Episode 48 - Founders Session: Not all advice is equal

EPISODE 48

Founders Session: Not all advice is equal

Hey hey hey, the gang’s all here! Back again for another wisdom-packed episode, Precursa’s co-founders Paige Goss, Sarah Jolly, and Cynthia Del’Aria dive into what is good advice, what’s bad advice, how do you know the difference, and how do you find good mentors and advisors. And are all incubator and accelerator programs created equal? How about everyone who sits on a panel or has a seat of “authority”? In this episode, you’ll find out who is worth your precious time to help you build your company and how to find them. We also bust a couple of “overnight success” myths and give you some good advice on finding good advice. Listen now!

Everyone’s got an opinion… You know the saying. When it comes to being an entrepreneur and building a startup, it seems that literally EVERYONE has some advice. But not all that advice is equal, and not all of it is good. So as an aspiring founder with lots of questions looking for guidance, how the heck do you sort through it all and find the good? And where do you look for good advisors, mentors, and people and programs to help you on your journey? In today’s founders session episode, Paige, Sarah and Cynthia get together to bring you as much wisdom as possible in a single podcast episode devoted to advice on what is good advice.

The ladies offer tips and insight into what traits to look for when vetting advisors, consultants, coaches, and mentors, and they talk about what to look for in an accelerator or incubator program. (Hint: Not all of those are equal either and your definition of success matters a ton when choosing!) You should always consider the source of the advice you’re being given, and don’t accept the “authority” of the person giving it just because someone else said to do so. You have to do a gut check and make sure that it feels right for where you are and what you’re trying to build.

Then the crew dispels the belief that people who have been successful in “corporate” settings are necessarily great to advise you in your startup. There’s a big difference between running a large company with a big budget and making a startup dollar sing. We are also reminded that much like a good salesperson, a good coach or consultant should be asking a lot of questions and should be able to tell quickly and honestly whether they can actually help you or not.

Finally, we dispel, yet again, the “overnight success” myth, this time as applied to Sarah Blakely and her unicorn Spanx. We discuss the win of the most female unicorn founders ever in 2021 (a total of 5!) and the opportunity to keep shifting that to create more successful female founders, and we remind ourselves that “unicorn” is NOT the only measure of success. And that’s good advice. ;)

Check out the company we talked about in the episode, Wander+Ivy.

Be sure to like, share, and subscribe to Precursa: The Startup Journey on your favorite podcasting platform and tune in for the next episode!

Email us with any questions or comments (startup@precursa.com). Check out our website (https://www.precursa.com) for more information on getting your startup rolling.

(00:04):
Straight to you from Denver, Colorado, this is Precursa: The Startup Journey. We share the ins and outs of building a tech startup from inception, to launch, to revenue and beyond. If you’ve ever wondered what building a startup from scratch really looks like, you’re in the right place. With full transparency and honesty, we reveal it all about Precursa on our ride from idea to exit: the wins, the lessons learned, and the unexpected twists and turns.

Hey everybody. And welcome back. This is PREA the startup journey and it is another founder session. I’m so excited. I love when Paige and Sarah and I get in the room, we were just talking before we started. And Paige’s like, I’m feeling extra feisty today. And Sarah and I are kind of like, as opposed to every other day where you’re like super chill, right? <laugh>

(00:59):
Paige chill, GOs. That’s yeah,

(01:02):
Yeah.

(01:02):
Said no one

(01:03):
Ever said no one ever. And what that’s, why we love you. We love your feistiness. Makes us happy. So today, very, very timely discussion. I think all three of us have had this experience at some point over the last couple of weeks. And Sarah and Paige just got off a call before this, uh, before this podcast, um, with a founder, who’s getting advice from everywhere and advice from people who have no clue what they’re doing. This is kind of a pretty common thing where you, I, I mean, I don’t know. I was trying to think about like, what other areas of life do I see this in? You know, like if you go to buy a house, people have never bought a house. Aren’t like, Hey, let us help you figure out the right area to live. You know? Like they just they’re like, I don’t know what that’s like, I’ve never done that

(01:50):
Parenting parenting. Everyone’s got an

(01:53):
Opinion about, oh, everyone’s got, yeah, that’s true. Whether

(01:55):
Or not they

(01:55):
Have kids. That’s true. Okay. So it’s kind of like parenting, right? You know, you start a company

(02:00):
100%. Yeah,

(02:01):
Yeah. And PE you know, people and, and what kills me and we’re, we’re gonna get into a little bit more of this, but what kills me is when people are trying to advise or consult and they’ve never done it before, you know, part of the reason why I feel confident, advising and working with other startups, you know, not building my own company, helping them build theirs is cuz I’m on my sixth. You guys like <laugh>. So we thought we would give Paige a chance to get out some feisty on the mic. Cause its always more fun. We don’t time for

(02:34):
That. <laugh>

(02:36):
And talk about what kind of advisors should you look for? What kind of background and experience should they have and how do you know when to take advice? Like when is it good and when should you like say thank you and then let it slip through the SIV of your brain and never think about it again. <laugh> so ready, set, go. <laugh> who are the right kind of advisors? I mean who if especially first time entrepreneurs, right? Because I think if you’ve done it before, if you built a company before, I think it’s a lot easier to know when you’re being had or when you’re Al I wanna say gaslighted almost, right? Like somebody convinces themselves, they know what they’re talking about and now they’re trying to convince you, but how do you know what you’re looking for and how do you know who is the right person to be getting advice from?

(03:36):
Uh, I mean I love this question and I, Sarah and I were, we kinda laugh, laugh, laugh is probably an understatement. I, I sort of cringe and chuckle at the same time for, for me. And I think for a lot of what I’ve seen in the market, I would highly, highly recommend that you, um, don’t take anything at face value initially that you do your due diligence, that you, you trust your gut on, you know, where is, what is their motivation? Where is it coming from? What, you know, I think background is one thing I think having started companies, having grown companies, you know, having put a family on the line, having moved to markets that nobody knows you. I think all of these things contribute to your ability to advise new founders or to work with new founders. But I also, um, would recommend that if somebody tells you they know it all, they probably know nothing.

