Top Tactics on Founding, Operating, and Investing - Issue #4

Welcome to the 4th issue of the quarterly female founders mentorship network newsletter. 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 across the 3 key categories: 

Founding 

Solve temporary problems as an entry point. Businesses that are built on a new platform, ride a new technological wave, or solve a seemingly transient problem are often underrated. Of course, companies should eventually build permanently relevant infrastructure, but starting with a temporary problem can be an excellent entry point and great way to bootstrap through generating revenue and building an audience from the very beginning. For example, on Indie Hackers, designer Traf shared how he made $280K in just 4 weeks through building technology for the new iPhone and Notion websites. Sure, he will build more features to long term differentiate moving forward, but through capitalizing on temporary phenomena, he was able to get his business off the ground in a relatively empty, uncrowded space. When you build on a new trend, no one has an inherent time based advantage over you. 

Think outside the box to find your technical co-founder. Megan Loyst, investor at Lerer Hippeau, asked Twitter for advice on finding technical co-founders, a common challenge many early stage founders face. Twitter did not disappoint, sharing tons of creative channels for finding technical founding team members from Product Hunt to conferences to Indie Hackers to On Deck to Entrepreneur First and much more. 

Leverage your investor base for sales. Brianne Kimmel, founder of Worklife Ventures, shared tactically how you should go about turning your investors into your sales army. From setting expectations to providing sales collateral to linking directly to ideal LinkedIn connections to drafting forwardable emails, Brianne outlines it all. 

Operating 

As a CEO or senior leader, don’t do anything essential daily. Leaders should be focused on medium and long term strategic thinking and projects. When they build in tasks they need to do on a daily basis to keep the company running for that day, they are unintentionally inserting themselves as a bottleneck for other teams, employees, and processes. They become too operationally focused, lose sight of the big picture, and do not double down on their comparative advantage: leadership. Carlos Cashman, co-founder and co-CEO of Thrasio, shared how he overcomes this challenge in practice on Founder’s Field Guide. 

Shadow other people in your company. Domitilla Caputo, head of SAP.io Foundry SF, shared tons of great advice around effective cross functional collaboration on Elpha. One of my favorites was the power of shadowing other teams in your organization. Nothing builds empathy and understanding and greases the wheels of collaboration like truly putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and seeing, first hand and in the weeds, what their day to day is like. By shadowing other people, you not only develop this deeper insight to then better be able to meet them where they are but you also develop a strong relationship with them, show other people you care, put your name out there, better understand what else you may want to do, and be more front of mind for promotions, leadership opportunities, cool projects, and new roles. 

Reframe your product to make it higher end. Tara Reed, CEO of Apps Without Code, underscored the role of strategic framing in determining how much value you can extract with your product and how you cultivate your overall company brand. For example, instead of highlighting the pure data involved in providing clothing recommendations, Stitch Fix focuses on their value proposition of providing everyone with a “personalized stylist,” which sounds much more high touch and expensive. This type of framing makes people feel more special and increases their willingness to pay for the product. 

Investing 

See your comparative advantage as time. Building your value proposition based on differentiated insight is rare and generally unstable. Bland insight is a dime a dozen, and genuinely novel insight is few and far between. Moreover, insight is not always incredibly helpful for founders given the long gap between insight and execution and impact. Network is a tangible way to add value, but your network may not be 100% aligned with what a founder is looking for at a given moment. So I always saw my comparative advantage as time, literally asking founders what they would do if they had 2-3 more hours in their week and then taking these tasks off their plate. 

Be a first believer. Most investors ask who else is in a round before they commit. Seeing incredible funds on board often pushes them over the edge or turns a no into a yes. While herd mentality can feel inescapable, focusing on business, product, team, and market fundamentals is where the biggest intellectual rewards come and strongest relationships with founders are built. 

Create state of X reports. VC investors naturally see a lot from their unique, intersectional vantage point in the ecosystem. Instead of trying to stumble upon Eureka moments of top down novel insight, consider creating a data report on a particular trend or industry. Founders, other investors, the media, and more are all keen to learn what is actually happening, and data is the best way to provide that answer. State of X reports can help brand you and your fund as a resourceful thought leader in a burgeoning space.    

Favorite Finds

Meituan deep dive: one of the best deep dives I have come across on Meituan that truly contextualizes the global food delivery wars and what it means to be a super app

Altum: the best community for deep tech interested people run by Countdown Capital

Life in Code: one of my favorite recent reads on a programmer’s journey through the world of tech

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