I have been asking myself, “How do I take my startup, YesPlz.AI to Series A in the smartest way that I can’t help but feel proud of myself in 18 ~ 24 months later?”
Fundraising is neither an ultimate goal nor a key success matrix, I don’t think. Yet, it is such a good frame to keep the business on track.
In the past 3 days, I have been so lucky to participate in one of the ALL Raise programs which its mission is to help female founders to raise series A. ( I would highly encourage all my female founder friends to apply for this program.)
It is only the first week of the 6 months program, but boy, it was so inspiring and helpful. Most of all, I got some clarity on my question that I wanted to share my notes taken from the amazing panels and speakers.
(The below notes are taken from the mixed of panel sessions but mainly from the presentations by amazing entrepreneurs, Sarah Nahm, a co-founder and CEO of Lever and Holly Liu, co-founder of Kabam.)
What is the successful matrix for series A (B2B)?
- PMF: 5 ~ 10 paying reference customers with positive feedback.
- Core team built out: Tech and Sales.
- Some types of proof to see the company will grow. (ex: decrease in sales cycle)
But in the early days, how does a startup can prove the product-market fit and growth? Especially if you are B2B which takes years to get the first paying customers.
It’s no longer “can you close the deal?”, but it is “can you win the market?” Also a proof that you’ve scaled operation and growth beyond founders — Sarah Nahm
Typical growth matrix can be a mix of # of customers, net retention, & revenue per customer. A young startup may not hit the matrix, but it’s important to present the ‘Outlier Matrix’.
A founder knows her biz the best and needs to find out the outlier metrics which tells the company is doing well.
For instance, we are B2B and may not have a lot of customers (yet) but I can show our long retention and renewal contract with a few customers we have.
Of course, the outlier matrix should evolve as the company grows, however, I find this liberating as a young B2B startup and finally can stop beating myself too hard not getting all matrix right.
How do you build a successful core team?
Hiring is hard but I think I am getting better at it (with making a ton of mistakes). Yet, it is still a new world for me. Recruiting, hiring, managing, and parting. There were a lot of good talks and panel sessions, but here are the keynotes I wanted to share especially the questions below are coming from Holly’s presentation.
If you start hiring the best talent, you are becoming the best CEO. (paraphrasing Sarah Nahm)
- Be okay to hire someone who will stay only for 18 ~ 24 months if the person can bring value to the growth.
- Impact description, not the job description.
- Fire early if there is a misfit with either a role or culture.
- But first, ask yourself, 1) “Can this person be coached?” 2) “Did you communicate the expectation?”, 3) “ Did you communicate feedback along with the expectation?”.
- Then give homework that what is the expectation and follow up if the person did the homework.
I still have a ton of questions about marketing, team managing, product development, sales, and yes my mental wellness as well. I am excited about upcoming sessions and will share some of the key lessons taken away here.
Again, all my female founder friends, apply for the next batch program, and let’s pay forward together shortly after you know what. https://allraise.org/