(04:28):
And if they can’t admit that they made mistakes, if they can’t be vulnerable, if they can’t say, Hey, I really have no idea. Uh, I mean, that’s the type of person I want to, uh, to work with me is like, I really don’t know, but Hey, let’s figure it out together. Let’s work together to get through this. Let’s brainstorm together. I don’t know the answer to that question. I think for me, it’s, you know, uh, people that are coaches or advisors or uh, you know, coming from large corporations that had endless budget that had, you know, a solid paycheck every week, no matter how much they screwed up, you know, nobody that’s actually had to close a client deal ever. Like those are the people that I, I really get concerned that they can properly advise me on how to keep my business afloat. When all I’m thinking about as the startup founders, where one, do I get money, but two, how do I close deals and get paying clients so that I can keep going?

(05:18):
Mm. I love that. So I have a friend who built his career working for big banks, right? He started his career at bank of America. He sort of progressed. He, he was the CIO of visa global and basically built the, the visa network in Europe, uh, in the seventies and eighties. And when he was about 55, you know, he had this 35 year career that was very illustrious in these huge names could have, could have gotten any job he wanted on the planet probably. And he decided, decided to start his first startup. And the first time he went to an investor for money, the guy said to him, do you have any idea what to do with a million dollars? And he was like, what? I’ve worked in banks and had half a billion dollar budget. And the investor was like, that’s my point? Mm-hmm <affirmative> you don’t have unlimited money as a startup.

(06:10):
You do, you like operationally, it’s incredibly, incredibly different than corporate, like companies at different stages have different priorities and they operate differently and they spend money on different things. And he found it very difficult to get that first round of funding. Uh, he had this amazing career, but no track record in being able to be scrappy for, you know, for lack of a better word. Right. Which is something that we always say. And so, you know, I find it interesting just, you know, as you were talking Paige, the number of I’m gonna put in quotes, coaches and consultants who have come out of corporate

(06:48):
It’s exhausting. Yeah. Well,

(06:50):
They pull out of corporate and they’re like, here, let me help you build your startup. And I’m like, have you, have you done that? That’s not the same, like running operations for a 500 employee company with a hundred million a year. You know, revenue is very different than taking $500,000 and making something out of it.

(07:10):
Yeah. I mean, here’s the thing like we, the part of the point of Precursa is for entrepreneurs to not operate in a silo. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, we, there’s a reason we wanna do product market. Yes. Fit. You gotta pick up your head and look around sometimes that’s right. Think about more than your own opinion. So I think there’s a ton of value in asking questions and listening to feedback, but we’ve also talked about the way business has been done for so long is kind of gross. Right. <laugh> and, and all the things that you have to do or the right way to do it. Like I think there are very few things in business that are black and white and there’s only one way to go. And so I, I think to Paige’s point, anyone who comes in and is like, this is how it has to go. Yeah. They probably haven’t had enough variety in their experience to really speak to what’s happening. Um, they may have had a ton of experience, but it may all look the same. Right. Yeah. And I think, you know, one thing I try and be aware of, cuz I, I do have an initial reaction when the companies were advising, tell us about like, I have this new plan and I’m chasing this squirrel today. Um, and sometimes we’re like, that’s awesome. And sometimes we’re like, well,

(08:18):
Oh, hold on.

(08:19):
Let’s talk. Yeah. Maybe let’s talk. Yeah. So I try, hold on. Be aware with feedback to like, be honest and say what I think, but then pause and kind of ask, like, how does that feel to you? What, what are you thinking now? Like what’s your take on all of this because at the end of the day, that is what matters. Not what I think in my, you know, however many years of experience with a handful of companies. Yeah. So I think you do a fantastic job of that. Like how do you feel how’s that sit? You know, what are you thinking about now? Because you know, it is overwhelming when you’re starting a company and growing a company, because I think there are certain people that do really have great advice. It just might not be at the right time for where you’re at and what you’re trying to do and the current situation that you’re in.

(09:03):
And so I think there are a lot of people that really genuinely do wanna support startups and do wanna give great advice and have had probably a decent amount of experience in what they’re advising on. But I think Sarah, you do a phenomenal job of like, okay, well, yeah, let’s take a step back. How does that make you feel? Is that the right time for you? Is it helpful or is it overwhelming? Yeah. And now I think those are questions as founders and, and as founding teams. Right. I think the three of us have done a really good job of, you know, sort of checking ourselves, how am I feeling? Am I overwhelmed? Is this helpful advice? Is this a helpful, you know, conversation? Or should I say, thank you very much. I don’t think I’m ready for that. Can we come back in six months and, and readdress that don’t call me, I’ll call you. Yeah, Certainly don’t email me cuz I don’t respond.

(09:51):
It’s interesting because you know, a lot of times just because of my experience and the work that I do and you know, through Precursa, but also through all my consulting work with startups, I get asked to be on panels for incubators and accelerators and things like that was just on one, two days ago. Right. And what I found interesting is other than talking to the woman, who’s sort of the managing director of the, of the accelerator. There’s very little actually vetting and everybody in the room who was a, who was an entrepreneur showed up, expecting that people on the panel knew what they were talking about. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and it was interesting because there, there was, um, supposed to be three of us there ended up only actually being two panelists. One of them just didn’t show up. And the other one, um, was a person who who’s a marketing person, right. Marketing strategy and whatever, but she was very overbearing. And so she like people would say, Cynthia, how would I handle this technical, whatever. And I would start to answer, she’d go, well, hold on. I’ll I’ll let Cynthia answer a second. But I think <laugh> and I was like,

(10:57):
Huh, like, have you built a tech startup? Cuz I’m pretty sure you’re a marketing strategist, you know, but, but if you’re someone in the room, you’re assuming that that incubator accelerator has vetted that person and that whatever they’re telling you, you know? So the very few things that I did actually get to say, I had like six different people reach out to me after and be like, oh my God, that’s the best advice I’ve ever gotten on that question. Like I’ve never actually got an answer to that question before. Right. So how do you, how do you evaluate <laugh> evaluate the source or how, how do you, you know, you do a gut check, which I, I love both of, you said that and I think that’s really important because let’s, let’s be real, you’re building this thing. This is brand new from you. Nobody else has ever built this thing like this, the way you’re doing it as you. Right. So everything is new even though almost nothing is new. Right. But how, you know, if somebody, if you did wanna work with someone or you did find somebody who started giving you advice, like how would you know whether that advice is good or not, or whether it’s worth considering or, or taking in?

