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.”


Has Your Mom Hurt Your Chances of Launching The Next Uber?

Has Your Mom Hurt Your Chances of Launching The Next Uber?

Has Your Mom Hurt Your Chances of Launching The Next Uber?


If you’re anything like me when I first started out, you have a great business idea and have likely spent countless hours dreaming of what your product will look like and how your service will run flawlessly.

But, when reality sets in, you find yourself not knowing where to start or how to move your idea forward.

The consistent idea tweaking and time spent thinking, thinking, and analyzing has got you in a permanent stall, or your launch is just a side project.

What’s going on here?  Did some of us over learn lessons at an early age that were ingrained by our moms, dads, or caregivers such as “do things right or don’t do it at all”.

Is this constant search for perfection holding you back?

Well, I can tell you from launching over 180 products and services that when in comes to entrepreneurship or launching any new product or service, the worst thing that you can do is try to be perfect, or keep kicking the launch can down the road.

Lessons You Can Take From Uber’s Launch 

Back in 2009, Uber was just a side project for one of it’s founders.  The idea for the startup originated in 2008.  But, it wasn’t until 2010 that the initial test of the service kicked off. Uber started with just three cars in a test in New York City.

5 Most Important Steps To LAUNCH Your Product or Service

So, from the original idea in 2008, Uber’s founders, Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick took about two years to officially launch.  And the rest is history.

But, just imagine had they went all-in in 2008 and launched Uber then!  An already wildly successful company may have exploded sooner.

That means two years sooner people could have avoided the agony of hailing a cab, drivers could have had more money in their pockets, and the Uber logistics machine could have have been capturing the market.

Now, in all fairness Camp and Kalanick, each had already carved very successful multi-million dollar exits in separate startups before joining forces (StumbleUpon and Akamai, respectively)… and from all accounts they were likely not ready to go all-in on another startup.

But unless you’re either of these guys, what’s your excuse?  What’s your excuse for not launching your product or service now?

  • Are you caught in a never-ending maze of ideas and don’t know where to start?
  • Do you think you need to do more research?
  • Are you listening to the voice in your head that says your launch must be perfect?

Bottomline, you do not need to have all the answers about how your product or service will run, or that it needs to be perfect.  But, you do need to start, and you need to start today.

If you keep delaying your dream, then you run the risk of never getting your idea off the ground.  You also run this same risk if you are trying to create a flawless launch.


The Cost of Over Analysis

I can tell you from experience that analysis paralysis gets you NOWHERE.  Sure, it makes you feel like you are doing something, but what do you have to show for your work?  Where’s your product or service?

Even if you have gotten started or already have a team of people supporting you, you likely haven’t been able to actually build anything yet, or show something tangible for the hours you have spent.  And not to mention the money you have spent.

Spinning your wheels like this is just an insane waste of time!

We can measure the costs of any of these reasons too.  For example, if you estimate that your product or service will bring you $100,000 in revenue per month, then you can imagine that over the course of one year that you are actually losing $1.2M.

Just think, this loss is all because you haven’t started.  And, over ten years that amount comes to $12M … ouch!

If a one million dollar business sounds like too much for you, let’s calculate a modest $10,000 per month in revenue.  Well then that means you are still LOSING $120,000 per year or $1.2M over ten years.

Come on!!!  Get out of your own way and get on with it.

Perhaps you are listening to your mom’s voice in the back of your head that says everything must be 100% perfect.  But, the reality is you can’t blame mom because you now know the cost of inaction.

So, unless you’re already sitting on millions from successful exits and have the track record like the founders of Uber, you can’t afford to wait.

The longer you wait, you are just burying your dream and potentially throwing away or delaying a product or service that could be a game changer.

Sharon Brown

Sharon Brown

founder, eLuminate Entrepreneur Network

Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Developing New Marketing Campaigns

It’s important for retailers to make the most of the growth of mobile by developing a more personal relationship with their customers. As consumer activity becomes increasingly more active on mobile, the need to develop an effective marketing campaign for a mobile audience has never been more crucial. Here are five common mistakes that retailers should avoid in order to ensure a successful marketing campaign:

Mistake #1 – Not making mobile a priority

Retailers need to make a concerted effort to incorporate mobile into their marketing strategies and convert mobile browsing activity into definitive purchases by consumers. This is done by getting the user experience right from the outset. Ask yourself: is your website mobile-friendly? Are there images which limit the website’s response speed?

mobile tablet

In fact there are already incentives in place to help you. Mobilegeddon, Google’s ranking algorithm update released in April 2015, actually rewards retailers who have made their website compatible for mobile and websites who have not done so may see a negative impact in their search results rankings. Quick tip? Use Google Mobile-Friendly Test to analyze your site and ensure it’s mobile-friendly in its design.

mobile phone

Mistake #2 – Having an out-of-date product catalogue

Keeping your product feed up-to-date is crucial to converting more customer transactions. The customer purchase journey starts from pre-purchase activity and continues right up to the checkout point…and beyond! The protracted journey from the research stage to the checkout phase can be difficult at the best of times, but imagine the frustration after a lengthy decision-making process you click on a product to find it sold-out, out of stock or that the discount has expired.

Also, customers will make their own decision for comparing products so unless the product benefits are apparent to the customer in an effective manner, the customer may overlook these features and focus on other factors like pricing. These are the sort of inconsistencies which will compromise customer experience and impact conversion rates.


