidly, “I could never get a job.” Reflecting on his most trying times, he said, “I wanted to quit a lot of times, (because I found out that) people would not act as rationally as I would expect them to act.”

He shared some of his insights about leadership and learning:

  • Have the ability to learn and apply what you learn
  • We need to be information absorbers
  • You need to know (how to do) apps now, hinting at how the educational system doesn’t teach it unless you’re taking a tech course.
  • Listen to signals (akin to gut feel)
  • There are two types of people in this world: Those with no ideas and those with so many ideas and how it’s hard for both because we only have so much time every day. But get your hands on one thing. Go make it.
  • I don’t believe in competition. It makes me tense, less creative. But I believe in collaborating with them later.
  • On closing (a deal), relax. Let them be attracted to you

Originally from Nigeria, Ekpoudoum said she founded Tigress Ventures to help women entrepreneurs, professionals and investors to help themselves and each other. She honed her people skills from her work in the financial and technology companies such as Goldman Sachs and American Express as well as TravelClick.

“We pair visionary entrepreneurs with accomplished professionals who know to turn ideas into realities, helping entrepreneurs scale their business and providing professionals with high impact advisory and leadership development opportunities,” she said.

Her thoughts on leadership:

  • I had an idea years ago but didn’t know anything, so meet people; go out of your industry
  • On sales: you have to articulate your business in 30 seconds
  • If you have a strong team you can scale

Hines of Art Frankly talked about what seems to be a Linkedin for artists.

Art Frankly is an online jobs and recruitment platform for the visual arts community to seek and post jobs, list spaces and discover other opportunities while building a professional presence.

It serves artists, curators, researchers, gallerists, students, and creative professionals in one place.

What’s his advice for the rest of us? He thinks giving appreciation is important. “I have consultants who work full time and appreciate the work they do for me.”

Hines said he gets helps from a “hodgepodge of different sources.”

The meetup was moderated by Robert Schwartz, Global Leader of Strategy & Design, IBM iX.

Map customer journey, offer loyalty programs to boost app value

NEW YORK–How do you boost the value of your app? Last September 20, Follow Analytics’ Mobile Marketing Meetup, hosted a talk with New York’s marketers talking about how to market apps. “Map a customer journey,” says Roxanne Ong who thinks doing so is a good exercise.

The transcription reportedly takes about 5 minutes to process regardless of the length of the media.  You can export a video sequence of selection as they appear chronologically in the video. Or you can export them in the order you selected them, getting you closer to make a paper edit.

Another presenter at the meetup, Verse, may be in a crowded video editing space but its DIY interactive platform is such as breeze to use. It’s a quick in-and-out experience. It’s great for independent storytellers who don’t have the luxury of an editing team or the skills of a coder to embed the images to a site. Headlines and other text in the images also allow for written questions to be clicked and led to the video portion of the question.

Next preseneter TVU offers web-based live video solutions. It transforms the way video content is captured, transmitted and shared from anywhere for viewing on the mobile, tablets, laptops and televisions.

Future Moments’ new app and its fourth one, AudioFix, is an iOS app that gets rid of extraneous noise. The demo here showed how the app instantly optimizes volume using 11 noise reduction filters. As you save them using various filters, the original video remains in the same resolution. However, one can reduce the file size of video for easier sharing using a compress video option.

Host Steven Rosenbaum said his meetup group would not be possible without its audience, where one was inspired some to create video storytellers on YouTube like The Storyscape, which makes learning (some for kids and even adults) sound like “Dave Chappelle and Erkyah Badu hung out in Mister Roger’s neighborhood.”

How to turn students into brand ambassadors

NEW YORK— Targeting students? You’ll need campus ambassadors for your brands. The best part? About 68 percent of 5M college students wouldn’t mind.

That was the key takeaway in the meetup hosted by AlleyBoost + University Beyond, an influencer marketing event geared toward Gen-Z and the college market, last August 31 at Workville near Times Square.