(12:08):
I mean, I think this is not a novel approach, but one of my things is to ask for references. Right. And like metrics. I mean, because anybody can talk a good game to your point, Cynthia, you can get up on a stage and regurgitate articles you’ve read or whatever. Um, yeah. But I would love to talk to founders you’ve helped personally and hear their story about how you helped them and how that went and how that felt. Yeah. Um, you are marketing great. Show me some metrics from some of your clients and like the numbers that improved or whatever it is. Um, I I’m, you know, a data nerd anyway, so of course that’s where Eileen <laugh>. Um, but I think those two things together are so important. Cuz you can get a warm, fuzzy from someone and they can just be really nice mm-hmm <affirmative> or you can be like, I, I don’t know how I feel about this. I need something else to kind of like validate this or tell me like, this is your ego talking and you’re just afraid of getting feedback you don’t like or whatever. Right? Yeah. Um, so I think both pieces are important, um, because yeah, anybody could be a speaker.

(13:13):
I was actually saying this to a group of kids at, um, Colorado school of mines yesterday. They have an entrepreneurship program, uh, started by a guy who was like, this is all really great that these kids know how to solve all these problems, but what they don’t, what they don’t have access to is who are you solving the problem for and why does it matter? And so he started this entrepreneurship thing. And so I was, I was talking to them yesterday and I was saying, you know, entrepreneurs are really good sales people. Like I can, I can probably sell you anything, like give me something off the cuff and I can probably convince you that you need to buy it. And I think that’s true of like coaches and consultants too. Like we’re really good at selling. And so we’re really good at making you feel like we have something that you need or we know something that you need to know and giving you that kind of like FOMO.

(14:03):
Well, and to my point, Cynthia, a lot of them really believe they have the secret sauce. Like really do I know this is hard to hear, but I am the smartest and I have figured it all out. So for a low, low price, I two to help you.

(14:16):
And, and to page’s point, I feel like, you know, one of the things that I always do with people is I’m like, look, I, I don’t know all the answers because you’re on a journey that I’ve never been on. But what I can do is I can help you think strategically I can like poke into areas. I can use the experience that I have to illuminate things you may not have thought of. If you would find that valuable let’s work together. Uh, but, but that’s, that’s all I can do because I’m not, you, you know,

(14:43):
<laugh> I, I’m so glad you guys are talking about sales people. I think we all know that I sell right <laugh> but I, I think really good sales people the same as really good coaches don’t sell anything. Mm. They actually ask questions. Yeah. They really care about what situation you are in what you are trying to address. And they make, they, they really decide quickly if they can or cannot help you and have the, the wherewithal to say, Hey, it’s not us. Let me connect you to someone else who it is. Or if it’s not the right coach, let me introduce you to other people that might be able to help you cuz they’ve done X, Y, Z more so than I have. So I look at really great sales people and really great coaches, really great entrepreneurs as people that one make quick decisions on if they can or cannot help and are honest about that. And two ask really good questions cuz I tell everybody that’s a salesperson. If you show up and throw up, I want you to leave my office. Yeah. And I would feel the same way about any coach. If you show up or send me an email about how you can help make my startup successful, like go away, you know, nothing about me or what I’m trying to accomplish.

(15:52):
<laugh> well, and I mean, it goes back to conversations I’ve had with a lot of different people, which is not every startup can be successful. I mean, there are startups that are bad ideas or it’s poor timing or you know, you don’t have enough domain knowledge or it’s not, there’s not enough of a differentiator. Right. And so painting it as if working with me means you will be successful. That’s a lie right off the top. Right.

(16:16):
Totally.

(16:16):
Yeah.

(16:18):
Um, yeah. I <laugh>, I sort of laugh. Like we’re going to triple revenue really? How are you gonna do that? You don’t know what I sell and if you just read my website, that’s a load of shit too. So why don’t we have a conversation? <laugh> I mean, it it’s really it’s reality actually. Um,

(16:34):
I got an email like that into my Precursa inbox the other day where they were like, we’re checking out your website and you’re doing amazing things in the startup community. And we would love to help you triple your revenue. I was like zero to zero.

(16:45):
Yeah. <laugh> it’s math does not check out my friend. Yeah. It’s uh, it’s amazing. And you know, we’ve talked about this a lot. There’s a lot of entrepreneurs and there’s a lot of businesses. They’ve got great ideas. They’re gonna shift market. They’re gonna add a new business line, et cetera, et cetera. All of those things are amazing if someone will pay for it.

(17:04):
Yeah.

(17:05):
And, and that I think is okay, we need to get super focused in helping entrepreneurs and people who have been there to say, yeah, great, go after it. If somebody will pay you for it, double down, actually. Yeah. Get them to pay for it and then start to pivot, then start to move like these, I, I think we talked so often if you just wanna have a really amazing thoughtful company, that’s great. Make it a nonprofit. Yeah. Yeah. It, it, you know, there, there are ways to do that. That make significant impact. But if you really wanna a for-profit business, somebody has to pay for what you’re offering in the market.

(17:36):
Yeah. I love that. So there’s a kind of mentor that we could talk about, which I have now run into a couple different times, which is someone who is like, they’ve been very successful in whatever business they’ve built and they offer you a lot of wisdom and insight and are like saying, Hey, I really like what you’re doing. I think you’re gonna be really successful. I wanna invest in you. Let’s talk like, let me help you give you some advice. And then they ghost you <laugh>. And this just happened to happen with us with a potential investor. But I, I have been wrestling with these feelings of like, there’s a lot of stuff that this person told me about how he was successful in business and strategies that he used and whatever. And at the time I found myself being like, oh, this is really good advice. Like he’s been really successful. I should listen to this. And I, I have like pages and pages of notes on things that we talked about. Right. And then after he sort of ghosted me, I was like, well now I’m questioning everything that I ever heard. And was he just painting himself in a particular way to like now I don’t know. What’s true. What I mean, what do you think about that?

