Kara Nortman is CEO of Moonfrye, a family based startup who just launched their first photo sharing app.
We utilize visual social media channels so that people can really experience what our product does and want to download it organically. We end up removing some friction because our product yields a creative visual on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc, that demonstrates truth in our advertising.
We try to balance between the blocks of time we spend together in meetings and the time each of us spends alone focused on work. While we have firm times to be in the office, we are also flexible and realize that people are most productive in different ways. We keep meetings to a minimum and when they occur we publish agendas in advance and try to have specific questions answered by the end of the meeting. We also leave space during the day for impromptu meetings so we do not have recurring meetings that take up time without focus or purpose. Overall, as long as everyone is accountable for what they must deliver, each person is given leeway to be productive in the way that suits them best.
We try to respond to all of our users through our social media channels so that our audience feels heard. As a company, we are social by nature and we want to interact with our customers. Soleil, my co-founder started this company on the heels of her 2M social media followers, so our heritage is one based on communication. For example, when one of our users wrote in requesting a special sticker be added to one of our themes, our team saw it and decided to deliver it immediately. The sticker was added an hour later, we posted a creation using the sticker and tagged the user who suggested it. Her response was, “I can’t like this enough!” Now, of course that’s not to say we will always do that, but we always try to hear our users and respond the best we can 😉
First off, keep it simple and short because less is more. Being excited about every detail of your vision is important, but you want to sound focused. My advice would be to cut out forty percent of what you want to say. Pitch sixty percent and let the additional forty percent reveal itself through the questions.
In addition, be sure to really listen carefully to the questions being asked because often times, if you don’t listen closely, you will be tempted to answer a question that gets at that other 40% versus what is actually being asked.
I would say by building a first version of the product that isn’t overbuilt but still has enough of an “aha!” moment so that the early adopters love it and recruit customers for you through word of mouth. Secondly, it is important to understand your target demographic and engage with key influencers with whom you feel the product resonates. Once they feel invested, they will naturally serve as brand ambassadors.
I left a great role at IAC when I was seven months pregnant to raise capital and launch a company. I did it because the idea and mission for the new company got under my skin and became something I felt I had to do. I only knew that I really wanted to go for it after I sat with the concept, allowed it to simmer awhile, and worked on it as a side project for three to four months. I think it’s very important to make sure the idea sticks with you and becomes all-consuming before moving forward, as that initial enthusiasm can wear off. If that enthusiasm sticks and only grows stronger and keeps you from going to bed three months after the initial excitement, then you know you are on to something.
Expect the process to influence your thinking (potentially dramatically) if you are pre-launch. It’s vital to meet with people early in the process who are smart, will push you and put a mirror in front of your face. These aren’t necessarily the people that will fund you, but they will poke holes in your plans, help you organize your thinking and make you better even if you feel a little pain along the way.
When it comes to funding, it behooves you to go to people that know you well and believe in you. Ultimately, if you are pre-launch, they are betting on you and not the product. Finding local investors is key, as they understand your background, your environment, and are more accessible for in person support.
Since time is the most precious resource, I would say knowing how to prioritize has been the most helpful hack I have developed over time. Now I use Evernote to organize my priorities at the end of each day for the next day and also to catalog ideas into “now” vs. “later.” If I never go back to one of my later notes, it probably wasn’t that important.
Similarly, I try to be conscious of my team’s limited time. For example, I carefully decide when to email my team with new ideas versus filing it away for later. Emails with a bunch of random ideas can be the death of execution. I think carefully about when I want to push my team to think with no specific goal and try to note in the email “FYI, food for thought; no action required” or “read at your leisure, “or “read by Sunday and come prepared to answer the following questions in our Monday meeting.”
We funded two employees’ full salaries before even having a hint of funding in sight. They were both incredibly talented and we did not want to lose them. It was scary from a personal investment standpoint and because we were asking them to just believe in us, and our vision. Those two hires made the company what it is today.