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Listen up! Regardless of company size and growth goals, what will directly influence your success is your ability to make conscious choices about investing in the long-term versus getting to market, knowing what is a priority versus what is disguised as one, and your strengths and weaknesses. Maia Benson, Managing Director at Forum Ventures, and Bocar Dia, Partner at Forum Ventures, share what to strategically focus on to face your growth challenges.
Growth is difficult. The more understanding and clarity you have about the situation you are in, the more insights you will have to make the best decision for right now. Every decision will reinforce or update the way you do your work. Your ability to know what must be true for your company with its resources and mission is vital for growing the way you want to grow.
In this program you will hear that investors and financial institutions look for efficient and quality growth; exactly what comprises the first principles that are part of every company focusing on growth; and frameworks to develop yourself as a founder and CEO. To use what you will hear, bring your tenacity and desire to stand out, even if it is just one degree from the norm. Jess Dewell hosts Maia Benson, Managing Director at Forum Ventures and Bocar Dia, Partner at Forum Ventures, to discuss why it is BOLD to face the challenges of growth today.
Host: Jess Dewell
Guest: Maia Benson and Bocar Dia
What You Will Hear:
Be clear about how you add value to customers.
Platform changes over time and what the next platform shift might be.
The interplay of building for the long-term (scale) while fighting fires (the day-to-day urgency).
The combination of culture, risk, and collaboration is what makes your company unique.
Efficient and quality growth is the focus when capital is expensive.
Know what the capital is actually asking for (understand the situation you are in).
Venture capital or organic growth can look to bootstrapping for clues to intentional specific growth.
Efficient growth means delivering on the thing you said you would do.
The questions you must answer to know you have a business.
Capital buys you more time and more failure.
Be clear about your product roadmap: what you are building today and how it develops as trends change.
Small organizations to global corporations face how to build for the future versus the reality of today.
It is hard to be growth-oriented because you may have to choose: expensive or disposable product development.
The goal is for the company not to die.
Day to day, it is up to you to know what is a priority, what is disguised as a priority, and what to totally let go (because it doesn’t matter).
Skills and traits to lean in to and keep building to lead a growth-oriented company.
Do the inner work. Self-awareness about how you handle pressure, assess situations, and your ability to communicate clearly to reach goals.
It is BOLD to effectively manage challenges during periods of growth.
- What are “first principles?”
- Jeff Bezos Framework for Regret Minimization
- The effective founder’s project
Maia Benson 00:00
Through growth, you are testing and learning so there is risk out on the line.
Bocar Dia 00:05
Goal number one is to figure out how not to die. But it also goes back to tenacity.
You are listening to the Bold Business Podcast. Hey, in this program, Jess Dewell hosts experts who share information with you about solving problems and communicating priorities to help you guide your company toward its biggest goals.
Jess Dewell 00:34
Welcome to the Bold Business Podcast. This is Jess Dewell your host. And today we’re talking about growth da. That’s what we do on the Bold Business Podcast. And I have two fantastic people that I cannot wait to introduce you to in just a moment before then make sure as you’re tuning in thinking about growth, thinking about the challenges that you’re facing and how you can be inspired by the questions that you have.
Don’t forget, pass this on to a friend. pass this on to a colleague and make sure that you are subscribed to your favorite listening platform. So not only do you get to hear today, Maia and Bo car, you also will get notified of our upcoming programs.
Today I am so excited. Like I said I couldn’t wait any longer. First I’d like to introduce you to Bocar Dia forms manager director that sits at the intersection of investing and working one-on-one with portfolio founders to the early stages of building. Not only not it’s the go-to market, it’s the founder-led sales and fundraising pieces too you know who you are, you’re in the audience so tune in a little closer. As part of the founding team of the enterprise product at HootSuite. Bocar helped the business grow to well over 150,000,200 plus employees in under seven years. He continues to co-fund advise coach Angel invest not only in SAS start startups but also the precede to Series A. He’s a sales coach at Harvard Business School, a curator at revenue FYI. And he also blogs at Scaling to 100. That’s the number one hundred.com. Also joining us today is the amazing Maia Benson is a partner and managing director at Forum Ventures. she invests and works with early-stage b2b SaaS founders. That’s business-to-business software as a service, and goes from inception to scale. With over 20 years of founding, building and scaling award-winning SaaS products and platforms, not only for entrepreneurs and small businesses, she’s worked with companies like LexisNexis, Pitney Bowes, their Send Pro platform and apps. And most recently at Shopify, many of you know that, I know that because you talk about this out there in the world, one of over five years, she is spend bounding and launching and scaling their shipping and fulfillment, with 60%, plus merchant adoption. Now, that’s a lot for both of these people. Let me just tell you, I want to recognize that the conversation we’re having today with Maia and with Bocar, specifically, we’re talking about things that you normally might not think about that I want you to because this is a resource that we need more of, and the timing is perfect. Now is the time you’re acting you’re executing. And here we go. Welcome to the show, people.
