Building The Startup Team To Get Funded

How to Establish a Core Startup Team?

One of the earliest obstacles that founders have in managing a startup team is dealing with how to get things off the ground without sufficient funding or the right people.

During an eLuminate Mastermind Session on Getting Funded, CEO and co-founder Anastasia Leng was interviewed by eLuminate founder, Sharon Brown, about the struggles she had to go through at Hatch with building a startup team.


Starting With What You Have

For Leng, she and co-founder Ryan Heyward had just left Google to pursue the Hatch business concept and that they were very passionate about. She moved from London and he moved from Tokyo so they could work together in New York. To get the website running, they had to hire a developer, since neither of them were coders.


Fortunately, one of Leng’s friends from London came calling, offering his services. Leng, of course, was hesitant about it, quickly telling him, “look, I can’t pay you” but the guy insisted saying he believed in their business idea and that he’ll work for free until the business gets proper funding.  So, they decided to get him onboard as part of their startup team.

Leng looks back on the experience with a hearty laugh saying the three of them worked “on a couch” as they were building the company.

Bringing New People In

As their online marketplace started to grow, they eventually had to begin hiring additional people which, according to Leng, was “really hard.”

She felt the first 10 to 20 people they hired should perfectly fit in the kind of culture they were hoping to establish. Bringing new people onboard, she says, is crucial because it means picking the people that would “help you build your business and solve your problems.” In short, the startup team has to be just right.

startup hiring

Getting Rid of Those That Do Not Fit

Leng also pointed out that sometimes it is best to fire people immediately instead of keeping them in the company too long. She shared how they were quick to get rid of people that they felt did not fit in their culture.  Acting quickly prevented further problems.

During the hiring process, the co-founders also had a specific set of traits they looked for when they interviewed candidates. For example, they asked situational questions that would really get the applicants thinking. Those who thrived when their answers were challenged were hired, but those who were a bit defensive were eliminated from consideration. Leng wanted to see potential and brilliance.

She sums up her startup hiring strategy by saying, “I don’t care whose idea it is as long as it’s the best idea for the company.”


Can This Startup Compete Against Event Ticketing Platform Giants?

How one startup is making product management waves in the competitive online event ticketing reservation platform markets

VinoVisit, a Napa Valley based startup, built an online reservation platform that offers consumers the flexibility to book real-time winery reservations and build itineraries.  The startup has expanded an existing platform to make it easier for event organizers to manage, market, and sell tickets to their events.

We were intrigued by the startup’s product management to deliver standard meeting management – with functionality that is not much different than Eventbrite or Cvent – features to a niche market.  However, with one key difference, the platform integrates with “winery software”.

The VinoVisit ticketing platform includes features such as; event creation, customization, guest management and reporting, check-in, and event sales payment options.


‘Finally, a solution exists for wineries to inexpensively manage their ticketed events that is fully integrated with widely used winery software. Most ticketing platforms were created without the winery in mind. The new VinoVisit ticketing platform allows multiple levels of customization that puts the winery in control. Those planning trips to wine country or living locally will all have increased exposure to our partner’s events.’ Ron Scharman, COO, VinoVisit.

As a startup, competing against event management and ticketing giants like Cvent and Eventbrite, VinoVisit provides data that their customers also gain access to:

  1. 75,000+ monthly website visitors
  2. 230,000+ national email subscriber list
  3. 30,000+ social media fan base


From a product management perspective, the features of VinoVisit are not unique.  The only differentiator is in the marketing – the startup has focused solely on the winery industry for event ticketing.   However, as noted, key competitors such as Eventbrite and Cvent could challenge startup’s play in the winery market because they have a deeper list of features and an extensive list of visitors, subscribers, and social media followers.

For example, the Eventbrite and Cvent platforms have an array of built-in features that facilitate the entire event lifecycle from start-to-finish.  VinoVisit will need to consider extending their platform further with future product development in order to compete with the Evenbrite and Cvent features which include:

  • Mobile apps
  • Post-event analytics
  • Meeting management
  • Venue sourcing
  • Social media
  • Search for finding unique venues
  • Budget management
  • Event marketing
  • Registration
  • Check-in process
  • Onsite audience engagement



5 Tips to Streamline Operations and Cleanup Your Startup

Spring is the perfect time to reevaluate your startup systems, and streamline operations where possible.

While spring cleaning around the home is a task most people dread, it is a necessary evil and absolutely essential for any successful startup.  Investor and strategic advisor, David Kiger, explores six ways business owners can streamline operations by applying the spring cleaning concept to their company:

1. Clean Up The Website. It may be time to upgrade your website or rework the way information is presented to make it easier for web users to digest.  It doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul, and sometimes aiming for a cleaner design is all that is required.

2. Get Mobile. For most founders, it’s obvious that every business needs to have a mobile-friendly website.  However, have you reevaluated the functionality of your mobile presence?  For example, you may need to check your mobile page speed and make sure any ads or affiliate links appear the way you intended and are not blocking your content.

3. Inventory Assessment.  Streamline operations by eliminating or selling unwanted or expiring inventory.  “Set aside the time to examine what’s on hand and what should be cleared out. This is an opportunity to assess what products or services worked well and if one needs to search for new vendors.”

clean out

4. Clean Out the Inbox. “When emails go unread and begin to pile up, it can become a legitimate nuisance that damages the ability to be productive.” “A lot of it may be junk mail that just needs to be deleted, but it’s also possible that important information is missing in an email buried deep in that unread pile.”

