If you missed this month’s NJ Tech Meetup, you missed a lot of invaluable insight from Brian Hirsch of Tribeca Venture Partners and presentations from 3 rising startups. Fortunately, I’m here to provide a recap. But first, let’s dive into the startup’s that presented. I’m sure each spectator took away something specific from the meetup, but for me, the theme of the night was grit. You can have the best product, best solution, best idea on the planet since sliced bread and still fail. And there are only two reasons for that: poor execution or poor planning. Either of which is a result of a founder’s lack of grit.
Grit is a personality trait deeply rooted in an individual’s burning passion for a long-term goal. When you feel you were put on this planet for one specific reason, there are not enough road blocks to keep you from getting to your final destination. It’s called resilience. Along any startup journey, it’s inevitable there will be a significant amount of obstacles and challenges you will have to overcome. It’s pretty much a requirement. I know this, because I experience it – each new day I feel like I hit another roadblock in my startup. And each roadblock seems exponentially more difficult to overcome than the previous – essentially, Moore’s Law of startups. But, my never-ending-burning-desire-must-succeed-it’s-not-over-until-I-say-it’s-over passion of mine keeps knocking down the roadblocks.
Well, I’m glad you asked. Launching a startup all begins with the MVP (minimum viable product). You can have the most elaborate and detailed 20 year business plan, but it pretty much means absolutely nothing at the beginning. Think big, start small, like tiny small. Until you test your product/feature, you’re assuming people will want it. And if it turns out only you and your mother love the feature (you figure this out with your KPI measurements and other findings), then you have to switch something up (aka pivot). As a founder, you have to accept the fact that you may need to adjust your strategy and product hundreds, thousands, millions of times. There really is no definite number for how many times you’ll have to pivot, but those with grit, will do all of them to find out. Those with grit won’t execute or plan poorly because there is an absolute need for them to succeed. There is no option of failure. So when they’ve realized a certain plan isn’t going in their favor, they pivot and test out a different one. They keep pivoting until they twirl their way to success.
It’s a scientific equation.
It’s emotionally, physically, mentally draining – but when you have grit, giving up is just not an option. It takes true courage to even begin a startup, but it takes grit to see it succeed. And with all of that said (in a much longer way than I had originally anticipated), here are the 3 startups from the meetup who hopefully have the grit it takes to get to the top.
Their mission: Digitize democracy so citizens have a transparent platform and two-way channel of political issues, campaigns and their representatives.
How it works: Citizens can create an account and actively engage with campaigns and receive updates. Politicians can create and manage campaigns to promote transparency and encourage user involvement.
The good: It bridges the gap between citizens and politicians and provides a very easy and user friendly way for ordinary individuals to engage in their civic duty while encouraging politicians to provide a clear and honest portrayal of their actions.
The bad: Although I can’t speak to the entire generation, there is a perceived thought that the younger generation doesn’t actively engage in politics for a variety of reasons, one of which is the thought that they can’t impact any decisions and at the end of the day, each politician will always have his/her own agenda. Even though Advocate promotes citizen engagement with rewards, the lack of such points translating into real impact may not be enough incentive for users to participate.
Their mission: They fill empty seats at stadiums by matching ticket holders with eager fans.
No man left behind.
How it works: Organizers and sponsors create waiting lists for whatever event they have. Fans register and sign up on the waiting list.
The good: Seaters aims to remove the 1-10% of empty seats at sold out events. To organizers and sponsors, they get increased food, beverage and merchandising revenue, stronger negotiating position with TV rights owners, and data insights. To fans, they get to participate in things they like.
The bad: We live in a highly digital, fast-paced and impatient world and people’s attention spans are very limited or completely null. If your website won’t capture a person’s attention within 59 seconds, it never will. Even verbally, you should be able to express your product in 1-3 sentences. Like how Mark Zuckerberg described Facebook: “Something where you can type someone’s name and find out a bunch of information about them”. Sometimes dumbing it down and putting it in simpler words will help people understand exactly what your product is, which is hard to tell with this.