Bocar Dia 03:40
Thanks for having us.
Maia Benson 03:42
Thank you. Jess, great to meet you.
Jess Dewell 03:45
Yes, it is wonderful to be here today with you. Just real quick. I want to hear from both of you before we jump into the meat of the conversation. Why? Why investing? Why scaling? Why startups? Why SaaS? Why whatever else you want to fill in the blank?
Bocar Dia 04:05
Let me start at anchor. So one of the interesting things about forum is that yes, we are investors, we invest in about 100 companies every year, and generally of the precede seed stage. We also have an accelerator in a studio. But really what’s unique about us is that Mater all Meyers role is actually not just investing, I would actually argue that the majority of the time we’re actually spent and working alongside our portfolio companies and actually helping them avoid some of the things that they need help with. My background at HootSuite was really seeing a company grow from pre-revenue to about 200 million in revenue but it’s on my last one to a ton there was at founder after that so I can empathize with the founders that, that I work with. But really, I wouldn’t be in an investment role. At least I didn’t feel like I could add value to the founders that I’m working with a lot of I spend my day doing is actually really helping founders was there. customer validation and customer acquisition and I grew up that so that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Maia Benson 05:05
Why SaaS? Because that’s a lot about what I know. It’s an easy answer. I’ve been building sales products for 15-20 years. So that’s the easiest answer. Why investor like Bocar, I think it’s an impactful for founders to meet people on the other side of the table, so to speak, that have walked and lived in their shoes, and have operated and build stuff for a long time. Right. So I think that really gives us a bunch of empathy. But it also gives us a bunch of we know the playbooks, we know we’ve had some learnings we can impart and share at to really help you through your journey. So I think that was the hypothesis for me on what if we could bring and grow more partners that are investors that have that deep founding and operational experience? So I think that’s why investing I think, why forum, I had the fortune to invest in personally advise myself, advise other venture firms. And when you deeply understand the forum model, it’s very clear how different we approach investing. So to Bocar’s point, we are capital allocators, we write receipt seed jacks, but we also take an extremely high-touch approach with our founders. And so that’s hopefully just illuminating why at least I made and similar reasoning is Robocar. This shift from operator la nd to investor land.
Jess Dewell 06:41
Bocar Dia, is most of what you do in the technology realm. Do you also work in other areas?
Bocar Dia 06:44
It’s mostly B2B software companies that we invest in, which is actually pretty broad, by the way. So it’s very broad. It’s a lot vertical touch, which is actually ported upon as well. My own lots of contact switching.
Maia Benson 07:01
Yes, one of context switching. We’re generalist investors, Jess, and Timbo. Carr’s point, like it won’t surprise you. We invest in kind of all the standard venture scale verticals, so any of them, but yeah, we are across all of them.
Bocar Dia 07:18
In a few months, or years, we’ll Well no one, maybe we’ll drop the SAS and just start talking about AI, right, because everything artificial intelligence.
Jess Dewell 07:27
That’s a very bold statement, and I can’t wait to see what that actually means in five years, because I think it’s true today. And then as we get there, it gets clearer and more specific. I could be a little wrong about that. That’s how I feel about technology and sathon, and b2b and integration of technology, even online since 2006, and 2000, even earlier, 1996 1995 even right. So I’m curious if the trajectory from that realm will be faster with AI? Because we’ve done it before. It sounds like that’s an area you’re interested in.
Bocar Dia 08:03
I think it will be I’m not a pipe believer in any in that by any means. I tend to be generally pretty skeptical of platforms. Yes. But this one is actually a real platform set. I mean, it’s going to be as big as yet as the internet was down the cloud and mobile man social than I think we’re now in the age of AI. And I think so we tend to talk about Gen AI says Gen, Gen, Gen Z of artificial intelligence and very technical terms. But I think really, Novation now is done. Ever since computers were computers, we were interacting with computers with mice and keyboards and directing computers to do the things that we want them to do. But now computers understand English. Right, Anders? Yeah. Now, just think about how things change when you can interact with computers in that way. So I feel I’m a believer that things will change quickly, with the good and the bad, we just have to be careful about the bad and make sure that the good is what wins out
Maia Benson 09:02
to happen faster, and then our infrastructure, and our regulations, and our laws. And our policies are going to evolve. We could spend the entire hour just on this subject alone.
