Group gifting trivia from the world of GiftStarter:
My heart hurts. A lot. To say goodbye.
I pushed and pulled and fought as hard as I could to create something out of nothing. I met some very talented and inspiring people along the way. Thousands to people were part of this journey, and I could not have gotten anywhere as far as we did without everyone.
In the end, the 10 big lessons for 2014-2018 are...
Knowing when to walk away.
Spring to Summer of 2016 was really hard. I thought I could be superwoman, having just given birth to my Lentil - that with the help of my awesome team, we could pull through this together. Deep post partum depression. I spent the summer of 2016 in a deep depression. Deep despair. My husband often had to peel my salty existence off the floor and into bed. I did not feel like I even deserved to be alive. I often thought the world, my husband, Lentil, everyone would be better off without me. A waste of space. Unworthy of the air I took in. I looked at the sweet innocent face of Lentil and would end up crying because I felt I did not deserve to be his mother.
My advisors and investors starting sitting down to give me the "talk" in 2016. They told me it was okay - to close it down and give them the write-off. They told me to get going on the next startup because that one was the one they wanted in on. I tried for one last hurrah in the fall of 2016, with my "AJ" by my side (thanks to my investors, especially Rudy, for giving me that one last swing at the ball). Fall of 2016 was not the season of generosity and giving. Power was changing hands - and the air was filled with emotions between the Clinton versus the Trump camps.
January - March 2017 I spent most of it on the verge of tears or crying my face off or finding a place to belong. I'd be fine, and then while brushing my teeth with my husband in the bathroom, I'd tear up. Standing in the kitchen I'd tear up. I tried to get "out there" and involved in the community to pick up my spirits. I tried to do this "Red Scarf" thing which was all about giving it forward to another woman entrepreneur. I spent a bit of time doing office hours. I put together events. I volunteered to help the Riveter launch. I did consulting on the side. I advised any startup that came our way. I really wanted to help this tiny little startup company called CakeCodes (which later became Storm and one I am part of today).
And here we are. May 2018. I should really have called it quits back in the Winter of 2015/Spring of 2016. I definitely should have in the Summer of 2016. I absolutely should have sometime in 2017. It is now officially May. We are in the first week of May 2018 and I am finally officially and publicly - calling it done.
Hope this post helps someone out there. If you ever want to talk, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. It is so lonely being an entrepreneur, a founder, in startups, being a founder CEO, raising funds, doing the grind, having employees, figuring out how to be a mom as a founder, all of it. The emotional depression and the depth of despair that one experiences is so great, I wonder how many of us are suffering silently.
Hugs to you out there trying to change the world.
I'm literally trying to breathe again. Find that emotional and mental space to feel like a human being, not a machine. I don't remember what it's like to be me anymore. I've become a different person, again. Each of these intense journeys reshape the person you are - and it takes a bit of mental/emotional "integration" time to bring yourself back into being a whole person again.
Doing an ICO, is not for the faint of heart. It's not for the sensitive or the self-conscious. It's not for those that do not have the stamina.
All I can say, is since May 2017, it's been a lot of back-breaking long hours. Weeks on weeks away from family, away from husband, and away from my toddler. It's wake up to sleep, nonstop work. At the worst point, we were taking 1.5-3 hour naps at a time working around the clock for weeks on end.
Oh yea, and the crazy schedule. Greece, UK, Switzerland, Cayman Islands, United States, and all over.
Trying to breathe again means forcing myself to not open the phone first thing in the morning. It means giving myself permission to eat lunch (again). It means giving myself permission to call a friend I haven't spoken to in over 8 months. It means giving myself permission to cook dinner for my family. It's been REALLY difficult getting back to a normal human life. The past 8 months have taken a hard hard hard hit on my family, my husband, and my toddler - also my in-laws and my mother who've stepped in to help the family as I've been working so much.
Thanks for being on this journey with me.
This is a repost of an article that was published in Tech.co.
Pitch competitions are about having fun, knowing your hook, and building meaningful relationships.