5. Get Social. Reevaluate your social media presence.  “The ability to connect and engage with consumers helps increase awareness of your business, which can translate to revenue gains from attracting new customers.”

source: David Kiger, founder and executive chairman of Worldwide Express

New Opportunitites for Startups Seeking Non-Accredited Equity Crowdfunding

Several equity crowdfunding portals are poised to enable non-accredited equity crowdfunding investment for startup companies

May 16, 2016 marks the beginning of a new era in equity financing of startups. Effective that date, the SEC’s JOBS Act Title III, also known as Regulation Crowdfunding, becomes effective, establishing a new alternative for raising equity capital: equity crowdfunding for non-accredited investors.

Equity crowdfunding allows startups to quickly raise capital, while founders retain control of their companies.

There are several equity crowdfunding startups such as Crowdfunder, Wefunder, and The Angel Company that will thrive under this regulation to help both investors and issuers take advantage of the regulations.

In 2015 CNBC stated that $662 million had been raised by accredited investors in the first quarter alone. That amount is quickly growing. Regulation Crowdfunding will increase this market drastically by allowing non-accredited investors to join.


A number of countries, including New Zealand, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom, have recently legalized equity crowdfunding, and crowdfunding is replacing a substantial amount of the traditional angel and venture capital funding in the UK.  Some expect that the new SEC regulations will have a similar effect in the US.

Non-accredited investors will be attracted to their new ability to directly invest in startups, receiving equity instead of trivial, one-time rewards. Non-accredited investors will become more excited about the companies in which they can become genuine stakeholders, and can take part in the startup funding market with a potential for spectacular returns.

There are many companies jockeying for lead position to take advantage in the new SEC regulations, some of these companies include:

  • EquityNet
  • Crowdfunder
  • MicroVentures
  • The Angel Company’s
  • Funded
  • StartupValley
  • Wefunder
  • EarlyShares

equity crowdfunding

Highlights from the SEC Regulation Crowdfunding Fact Sheet
  • Permit a company to raise a maximum aggregate amount of $1 million through crowdfunding offerings in a 12-month period;
  • Permit individual investors, over a 12-month period, to invest in the aggregate across all crowdfunding offerings up to:
    • If either their annual income or net worth is less than $100,000, than the greater of:
      • $2,000 or
      • 5 percent of the lesser of their annual income or net worth.
    • If both their annual income and net worth are equal to or more than $100,000, 10 percent of the lesser of their annual income or net worth; and
  • During the 12-month period, the aggregate amount of securities sold to an investor through all crowdfunding offerings may not exceed $100,000.

From Startup to Growth – Stats on the Fastest Growing Companies

What do some of the fastest growing companies have in common?

According to the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) that ranked the fastest growing privately held, woman-owned/led companies, there are six stats that each of the business have in common.

Six stats on the 2016 50 fastest growing companies:

  1. Average Age: 49
  2. CEOs that founded the business: 92%
  3. Listed companies that do business globally: 44%
  4. Provide health insurance: 92%
  5. Plan to continue to grow their company: 90%
  6. State hiring the best talent as their biggest business challenge: 44%

Also, each of the businesses needed to reached revenue of at least $500,000 by the first week of 2011 and $2 million in 2015.  All eligible companies that applied were ranked according to a sales growth formula that combines percentage and absolute growth.


“This year’s 50 Fastest list represents our most diverse ranking ever, with an immense geographic reach covering 20 states and one international winner in Turkey, as well as industries ranging from energy efficiency services to cybersecurity and engineering,” said Marsha Firestone, Ph. D., president and founder of the WPO.


So, if you are a startup founder thinking about what the pathway to your future growth may look like, the stats above may be a useful benchmark.  A standout metric is the 44% of CEOs that state hiring good talent is their biggest challenge.  Each of the metrics may be worth considering to increase awareness of what it may take to bring your startup to the next level.


Product Management Roadmap of a Startup Productivity App

Great apps start with great product management. How one startup created an app that solves the maze of productivity app tools and functions

Startups and founders who spend their workdays switching between multiple productivity apps are missing opportunities to streamline work processes and business functions.  Startups need to find a way to coalesce productivity functions, such as note taking, task management, bookmarking and more, into one framework.

Finding an easy way to find anything you’ve stored and having a way to access it when you need it is gold.  Consol – a bootstrapped startup – is an app that consolidates key productivity functions into one framework.

Productivity App User Perspective

Users create their own organization with hashtags called workspaces (parent tags) and categories (child tags). This system, called Taggregation, adds hierarchy to project organization. Items can even belong to multiple workspaces and categories.


Different content types, such as notes, tasks and bookmarks appear in context in a list. This item list updates based on which workspace and category the user selects and the user’s preferred sorting mechanism. Selecting an item in the list displays a page view where the user can add and edit content.

“I was frustrated trying to keep track of all my clients’ data with available tools,” said Consol Co-Founder Chevas Balloun. “I was using a note taker, but kept having trouble finding my tasks or links within the notes. I’d try a task app, but felt like I never had room for extensive notes. Using multiple apps as a fix just seemed inefficient.”

“Many productivity apps try to hide or minimize the organization in order to focus on the experience.” “However, with a productivity app, the organization should be central to the experience,” said Balloun.

Productivity App Content

The startup has seemed to have used solid product management to create an app that supports multiple content functions:

  • Notes
  • Tasks
  • Bookmarks
  • Code blocks
  • Contacts
  • Images uploaded from a computer or a URL
  • Messages between other users

Connections can be made with other users allowing them to chat, comment, collaborate and send content to one another.  The product also supports end-to-end encryption for notes, code blocks, and images. This requires a second encryption-specific password (ESP).