(18:54):
It’s interesting. Cuz even as you’re retelling the story, this telling the story, Cynthia, I’m thinking back to conversations we had. And I mean, as, as he was asking about investment, yes. He had some very like deep dive questions for us. But as you’re talking about his experience and all the notes you took, it was about his experience. It wasn’t like, what are you doing? Let’s brainstorm together. How can we tackle this hand in hand? It’s just like, listen to me, listen to what I have done. And I think that probably is the red flag right there of like, Hmm, you are, you’re my advisor. Well, we’re not talking about me at all. <laugh>

(19:31):
Seems to be a different, I never thought of that. I never thought of that. That’s

(19:34):
Really, yeah. It goes back to the questions. Um, you know, is it, is it to benefit you and the company or is it to benefit me to boost my ego that I did it again through someone else? Yeah. Um, and I think that’s a really, it’s it’s spot on and you know, I think I will, I will say, you know, we’re all in tech. Um, we’ve been, majority of us have been in tech. Um, but you know, not being in tech, like it’s really hard to understand what it takes to launch in tech. Mm. Uh, you know, so there there’s a lot of services. We have a services firm, right. It’s, it’s completely different to start and run a services firm than to build a piece of technology. Yeah. It’s really hard, um, to be in healthcare or insurance or financial services are any of these other major areas and then translate that experience into building a piece of software.

(20:23):
So I think we, we would always, um, and I, I hate the word always. So I’m gonna back myself up there. I think we would highly recommend talking to other people that have been in a similar industry that have started something that’s in a similar space that have built an app or built a, uh, a services firm. If you’re starting a services firm. I think a lot of those things translate much better than trying to force an industry into the other or someone who has enough self-awareness to say, I don’t really know tech, uh, what you’re doing is cool. And I believe in you enough to let you run with it and do what you know best cuz I don’t know. Sure. Um, so I think the person who tries to tell you how to do it without knowing how to do it is really where we run into yeah. Issues.

(21:08):
So you’re making me think of something else that happened the other day. So I wa I, I said I was, uh, on this Q and a panel for, um, what’s actually like a, a, a startup community more than anything else. And they’re doing a beta accelerator and that, you know, they’re opening it up to their community, you know, taking applications and figuring out who they wanna put into the, the beta to try out their ideas around this accelerator. And one of the people in the room asked, well, why do you feel like you need to start yet another accelerator? Like what’s your differentiator or why, you know, what’s missing in the market.

(21:48):
And I I’m gonna tell you what happened. I’m gonna, I wanna know what you think about it, but cuz the person who was hosting who also happened to be the marketing person goes into this whole thing about how well it’s just for our community members and blah. And I was like at, when she was done, I said, I said, actually I think the more important thing I’m about to sell your accelerator for you. But the more important thing is that be only between one and 3% of all people who apply to an accelerator get accepted. There’s always room for people who want help, if it’s good help. And I just thought it was really interesting because in that moment she didn’t know how to, how to express the actual value and why that was important. Or, and she doesn’t even, she didn’t even know that statistic. I mean, afterwards she was like, is that true? And I was like, no, I just make stuff up. Right. Like, so I’m, I’m just first of all, how do you feel about there being more new incubators accelerators, you know, every day, but isn’t it incumbent upon incubators accelerators, like people who are offering services in the startup community to understand their value and not just be like, well, everybody wants to get into accelerator. So I should start one like to under to really understand like why are we coming in and doing this?

(23:04):
Well, I think you’re assuming that everyone who starts an accelerator does it for the good of entrepreneurs as a whole. Right. Not for other motives. So that’s maybe number one. Why else

(23:16):
Would you do it? I mean, it’s not easy. Most of them go bankrupt it’s

(23:21):
Yeah. But I think that’s the thing like, like we talked about before everyone thinks they have the secret sauce. Right. Mm. Um, and so if I, as a coach, believe that, I mean, and some of them are really great. Yeah. And some of them truly do help startup companies. Yeah. But I think they absolutely see, you know, like I can bring something that no one else is bringing. I’m gonna help launch these companies, you know, we’re all gonna successful together. And I’m sure there is a, like an element of helping entrepreneurs and startups. Um, but there’s probably also an element of like, I am bringing my knowledge, um, right. I, and I think, you know, I’ve thinking about all this as we’re talking through what we’re building and I mean, absolutely we’re presenting people with a roadmap and kind of the path we believe is the most smooth and efficient for them to follow.

(24:17):
Um, but we’re not necessarily telling them how to do what along the way. Like we’re encouraging them to get information, to talk to people, to like research and really dig into their own idea and then pivot if they need to pivot, go with it, if they need to go with it. Um, and it’s really just like a, a platform for entrepreneurs to do some soul searching and to kind of dig into their business. Um, then ultimately they make of it what they will. But I think, yeah, there’s so many people who want help. And so of course people will continue to start accelerators and maybe for good reasons, maybe mixed,

(24:55):
But it’s almost like if you’re, it’s like start up entrepreneurs are so eager for help or for support or for anything that feels like I’m not alone or somebody’s gonna gimme the secret answer or whatever that we’ll believe anyone. I mean, joining a brand new accelerator, they don’t have any metrics. They don’t have any proof. They don’t have. I mean, it’s gonna be years before you’ll know whether the work that they do with entrepreneurs makes a difference or not. Right. So do you still jump in, I mean, do you still do it?

(25:29):
Inspiration has struck, you’ve stumbled upon a great idea that you just know will change the world. So now what at Precursa, we provide the best tools to help founders and entrepreneurs, just like you turn their great ideas into great companies that solve real problems for real people. We believe you are the change makers, the innovators and the force that moves technology forward. All you need is an experienced guide to keep you on track and help you navigate the turbulent waters of starting up Precursa is that guide. And with us, your roadmap to successful launch is more direct with far fewer pitfalls, ready to change the world. Precursa has your back.

