Friday night, I had the pleasure of attending Startup Grind Detroit.
It was special for three reasons – actually, three people:
- Ryan Smith – founder of Qualtrics. Haven’t heard of Qualtrics? They help companies understand their customers. Oh yeah and they are valued at over $1 billion and profitable.
- Matt Miller – Matt is a partner at Sequoia Capital – a venture capital firm that has raised $3 billion.
- Derek Anderson – Derek is the founder of Startup Grind. Startup Grind has taught me so much in the short time I’ve been a director. I was thrilled to meet him in person.
Derek did an awesome job of connecting with the crowd. He did an awesome job getting everyone off their feet to welcome Matt and Ryan.
You Can Build Anything, Anywhere
Matt and Ryan both believed this. Those who use their location as an excuse just aren’t the kind of killers they’d like to work with.
But, Matt did say his firm can’t help early stage companies as much if the company is far away. Sequoia can’t help with recruiting, introductions, etc. in places where it doesn’t have a presence. However, when companies mature, then Sequoia is great to partner with.
“If you can’t sell your product, no one can”
Ryan gave this piece of advice and it really hit home for me. I haven’t had good luck over the past year or two getting staff or partners to sell my services. I suspect that’s because selling is tough and it’s even tougher for someone else to sell your new product. The more mature the offering the easier it is to sell.
Many companies raise money too early
According to Ryan, when companies come to a VC firm with no revenue they are asking for a seat at the table. If they come with tens of millions in revenue, they’ve earned their seat. He says this is a completely different dynamic.
Ryan said being lean and starting his company in his parent’s basement “gave him a gear many people don’t have.” Ryan said that he’s had to kick into that gear many times over the years.
The last piece of advice Ryan gave was to recruit people who are going to stick with you through the tough times. When things are going well recruiting is easy. Ryan wants the guy or gal who is all in when things are going sideways.
It was awesome for me to hear from Ryan, Derek, and Matt. It was great to hear their specific advice on geography, sales, raising money, and recruiting.
I’m looking forward to hanging out with the Startup Grind crew at the February Global Conference.
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