Question: WHAT ONE QUESTION SHOULD STARTUP LEADERS ASK EARLY-STAGE HIRES TO MAKE SURE THERE’S POTENTIAL FOR GROWTH?
Hear from 10 CEO’s
1. CAN YOU ADAPT?
“Ask for examples in which potential hires completed tasks of projects that were outside their comfort area or not directly related to their role. At startups, employees will likely wear many hats, so it’s important for them to demonstrate adaptability to new tasks. For instance, our web developer recently built a mobile app by learning on the go.”
– Bhavin Parikh | CEO, Magoosh Test Prep
2. WHERE DO YOU SEE OUR COMPANY IN 5 YEARS?
“Their answer doesn’t have to be the same as yours (though if it’s drastically different, that might be a bad sign), but early-stage hires need to have a big-picture vision for the company and its growth and potential, rather than just thinking about the responsibilities of their specific role and what role they would play in the company right now.”
– Stephanie Kaplan | Co-Founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief, Her Campus Media
As entrepreneurs, we’re used to being questioned about everything we do. Perhaps it’s one reason we became entrepreneurs in the first place — to prove that we’re better off doing whatever everyone else thinks we shouldn’t. In fact, you could argue that being an entrepreneur is less about building a business and making money, and more about having the power to shape your own destiny.
Speaking from my own experience, when I left my first job to start my PR company right out of college, my friends asked me if what I was doing was right. And when I moved across the country to Los Angeles at 25, my parents asked me why I was doing it. And when I began taking flying lessons, my grandmother asked me if it was a good idea. All of these, despite everyone else implying they were not good ideas, have become the best things I have ever done in my life.
Risk equals reward. And the bigger the risk taken, the bigger the chance for a larger payout. When Christopher Columbus risked his life and that of many others to complete his first voyage across the sea to the unknown, his journey led to a great wealth of knowledge and commerce for Europe. When Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin traveled to outer space, he opened up a whole new age in space travel and exploration for the rest of the world. And when Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook, he launched a new era in the way we communicate with one another.
Recently, we announced a $5 million Series A round of financing. We started raising this round and talking to investors in late fall of last year.
As you can probably imagine, going through this process involves taking a step back from the day-to-day work and looking at our overall strategy and evolution. Fundraising forces you to come up with a coherent way to explain your business model to someone unfamiliar with the concept. You have to show what sparked your idea, articulate what problem you are solving, demonstrate progress, such as genuine market adoption, and present your longer term vision.
Given that we just closed the round, it seems like a good opportunity to reflect on BetterCloud’s story so far, as well as give some insight into what we learned throughout the entire process so other entrepreneurs can learn from our story, too.
WHERE WE CAME FROM
BetterCloud was founded in November 2011 with a very specific idea in mind. The original vision was to build an array of discrete products that would cover the needs of both Google Apps end users and administrators – security software, management tools, contact sharing, even a product exclusively for email signatures.
But after speaking with some of our earliest supporters, it became very obvious that we had the wrong idea. The last thing Google Apps administrators wanted or needed was a dozen separate applications to manage various parts of the Google Apps suite. Most administrators told us that they would prefer to invest their team’s time, energy and money into one all-encompassing application. They felt, correctly, that everyone could be trained on one interface and, from there, responsibilities could be delegated to the appropriate team members. Even from a mental standpoint, it would be far easier to keep track of just the one application.
There is a paradox in this pocket of our shared history. Economies in many countries are struggling to recover from an all-time historical low, entire industries are caving and for many, the perceived safety of brick-and-mortar financial institutions is crumbling down. What several generations built on manufactured need is turning to dust.
And yet, as one wave comes to shore, another is swelling in the distance.
Over the last 10 years, more technology has become accessible to the greatest number people in the least amount of time than in our entire history. It took radio 40 years to hit 50 million users. TV took 13 years. But the Internet had 50 million users in four years, and Facebook took just 12 months to hit double that — 100 million users.
So in spite of the dire financial straits so many of us are in, today — at this moment — you have the best chance of finding your dream job.
How is this possible? Five reasons:
The startup world has never been so crowded. Launching a tech startup is cheaper than ever, and jobs at traditional companies, especially for new graduates, are tough to find. Whether you recently founded a new startup, or if you’re just considering working for an existing one, it is important to understand both the huge challenges and exciting rewards that lie ahead. I still have decades of knowledge left to gain, but my experiences founding my first two companies have exposed me to great lessons that I use every day.
Here are three lessons that have helped me to get out of my comfort zone and build excellent teams, products and companies:
1. Solve a new, difficult problem. Naval Ravikant, founder of AngelList and Venture Hacks tools for startups, implores founders of new tech startups to change the way they think about product development. Don’t just build the next mobile/social app because you’ve seen a lot of investments there recently. Assess the strengths of your team, and find a market that matches your unique talents and experiences.
Question: WHAT’S ONE TIP FOR CONNECTING WITH OTHER FOUNDERS, ESPECIALLY OTHER FEMALE FOUNDERS, IN YOUR COMMUNITY?
Hear from 9 Female CEO’s
1. DON’T BE AFRAID TO SHARE
“It’s okay to share about topics unrelated to work with other women founders. I think a lot of female business owners don’t get as much time to hang out with their girlfriends as they’d like, so it’s always wonderful to meet another female founder that wants to talk about travel, clothes, and relationships — as well as work!”
– Caitlin McCabe | Founder & CEO, Real Bullets Branding
2. BE GENEROUS AND GENUINE
“Be generous when building connection with women founders. If there is someone whose work you admire, email to let her know. Highlight a specific aspect of what she’s doing that has impacted you positively. Be genuine about how you might support her mission. Suggest a way she might be able to connect with you, such as a link to a social media account. Follow through by sharing her message.”
– Laura Calandrella | CEO, Laura Calandrella, LLC
Recently, I led a career coaching workshop for four incredibly accomplished women at Harvard. They were worried about finding careers and making their way in work and life as they headed towards graduation. Specifically, they wanted to be able to “make money without selling out.” And they’re not the only ones saying this — I hear this more than ever today in an environment that praises do-gooder creatives and laments bureaucrats and bankers.
Want to make money without selling out? Here are the steps to make it happen:
1. Recognize your own true value. The first step is to understand your own self-worth. What makes YOU valuable? This runs counter to what we’ve been taught — asking ourselves how we can be valuable to others and serve others’ needs. Instead, answer the question: how can you serve your purpose in the world? Everything is about creating value for people, and the first step is recognizing your own value and your own willingness to be heard and watch yourself shine. What does this really look like for you? You have a skill, an area of expertise. You’re not selling out by asking for more or doing more.