Doug Messer, CEO of University Beyond, spoke about the best practices of starting and scaling a college ambassador program, along with other panelists.

Campus ambassadors are students who work as an advocate of a company to enhance its brand awareness. The work may involve marketing and sales; product feedback/testing; financial management; or event planning.

As brand ambassadors, they can help increase on-campus brand presence, brand loyalty and customer lifetime value while also leveraging student’s social presence.

Messer develops its talent pipeline by transitioning Campus Ambassadors to Summer Interns to Full-time hires, trying to reach them as early as their freshman year.

Many of them are taught how to do product testing and giving feedback, even sampling products. One can also ask them to do app downloads and doing surveys through focus groups. Other marketing initiative they learn doing include content creating, social media marketing, and email marketing.

Learning organizational complexities involve determining a program structure like spending per campus, student management, and team structure.

The associated costs include student recruitment, student compensation, management costs, and setting a marketing budget, federal and state regulations, among others. Compensation methods include, well, getting free stuff; an hourly pay; stipends; commissions; internship fulfillment; a letter of recommendation; or university credit.

Hiring a minor has legal implications, of course. University Beyond recommends seeking the guidance of a legal counsel. Below are recommendations on how to structure a program that complies with state and federal requirements:

  • Students who work more than 20 hours a week are legally obligated to receive minimum wage
  • Students who are compensated more than $600 a year are required to report their salary on their taxes.
  • Salary and wage laws as well as internship regulations vary by state. Prior to expanding the demographic reach of an ambassador program, check the specific requirement to ensure your program is within state standards.
  • Encourage campus ambassadors to approach their university about receiving credit to their work. This alleviates the need for monetary compensation and ensures your program is within the legal limitations

These tips from University Beyond are designed to help companies recruit, hire, communicate with, manage, and evaluate ambassadors in one centralized location.

The other panelists in the meetup included Katie Sanfield, executive director, Student Brand Ambassador Program of Kaplan Test Prep; Joljit Tamanaha, CMO & CFO of Fresh Prints, a custom apparel startup with “campus managers” who build and run the business at their schools.

George Garcia, founder, All Axcess Tour & Management has focused on curating and directing collegiate-centric initiatives on both a national and international scale. All Axcess T&M serves as a boutique marketing and management firm that specializes in management, branding, and the curation of artists, brands, events, media and entertainment concepts.

‘Trust is essential in sharing economy’– Sundararajan

NEW YORK—Trust is essential in the sharing economy.

Last August 17 at Rising Minds, Arun Sundararajan, sharing economy expert and New York University Stern School of Business professor talked about his new book, “The Sharing Economy: The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism” as well as that salient ingredient in how things has worked so far this economy: trust.

If you’re not in this space, it’s really about how your car (for Uber) or your apartment (for Airbnb) and earn from it. For those companies, they make use of the crowd to work for them and if you’re part of the crowd offering any of those services, you get to earn from being part of it. If you have an apartment in Manhattan, for example, you can have it rented out to anyone as long as your landlord approves.

But this only works if you can trust someone to live in your house or apartment or like in Europe, share a ride with strangers. And for some people, they’re willing to sacrifice that to make use of their underutilized assets.

Sundararajan pins down the sharing economy as an economic system with the following five characteristics:

  1. Largely market-based: Enabling the exchange of goods and the emergence of new services, resulting in potentially higher levels of economic activity.
  2. High-impact capital: Opens new opportunities for assets and skills to time and money, to be used at levels closer to their full capacity.
  3. Crowd-based networks rather than centralized institutions or hierarchies: The supply of capital and labor comes from decentralized crowds of individuals rather than corporate or state aggregates; future exchange may be mediated by distributed crowd-based marketplaces rather than by centralized third parties.
  4. Blurring lines between the personal and the professional: The supply of labor and services often commercializes and scales peer-to-peer activities like giving someone a ride or lending someone money, activities which used to be considered “personal.”
  5. Blurring lines between fully employed and casual labor, between independent and dependent employment, and between work and leisure: Many traditionally full-time jobs are supplanted by contract work that features a continuum of levels of time commitment, granularity, economic dependence and entrepreneurship.