Jess Dewell 09:18
I’m telling you, I get excited about it, too. So it sounds like we may have a part two in our future. Provided you live podcast, then you have a good time here. This could be of interest, because I’m in complete agreement about that, looking at the parallels and how we can go forward. And that’s what we bring to the table. And that’s actually the basis of our question today. So Maia, I want to hear from you. In a dynamic business environment. How can a company effectively manage those unexpected challenges that arise during periods of growth?
Maia Benson 09:53
Yeah, so growth is like this unbelievably awesome thing. And I mean that in every definite Should have awesome. And it has vast impact on every function and part of an organization. Right. So I just think at a first principle, let level growth creates a whole lot of impact on literally every function of an organization just to give people size and scale and kind of an orientation. From my point of view. When I joined Shopify, I think we were about 700 employees. And when I left, we were 9500. When I joined, we had $0. And shipping and fulfillment revenue. When I left we had these levels of impact through that evolution, and these high periods of growth. I think we just everybody in a first principles level these to understand this is going to touch every function, right, there’s no one that’s going to be spared from the impact of kind of high growth. I think some of the tips and tricks that I’ve seen work successfully during those high growth periods of time, there’s just two buckets that I think you got to manage throughout the cycles. And both of them need to consistently anchor in really one thing and that’s as you’re going through exponential growth, you have to have ongoing agile, consistent communication around what the True North’s are like what is the entire team across sales, marketing, product, legal finance, I just said not anybody’s everybody’s going to be impacted. But how does everybody as agile, ongoing, updated windows into the true Nores of what must be true for the company to be successful through the growth? Okay, so So I think that’s a huge a point I just want to make. And then the two kind of machinations or domains that I think about as people are going through high Rose is there’s this world of let’s put floors or processes in place to keep building for the long term. So that long-term kind of repeatable, what can we put in place to scale muscle has to be flax, while at the same chopping your firefighting, right? And so I think managing both of those levers and having a culture that embraces both of those Levers is also really critical during high growth, right? So if you know we’re going to be putting in stuff that’s going to be repeatable and for the long term, and you’re also going to be doing stuff that’s going to be disposed and is not going to live very long. I think those are really critical, underscoring all those this framework, I think culture is just at the center in the heart and envelops all of these points. And I think cultures that rise and succeed through growth, do a couple things really well, like one, they get very good at decision making. fast decision-making, too, I think they also to enable that get really good at disagreeing quickly, but committing, right. And as decision reversibility increases, then now those decisions can the output can be made faster. But where there are decisions that are less reversible, it’s still really critical to have a culture that says, Look, I might disagree with this long term commitment we’re about to make, but I’m going to commit to it and I’m going to get jump in the boat and be a part of that decision in that choice. So I think the culture first principles to survive and rise through growth are important to other ones, I probably just should obviously state through growth, you are testing and learning, right? So there is risk out on the line, which is just so core to the bold focus that you have just as core to this podcast, right. So test and learn take risk is obviously a core ingredient and cultural norm as if you want to succeed during high growth period. And then I think there’s also the companies that I’ve seen that have really navigated growth quickly have just a highly collaborative culture. Because as you’re growing, you’ve got all these domain experts, or all these functions that have parts of the picture and parts of the data sets. And so if you’ve got a DNA that is oriented and share, collaborate, then magically guess what happens, you make better faster decisions. And so that’s a mile lens on how growth impacts an organization what you have to keep true and really clearly communicated to the broader organization around those TrueNorth loose KPIs, how you’re going to be building long-term investments and processes and tools. Well at this time same time firefighting and throwing things away. And that, again, some core cultural tenants that I think I’ve seen companies keep and do well to help them enjoy that hopefully very long row cycle
Jess Dewell 15:11
Bocar. In a dynamic business environment, how can a company effectively manage the unexpected challenges that arise during periods of growth?