Recently, I met up with Cassie Wallender, co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Invio Inc., a company on a mission to target and eliminate clinical trial inefficiencies that slow or block new medical innovations by lowering the cost of clinical trial data while increasing the quality.
I met Cassie through the Red Scarf Project (#theRedScarfProject), a movement about women paying it forward to support other female entrepreneurs. When we met up, we traded notes on what it took for her team to win Seattle Angel Conference (SAC), a recurring Seattle angel-driven event where the investors create an LLC, engage in due diligence of the applying startup companies, and ultimately pool funds to invest in one of the presenting finalists.
Here are some tips to help you win your next pitch competition:
Focus on Fun and Growing on a Journey, Together
Angel conferences are one a great place to learn from both the perspectives of a new founder and a new investor. The process takes you through a journey of discovery and constructive feedback. You go through multiple rounds of pitches until the final six companies stand and make their pitch before all the members of the SAC.
Tip: Always bring at least one other person to all meetings and pitches to focus on taking notes, eavesdropping on the crowd, and talking to investors about what’s working (and what’s not). Regularly triangulate with your team member to figure out how to adjust in real time during the event.
Have and Know Your Hook
The teams that don’t advance often are trying to do too much. They come off as unfocused and undifferentiated. Pitching is sort of like dating — you have to be interesting enough to warrant a “next date.”
Tip: The basics of communication and presentations are important. For example, know your market size and details of the approach used to get that number. Use 30-point font with a high contrast background on all of your slides. Demonstrate through each and every action that the team is coachable and of high integrity. Trust is an important part of any sale.
The focus and goal of your pitch shouldn’t be several steps ahead to win the entire competition. The focus and goal of each pitch should be to get to the next meeting.
It’s All About Human-to-Human Relationships
The journey of winning a pitch is actually much more about the authentic relationships being built through every action (or inaction), than just winning at the end of the day. That way, no matter what the outcome of the pitch is, the experience, the learning and the relationships built will help you and the team grow. Show up early, stay late. Work the room as a team. Touch hearts and demonstrate that you are a trustworthy group of good people.
Cassie mentioned that they had also met with folks outside of the SAC meetings. This was a critical strategy they had to build trust with the people of SAC, giving them one-on-one time to ask questions. They also figured out who the fund manager was that way.
Tip: Don’t talk to the other companies or teams pitching/presenting. (This isn’t to be mean or taken personally. There’s limited time to get and demonstrate value.) Focus on building the relationships with the people who can impact your business (in this case, it’s the angel investors.) Be present. The keyword is focus. Focus on speaking with the cynical angel investors and really understanding why they disagree. The cynical ones are the ones who will likely be vocal later when you’re not in the room.
Be a Team
Have at least one other founder in the room as often as possible. This will double the impact that you have in the room and can talk to more people about your company
Tip: Brag about your team members. Brag about the team members who are not present. Talk each other up. People respond to anyone talking another person up. People don’t respond to bragging.
Know Your Numbers
Come prepared with detailed numbers, especially market size. I’ve learned it is important to be able to quantify the problem size.
Tip: Be able to speak to the methodology used to arrive at assumptions and hypothesis. Make sure all of the numbers and your story line up. Make sure you’ve done the research and have traction to show that your assumptions and hypothesis are sound. Find a good lawyer who will be able to partner with you in navigating funding.
Designate the most organized one of the team to keep everyone on track in terms of the legal documents, the process and presentation documentation.
At the end of the day, doing any kind of pitch or presentation is similar to being good at B2B sales. While the word “sales” may turn off many folks. To me, it is really important to remember that behind any business are real people. People buy from people. Focusing attention on building human trust and consistently demonstrating that is a solid way to ensure success for yourself and your company.
It'sSomeone just asked me how it's going. Usually people, including me, respond with, "great!" ---> I didn't this time. Thought I'd share with you verbatim what I actually said and how I'm actually doing (and with continual appreciation to my dear husband Daedalus who's been my rock, so steady and unwavering in his support of this person that is me):
"My heart is heavy. I think I'm on the brink of tears at any given moment. I'm still hopeful (I don't know why). :)"
I posted this on Facebook earlier today. Yes, there's a smile-y face at the end of it. Both feelings at the same time, positive and negative, happiness and sadness, hope and despair, ... I'm feeling all scrambled eggs inside. It's been tough, especially this past week. My family is going through some very challenging times.
