We don’t care that you “hustle”

Originally published on Medium.

We don’t care how early you woke up or late you went to sleep

We don’t care that you arrived first or left last.

We don’t care that you worked over the weekend or holiday.

We don’t care about your pre and post work meetings.

We don’t care that you “hustle.”

We all do. And we have been for thousands of years. We just don’t boast about it or require a pat on the back.

Stop talking about how special you think you are. Just focus on results.

startup pioneers

Originally published on Medium.

Startups are often championed as “disruptive” and “groundbreaking.” Founders are exalted as “innovative” and “visionary.” And venture capitalists are glorified as “prolific” and “prophetic.”

They sometimes deserve these labels. Envisioning and executing something new, while taking great risk, entails boldness. But in all of this splendor, an important group is left by the wayside: each startup’s community.

The early adopters that listen to what startups have to say, and that take a chance on their fledgling products, possess the same boldness as those building and funding the startups themselves. Any founder that has experienced the magical moment of securing a first user, customer or partner — after being countlessly rejected, and despite solving a pain point — can attest to this. This boldness even exists in people that join a startup’s community that’s no longer in its infancy. The high-effort acts of abandoning an incumbent, changing behavior, and continuing to use a product, are sacred and should be revered by startups.

Through our startup, Quire, we allow top, venture-backed companies to invite their communities to invest, enabling them to become actual co-owners of these businesses. It’s meta to this post, but we believe that users, customers and partners should be able to own a part of the companies that they helped create. Some founders balk at this idea. But there are others who listened, and took a chance on our product. In doing so, they’ve spearheaded the practice of community ownership that we originally envisioned, and they make our startup possible.

As you build your startup, or read about others in the press, never forget about the communities behind them. They are the true startup pioneers. Without them, we wouldn’t exist.

Full Stack Operator

Originally published on Medium.

Sound strategy and effective execution are critical as companies develop. Unknowns and an urgency for progress require it.

Great startups meet these demands by having a key player on the team: a full stack operator. A full stack operator is someone who can execute across non-technical disciplines, from conception through implementation.

  • They advance the startup’s substance, making an impact through strategy, UI/UX, marketing, community, policy, business development, and other non-technical disciplines.
  • They deeply understand the company’s mission, allowing them to execute with little direction.
  • They are thoughtful and perceptive, providing them with a holistic execution approach.
  • They are bold, creative and tasteful, enabling them to produce ambitious and respected work.
  • They have executional range, making them adept at spearheading business functions and strategic initiatives one day, and crafting copy and support emails the next.
  • And they have competence and good judgment, permitting teammates to trust them and grant them autonomy.

Full stack operators are as vital to a startup’s success as their developer counterparts. Make sure you have one.

I Joined Alphaworks

Over the past ten years, founders increased their focus on the VC community. And VCs earned it. VCs replaced their impenetrable veil with concerted efforts to connect with companies and to help them at their earliest stages. Incubators popped up all over the world. Content proliferated. Firms hired community managers. Approachable Angels and Micro-VCs emerged in throngs. And the bilateral adoption of investment portals has made for a more efficient marketplace.

While a vibrant ecosystem arose that strengthened the bonds between startups and VCs, each startup's individual community has fallen by the wayside. And by "community," I mean a startup's users, customers, partners and fans. Startups have gotten great at serving their communities through product—applying lean startup principles and endless optimization—but there hasn't been a concerted attempt at fostering deeper connections; connections that go beyond the ways in which a user interacts with the startup's product. This is unfortunate because users are people, and they are capable of much more than clicks. They can develop deep emotions about a company—its founders, its story, its vision—and these emotions can be expressed through long-term loyalty and patronship. Such an outcome is much more impactful than what can be achieved from the startup's relationship with the VC community.

But how can we foster deeper connections between startups and their communities? This is the question that Alphaworks seeks to answer, and I am incredibly excited to share that I joined the team. At its core, Alphaworks lets startups raise funding from their communities, but you can expect a lot more from us in the future as we explore and champion the idea of "community ownership."  

I closely followed the startup ecosystem's evolution over the past few years. I even tried to accelerate it through TechStars, Startup{ery, @BrandedVC and other projects. I believe that Alphaworks is the most ambitious effort to come around in a while, and that it can be as pivotal to a startup's success as its participation in a top incubator, or its funding by a top VC firm. 

We're just getting started on this mission, so get in touch if you're interested in learning more or even joining the team (yes, we're hiring!).

Branded VC

Back in March, I published a post highlighting bold marketing, community, and value-add initiatives created by startup investors. I really enjoyed exploring the space, and I continued to follow developments as they happened.

Andreessen Horowitz started a podcast. AngelList launched Funds. RRE backed a Bitcoin lobby. Y Combinator started How to Start a Startup. Collaborative Fund started Alignment Holdings and partnered with Circle Up to fund B Corps.  FirstMark launched its third event series, this one focused on design.  And so much more.

It's tempting to diminish these types of efforts, but I believe they deserve credit. At their core, startup investors provide money. It's the startup teams that build the products and businesses. But investor initiatives serve as a catalyst. They educate, create awareness, affect policy, and bring people together. This is important because it's fueling a startup ecosystem, which is stronger and more vibrant as a result. 

Three weeks ago I created a Twitter account called BrandedVC as a mini side project to surface these types of initiatives—the most creative things happening in startup investing. I think the account might appeal to several different groups, including:

  • Investors: to get informed about and inspired by what their peers (viz. competitors) are doing. This is important because VCs should play offense, not defense in attracting startups and LPs. They shouldn't just rely on the firehose of emails that everyone else is also receiving. 
  • Startups: to discover opportunities, and identify investors that provide value beyond the money that they invest. This is important because founders should do everything they can to help their company succeed, including partnering with the best possible people
  • LPs: to discover investors that differentiate and align with their interests. This is important in an environment where most LPs are unable to invest in the top performing funds.

If Twitter isn't your thing, then feel free to signup for the newsletter below. And of course, if you're aware of anything interesting that I should share through Branded VC, please get in touch at geoffreyweg@gmail.com.

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