Bocar Dia 15:20
What’s interesting about sort of having a good process about looking at growth, this add on to my si here, and I’ll take the not the inward note gain kind of perspective. But I think one, one thing that’s also important is to understand their context outside your wallets as well, when you’re thinking about growth, right. And I’ll give you a very simple example. And the space that we’re in for the last 1012 years up very low-interest rates, capital was available, right, and capital was even easily available to show growth. So you could, as long as you’re growing your revenue, your top line, you could go out and find investors that will write to tax to help continue fueling that Pro. Now capital has become expensive, again, right and not as available. So when you’re thinking about growth, then you’ve got a different equation there. Because now not only do you have to grow the up buying, that has to be done in a way that’s efficient, because folks are looking at the quality of that growth as an example, right? And every day, I need founders that just haven’t really ran their business in such a way that unit economics mattered or margins mattered, and all of the things that now investors are asking for. So part of growing is also understanding if your business needs capital in order to grow, understand what the capital is actually asking for, because you need to understand what situation you’re currently in. And that’s not just looking at Investor, but it’s also looking at customers themselves, right, like your prospective customers in your customer base are also going through entropy, economic art sets, right there is a lot of sectors currently in the software space where customers are consolidating their, their staff, they’re not adding products or looking at ways to get more out of the dollars that they’re sending, right. So you have that context in mind. That gives you a different approach when it comes to scaling all to say I think the I think ROAs is something that you’d look at when it comes to really setting up the right structure to enable you to grow to Maia’s point by looking at culture, value processes and other things. But I think one style, your point is almost always not understanding the situation that you’re in. And you can only understand that situation by actually looking outside as well. And getting a sense of a whatsit context with my business partners. What’s the context currently, if my customers, I said Patek, or cleave to my shareholders, because that’s, that’s the lens that you should take as well to understand what everybody needs and balance that out.
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Jess Dewell 18:14
it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the mergers and acquisitions realm. But it’s worth doing. So I know, there are groups of people that are listening, that some would call bootstrappers. Some would call organic growth focused. They don’t want outside investment. I’m going to say right now, this conversation matters to you, too. This is a big myth and a big misnomer that just because we’re talking about things that your company might not do, you can’t learn from them. That is a big, fat and Oh, totally wrong. And I want to know, from each of you why why is it wrong to just opt out of a conversation that could actually help us learn?
Maia Benson 18:57
Yeah, well, I just validate that Jess. Bocar and I are in an investment. We operate on our investment land that happens to support venture capital risk models, that does it mean, the first principles of what you need to consider as you’re growing, don’t apply if you’re not choosing to, you know, grow in either a venture capital scale market, or leveraging venture capital. So I just think that’s a really meaningful point, building a business is ubiquitous, to no matter where you are, what industry you’re in, all the same first principles of really deeply understanding your customers, all of their pain points and building magical solutions to solve them is just a process that’s repeated across every founder and every entrepreneur anchor.
Bocar Dia 19:50
What’s interesting about the example you gave already your Genesis that funnily enough, I don’t know whether your review would agree with this statement. My it was actually founders that upgraded within venture that didn’t really pay attention to what the bootstrapping founders are doing, right? Because when you’re bootstrapping, you have to be very mindful of your cash flow, your runway, your margin duty, making sure that you know how many dollars you need to invest to get customer revenue. And actually, you’re dependent on that customer revenue to fuel your growth. I actually think venture-based founders today have a lot to learn from what founders that have been bootstrapping, throughout the last 510 years have been doing because fundamentally, I actually believe that the next 510 years in venture are going to be refocusing on efficient growth, versus gross total cost, which is what has happened. So you basically have a generation of founders that probably don’t know how to run an effective and efficient business. And you’ve got a lot to learn from founders that have Bootstrap. So to your point, I think everybody can learn from other places. And also, sometimes I encounter companies that are bootstrapped, that could use of capital to fuel that growth, it’s just that the founder maybe has a mental block around it. But I think generally speaking, it’s always about thinking about, hey, where can you learn best practices that you could actually apply? So that you can feel the growth in Noida, Jonah Feuillet, and I think there’s a lot of good lessons to learn everywhere.
Jess Dewell 21:21
And sometimes you just gotta live through those. And hopefully, you have some help, like the two of you, or awareness of them, as you are marching towards something that can be averted in some way, potentially, Bokhari, you’re talking a lot about efficient business. And I know my what you’ve been talking about in the first principles also comes down to that you’re reading between the lines, I just want to say it differently, would that be, hey, quality growth, and efficient growth actually comes down to we don’t, for getting capital of any kind, it doesn’t matter how much you want doesn’t matter how much you want to grow. It m atters that you have a clear story.