(26:19):
Well, I, I, for me and, and Sarah knows this, I make every good and bad decision based off of my gut <laugh>. Um, so, you know, I, I think it’s, you know, what are you, what are you ultimately trying to get out of said accelerator or incubator or coach or advisor or mentor, right. Insert any structure. Yeah. Even out of Precursa, right? Yes. What are you intending to get out of Precursa? Um, what does success look like if you got that? Would it be worth investing your time, which is ultimately money, which is ultimately energy into said human platform, accelerator program, et cetera. So I, I think for, for me, it’s, if we’re gonna, if we’re gonna put time and energy and money for that matter into something, what is our ultimate goal and how do we help ourselves through that process to get out what we ultimately want? Um, and then I, I think use your gut and if you get a few gut instincts or in Sarah’s, uh, case a few heads like, Mmm, this isn’t feeling so right, this isn’t, this isn’t sounding so good question it. And, and, and don’t just think that the person across the, the desk from you or across the zoom or whatever has the answer, they may, but they may not. Um, so trust yourself, you got into entrepreneurship for a reason you trust yourself. So continue to use that along the way.

(27:35):
What should you expect to get out of working with a coach or, or entering exit? Like what are reasonable goals or what are the kinds of, I mean, I’m just thinking off the top of my head. Like if you’re thinking this accelerator is gonna get me the investment money I need and make me a unicorn, that’s probably the wrong attitude. Right. <laugh> like, what should you be looking for thinking about in evaluating and then deciding to, to, you know, jump into a program or work with a coach or whatever.

(28:04):
I mean, I think it depends on the entrepreneur, right. I, I think, um, just like with your team where you wanna surround yourself with people who kind of fill the gaps, you may have in skill set or knowledge, it’s the same with a coach or an accelerator. Right. Um, and so the goals are gonna be different based on your experience and what you want and what you’re trying to do. Um, but I think it is that feeling of partnership and team and not like, Hey, I, I am your shaman. I know the way do everything I say and it’ll work out mm-hmm <affirmative>. But like, I trust that, you know, this here’s what I know. And I’ve seen, let me help you, you know, kind of bolster what you already have.

(28:45):
Mm. I love that. I love that.

(28:48):
Yeah. I, I think, you know, it’s hard as it is to be an entrepreneur. Um, I think the really good ones recognize they have absolutely no idea. Yeah. And so they, they really need someone to, to challenge them, um, and to question things and to be sort of the one that says the things that you need to hear, and don’t want to hear, I’m speaking very candidly about Sarah and her ability to, to challenge. And it’s amazing that is partnership, right. You know, to be able to say, Hey, I don’t get this, which I said to her the other day, I really don’t fricking get this. We’ve been over this a hundred times and I still don’t get it, like break it down for me in a different way. And for her to, to be able to challenge like, Hey, is that really the best thing for our sales team right now? Is that really the best thing for where we’re spending money? I mean, all of those things, I think if you, as an entrepreneur, if you can surround yourself with people that will challenge it, not make you wrong, it’s not wrong. It’s just trying to create together something better than what you could do independently. That’s what I think makes a really great advisor, coach, mentor, whatever you wanna call, uh, them along your entrepreneurial journey.

(29:52):
Mm. I love that. I love that. Um, how do you find someone who’s good. Someone who you can trust someone who, you know, we hear a lot about building a board of advisors or building a board of directors or whatever. Right. Um, and those are actually two different things, but as an early stage, especially, you know, which is what a lot, you know, a lot of the community that, that we live, you know, that we work and play in. You’re not at a place where you have anything to offer really. And there are a lot of people who wanna think they know, and because you are so early stage, it’s really easy to go a long time and not, not have to show any results. Right. Um, so how, how do you find somebody good, and somebody that you do resonate with and somebody that you feel like you can trust, who would be good to have along the journey with you as an advisor, unique from a co-founder right. Totally different, totally different set of things you’re looking for. Right. But how, how do you find that person or, or that people or that, that program or whatever it is, that’s gonna be a good fit for you?

(31:05):
I mean, I think it takes time, um, as you were talking about this, the thing that popped into my mind was Dana and Amanda of wander and Ivy. Yeah. And Dana was looking for funding, right. She had done a phenomenal amount on her own already and grown this company. And she talked to a group. We were all part of with Amanda about raising funds. And we did due diligence with her. Amanda and I sat in a conference room with her for a day and, you know, asked a bunch of questions, but it was a very collaborative conversation. Um, and when Dana left, she was like, that was so different than any other group. I talked to like the feel, I didn’t feel put under a spotlight and interrogated, like it was a good conversation. And, you know, we were working together to figure out some of these things.

(31:48):
And so we all know that ultimately Amanda ended up coming on board with her as her COO and CMO. But I think Dana, as the founder was able to walk away from that conversation feeling and having a way different experience than anybody else she talked to. And I think it’s the same, whether it’s a co-founder or bringing on another executive or an advisor like that conversation should light you up and you should feel like, Ooh, the pair of us together is like one plus one is 11. Yeah. Not like I feel kind of dumb and like, I don’t know enough. And I was kind of be asking my way through half of their questions and, you know, I mean, you shouldn’t feel less. Yeah. You should feel like, Ooh, this is, this is good. But I think that just takes a lot of conversations and a lot of gross conversations, unfortunately.

(32:41):
Yeah. So are you like tooling around on LinkedIn or, I mean, <laugh>,

(32:46):
I, I was gonna say, I think no. Is your no. Is your most powerful, uh, word in, in these types of conversations? No, I don’t want your support right now or no, I don’t, I don’t think we should continue conversations, but I a hundred percent agree with, with Sarah that it takes time. Uh, but I also think it, it takes putting yourself out there and what you’re looking for. Mm-hmm <affirmative> what type of individual does, uh, you know, make one plus one equal 11 or what type of group makes, uh, makes you feel like I’m gonna tackle the world? Uh, the next time I, I have a conversation, so I think you gotta put it out there. I mean, I think we’ve shared Sarah and I’s, uh, you know, story of how we got, I had already launched the company, but like we put both of us, put it out there, like, this is what we’re looking for.

(33:32):
Like, don’t introduce me to anyone that isn’t in this box. Yeah. And finally, you know, on, on a singular day we got three introductions to me. Like, so I think putting it out there and being willing to be like, no, that’s not what I’m looking for. This is what I’m looking for. I think is really important. There’s a huge, you know, as you say, making your no be your most powerful weapon, like there’s a huge element of not letting fear dictate what’s happening because I had put out there very specifically, like female entrepreneur, this, this, this, this, like, and I knew that’s what I wanted, but at the same time I was having conversations with multiple companies. Yeah. And I remember a conversation with a friend and she’s like, how do you feel? I’m like, eh, <laugh>, they’re all fine. Any of ’em will work, I guess it’s

(34:15):
A stated paycheck. So

(34:18):
Yeah. Pretty much. And it wasn’t right. But I think it’s so easy to fall into that. Like, oh, I, I have it in my hand right now. Yeah. So I probably should, you know, just do this. Um, and it, it, it takes a lot of guts to say no to that when you’re not sure what’s gonna come next.