The sharing economy has created many thriving businesses for one reason other than trust: Weak regulation, but Sundararajan thinks it should adhere to some regulatory measures, a reinvention of regulation, as most of regulatory interventions have been governed at the local level. Most of these businesses are national, if not international.

If Sundararajan had his way, he would call the sharing economy “crowd-based capitalism,” because the former still leaves a fair bit of ambiguity.

The event was hosted by Rising Minds at the Soho House.

Product management interviews: Listen 90% of the time

NEW YORK—At the Product School last August 3, Marty Cagan presented an hour-long talk on product management and the importance of managing new products and features of your startup using a customer delivery toolkit, which includes one important body part – your ear.

“You should be listening 90 percent of the call,” he said, referring to how you let interviewees talk as you hand out questions the rest of it.

But to start, he suggests on doing customer research/survey as your build new products:

  1. Understand the market, competitors, user personas and processes
  2. Create a prioritized list of user stories, iterate on designs
  3. Look at impressive existing products

Take these steps, he suggests:

  1. Do a survey. Gather general info about a customer problem and source interviewees, citing how this is fast and scalable (1 hour investment of your time plus get customer response); fun and easy for customers, if you design it right; and everything is recorded and standardized.

The downsides: It’s not good for capturing nuance and details, you will miss unknown unknowns and you can’t drill down into critical areas.

The best practices: keep it short, minimize typing and test on a few internal folks and customers

  1. Do requirements interviews: Get a deeper understanding. Understand user personas, processes

Pros: Captures details and nuances; easier to discover unknown issues/ideas and dig further; develops the customer relationships (for design interviews)

Cons: Takes time (1 hour investment/customer response)

Low sample size (max 5 to 10 interviews per feature)

Best practices:

  • Interview your smartest customers and prospects
  • Send a good pitch email
  • Do a screen share (join.me, hangout)
  • Ask to record it
  • Send questions, document in advance
  • Let the interviewee go off on tangent, if worthwhile
  • Ask if they want to participate interview
  • Once that calls become repetitive, you’re done

Ask good questions

  • Ask broad questions first, then get more narrow
  • Embrace awkward pauses
  • Don’t lead the witness
  • Listen 90 percent of the time

 

Expand the format

  • Show versus tell
  • Make it interactive

Get some amazing outputs like “a day in the life” description; a flow chart showing current process and variants; prioritizing list of user stories – top ones are your MVP

3. Design interviews. Present design ideas to the user, get input, keep iterating until satisfied

  • Work with a designer to create one or more prototypes
  • Jump on a call and have the user walk through the prototype
  • Iterate based on their feedback
  • When changes start become less frequent, you’re done
  • Can also email prototypes to get feedback more quickly

Best practices

  • Have both PM and designer on the call
  • Get highest fidelity prototype with lowest effort
  • Don’t explain your design, let the user muddle though
  • Don’t argue over design
  • Act on feedback, don’t be stubborn

4.  Do customer visits

Get out and visit customers where they use your product

Pros:  Get the full customer context, tech, processes, personalities, capabilities; gather tons of photos, videos, and competitive research. The downsides? Lots of time (5-hour investment/customer response); can be costly and is a low sample size.

Best practices:

  • Block a few days and bath visits to multiple customers
  • Send agenda in advance
  • Have multiple interview Q&As and/or design prototypes ready
  • If B2B, make sure the right customer stakeholders attend
  • Record as much as possible (with presentation)

 

5. Do customer summits. Get a group of 5 to 8 sharp customers together and dig into a range of issues.

Pros

  • Fun and inspirational for everyone involved
  • Ideas build on each other to unlock new insights
  • Best tool for building relationship

 

Cons

  •  A lot f time (8-hour investment/customer response)
  • A lot of money ($1 K/customer to book venue, possibly flying them in
  • Low sample size