Bocar Dia 22:09
That’s certainly a big part of it.
Jess Dewell 22:11
What else is a part of it?
Bocar Dia 22:12
I think the story part that got down. And that
Jess Dewell 22:15
separates people, I don’t want to build that story. I don’t want to have to convince people of that story is part of that conversation.
Bocar Dia 22:21
Yeah, I think that’s first principles, right? Like you are everything storytelling, right, you have to have a great story to convince investors to debit, celebrate story to invest, to convince your customers to convince people to work for you. So story I think of as the one at one of the baseline, I think what is what comes after two stories actually delivering on the thing that you said you’re going to deliver on, which is the execution part, which is a little harder. And for a long time, people just didn’t need to back up what they, what they said, or the top line was just the only thing that people looked at. So when I think of efficient gross, I will take about, do you know? Like when I think about it from even like, go-to-market standpoint, do you know who your customers are? Where to get how to get them? Do you know how to deliver value for those customers? And you know how to keep those customers? Because you can answer those three questions, then you’ve got a business, you can answer those questions. If you don’t know, if you put $1 on one side of the equation, how many dollars do you get bad, then there’s probably some work that you need to do before scaling. What I meant earlier was that a lot of companies didn’t really need to show the, the formula and the repeatability before getting capital as long as the revenue was growing.
Maia Benson 23:40
Now when you’re swimming in a lot of capital isn’t it’s you get to buy two things, you get to buy time, and you get to buy more failure. And so efficiency I think really means hyper-focus with less resources, right? So know find your initial customer set, quickly reach out to them through efficient methods and work closely with them to prove that whatever you’re building together is going to lower cost or increase revenue. Right. So that’s I think the core, core difference between the former days and the nowadays.
Bocar Dia 24:27
Not to paint a better picture of their nowadays I actually quite excited about the current picture because now it’s back to business fundamental back to solving real customer problem and getting customers to vote by effectively saying hey, yeah, you’re doing good job. You’re some money and bigger wasn’t as nice.
Maia Benson 24:47
And training founders with those first principles to then become CEOs in seven or 10 years when their companies grow up with better CEO orientation and lens. You Right. So it is, for those of us that have built businesses with gravity, like Maia likes to say gravity, or you have to justify the investment with a return that’s on a horizon that’s not forever from now. Like, it’s actually a really exciting time.
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Jess Dewell 25:35
Or listening to the Bold Business Podcast, actually, we’re talking, you’re listening, let’s just be real about that. Talking with Maia Benson, and Bocar Dia. And I have to say, the funding conversation that we are having the business conversation that we are having, will help you shape what you are doing in your business today, regardless of the path that you are on to grow. And it may make you excited to think who something that wasn’t appealing to me before, because I care about the fundamentals now might be and how can I solve this problem bigger, better differently. Don’t forget if find somebody that you notice some this too, because the advice, the tips and the information being shared here by Balkar, and by Maia, are things that will help you in not only your business execution, also in your planning, and maybe poke some holes to make better your strategic vision. As we go into the second part of this program, I want you to go back to something. My other you said. And there was you were mentioning the dichotomy between building to scale and fighting fires and how and that’s a tricky place to be in any business because we all have them. We all have that balance of that long term. And what’s happening right now? And so I want to hear from both of you. What are some of the ways that you have experienced and that you have watched the businesses that you are investing in the companies that you’re investing in? Actually work through those as well?
Maia Benson 27:18
Yeah, so I think for from an early stage point of view, I talk about this in my product, roadmapping session, the decisions you choose to make on how you build your product, for example, in the early days, the weight of consideration and evaluation that you need to put in for defining what you’re going to build product wise, either for the A with a long term mentality, or a short term disposable mentality are directly proportionate to the reversibility of that decision. Okay, so we’ve got a, you know, a bunch of founders that are building up front upfront. Investments in the architecture, the infrastructure of their products, and that is setting them up for long-term success. We’ve also got another group of founders that are building for the short term on more kind of disposable product or or tech platforms to prove the hypothesis that the market wants it. Right. And so both are okay, depending upon where the what the product is, and what the market interaction and engagement and proof is. So either is okay. It’s just what we try and help our founders with. It’s just being very cognizant, and conscious of those types of choices, right? capital expense for tech and development of IP is something you really want to consider the other big consideration we help founders with every day. The other obvious big expenses, labor, right? The talent, the T, right is core founders and founding engineers and our world and founding growth, teammates, those are very highly costly decisions if you choose to reverse those, right, so getting those right in the consideration against those take a long time to interview. If you’re building your founding team that is going to build the thing and work 15 hours a day alongside you spend a lot of time there that said if there are other jobs that need to be done, and there might be part-time or more disposable approaches to those resources. So those might involve less consideration. So those are some of those anchors of how to build early on and where to bake cost things in our world is building the tech or having the people that build attack. And so that’s how I think about building for the long term versus be being more open to disposability.