(34:34):
Yeah. And we could say that about investors too. Right. I mean, when you’re, when you’re, when you’re invest totally. When you’re looking for investors, no is very powerful. I mean, and it’s, it is hard. I mean, it is very hard. There are a few times over the last year when, if somebody was like, sure, I’ll write, you check for a hundred grand. I would’ve been like, thank you. Yes, let’s do it. Right. <laugh> and, you know, being on the other side of this now, and sort of, you know, the, the, the shift that we’re making and, and, you know, just we’re coming at it differently. I’m like so grateful right now that we, that we didn’t do that. And it’s not because we had a whole bunch of offers and we got to say no, but it’s making me realize more and more. If it’s not the right investor, don’t take the money like real a hundred percent be it is more.

(35:24):
And, and I, I wanna talk a little bit about, about this other piece too, but I feel like it is way more important that you build the right company at the right time than it is to try and get any investor you can to go faster. Um, you know, and, and this leads into another conversation that I had this week that I’m curious what you guys think about it, but more and more, I keep hearing, you know, people, people are now I have now heard Sarah Blakely referred to as an overnight success, like three or four times. And I’m like, Okay,

(35:59):
She woke up

(36:00):
Years later outta. Yeah, exactly. And, and, and I’m like more and more, I’m starting to realize that, especially like first time founders or early, early stages or people who are like, Hey, I had this idea. I’m gonna go build it. And in within six months I’m gonna be at a million million annual revenue. And I I’m like, whoa, whoa, <laugh>, I, I feel like it’s good to set goals. It’s good to have a vision, but let’s talk for a minute about the realities of how long it actually takes to get something done. Because I think a lot of times entrepreneurs come in and they’re like five to seven years, I’m gonna be a billionaire. And it’s like, maybe <laugh> like, maybe right.

(36:44):
That would be great.

(36:45):
That would be great. Yeah. That’s what everybody wants. And if that was that easy, everybody would do it. Right. So like how long does it take to launch a product and how long does it really take? I mean, we’ve all worked with a lot of startups. I, I, like I said, this is my sixth that I’m working on now, what’s your experience? How long does it really take?

(37:03):
I mean, always longer than people want. <laugh>, uh, I mean, this is where I feel like bad cop a lot of times, and we’re talking to a company and the entrepreneur’s like, all right, so Q3, I’m definitely gonna be ready to launch. And I’m like, you raise $0 <laugh> and development hasn’t started. So, okay. Let’s just walk back, like the plan. Um, but it’s, and so it is hard to have that conversation because people don’t like, you don’t want someone to tell you, Hey, actually, you’re probably gonna run outta money in three months. So you better have a backup plan. And then fundraising’s gonna take three times as long as you hope. And then development will definitely not take

(37:42):
Longer than you think. Yeah.

(37:43):
Mm-hmm <affirmative>. Yeah. And, and I mean,

(37:46):
Cause developers suck at estimating things.

(37:50):
Yeah. They’re we said that same thing earlier today, we’re talking about software. So let’s just expand this a bit, double that.

(37:57):
Yeah.

(37:58):
And I mean, like, it’s not fun to have that conversation with someone because entrepreneurs generally are like glass half full kind of people. Right. Or they wouldn’t have thought doing this crazy startup thing was gonna work out. Yeah. But you have to believe that. Yeah. So I think that’s where good advisors can be helpful cuz they can kind of check you and say like your fire is awesome. Keep pushing forward just in case it doesn’t go to plan. Maybe we have safety net in place. Uh I’m sure your plan will totally work out. But, but you do need people to kind of say, maybe you’ll be the exception. What I’ve seen is typically this. Yeah. Let’s just plan for that. And if we’re pleasantly surprised. Great.

(38:40):
Yeah. It’s sort of what I always come back to what Paige always says, which is like what an entrepreneur is an optimistic realist. Right. It’s that passion, that energy, that fire like keeping that excitement, but also

(38:53):
Being more, less real than others.

(38:55):
Oh yeah. But

(38:56):
<laugh>

(38:57):
Oh yeah, yeah. But, but that’s, that’s the goal, right? That’s the balance of the fire and the, it is and the passion and the vision with execution and what is it really gonna take and some, and putting on your performa, you know, something that is maybe a little bit aggressive as a goal to try and meet, but also having that sensitivity analysis that tells you, okay, if we’re wrong, what does this, what does this look like? Or, or, you know, and, and knowing when to be conservative versus when to be aggressive and push and you know, I don’t know. It’s just,

(39:29):
Yeah. I think you can’t build a business if you’re constantly thinking worst case scenario. Right. True. Like if that’s where your head lives true. It’s not, you just can’t. Yep. So I definitely don’t wanna bring people to that space. Yes. I think to your point, Cynthia, it’s just really helpful to like, this is my goal. Like here’s what could happen and you just wanna be aware that that possibility exists, but I’m still shooting for this. Yep. So it’s really hard to kind of balance both of

(39:55):
Those. Yeah. It is. I think that’s why that’s part of what makes a great entrepreneur is. They can balance that without living in the, the doom and gloom all the time. Right?

(40:05):
Yeah. I think it’s a, it’s a matter of having two plans. Right. Somebody told me a long time ago, nothing ever starts without a plan and nothing ever goes to plan. Yeah. So, you know, we, Sarah and I have have, I think done a really good job of saying, Hey, yeah, here’s what we want. Right. Here’s our goal plan. Here’s our kind middle of the ground plan and here’s our baseline like yeah. Let’s, let’s be real. Yeah. We’re shooting for these things and we’re gonna celebrate when we hit them, but let’s have some options and, and let’s talk through, and I think a great advisor, uh, mentor co-founders, uh, you know, partners in, in business really are the ones that can sort of challenge each of those plans can, can give you a good case, bad case. Like let’s be, um, excited. Let’s know that we’re good at what we do.