Best practices

  • Easier if customers are local
  • Keep it to 5 to 8 smart representative customers
  • Prepare exercises well (ex. design breakout sessions)
  • Use for brainstorming, requirements gathering, and design
  • Make sure others in their organization get customer exposure

It’s important to use the right tools and activities for the job:

  • Market research (surveys, summits, interviews
  • Requirements fathering (surveys, requirements interviews)
  • UX design (design interviews)
  • Pre-release (alpha/beta testing)
  • Post-release (customer tickets, usability tests, usage data)

Make time for customer research:

  • Worst. You respond ad hoc to your gut-feel ideas, customer request and bug filings
  • Absolute minimum. Do proactive interviews, analyzing usage data and examining customer tickets before deciding what to do
  • Basic. The above, plus some onsite visits quarterly NPS score surveys, and occasional discovery surveys
  • Advanced. The above plus frequent focus groups, on sites and competitive walkthroughs. And you use all of the tools well and adopt the latest tech.

If you forget everything else, here are some more tips:

  1. Gather requirements before design testing
  2. Prepare hard for interviews, mostly listen, and use visuals
  3. Document and share insights with the whole company

Individual customer’s input is one data point. You can choose to ignore it. But when the data lines up, act on it. As for the elephant the room; that is, how do you get people to do the survey with you? Do a good pitch in your email and best of all, give a gift card.

Patrick McGinnis: You can be a 10% entrepreneur

NEW YORK—Patrick McGinnis can be very convincing when he tells you that you can have the best of both worlds: Be an employee and be an entrepreneur, at least just a 10-percent entrepreneur, from the same title of his book. “(People may) think it’s an all-or-nothing endeavor but there are gradations to it,” he said.

When he is talking about gradations, he means you could be any of these four types: an angel investor, investor, founder and an aficionado.

At the new Alley meetup last June 22, McGinnis could not have set a better example of how you can be a 10-percent entrepreneur than himself.  The author holed himself up in his hometown in Maine for one month, in the dead of winter between January 2 and January 31. Every single day, he said, he would write from 9 am till the afternoon, taking a quick early evening break, and continued writing till 10 pm.  It helped that he placed a clarion call on Facebook to get some feedback and material to inspire him.

“Entrepreneurship is not a vocation but a compulsion,” he said, proving how our passions can be turned into money-making ventures. “I thought I could help people. I thought I could go global by writing the book.”

How do you determine if you have it and you’re in the right business? “If you have a personal insight into what you’re doing,” he said.

In many cases, he says people either just have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and FODA (Fear of Doing Anything). For the latter, he suggests finding enjoyment in something, so it won’t feel like work at all. If you’ve gone FODA but still can’t do anything, break away from habits that won’t take you anywhere like watching TV and then “figure out what you can do with what you have been known for.”

“That’s a good way to generate long tail,” he added.

But what if your competition is doing more than 10 percent, do you still run your business at 10 percent?  “It takes 7 years to go from Series A to exit,” he said about companies, which should help you gain full steam eventually.

What if you go full time on your business? He only suggests it if you can financially sustain yourself.

For those who prefer to bootstrap their startup, he doesn’t mind but he cautions against crowdfunding, because these investor have no personal stake in your business. “Crowdfunding is like video game. It’s not good when you can’t talk to your investor,” he said.

What would he advice an entrepreneur? “Be a good communicator,” he said.

McGinnis quit Wall Street for a life in international affairs, living in Brazil and Argentina at one point. Being fluent in Spanish and learning French, he said he listens to Podcasts to learn languages. He welcomes feedback and startup stories on his site: patrickmcginnis.com

Customer acquisition: Go out there, sell it yourself–and yes, PR works

NEW YORK—“I was sending 300 emails a day on Linkedin,” said Daniella Weinblatt, CEO and co-founder of TTI (Take The Interview) who even among the female panelists at an Orrick meetup last June 14, knows there are no bounds to customer acquisition for a startup. As a founder — and this was also raised by a panelist — you may actually wonder when you will need to apply the breaks when you’re excited about your journey as an entrepreneur.

