I’ve Read 100+ Startup Success Stories On Raising Millions Of Dollars. Here Are 4 Key Lessons I Learned.

Derick David

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If you’ve come to gain valuable insights that can help you grow your startup and raise funding, you’ve come to the right place.

Having read hundreds of content ranging from Substack blogs, LinkedIn posts, Twitter tweets, and Y Combinator videos about startup success stories, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by loads of information.

Additionally, it’s on a case-to-case basis.

However, I have compiled four of what I saw as the most common pieces of advice that worked for the 90% of startup founders that help them thrive and succeed in terms of revenue, fundraising, and expansion.

Being a startup founder as well, I also wrote this for myself. So, let’s get it started.

#1. Start — Launch fast

Back in college, our entrepreneurial program had this motto:

Start something.

So simple, yet so powerful. Sometimes what you need is to just start and believe that you have everything you need to start.

The earlier you start and the faster you launch gives you time and space to learn and iterate. This is perhaps the most important process if you’re in super early stage.

I’ve recently listened to a podcast featuring Taylor Nieman, CEO of Toucan, a browser extension that helps you learn new languages.

In the podcast, she emphasized the idea of always starting early, whether you think you’re ready or not.

She also said that being ready is not the goal, but starting. Plus, if you start early, you also learn early. If your idea doesn’t work, you can move on fast to another idea.

Most of the founder stories that raised money for their respective companies had in common the advice of starting early, but most importantly launching early.

Why? Well, because most don’t start or they launch late.

This is probably their number one advice if they had to choose. Most importantly, because it’s the most important step of validating your idea and finding your product-market fit.

Personally, I’ve seen a lot of founders fail because they try to perfect every detail of their product. They prioritize the product itself over users or customers.

Adriano Farano, an Italian entrepreneur and Silicon Valley pioneer who happens to be my mentor has told more than I can count that all you need is users. That I don’t need a polished product.

Perfection is the enemy of progress, even for startups.
Just start and launch as soon as possible.

#2. Network — Build relationships early on

Francis Plaza, a co-founder of a Philippine fintech startup who raised funding from Y Combinator, Peter Thiel, and Stripe said,

When we first met the Stripe team last year, the intention was to simply exchange notes about the product we were building. We didn’t plan on having any specific conversations about fundraising. But Stripe ended up investing in our seed.

So you need to build relationships with investors in the early days of your company. After all, investors are more likely to invest in founders they already know.

Taylor Nieman also doubles down on this as she started building genuine relationships with Series A investors from day one.

She also said that as they execute, investors get updated with their traction and progress.

Being a founder and CEO of a thriving super early-stage startup, my days are filled with meetings. It could be:

  • Partners
  • Fellow founders
  • Users/Customers
  • Mentors/Advisors

What I learned this week is that I should also allocate some of my time to investors. It could be:

  • Angels
  • VC funds
  • Accelerators

The starting goal is to build relationships as soon as possible with no expectations. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, feedback, or guidance.

You’ll be surprised how these will benefit you as you grow.

#3. First investors — Make your customers/users happy

As much as you spend a lot of time building relationships with investors, most of your time should be with your customers or users.

As a startup founder myself, I see our customers or users as the very first investors of our company. They literally have the power to make your company disappear overnight.

So, build relationships with them, talk to them, and satisfy them.

Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham always emphasized that early-stage startup founders should spend most of their time talking to customers and users.

Why?

  • To know if they want your product
  • To collect feedbacks for your next iterations
  • To build your brand and community
  • Most importantly, it’s because it’s one of the advantages of being a small company, in return they will love you
  • One more thing, customers or users love when you listen to them, it builds loyalty

Treat your first customers or users as your first investors.

#3. Know your insights + Have a vision of the future

One time last week, I was scrolling through LinkedIn and saw one startup founder who was happy enough to give one piece of advice to founders raising money for their rounds.

Unique insights + Vision of the future

Problem, solution, traction, team, you know what’s more important for investors? Your vision of the future. They want to see it.

At the end of the day, investors want to see where you could bring your product in the future. Why?

Because your product will inevitably evolve and it’s important that it evolves in the right direction.

Take for example these unicorn companies:

  • Amazon was just for books, now it’s for everything
  • Facebook was just for Harvard, now it’s for the whole planet
  • Apple was just for personal computers, now it’s for all machines
  • Stripe was just for internet payments, now it’s a whole infrastructure

It’s important to know your mission, the problem you’re solving, but it’s more important what could it also be in the future.

Have a vision of the future.

Your takeaways

As I embark on my journey to become a fully invested startup founder slash chief problem solver. I’m terrified but extremely excited for the future.

I’ve come a long way since I made my first dollar on the internet at 12 years old, but I’m still the same person.

With all of these, I know I need to be coachable and open to learning from other people’s stories. Be with me.

The four key lessons from learning from more than 100 founders:

  • Start early and launch fast— Progress > Perfection
  • Build investor relationships — Establish zero expectations with the goal of asking for advice, feedback, and guidance.
  • Worship your users/customers— your ability to raise money will be driven by how happy your customers are
  • Know your insights, but have a vision — people who give money to your company want to understand what is your 20-year vision

If you’re a regular reader, thank you again, you’re a big part of the reason I’ve been able to change my life and why I’m doing what I’m doing.

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