Their mission: They’re trying to add trust to the internet by building a social payment platform that consolidates all digital identities (social media, government id, PayPal, etc) into one trusted and verified ID.
So kind of like the “Nosedive” episode in the futuristic tv show, Black Mirror. Hmmmmm….
How it works: Users link any and all types of id’s they have (Facebook, LinkedIn, Government ID, Passport, etc) and receive an IQID TrustScore that can be used to facilitate a P2P transaction.
The good: For the extremely paranoid, this is a great way to ensure you are only sending and receiving payments from trusted “strangers”.
But I’m a skeptic – I trust no one and prefer to continue being anonymous.
The bad: It’s really only restricted to those who are on social media because the more accounts and friends you link, the better the score you have. But, what about those that aren’t on social media? I’m fairly certain my dad doesn’t even know what Twitter or Instagram is, let alone have any friends on it but I’d trust him with my life (obviously, I’m biased). But there are a fair amount of other people who don’t have such accounts – like a lot of CIA operatives and government officials and even founders of companies who prefer to keep their digital footprint in disguise. How do I trust you and ensure the score is legit?
Okay on to the good stuff
Brian is the co-founder and managing partner of Tribeca Venture Partners with about 20 years of experience in startup ventures spanning across sectors such as fintech, edtech, mobile, healthcare, online marketing and media. But his passion for the startup life began as a 10 year old child when he would read his father’s business magazines highlighting successful entrepreneurs on a mission of implementing disruptive technology. His passion of taking an idea and transforming it into reality is a similar reason behind every entrepreneur but also a key indicator in who you should seek investment from.
In the discussion, he hit on a lot of points that resonated well with me – I won’t go into all of them but I’ll highlight the ones that everyone should know.
If you’re seeking investment funding, make sure your investors also have your best interests. It’s an obvious that an investor will want you to succeed, but you’ll be surprised in how many times investors don’t necessarily serve as a “partner” in helping you make the best business decisions.
This is something I started noticing last year. As a founder, I have never seen such a passionate and helpful startup community than in New York. And I’m from San Francisco. Every entrepreneur you meet (for the most part) is so genuinely helpful to their fellow entrepreneur and it’s encouraging to see. It’s the rise of all these startups and intelligent individuals that helps drive the hustle necessary for success. It’s not just an ecosystem, it’s a community of passionate, crazy dreamers that believe in something so much bigger than themselves. That’s what makes things like NJ Tech Meetup so great.
I have heard horror stories of CEO’s losing a large majority of ownership of their business or worst, getting completely ousted as a CEO. Could you imagine putting your blood, sweat and tears just to see it slip out of your hands and into somebody else’s? If you’re a passionate entrepreneur, that could probably be one of the most devastating things to happen. Venture capital is a form of private equity and there are many differences within the industry, therefore, not all businesses should raise venture capital and it’s important to consider all financing options and find the best fit for your needs.For example, if you’re in really early stages, it’s often difficult to value the company so offering equity in Series A would be hard because no one knows how to price it. An alternative is to raise convertible notes (essentially just a loan) which can convert to equity at the first stage of significant financing.
It’s really complicated.
Determining which route to go is tricky and any founder should keep in mind they will relinquish (some) control, preference and ownership in exchange for significant capital you wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere…unless you’re sitting on a pile of gold already somehow. But, as long as your smart, it’s worth it for the last point.
I think I covered this already extensively but when you feel like you were put on this planet for one reason and one reason only, you’ll figure it out, including the complicated process of equity and ownership shares.
Stacy Zolnikov is the CEO and Co-founder of TruleYours, the byproduct of a 5 year dream and 100+ pivots aiming at solving the “fit problem” found in fashion. She reads a lot and when her mind can’t handle any more information, she often spits it out in a sarcastically driven, but research based article.
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