Well, it's the end of the end of the day, and out of nowhere, all these people, some close, some random, some far far away, and some acquaintances commented. I'm kind of in awe. Awe. ... or like, "awwww....."
So this is what love is, right? This is what being a community is about, right? Is this real? I feel like there's real hope for humanity. Conservative, liberal, green, blue, tall, old, young, city person, world traveler, small town, man, woman, ... we're all in this thing called life together.
It must be the season or something. I feel like there's just too much noise. There are too many distractions. This is the home screen on my iPhone 6plus phablet BEFORE I made the change.
This is my NEW home screen on my iPhone 6Plus phablet. I focused on only keeping apps that I 1) use every day or should use every day, or 2) apps that I really enjoy or want to prioritize up in my life. Somehow, Amazon.com has made the cut but they just make it too freaking easy to get all those shopping errands (household items, diapers, etc...) done with 1 thumb. And, dudes and dudettes, I love Words with Friends. :) Turned off the notifications on most of the apps. I just don't want to know. I have to do that to email too. I generally don't enjoy emails, text messages, ... actually, I DESPISE Facebook messenger, and voicemails.
Screen #2 = Random stuff I may keep.
Most of this (80%)... will get deleted if I don't try it within a few months. Even if I do try it, if I don't use it again, it will get deleted. A few items are just "hanging out" here. The Settings and the Calculator are exceptions - it's just I don't want them on the main home screen.
Screen #3 = Evil stuff I want to do a LOT LESS of.
And yes, there's our baby Lentil's face there, reminding me that there's much MUCH more to life than social media or online videos.
There REALLY is such a thing as TOO MUCH. Too much noise in the world today. We're all paying attention to the wrong details about what matters. We'll see if this helps me. I'll report back in a few weeks on this.
I'm sharing with you an email I just wrote and sent out to our greater community and team today. If you feel compelled and want to join in - shares, "likes", retweets, and all comments/suggestions gratefully welcome.
Would appreciate your help in evangelizing our newest local brand team to join the #Gifting Movement with GiftStarter, Sturtevant's! We are absolutely very happy to add them to our #community of AWESOME brands with truly wonderful PEOPLE: (butter LONDON, icPooch, Restrepo Leather,Seneca & Spruce, B&H Photo, ... and more, with more coming!)
Thank you for being a part of the GiftStarter #community and #movement - to bring the power of family and friends together for each other. The #community and #people coming together is everything to us and the brand partners we work with. After all, without each other, what do we have?Life is about those #human moments of meaning (something I've been thinking about more and more as time flies by).
And really, personally, I have been feeling that time scarcity in this life we have together. The message (thanks to my mother) that has been with from the time I was growing up and is getting louder as I get older, is that for those of us that have been #blessed and are able, it is our responsibility in life to enrich the lives of others as much as we can, every day. We can make a difference, together. #PeopleMatter
Suggested Shares to Share the Snow Gear News (Facebook! Twitter! Google! Whatever your preferred sharing medium is):
Thank you in advance!
ARRY YU Co-Founder, CEO
"With the growing importance of social influence and mobile shopping to our customers, we needed to explore a solution that allows our Bezzie Mates to shop and give socially this holiday season. GiftStarter was the perfect partner to celebrate this customer experience and support group gifting across social and digital platforms," said Leslie Freytag, President & CEO, butter LONDON®.
Not sure if y'all saw, but we (at GiftStarter.co) recently launched our partnership with butter London. It has been an amazing past couple of months working with their team towards the launch.
Why is the butter LONDON partnership so awesome?
If you haven't already - seriously, check them out. They have some AMAZING sets that would make anybody who loves beauty, fashion appreciate the kind gesture of their amazing gift sets. I personally, have my eye on that TRUNK!!!
