Founder Counseling: 7 Steps to Founder Success – SXSW Recap

Session by David Mandell (PivotDesk), Jenny Fielding (TechStars), and Nicole Glaros (TechStars)
March 11, 2017

65% of startups fail due to people issues. It doesn’t have to be that way!

1. Cofounder issues

  • Know who you’re going into business with
  • Learn how to take ownership of problems – “it wasn’t what he was saying, it was how I was hearing it”
  • Equity split: any animosity will grow over time
    • Vesting: Get it right at the start. Protects founders, not punishs. Investors would set this up anyway.
    • Split correctly when everyone is feeling good
    • Venture Deals (book)
  • Cofounder dynamics affect culture for the rest of the company
  • Difficult Conversations (book)

2. Find great mentors

  • Mental / emotional support
  • Who you can talk to even when you can’t talk to anyone else
  • Someone you can be vulnerable with
  • Pro tip: don’t call them a mentor (at first)

3. Intellectual honesty

  • “Shit that scares me to death” portion of quarterly board update. Shows you’re trying to be real. What’s being done to address the issues? Maybe your investors have insights.
  • Honesty with self

4. Direct feedback

  • Not become defensive when receiving feedback
  • Usually given by people who care about you and your business

5. Right investors

  • Understand their motivation and goals
  • Can make your life a living hell if they want to
  • If you receive multiple term sheets, go after best fit, not best valuation
  • Accelerator? Do it as early as you can. Helps plug holes in your business. Talk to alumni from the accelerator to get a preview

6. Passion

  • Were your born for this?
  • Early on: enthusiasm & passion > skill
  • Scaling the business: skills matter more

7. Self improvement and insatiable curiosity

  • Always ask what you could be doing better

Instrumenting Customer Acquisition – SXSW Recap

Session by Michael Discenza – Capital Factory
March 10, 2017

  • Framework for data collecting and learning
    • Track KPIs to show health of business (dashboards and reporting)
    • Test hypotheses to guide effective action (based on KPIs)
  • Different goals for different stages
    • Early stage: establish product-market fit
    • Growth: maximize speed and efficiency of growth
    • Mature: maintain and optimize for profit
  • Posing effecting questions
    • Tied to business goals
    • Prioritize outcomes
    • Actionable path
    • Return on investment?
  • User funnel: Acquisition -> Activation -> Retention -> Revenue -> Referral
    • Maximize each segment via experiments and iterative improvement
    • Possible goals
      • Decrease customer acquisition cost
      • Increase lifetime value of customers
      • Improve customer satisfaction
      • Determine best messaging for a lifestyle segment
  • Scientific method applied
    • Research question: i.e. For my ideal customer profile, which messaging gets them to click the ad/post most often?
      • Messaging A: focus on convenience of finding live music with
      • Messaging B: focus on social aspect- finding / attending live music together
    • Hypothesis: i.e. messaging B would perform better
    • Experiment:
      • Only change 1 factor at a time – all else is the same (same channel too!)
      • Randomly assign independent variable
    • Data collection
      • Document process, decisions, timelines, etc in lab notebook so that other could replicate the process
      • Focus on conclusions: actionable, business implications, succinct
      • Statistical significance – is the sample size large enough?
  • Tools
    • PIWIK – open source pixel server
    • MixPanel v Google Analytics – choose MixPanel if retrieving your data later is important. Where there’s lots of data, Google Analytics is very expensive
  •  Some things to Google:
    • contextual bandits
    • counterfactual evaluation
    • Microsoft: decision service
    • Bayesian networks
    • Propensity scope matching
    • Machine decision automation -> predictive performance


Some pictures of key slides during the presentation: