It’s been a while. I haven’t been able to publish a blog or a video in some time because I’ve been traveling back and forth to San Francisco from Las Vegas every week. What a thrill.
Today, I decided to keep the momentum of what we are building alive here at ClosedWon. I had to join another cohort to surround myself with other brilliant entrepreneurs. I chose YC Startup School as my medium.
We have group sessions that hold us accountable every Thursdays, and we ask each founder the following questions:
What are you building?
What are your biggest obstacles?
What are your priorities & goals this week?
Often times, I’m asked, “How did you get into LAUNCH Accelerator? I want in. Please share some insights.” I’ve probably repeated myself in every session since we’ve started YC School, so I have decided, ‘blog about it.”
All right, number one… for 12 months back in 2018, I focused on two things.
How to get a paying user – even before an MVP
How to grow into an effective leader
First, we had to focus on revenue and finding users because we don’t have investors, and I can only invest a small amount of our savings.
Yes, that’s right. I’ll write another blog re why we decided to find paying users before we decided to build an MVP. But today this blog is about how we got into LAUNCH Accelerator.
For those of you who don’t know what it is. LAUNCH Accelerator is the antithesis to YCombinator. LAUNCH reverse engineers your pathway to connect with investors 10x faster than YCombinator.
Time is the only thing you will never get back, and if you want to raise a pre-seed to Series A round quickly, LAUNCH Accelerator is the way to go. Here’s why: Week 1 – Week 12, you immediately present in front of VCs every week on Thursday. No need to wait until the end of the program to demo in front of VCs. You are empowered to do it weekly where you can iterate and perfect your pitch. Efficient, check. Effective, check!
Now onto the second thing, growth.
I pride myself in growing, always.
Last year, I was focused on finding the best advisors. I’m also non-delusional enough to understand that I lack technical prowess, leadership gravitas, and overall executive presence.
Finding an advisor is free and a good test to see if you are fit to be your company’s #1 evangelist.
Here’s what I know for sure.
I know how to communicate problems, and I know how to convince others to join a cause. After all, isn’t that what salesmanship is all about?
I had to find leadership coaches. Someone or a community of leaders who would mentor me into the leader I hope to become. Because it takes a village and I am a handful.
Tip #1: Where have you worked? Ask the CEO for advice.
Let’s see. I worked at yelp.com, at tintup.com, and pandadoc.com. CEO of Yelp was harder to connect with. I tried. I don’t think he checks his emails anymore =P.
CEO of pandadoc.com and tintup.com, on the other hand, were the most gracious of all. I connected with Mikita Mikado and said, “Hey look, I have an idea. We’re going to do this [secret sauce]. What do you think? How should we do it?” Mikita shared eye-opening lessons.
Tip #2: Bi-weekly cadence calls or text
Setup a recurring bi-weekly calendar so you can text or hop in zoom with your chosen gurus. We are privileged to have the CEO and CTO of both pandadoc.com and tintup.com to teach us as we navigate through the trials and tribulations of building a company. Having a business and technical perspective is what I seek, so why not have a team of advisors from impressive startups within San Francisco to share their business acumen.
Typically, I come up with 3 items but found it very difficult to implement or act on if there are too many advice. Jason Demant told me once, “Don’t get whiplashed.” Until today, I practice the same sensibility whenever I inquire for help. Jason Calacanis once told me, “Everyone has an opinion. Smart entrepreneurs listen to founders who actually build a company from 0 to $1B.”
Thanks, J.Cal! You saved me so much time from listening to the wrong advice.
Tip #3: Find advisors for your team
Justin King, for instance, was hired to help us delight our clients. His role is to focus on retention and engagement metrics. Who has the best retention and engagement practices today? Superhuman! Duh.
I reached out to Siyarin from Superhuman and asked her if she would be able to advise our CSM. Training and coaching are vital to growing every startup. Imagine, a Navy Seal training a law student on how to defend clients in a courtroom. That’s how I felt: too ready for combat, too eager too close. I had the wrong skill set in training Justin King to be a successful client manager.
Bonus tip: Add all your advisors in a Slack Channel
It is free to add single-channel users on Slack. If you need real-time answers to user research or business strategy, you can quickly ask via Slack.
So how do the 3 tips relate?
How did we get into LAUNCH Accelerator?
We got into LAUNCH Accelerator by leveraging our advisors’ network. Because I stuck to my rituals with advisors on a bi-weekly basis, they knew my immediate needs: funding and community.
Tim Sae Koo reached out to me via email and asked to reply YES if interested in joining LAUNCH Accelerator. Of course, I said, “Yes.” Little did he know that we only had $3k left in our bank. One month of runway left until we had to shut down. I felt depressed. It was an emotional Thanksgiving that I kept to myself. I never shared with anyone until now.
Thank you, Tim! I’m deeply grateful for the introduction to Jason Demant at LAUNCH Accelerator. I won’t let you guys down.