Bocar Dia 30:00
One thing that I was thinking about, as you asked the question Jess was that I think, what often when we think about that dichotomy to talk about, right, you’re putting out few video fires in a very reactive way. But at the same time, you have to be planned and deliberate and strategic with the other things. I think a lot of the times when we address this topic, we think that it only applies to earlier-stage companies. If anybody on this call that’s listening in has ever worked at a large organization, they know that that’s also the case, I’ve got stories that I could share of some of the top companies in the world. Now I’m not going to go there, because I might need their capital someday. Let’s just say, let’s just say that you’d be surprised to know that is also true. And you are public, very well respected organizations. The first thing I’d say is just know that it’s actually pretty normal, right? And know that this is no, not a in any way, suggesting that you’re not doing things right when there’s this tug and pull between those two worlds, because the reality is that you’re always there. And I think in my perspective, the way I think about it is that you’re always going to have fires that you need to put out, I think it’s really just more about figuring out how you want to prioritize things. And really think about the things that are critical failure points that you need to fix. And to my point earlier, I think Jeff Bezos actually has this great framework of making decisions where he thinks about, is this a decision that’s reversible? And if we make the decision, if it’s reversible, maybe we don’t need to be in analysis paralysis here trying to think about what we want to do it or not, because we know that we can reverse it, right? There’s other types of decisions that are soaked in that are irreversible, so to speak, that have massive impacts, right? So I think it’s always a consideration of what the priorities are. And I think that main thing is always and I keep saying this, but I think one of the constant failure points that I see is not understanding the situation that you’re in, but also not also having alignment as to as an executive team or as a leadership team, when it comes to what the priorities are, and what matters and what you’re working towards. Because once you have that, then I think you have a different lens when it comes to the fires, right? So if you look at putting out a small fire, and you look at it in a new thing, this is not going to impact any of the things that we’re working towards that matter to most, then you don’t care about that small fire. But if you don’t have a way of Landon’s or a way of analyzing problems and prioritizing that you’re always gonna have issues, I think, but that’s the thing that I wanted to mention. I think that there’s this conception that normally happens in smaller companies and growing companies. It’s just a constant state of the world. They think like you’re running a business. Yeah,
Maia Benson 32:51
in life, too. Let’s just be real. Yeah, let’s be real. I just want to say I do think that’s absolutely right there. The slight nuance that for folks that are listening, that are building something now. And in those early days, what’s so hard to be about to be a founder is those expensive decisions. And those cheap decisions. So the firefighting and the long term in those early days all come at you, at the same time and feel because you have limited time, equal weight. So that is what makes the being a founder, like so challenging, is you’ve got limited resources, you’ve got limited time, we’ve got to make great decisions. But equally all the time, the long-term consequence ones and the short-term firefighting ones are coming in, or kind of almost equally loud. If we all talk about rigorous prioritization, it’s true. It’s all of our lifelong challenges and opportunities. But it’s just extra hard for those early-stage founders because they’re doing all the things.
Bocar Dia 34:02
Yeah. And it’s so interesting to see how the early decisions have such a huge impact down the rope. And the analogy that I think about is when you’re launching a rocket, a 1% difference at the beginning of that trek trajectory could mean missing the planet that you’re aiming for completely, or as it’s later on, you might miss where you want it to land, but you’ll still get the planet right. So yeah, it’s you’re on my at the early stage, I think it’s even more critical to think about that.
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Jess Dewell 35:05
The risk minimization framework that you mentioned Balkar? Is that something that you employ with the companies that you work with?