Weinblatt was part of a panel that consisted of Hayley Barna, venture partner at First Round; Jessica Beck, co-founder and COO at Hello Alfred; Alanna Gregory, founder and CEO at  VIVE Lifestyle with Gesche Haas, founder of Dreamers//Doers.

As a founder, Weinblatt said,  “You need to go out there and sell it yourself.” Which you won’t mind anyway, because your work can consume you, which is good when you’re just starting out and you need to gain traction.” TTI is a NY-based job interview management solutions provider. The company believes better technology enables greater efficiency and better communications which results in better interviews, which then produce better hires.

It’s interesting how the panelists didn’t even react to a question about the timing for spending for marketing because many of them didn’t do it when they first started.

For Hello Alfred, Beck said, “If you’re first in the market, you have to educate your market and we did it through PR (public relations).” Hello Alfred has staff to take of your household chores, from your laundry to house cleaning to grocery shopping. Weinblatt said the public relations effort of the accelerator program helped as well.

Both Beck and Weinblatt didn’t believe in giving away anything for free even from the very beginning. TTI said they had paid pilots and Beck didn’t offer free services.

Barna, co-founder of Birchbox and now First Round, remember starting her startup while at Columbia University. Beck thought of hers while at Harvard Business School. Birchbox offers personalized samples via  a monthly subscription. “We had 8 brands (in the beginning).”

The other panelist was Alanna Gregory, founder at Vive Lifestyle, is a new way to book and save on last minute blowouts at pre-vetted salons in your city.

Weinblatt’s takeaways:

  • First beta pilot clients include ABC Universal. They were paid pilots.
  • First few months they will be using our software.
  • We asked ourselves, Did we accomplish our objective? Once we converted, then we knew we were on to something
  • Initially people who were signing up was not our audience. People were not searching for video interviews or interviewing more effectively
  • They asked themselves, Who will understand the value proposition we’re selling
  • WOM and the community were big for us
  • We worked with Blue Apron, Warby Parker
  • We use salesforce for CRM and Marketo for marketing
  • We tracked number of emails and had set-up demos. Where it gets tricky is in running demos, as you ask yourself, “Am I personalizing the message properly?”
  • We spent as much time on customer acquisition as we did retention;  six people focused on retention of customers
  • Nothing gets investors more excited than performing better every month
  • We learned to fire fast (instead of holding on to someone that was not a cultural fit)
  • If clients are happy, we get testimonials

Beck’s takeaways:

  • We didn’t know who our customer was (in the beginning)
  • Find out how to grow faster
  • In our first year, as part of our growth we had to learn more and scale.
  • Show and you’re your story through photos
  • (“Alfreds”) would make eye contact
  • On sustaining business: “We (offer) a monthly home cleaning. We restock toiletries.”
  • For quality service: We (knew) we needed W2 people, not 1099 people
  • Hire jack of all trades in beginning
  • (Must have in the beginning): Look for someone with finance specialty

Barna’s takeaways:

  • (Be clear with) messaging and how to position your product
  • The box is just the beginning, we’re a retailer.
  • Theres the power of PR and telling a good story
  • We hired an internal PR team, built relationships
  • We track the cost of everything
  • No accident we had a pink box—and people didn’t know what they would see inside the boxes
  • I like founders who have authentic passion for their business
  • What makes a good founder: “You’re the only person who understand (your business well).”
  • A few happy customers is better than a million unhappy ones
  • Sleep more. It’s a marathon, not a race.
  • Highs were highs lows were lows
  • (Give yourself) 12 to 18 months of (financial) runway

Gregory’s takeaways:

  • We had to validate our assumptions
  • We acquired salons
  • (We tried to find out) how many we need
  • We make sure customers are really happy.
  • We are introducing auto-renewals (soon)
  • You need to find investors who really believe in your vision
  • Be honest with yourself and what you can do