Welcome to another edition of the female founders mentorship network newsletter. It’s been so fun writing these, and I appreciate every single one of you for reading. Sadly, this will be the last issue for now. I’m starting a new role as chief of staff at Beacons.ai. I’m excited to be heads down building again and truly fully immersed in a project, but that means I’ll be pausing my writing work for a while.
If you’re interested in what we’re building at Beacons or the broader mission of empowering creators with economic opportunities, please reach out - I’d love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re also hiring!
As a refresher, I started this network to create a centralized database for female founders to connect with allies and for allies to connect with each other. These newsletters cut through the noise and fill the white space in existing content for female founders, investors, and operators.
In each issue, I feature 3 top tactics (a bonus 4 in this final issue!) across the 3 key categories:
Stakeholder map regularly. Yasmin Kothari, product leader at Asana, shared how she strengthens cross functional connections. Every few months, she updates a stakeholder map documenting the key people she should be connected with internally and how close she currently is with each of these people. Yasmin then identifies where there is a gap between the ideal level of connection and the actual level of connection and focuses on strengthening these relationships.
Solicit feedback to impart a sense of ownership. For each project you work on and especially for those you lead, identify who will be impacted by the final product. Then, solicit feedback and share updates with these people as early as possible and regularly throughout your building process. Beyond getting actual feedback from these people, perhaps even more importantly, you impart a sense of ownership. All the people you consult, even in the smallest way, will feel genuinely bought into the product and authentically enrolled in the success of your work. If anything goes wrong with the final product, instead of jumping to blame, these people will approach the problem with a similar collaborative mentality.
Don’t hire 7s. Sarah Tavel shared advice she learned from a friend who had worked at LoudCloud. There, interviewers were required to rate people on a scale of 1 to 10. Only people who received ratings of 8, 9, 10 across the board were hired. It’s of course obvious to not hire 3s, 4s, 5s, or even 6s, but the most common mistake people make is hiring 7s. These people feel good *enough* instinctively, and people feel a fear of missing out if they don’t hire this person since they seem like a safe enough option. But what ends up happening is these people end up bringing down the overall caliber of teams and don’t actually add to the culture and performance of the team in a meaningfully positive way. You should only hire people who you feel incredibly strongly about, not people you’re on the higher end of the fence about.
Leverage Google search operators. Demand Curve shared a great insight in their April 21st newsletter. By leveraging Google search operators, you can get more specific and bespoke in your search results. For example (from Demand Curve):
Search: “site:docs.google.com/spreadsheets intitle:startups 2020”
Use case: Find open Google spreadsheets that include “startups” and “2020” in the title. For example, if you offer services for startups that are hiring remotely, you can find a list with thousands of potential leads and email addresses.
Search: “site:airtable.com inurl:VC”
Use case: Find Airtable bases that contain “VC” in the URL, such as lists of relevant investors for your fundraise.
Price for value, not cost. Oftentimes, founders set the price of their product based on how much it costs to develop it. Particularly in the case of software or software powered companies, doing so leads you to price too low, hurting your monetization potential and giving the wrong signal about your product’s caliber. Segment priced based on cost in the early days but after connecting with an advisor who recommended they price for value instead, they increased their price by 1000X. Of course, it felt unnatural in the beginning, but to the team’s surprise, prospects were willing to pay because they make buying decisions based on value, not the supplier’s cost.
Give compelling soundbites when fundraising. Celine Halioua, founder of Loyal, raised one of the largest seed rounds ($11 million) as a solo female founder. She shared tons of great learnings from the process. One of my favorites: make it easy for investors to relay the power and potential of your product to their partnership, especially if you’re building something less conventional. Share compelling soundbites that investors can easily understand, remember, and relay directly in partner meetings. Lower the friction for them to be your champion internally.
Know why VCs actually pass. Sara Downey at Accomplice shared the real reasons why VCs pass on startups. As a founder, you’ve probably heard the same phrases being used in pass emails from investors. Sara breaks down what each of these phrases really mean and how you can potentially preempt these concerns or address them in follow up conversations.
Reconsider consensus. Consensus, while instinctively appealing, essentially means that no single person takes ownership for a decision. You can bake in retrospectives and post mortems, but these discussions end up being all too high level and no single person intakes and incorporates these lessons learned.
Get the most mileage out of your content. As more investors and funds leverage content to build their brands (at the personal and firm level), it’s crucial to think about how to utilize content most effectively. Colleen O’Brien, chief marketing officer at M12 (Microsoft’s venture fund), highlights the importance of extracting long term value from your content. Instead of just sharing it once or a few times, find ways to create multimedia content from the same source. For example, turn a webinar recording into an article, podcast, social cards with quotes, short video clip, guide book, gated landing page, and more.
Write to speak better. Investors spend tons of time speaking whether in frequent 1:1 meetings with other investors or founders or in board meetings or at conferences. Speaking, both casual and more formal public speaking, is a crucial skill, but how do you refine it? Aside from just getting in more reps at the task, look into writing. By writing more often, either more formally for published content or just for your own internal documentation, you get more practice at organizing and communicating your thoughts in a structured way, which makes you a better speaker as well.