Very excited and always appreciate your support.
Experiences. End to end Experiences. E2E. It's about focusing on the human end to end consumer experiences - using software, process and people to enable that awesome experience in the real world. That's what we care about.
At GiftStarter, when we were going back and forth on the scope of our MVP (Minimum Viable Product), we were torn about what that was. Should it be based on the technology piece of the process in aggregating payments from various people towards a group gift? Should it be being able to select and create the group of people that would do the group gift? What about the card? What about the thank you? What about shopping for the actual group gift?
Ultimately, we picked the MVE (Minimum Viable Experience) around gifting. Now with that, what we found from doing hundreds and hundreds of interviews and hours of research, was that the card is one of the most important pieces of gifting. Yes, the card!!! And many of those around us tell us repeatedly about what they see as the value prop of GiftStarter: the payment aggregation, the social pieces, the collecting of payments, .... To us, the payments are a small piece of the gift process, and definitely not the most important part. There are plenty of companies that do payment aggregation and collection - that's not us, and that's definitely not GiftStarter. We are obsessed with the gifting experience.
With each and every awesome group gift through GiftStarter, we deliver a creative personal handcrafted card with the group mosaic and each person's personal message to the recipient. I make a lot of them personally, our team makes a bunch more, and now, we've recruited my other to help us out with card making. Each card is made with love.
Thanks for all of your support.
So excited! So excited! So EXCITING!!! (YAY!)
Our team was jumping up and down all afternoon/evening and into this morning as our startup company was chosen to be highlighted in GeekWire's Startup Spotlight! So cool!!!!!! (So much thanks to John Cook and Monica Nicklesburg for this opportunity). (*Happy dance!*)
A couple of our favorites from the Geekwire article:
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Building and strengthening the team that we are today in such a short time and over distances. It is an ongoing and personal process to commit to each other and the company every day. We’ve embraced a lot of tips and tricks from other entrepreneurs, like Kyle Kesterson, around teaming best practices that have really taken our team to the next level.”
I would love your feedback and thoughts. Thank you for being with me on this awesome journey.
The startup journey is one that I am so happily immersed in. I wake up an hour or two before my alarm clock (yes, BEFORE!) excited for the day ahead, the twists and turns, the Gifting Huddle(s) (what we call our team daily standups where we talk about priorities, status, etc...), sharing with the world and everyone I meet how awesome this company and our product is.
GiftStarter.co is the web address of our newly soft launched site. We've kept it generally narrowed and focused on the Seattle market and to our supportive family and friends. We have specific reasons on why chose the five retailers we've initially launched with: 1) Nordstrom, 2) Costco, 3) REI, 4) Brooks Sports, and 5) Filson. One reason is because they are local to Seattle - we're a Seattle startup afterall that aspires to grow up to be a bigger great company. All of these retailers are very customer centric in terms of the customer experience, the focus, and the service they provide. Quality in terms of the products they offer and their service. Another common theme for these retailers is the fact that we find that as employers and as members of the community they are a part of, they take care of the human side of business (not just the profit side).
Support Network: We cannot express how thankful we are individually and as a team for our support network. For me, my husband is an amazing human and I am most grateful for him. Every day he cheers me and our team on. Every evening he earnestly listens to me as I rant and rave about the day's activities and news. I don't know how I got so lucky to be married to him. My husband is a gift. (*wink)
Company: The first few months, we spent it focused on building our team, talking about our company mantra/values/mission/vision, defining what fit is to us in terms of our company/team/product, dreaming about our ideal retail partners, .... It's amazing. Absolutely amazing, energizing, and refreshing to have this opportunity to build a company and our first product from the ground up.
So much more to share - and much more to come. We have soft launched, and since you are part of the family and friends world to me, we would love it if you would check out our site. Become a Gift Champion for someone in your life and share that story through the act of gifting for them with your family and friends. Gift a tent and go camping with your friends. Gift a barbecue grill for someone's new home and share delicious food together. Gift an iPad for the gift of digital interaction for your friend the entrepreneur (having access to an ipad has been critical for me).