Mistake #3 – Not following SEO best practices

Creating a flawless website is only half of the battle. If you don’t rank well in Google’s search results, then you’re not going to get the best out of your marketing campaign. So having a thorough SEO plan in place will increase your chances of success.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What type of customer are you targeting?
  • What keywords are your customers using to search for items online?
  • What are the semantics of your product titles and descriptions?
  • Are your images helping your SEO strategy?

If you want to increase traffic to your website, then using Google Keyword Planner will enhance your chances of doing so. The tool, which lists the most popular searched-for words and phrases on the web, will provide you with the necessary information required to customize your SEO search strategy.

mobile tablet and cell phone

Mistake #4 – Not using images strategically

A picture is worth a thousand words. Don’t place visuals as an afterthought in your marketing campaign strategy, but rather an integral tool for generating sales. Consider the following:

  • Choosing the right series of images can trigger an emotional response from the customer, which inevitably increases the chances of a conversion. KissMetrics recently put together a great aid in terms of choosing colour and design that’s right for your site in order to generate more sales.
  • Images that are not properly optimised will affect your page loading speeds. This will not only frustrate customers and make them less likely to complete their transactions, they will also have a significant impact on your SEO ranking.
  • Also in terms of SEO, the importance of image tags should not be neglected. Used by search engines to read images, correctly optimized tags using targeted keywords can help you to rank in Image search results and obtain traffic through this alternative method.
  • Adapting image format, dimensions and weight may also be necessary for other platforms such as Google Shopping. Consider any guidelines that are in place before automatically using the same images on all channels.

mobile tablet

Mistake #5 – Underestimating the impact security can have on customer experience

Last year saw a considerable rise in high-profile cyber-attacks, with Vodafone and TalkTalk amongst those who had their private and sensitive data accessed illegally by hackers. With this issue likely to continue in 2016, more retailers must take on the responsibility of securing their ecommerce sites. Marketers must start taking a more lateral approach to cyber security.

How can you secure your ecommerce site without compromising user experience? It is important that retailers treat secure payment pages as a high priority and make sure they are using trusted providers and secure encrypted webpages for the checkout process. This is particularly the case on mobile devices, which are no longer only used for browsing products, but also to complete full transactions.

In order to get the most out of your new marketing campaigns for this year several factors must be acting together. Ensure your mobile strategy, product listing pages, SEO/ paid search campaigns, image choice, and transaction pages are all working effectively in concert in order to maximise your results and increase traffic to your listing pages.


source: Herbert Knibiehly is VP of Marketing at Twenga Solutions

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

Rising Chargeback Fraud Impacting Startups

With digital sales reaching an all-time high, retail startups are cautioned to beware of rising chargeback fraud, and advises taking proactive measures to prevent losses.

Retailers must not only be experts at creating revenue opportunities, but they’re facing greater challenges in retaining customers, since many online competitors have leveraged customer service policies as a way to entice buyers.

As online and traditional card payments are on the rise, dispute mitigation and risk management firms warn that the growing proportion of online sales may be accompanied by an unexpected rise in related fraud losses due to increased chargeback activity.

Study: True Cost of Fraud

According to the LexisNexis True Cost of Fraud Study, large eCommerce merchants lost an average of 1.39% of revenue to fraud in 2015—a substantial increase over the 0.85% average fraud loss in 2014, and more than 2.5 times higher than the 2013 estimate of 0.53% average fraud loss.*

While those percentages may seem relatively small, they can translate to tens of millions in losses for large eCommerce merchants; and with the percentage of fraud loss steadily rising each year, the trend suggests that fraud will continue to account for growing financial losses.

“Managing fraud in the online channel is far more challenging than in brick-and-mortar stores, particularly since EMV cards were introduced to thwart point-of-sale credit card fraud,” explained Monica Eaton-Cardone, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of risk management firm Chargebacks911.


Do Customer-Friendly policies Lead To More Fraud?

“It’s the age of consumer entitlement, and there’s no going back,”Eaton-Cardone stated. “This means that retailers must not only be experts at creating revenue opportunities, but they’re facing greater challenges in retaining customers, since many online competitors have leveraged customer service policies as a way to entice buyers.”  Startups must be mindful of the potential negative impacts of such relaxed policies.  Even more established online retailers need to heed the risk of liberal customer-friendly policies.

For example, retail brands such as Zappos allow customers to return items within 365 days of purchase for a full refund, while Amazon is now facing competition from Walmart in the online environment it created. Eaton-Cardone likens the current situation to the one-upmanship of gas station wars; 24-hour delivery was followed by Saturday and Sunday service, and today consumers can receive orders at their doorstep within the hour.

“Unfortunately, the evolution of consumer behavior has changed the customer service climate for good,” she explained.  Consumers will often resort to chargebacks for a refund if they’re unsatisfied with an online retailer’s customer service.


Fraudulent Chargebacks

Some customers have gone on to file fraudulent chargebacks as a way to obtain goods for free. In fact, Chargebacks911 has found that half of those who get away with a fraudulent chargeback will file another within 60 days, thereby multiplying each chargeback loss by a factor of 1.5.

To overcome these challenges, the risk management company advises all eCommerce merchants to provide the level of service which consumers have come to demand:

● Alternative customer support options, since today’s digital consumers may resort to chargebacks if email or online chat are not available.

● Rapid delivery options, for consumers who demand immediate gratification.

● Traceable shipments, so customers can track their packages and merchants have proof of delivery.

Effective risk mitigation and chargeback management are essential to prevent card-not-present (CNP) fraud, and have evolved to include retention analysis and policy review. To stay ahead of the increases in fraudulent claims, some startups may soon need to introduce additional policy changes to address online fraud.


* LexisNexis. 2015 LexisNexis True Cost of Fraud Study; September 2015.