Surviving the Storm: Effective Strategies for startups to weather the Downturn - investors perspective.
Living in the heart of Silicon Valley in San Francisco, as a minority woman entrepreneur and small business owner with big ideas, I work together with VCs, founders, creators, artists, designers, accelerators, and technologists from across the globe. My backyard is made up of overpriced coffee shops, too cool for school pubs, clubs, and bars, and layered with some of the smartest (and kindest), highly educated, over-achieving, competitive, skilled, experienced, and brave technology aficionados that only an area like the Bay Area could entice.
Going about my day, swatting gloomy, if not brutal echoes of another startup (or enterprise for that matter) layoff round, my womanly instinct is to offer my shoulder, my home, and my time to friends and peers alike fallen victim or keen to vocalize (if you let it out, its lighter, right?) their fears or impressions of this climate we’re living in.
My business is communications. I get my insight from listening, observing, asking questions, monitoring trends, and trying to put myself in different shoes. I’m also in the business of simplifying, interpreting, and demystifying really complex, confusing, jargon-filled tech-speak – and responsible for translating those complicated terms for the layman. The layman being the consumer (you and me), your grandmama, your mom, your spouse, the stakeholder, your community member, your investor, an analyst, a reporter, a journalist, and your community (whether they’re on Discord, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Medium, LinkedIn, Notion, Slack or Signal. You name it).
Here here are some of the strategies I am picking up on the ground, in real-time as I steer my ship and weather the downturn.
To my fellow entrepreneurs:
1. Make sure that your service or product solves a real problem and that there is a real need then see if there are some added updates or tweaks you can make to improve them and make them financially stormproof.
2. Ensure that you communicate - see, even over-communicate with your investors. It is your responsibility to ensure your product or solutions are resistant to looming and rising inflation by developing decks that talk about every technological spec.
3. While we are on the communications side, make sure that you simplify your message by thinking about what problem you are solving for your consumer. What are you building, How are you building it, Why does it matter, and how is it better than what exists out there? Write thought leadership articles that educate your audience, your community - your clients. Don’t tout your own horn, don’t self-promote - - just educate by breaking down your industry, the context wherein which your product or solution exists. Helping your community is the name of the game.
4. Once you’ve laid out your internal and external communications roadmap in the eye of the storm, put yourself in the shoes of a journalist. Why would a reporter be interested? Don’t lead the conversation with the marketing budget you have thanks to that funding round - lead with what are you doing to make your consumer’s life better. That resonates with journalists and that will resonate with your current investors as you’re showing traction, a track record, credibility , and legitimacy.
5. If you have a marketing team or a communications consultant on your team, remember that they can’t make magic happen for you. You better make sure your product is sound and robust - so work hand in hand with your product and design team to ensure they’re aligned and that whatever you will market can stand its ground, on its own two legs. Do not embellish - ever! Cold, hard, data-backed information is the name of the game.
6. Make sure your internal and external communications are aligned. If you have a social media team or a content development team, ensure that they work hand in hand with you, and your operations, sales, technical, and marketing teams. Everyone needs to be on the same page. That includes ensuring that your website is updated and informative. In times of uncertainty, your goals and objectives are to increase sales online and to make sure your infrastructure meets the challenges of the new economy. In a time of uncertainty with loud murmurs of inflation, massive tech layoffs and speculation of a recession, you want to make sure your communications channels are operating as one.
7. As you bolster your comms and brand, and ensure that everyone is working shoulder to shoulder, your Marketing and Sales teams will impact your ability to reassure and raise money. Keep educating and engaging your audience through insightful and informative storytelling ( via LinkedIn, your website, and social media).
8. Don’t underestimate the power of networking - but that doesn’t mean that you need to accumulate airline miles or rack up travel expenses. I have networked successfully with high-net-worth individuals, thought leaders, and really interesting folks via Twitter and LinkedIn. Just be humble, open, and ready to help and share advice.
9. Keep pitching your business model and attend pitch competitions to stay up to date on how the market is moving, what the trends indicate, and what your peers are working on. It is a great way to uncover solutions to real-world problems happening right now, under our noses.
10. As you continue to do the above - I can’t emphasize the importance of building genuine relationships with people. Building trust would benefit in the long term - and could have a substantial impact on the growth and fund-raising of the company.