(40:49):
Let’s continue to sell as if we’re the best in the business. Uh, and then let’s be realistic on that. You know, we’re probably not gonna close a hundred percent of our deals. Yeah. We’re probably gonna close 60%. So let’s have that, that Delta built in. So we know really ultimately where we’re at. And I think that speaks to, you know, timelines for development. I think that speaks to timelines for fundraising. I think that speaks to timelines for getting your marketing funnel. We just talked about this. How long really is it going to take to get X, Y, Z amount of people in a funnel longer than you want it to? And certainly longer than any marketing professional is going to tell you it’s going to

(41:24):
Take that’s exactly. Right.

(41:25):
Well, and that’s like the huge importance of diversity of thought in your group. Yes. Like whether it’s skillset or experience or demographic or whatever, if you just have a bunch of carbon copies. Yeah. No, one’s thinking about things from a different angle and you’re definitely gonna have blind spots.

(41:42):
So looking for advisors who maybe have some skill overlap with what you’re trying to do, but who think differently than you or who come with the world differently. Sounds like it’s just as important as knowing that, you know, knowing their references and, and the source of the information. Right. So if everybody on your team all thinks like you, you probably don’t have enough yeah. Enough different, different viewpoints to actually make, make something be successful potentially. You know,

(42:12):
Definitely

(42:14):
So

(42:15):
Well, that’s certainly the case across the board, right. That’s why people are trying to get diversity on boards. That’s why people are trying to get diversity in leadership teams. It’s, I mean, this is not just a startup community or an entrepreneur community thing. This is everywhere to serve point diversity and thought and experience. And you know, I also think not putting people in buckets, you know, I, I often talk about, yes, I sell, yes. I, I know I can close deals, but that’s not all I can do. Yeah. Right. There’s there’s other things, uh, same, I think with people that have had a primarily operational background or financial background or whatever, it may be that, you know, if we don’t bucket them, it’s probably, they come up with some really good stuff in your quote unquote areas of expertise that you probably didn’t even think about or, or are too, um, you know, shattered or blinded by and have had experience with in another way. So I think not bucketing those people in your circle is really important.

(43:06):
Yeah. I like that. So as far as the overnight success myth one, you know, I was reading a fortune article actually about Sarah Blakely because I was like, uh, you know, like literally four or five different people were like, yes, that’s Sarah Blakely, man. She came outta nowhere with spanks. And I was like, what? So I know I was reading this fortune article and it talked about how last year 2021 was the largest year for female unicorn Fe female founded unicorns. Right. There were five out of like almost a thousand companies. <laugh> but it was more the bar. Yeah. We really set the bar real high. It was more than the previous 15 years put together. Amazing. Right. So like that’s surprising big deal. That’s great. But what does it take to shift this? And like, should I look at that? And, and to be fair, every single one of those companies had been in operation for at least I think 11 years was the, was the least one. I mean, should I be, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Right. Being an entrepreneur

(44:20):
Well, and changing the tide. Right? Like the two things are very similar. Like, yes, we’ve all heard of Sarah Blakely now, but there were years. And who knows how many hours that went into that before she became like a big news piece. Right? Yeah. But at the same time, it’s like, yeah, we have five out of a thousand. That’s kind of depressing, but also the best we’ve had ever. And so if every year we’re just inching up there, then eventually someone will stop and look around and be like, wow, can you believe this happened overnight? Like suddenly it’s half females and half males. Yeah. And I’m like, well, not really. Cause <laugh>, you know,

(44:58):
How many, if you, you throw out the 50 years that came before.

(45:01):
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Um, but I think it’s both and you just kind of keep pushing ahead and doing what you can do in your sphere. Um, knowing that eventually change will come on both fronts. Mm.

(45:15):
So is it possible? I mean, should I look at that five out of a thousand? You know, we’re, we’re female founded or female led, is that, should that give me hope or should it make me feel like, oh my God, this is super daunting and why am I even doing this? There’s probably probably way better ways for me to make good money in my life or something. Right.

(45:36):
I mean, everything clearly it’s possible. <laugh> yeah. Yeah. I mean, we, as entrepreneurs, don’t start things saying, wow, this is gonna fail. Uh, I mean, we started like wanting to make a difference thinking we can do it better, different, et cetera. I, I personally think, you know, the, we need to start looking at success in a different lens and from a different way, because you know, we’ve talked about this, the whole unicorn notion to me, do we want unicorns? Absolutely. Will they make people very rich? Absolutely. Will people become 20 year, overnight successes as unicorns? Absolutely. <laugh> um, but I don’t think that should take away from any other business that is successful. That is growing, that is profitable. That’s employing people, that’s giving people a chance to do something that they didn’t believe they could do that you know, is building their local economy. So

(46:27):
That solving problems for real

(46:29):
People, solving problems for, for businesses that are meaningful things that are, that people are, are better and their lives are better because of it. And just because they’re not quote unquote unicorn or multibillion dollar companies does not in any way mean that they’re not a successful organization or a successful business and that these individuals have not built successful companies. Yeah. You know, I think that there’s, there’s things that we can do as entrepreneurs, as people investing in organizations to help founders like know you’re building a great company, will you sell, or will you go raise 150 million? Maybe not. But that doesn’t mean that you’re not a successful company. People that have raised 150 million have lost 150 million. Yeah. Right. But at one time they were probably worth a billion dollars. Right. So I think, you know, looking at this in a, from a different lens is gonna be critical to keep keeping people moving forward on these entrepreneurial journeys.

(47:24):
Yeah. I love that because what we forget is if they had to, if they’re raising money and they’re raising that 150 million, because they don’t have enough operating capital and they’re not making enough revenue to keep the thing going without investors getting involved. There’s something to be said for building a company that is actually self sustaining after, after a certain point. And we would hope that by the time you have operating capital over two or three year period of 150 million, that you should be self-sustaining otherwise we’re getting real, like on the brink of calling you a Ponzi scheme, right? Like just new investors, putting money in to make sure the old investors are getting money out

(48:03):
Vicious cycle right here.