Bruce Dia 35:13
I tend to think generally speaking, it depends on the kind of business that you’re building early stage, I think when you’re wanting to bid the venture scale type of business and you want an investor nerds into your business, then it’s a much more pragmatic view of thinking about, hey, what are some of the milestones that I need to hit to reach my goal, which oftentimes is I want to raise $3 million worth of seed capital, right? So what do you need to prove out in order to be able to raise $3 million of capital as an example. And then when you look at it from that lens, I think some of the some of the decisioning, and risk factor becomes a little easier, so to speak, it’s never easy to minus one earlier, but I think you have at least a much better lens when it comes to it. So I think it’s much more about thinking about it from the from a pragmatic standpoint of what are the key things that I need to care about, and that I need to accomplish. And just be pragmatic about that. Because oftentimes, by the way, because I’m looking at it in terms of milestones, but the risk equation is oftentimes, what investors are trying to actually do is like, a lot of building conviction is actually de risking the business. So you could think about it from the same lens, I’m just looking at it from the lens up, these are the milestones, these are the areas that you need to focus on, is most of the time, what I find is elders are not very clear, early stage about where they should be focusing their time and effort.
Jess Dewell 36:41
Maia, are you also using that framework? Or do you use different frameworks to suss out the way to prioritize to get people to the goal that they have?
Maia Benson 36:54
Now it goes back to what I said, But Bocar said like your goal is not to die.
Jess Dewell 37:01
Maia Benson 37:04
Norris number one, and then the other key true Norris are don’t mess up with your customers, they’re the most valuable things. Yeah, got, don’t mess up with your employees, those are the other set, most valuable same nougat. So just have very clear, practical ideas, true Nords that you anchor against? And then just some of its just do your best with the rest? Right?
Jess Dewell 37:37
So that’s what it is. Right? And in the end, that’s what we’re all doing. Doing the best with the rest? And yeah, go ahead. What were you gonna say?
Bruce Dia 37:48
I’d one thing I was gonna add, just because I think we’re talking about this on the perspective of what are their frameworks? And how do you prioritize things from a business perspective, but I think then you need to translate that into what that means for you, as a leader, I never date, which is of a different equation. But I think if you have a baseline understanding of the things that matter, then personally what I like to use, and I used it as when I was an upgrade, or I use it when I was a filmer. I use it today, or something called the Eisenhower matrix up just managing your time. And I live by that once you know what is important, right, and what the core things are, then you can think about it in terms of your time investment is important and urgent, in which case you do it right away, right? If it’s important, but not urgent, maybe you’ve got some ability to delegate it to folks or like work with folks on things. So it’s a cluttered matrix. And I live by that. And I never really ever do anything that’s not important and not urgent, it frankly, I don’t even have time to that love that those things that low. I don’t know how that shows up. But I think once you think about the business framework, and what matters, then I think the second step is translating that into how you do it as an individual. So as a leader, do it for yourself, but also enable team to be very clear about how they would do that for themselves as well.
Jess Dewell 39:09
So with the founders, that you’re looking at that founding team, what are some of the skills that you have or that you have been surprised by? That when people lean into them, or they just have them inherently, they move that needle towards success.
Maia Benson 39:27
I think actually one of the magical things about forum was specifically a skill set that we really value is those founders that are asking and want an open to feedback and like I think we just fundamentally believe those founders outperform a lot of the folks that maybe don’t fit those skill sets or have that DNA. So I just want to highlight I think that’s a core kind of value set of ours and the investment thesis, are they other core skill sets or traits, whatever we want to say like, by definition, you’re showing up in probably not taking a paycheck when you call up Volker Ryan, right? So you’ve got a high-risk appetite, you, you’ve proven you can build something, right in our world of software. And you’ve got either empathy or a connection to the market. So you want to really sit and work with and for your customers to build magic. Or like I said, in my first state statement, maybe that’s not your superpower. And that’s okay. But you want to ask for help, and you want to get better at that. So I think those are really key traits and skill sets, we’d love it when founders call us up and have just the absolute perfect, what we call problem to mark founder fit, right? Like, I love this problem, I know this problem better than anyone on the plan. And I am uniquely born and suited to solve it. So I think that problem to founder fit is also a great, a great example of what we look for.
