Top 8 Lessons for Scaling an Early-Stage Company, from the BBGV Accelerate Summit

BBG Ventures
BBG Ventures
Published in
4 min readJun 13, 2023

By Amber Quiñones, BBG Ventures

With yet another Memorial Day behind us, it’s officially unofficially summertime in NYC. ☀️

Here at BBGV, we ushered in the rooftop party season with our inaugural BBGV Accelerate Summit for the most promising women and diverse early-stage founders.

“The Rocky Road to Scaling a Business” panel with Susan Lyne (BBGV), Shan-Lyn Ma (Zola), and Laura Modi (Bobbie)

All too often, founder summits lean hard into inspirational content without even scratching the surface of the tactics founders really need to succeed. But in this economy?! Founders need less talking about the promised land of product-market fit and more guidance on how to get there.

To that end, we welcomed 180+ founders and VCs this month to join us in a day of networking, vulnerability, and knowledge-sharing on how to scale an early stage company in the face of macroeconomic headwinds.

Here are a few of our greatest learnings:

  1. Do What Won’t Scale First: In order to scale their companies, Shan-Lyn Ma, CEO & Co-Founder of Zola, & Laura Modi, CEO & Co-Founder of Bobbie, started with unscalable solutions to better understand what would resonate with target customers. Laura hosted a weekly “bottle service” happy hour for a small group of new mothers over the course of three years. This was not only a means by which to get the word-of-mouth engine chugging along, but these happy hours served to help her deeply empathize with and draw insights from her most loyal users to develop sticky product and marketing strategies.
  2. Leverage AI to Supercharge Your Team’s Productivity: Stevie Case, CRO of Vanta, shared she is building an AI-centric team to improve her team’s RevOps, increase productivity, and support SDRs on their top-of-funnel initiatives. In this era of RIFs and small founding teams, AI can help your team do more with less.
  3. Know Your Customer: Vaibhav Sahgal, VP Product at Reddit, and Dave Cook, formerly VP Growth Marketing at Slack, agree that starting a growth engine requires taking a best guess at customer profiles and testing low-risk segments of that user base to find qualitative and quantitative indicators of how/why these users connect to your product. Knowing the humans behind your customer data is paramount to scaling your startup.
  4. Team > TAM: That’s it. That’s the advice. Anton Levy, Co-President of General Atlantic, believes your all-star team can go a longer way to securing investors than your crazy big (sometimes unrealistic) TAM.
  5. Stop Talking About “Growth”: Shawn O’Neill, Managing Director at Silver Lake, asserts that the hottest new thing in startup land is having a fundamental product with fundamental customer relationships. Growth as we’ve known it over the last decade can be a false positive and “shiny object.” While the market is resetting, the best thing a founder can do for her company is to get back to business basics.
  6. Ask Yourself “Who is Driving the Bus?”: Albert Lee, Design Partner at NEA & Executive Coach, and Ann Mehl, Executive Coach, suggests you check in on which of your character traits are dominating at any given point as you are leading your team through challenging times. For example, being a perfectionist is not necessarily a bad thing — but, do you want your perfectionism to drive the bus?
  7. Hire the People Who Fill Today’s Needs: Michelle Garland, Founder of Soul Search Partners, and Lindsay Keith, Partner at Daversa Partners, believe early-stage founders need to strike a balance between their vision of the company and where it currently is to hire talent that can fill existing needs while growing alongside the business. While founders may be tempted to hire the sexiest resume in the pile, it’s a recipe for what Kathryn Minshew, CEO & Founder of The Muse, calls “Shift Shock” — when someone starts a new job and later realizes it was not as advertised.
  8. Don’t Spend Money on a Leaky Bucket: If you haven’t quite hit PMF, consider taking a step back before you spend on marketing and advertising. Sarah Paiji Yoo, CEO & Co-Founder of Blueland, suggests founders get back to business fundamentals (do you spy a theme here? 😉) before investing in paid marketing otherwise they’re just pouring water into a leaky bucket. Instead, Polly Rodriguez, CEO & Co-Founder of Unbound, urges founders to embrace their authentic personality in the company’s brand voice and content marketing; and Amanda Morrison, President & Co-Founder of Julie, suggests trying alternative channels like Snapchat and Discord for customer acquisition.

Thanks to all our insightful speakers and eager attendees for a mind-bending and fun day! DM us with your favorite tips at @bbgventures on your social medium of choice. And, we’ll see you on April 3, 2024 for the next one.



BBG Ventures
BBG Ventures

BBG Ventures is an early-stage fund backing female and diverse founders with big ideas that will reshape the way we live.