(48:04):
Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And it seems like more and more we’re seeing companies that this is their operating model. I mean, Uber’s never made a dime profit. They’re still subsidizing 20 cents on every dollar of every ride in their platform. They’re, you know, Lyft is the same. And how do these companies, I mean, at what point do investors stop putting money in and now they’re public. Right? So now the public market, the average investor is like, Ooh, I wanna invest in Uber, not realizing this is a company that’s never made profit. How is that ever gonna work out? I mean, how long, how long do we keep doing this before somebody wakes up and goes, hold on a second. This actually is not actually creating value. This is taking investors money to give to other, like, it’s the definition of a Ponzi scheme.

(48:52):
Well, but I think that kind of comes back to what the entrepreneur sets up to do. Right. Um, is it to create a self sustaining company? Is it to change lives of the people you’re helping are employing or is it to make a big splash and, you know, maximize your ego. Not saying that anyone at Uber left is doing that <laugh> but, um, but I think, yeah, I think, I think that is like so cool to think about being a unicorn. And that’s such a fun, um, vision for an entrepreneur to have, but it can be kind of dangerous if that’s your only north star is a dollar amount. Yeah.

(49:30):
I mean, this comes back to the why. Right. And the importance of mm-hmm <affirmative> your vision has to start, I mean, Simon Sinek start with why, right. Why you’re doing what you’re doing, who you’re doing, what you’re doing for way more important than the rest of it. And if the why totally. Why? Because I wanna be a unicorn. I mean, I’d love for Precursa to be a unicorn. We talk about that all the time. Like how fun that would be. And, and, you know, we’d love to be able to put half, half a billion dollars into just investing in other women, founded companies, right. To start to ship, like let’s make a hundred out of the thousand B billionaire, you know, women next year by putting half a billion dollars into it, like, right. But that’s not the why. The why for, for me anyway, is early stage entrepreneurs are brave and it’s so hard.

(50:22):
And you never know. I mean, to come back to the original thing we’ve been talking about, you never know if the advice you’re getting is any good and you never know what am I supposed to do next? And you’re like, everybody thinks they go to investment first without realizing all the things that you have to know and all the in product market fit in it’s it can be super overwhelming. And my, why is, I don’t want it to be overwhelming. I want you to be able to find out within, you know, a couple months, is there something here, how excited am I about it? And, and I’ve gotten a taste of what being an entrepreneur looks like. And do I wanna keep doing that? That’s my life.

(50:58):
Yeah. I mean, if we save a hundred people from bankruptcy and divorce, cuz they like chased developers without actually knowing what they were building. That’s huge. Yes. I mean, of course we think we can make a bigger impact than that. Of course. And there are more applications than that. And ultimately we want people to grow businesses and make yes differences in the lives of their employees. Right? Yes. But at a minimum, I think kind of helping people smooth their path. Yeah. That’s what we’re, that’s what we’re trying to do.

(51:25):
Yeah. I love it. All right, ladies, I love you both so much and it’s so good to talk to you. And I know that our founder session episodes are always some of the favorites. I always get emails saying how much people love these. Um, so any, any last words of advice or encouragement that you would leave to anyone in the audience who might need it today?

(51:48):
I think I would encourage people to keep looking for the right advisors and team members for them. They are out there. Um, you would have to have an honest conversation with yourself about whether or not you’re ready for feedback. Cuz there will be some, you know, challenging conversations, but um, but it’ll be worth it when you find those people. I think in the meantime, like Paige said, trust yourself, you listen to yourself listen to your body and what it’s telling you as you’re having conversations and don’t settle for less.

(52:20):
So you gotta kiss a lot of frogs.

(52:22):
Yeah. I

(52:23):
Know. Mom’s advice coming right back. I know as big a pain in the ass of the second time around as it was the first

(52:29):
<laugh> <laugh> it might be worse than dating. I don’t know. Oh, I, I think fundraising is way worse than dating. I, I think

(52:37):
Starting a company

(52:37):
Trying to figure out whose advice was worth, it is way worse. Yeah. Sorry. I think don’t settle is great advice. Um, I think the other thing that I would would say is, is to keep all options open, um, and know that no is okay. You know, I think I I’ve said this multiple times, at one point it was on our wall is that yes is great. No’s good. And maybe sucks. Mm-hmm <affirmative> so like, if you, maybe everyone advisors idea, you just get in this head spin of, you’re not actually making any decisions or any movements. Yeah. So say yes. Say no. Um, but no, that, that, no is, is ultimately very powerful as you’re talking to people because it’s your baby, it’s your, your business. You believe in it. You’re putting your, um, you know, money life Mar all of it out there. So protect that. Um, and, and really know that, uh, it’s not going to happen overnight.

(53:32):
I love that.

(53:33):
I love that again. The 20 year overnight success exactly

(53:36):
Is real. Exactly. It’s

(53:38):
Fun. Most companies don’t even make it to the 10 years, right? No, they don’t. Let’s be real about kind of what this takes to grow a sustaining movement oriented organization.

(53:50):
Yeah. I love that. I love that. All right. Well, you heard it, you heard it right here and you heard it from the ladies who are Queens of making shit happen. That’s all I can say. Thanks so much for joining me today, ladies. It was really great to catch up and really great to, it was fun. Be on the podcast again.

(54:09):
Love you. Love it. This

(54:10):
Is awesome. Yeah, we, we love you guys too. All right. Y’all thank you so much for joining us today as always happy entrepreneur and I will see y’all next time.

Thank you for listening to this episode of Precursa: The Startup Journey. If you have an idea for a startup and you want to explore the proven process of turning your idea into a viable business, check us out at precursa.com. Make sure to subscribe to this podcast wherever you listen to podcasts so you never miss an episode. Until next time…

Cynthia Del'Aria

Cynthia Del'Aria is a serial entrepreneur and tech startup ninja, specializing in product-market fit and idea validation and helping new entrepreneurs reserve their time and money for the idea with the best shot at success. With two successful exits before 30, an active high-profit-margin SaaS in the commercial airline space, and two additional startups in the works, she knows what it takes to traverse the entrepreneur journey, the highs, and the challenges of turning a vision into a successful, viable business.

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  • Denver, Colorado

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Copyright © 2021 Precursa  |  All Rights Reserved  |  Site Created by Natalie Jark

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