Bocar Dia 41:12
I think there’s patterns that you can see in successful founders, business leaders, and her certain turn things that generally will show up. But I think what I’m gonna most surprised by is just the diversity in founder profiles that can actually also be successful sometimes, right? Well, there was an interesting, I think he bought he there was a bulk, I’ll try to remember what the name of the book is. But there was some research that was done, or they did research on 1000s of founders that were successful. And and compared to 1000s of founders that weren’t successful, and looked at some advices that people generally, there’s a bias and for example, a tight coordinated thing. It’s down for founders that will be the most successful, whereas if you actually look at the average age of successful founders, it’s actually late 30s or early 40s. Right? So it’s not your Mark Zuckerberg of the world because they make for better stories. Right? Those are the things that you look at. So I think what’s interesting, as you ask this question, is that, yes, we can answer when it comes to with the some of the things that are common patterns. But what what I think is actually even more interesting to me is the fact that you actually find different founders was different skill sets. And I think it goes back to the situation, I have a song about the problem, the founder problem set, which we think is very important, right. But sometimes you also have somebody from the technology sector that comes in and tries to solve things within healthcare. And because they have a different lens, they’re a little bit more successful than Solvay get that somebody who’s always ever live in healthcare. It’s an example. Right? So very interesting to see also how, depending on your situation, different profiles, and also be successful. And generally speaking, I think if I were to pick one skill, which is not I don’t know, if it’s, if I can call it a cell, but the best founders, I think, are very self aware. Meaning that they know where they’re strong and where they’re weak and effectively surround themselves with people that can help them execute present situation. So as much as you can ask her on skills that you have, and and you don’t have, I think if you’re from a starting point, very self aware, then whatever skills you don’t have, you’re also hire for, which I think is actually a good thing. So founders that are coachable, and very self aware, if I were to pick two things, would be the two things because when you think about it, if you’re coachable, you’ll get better at the things right. And if you’re self aware, you know what things you’re good at and what things you’re not good at, and you’ll surround yourself as the right folks.
Jess Dewell 43:46
Maia what makes it bold, well makes them bold to build a business to effectively managing all these challenges that we’ve talked about today, during periods of growth.
Maia Benson 43:56
Your chances of growth are a lot less if you’re not bold. So to me, they go by definition they’re the almost the same thing Jess. So for fun, I looked up the core traits of being bold and it’s you know, risks and confidence and courage and strong and vivid all of this is standing out a degree away from the norm. And so I just think that the same thing right bold, it takes bold is growth is bold in you need those kinds of core bold traits to realize growth. So I know I’m maybe being a little meta today on whatever day of the week. But I so that’s just maybe a meta answer like within growth. What does it mean to be bold? It means have a culture that supports taking risks and wants fast failure, right? Yes, those are good no’s are equally as good. Just go get both as fast as you can. Right? So I think that that’s an example of a core ingredient to drive growth, you need courage and collaboration and strength to show up every day and take those risks, and candidly support each other through taking those risks. So maybe those are a couple of the house. But candidly, I think boldness and Grace are the same thing.
Jess Dewell 45:25
Bocar, what makes it bold? What makes it bold to build a business that effectively manages the challenges of periods of growth?
Bocar Dia 45:35
Let’s face it, building a business at any stage is very hard. And it’s always easier to quit, than it is to do anything else. So when I think about bold, I think the word that comes to mind for me is tenacity. Right? I think founders, that ape working at it, business builders that keep working at it, you’d be surprised, by the way as to how many businesses that are massive businesses today that are well respected, went through near complete failures, right, or failures for a while before becoming the businesses, right. And as a matter of factor is you can see this sort of data, we talked about celebrating failure, some time and the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. But I think it’s more about I think the founders that build that it’s failing that continue building businesses learn through those failures, which is why if you’re a second time business builder, serve time, build this building, and you’re just going to do it in a better way than you did the first time hopefully. So for me to see it, it elbows back to tenacity because there’s going to be challenges come in from every every side of building a business. And I think the more that you can have that grit and tenacity and keep Burberry’s through it, the more you’ll have opportunities that you can capitalize on. There is a lot of businesses that I see that somehow shut down and if you go through this thought experiment and talk like if this business continued going another year, things will have changed by then and I think it’s always about going back to I guess we were saying earlier which is like goal number one is not is figure out not How Not to Die. But it also goes back to tenacity by the way, that’s also one of my goal as a, as an individual. I don’t know if I’m ever gonna hit that try not dying as an individual. Is that a goal that should somebody should? Maybe I’m getting into crazy, it’s out here already. All to say tenacity, I think for me is the big one, but it comes up.
Jess hosts the Bold Business Podcast to provide insights for building a resilient, profitable business. By deeply understanding your growth strategy, ensuring market relevance and your company’s future. It is bold to deeply understand your growth strategy with your host. Jess Dewell get more information about how to drive solutions and reset your growth mindset at Reddirection.com. Thank you for joining us, and special thanks to our post-production team at the Scott Treatment