The FalconX Founder’s Workshop was more than just a six-day immersive, transformational, and hands-on experience for founders! It captured problem-solving sessions from silicon valley veterans on real-life founder issues. This blog showcases the top highlights from the workshop hosted by BV Jagadeesh (BV), and his upcoming book which will capture these experiences and candid revelations of a founder’s dilemmas alongside their in-depth resolutions from BV during discussions with silicon valley and cross-border founders, investors, and experts. It has been republished on medium.com here.
Founder1- workshop attendee: “As a startup company, how do you seek out prominent members of the industry, to get them to help you even if you’re not able to pay them a great salary? How do you inspire them to help your startup out in certain roles?”, was a question voiced at the FalconX T-Hub Founder’s Transformational Workshop.
I listened in complete rapture, as to me being part of a founder’s workshop beat every other experience I have had with entrepreneurship curriculum or innovation boot camps had ever come close to this. I watched a veteran silicon valley expert diffusing a founder’s problem, live from his study. Funneling his insights of over three decades into a few moments of wisdom, the workshop’s host BV Jagadeesh (BV), silicon valley’s cherished mentor-angel investor-serial entrepreneur working with several enterprises across the globe answered:
BV: “Money is not the driving factor here. As a matter of fact, most employees, especially those who work for these big companies are really tired of just doing something very narrow. A lot of people want to experience that excitement of an early-stage startup. In the beginning, when you don’t have funding, perhaps they can just help you on the side. And then, this is what a lot of companies do, when they are pitching to the venture capitalists. The founders mention to the VCs that they have a certain set of people who are ready to leave their jobs and join their company. If the investor wants to talk to these people, in confidence, they could.”
BV: “So it’s all about you, as an entrepreneur as to how you would sell your vision! That’s why I said early on in the workshop that the founder is the best salesperson. Think of you as a founder selling your idea to hire these incredible people, then you have to be selling to investors to invest in you, and then to hire other employees, to do the proof of concept, or selling an MVP! What you are essentially doing is you’re selling. And people will just follow you blindly if you show that you want to change something.
How did Mark Zuckerberg attract great talent as a college student with no money? How did he attract all those people? Because he showed something quite unique, that he or his friends had an idea about, and how it could be translated into some simple things like uploading a photo and share it on the other side of the country instantly, with many people”
It was an exciting and energetic gathering of 30+ entrepreneurs assembled to experience a transformation in their journey as a founder and entrepreneur. It was my privilege and honor to be part of a six-day journey at the Founder’s Workshop, hosted by FalconX, Silicon Valley, California in association with T-Hub, Telangana, and witness how the founders in various phases in their entrepreneurial journey were able to network, connect and resolve their issues leveraging BV and his team’s collective expertise in guiding founders in the B2B and other multiple domains like EdTech, FinTech, philanthropy and more. A carefully curated curriculum was only 40% of the takeaway. 60% of the workshop covered extensive Q and A sessions where the founders were navigating various challenges, and it was exciting to watch the founders shift their orbit of thinking and understanding on how to navigate founder dilemmas. A few dilemmas posed by founders on day-5 of the Founder’s Workshop which was focused on marketing, sales, and lead generation were:
Founder2-workshop attendee: What is your feedback on extended lead-gen firms who do inside sales for startups in the US, UK, especially for teams located remotely in India?
BV: Absolutely, you should use these extended lead generation firms. Many of the companies that I know, actually use some of these lead generation firms out of India as well. They end up calling at night time for them, and daytime over here in the US. As long as the communication and messaging are good, and they are targeting the right kind of customers, it works. They should not lose their patience. In this calling business, the ratios that I have seen, especially for an inside salesperson, is that the salesperson has to make anywhere from 65 to 85 calls per day. And after that, you may probably have three to five, who pick up the phone. And after that, you may not even have one person who will show interest.
BV: “This means as a salesperson if you’re calling, and if a customer or a prospect picks up the phone, yells at you, or hangs up the phone, or expresses displeasure you cannot get upset. When he or she makes the next call, it has to be like an absolutely fresh new call with the same energy level as the call that was made at the beginning of the day. So these are the kind of things that you need to train them on because as a salesperson you cannot show emotion, depending on if you had a bad call earlier because you might end up with a good lead with your next call.”
What did the FalconX T-Hub Founder’s Workshop which catalyzed the book An Entrepreneur’s First Mile by BV Jagadeesh cover (structure and layout)?
The workshop transitioned systematically in 5-phases across five days (Day 1 was on company overview, vision, business model, and company’s structure, team roles & responsibilities, employee compensation). On day 2 we spoke all about product readiness roadmap, development, and deployment, process scalability, and reliability. On day 3 we went over marketing essentials about identifying the right customer, brand building, and lead generation, identifying marketing channels, also setting up a marketing plan and targets. Day 4 was focused on sales readiness, initial sales building, sales motion and channel program, customer onboarding & success. Day 5 covered nuances of fundraising and founders were taken over series funding and anatomy of a term sheet) and an additional day to account for startups to pitch their businesses and get mentorship from investors and subject matter experts from the FalconX community and mentorship circle.
It was a workshop where failures were celebrated and talked about openly, knowing very well that failure is not an option, and what we can learn from these stories of failure as we go through our own journeys as founders. As we went over the 10-point filter for evaluating the validity of a startup vision, on Day-5, BV shared many anecdotes and personal stories on failure:
“We’ll analyse failures of some of my companies, and more than the failure itself, it is the learnings from the failure, that are more important. So there’ll be a few nuggets of wisdom that can come out of this. If we all can learn from that and apply it to our businesses hopefully, we can avoid making some of those mistakes.” – BV
Founder3- workshop attendee: So when to startup? How do we determine that a startup needs to be in stealth mode? Are there any criteria for how far we should go into stealth mode versus when we should come out of it?
BV: “Well, I’ve seen stealth mode companies in silicon valley and they are so secretive that they don’t reveal even to their friends where they work. Normally in consumer-centric companies, it’s not a bad idea to keep it a secret until you unveil the product in the market. I actually have a couple of companies that are in stealth mode. They have only announced some bits and pieces of it. But typically companies unwrap from stealth mode when a funding round happens.”
In order to make the announcement of a launch more powerful, you don’t just announce only to the customers, you also need to showcase one or two customers who have signed up with you, then the announcement for coming out of stealth becomes more powerful. But the main purpose is for you to attract good talent to come and join your venture. If you want a bigger impact in the market, you are not only announcing funding, but showcasing your customers as well.
BV: “Let’s say, you’re going to be working in the AI healthcare domain and you are looking to hire great talent. And now you just raised about $8 million. Now you could come out of stealth and make an announcement. And lots of people will pick this up. Also as part of the announcement you can give a small glimpse of what you’re doing without revealing too many things. But the main purpose for you is to attract talent. If you want a bigger impact in the market, then people don’t announce when they win. Let’s say the funding round happens today, instead of announcing the same day, they will wait for six months. When they have those two or three customers, that is when they announce. Let’s say, the company has raised $7 million and with a certain set of customers, the excitement in unwrapping is much more real. I’m not only announcing the funding, but I’m showcasing customers as well!”
Founder: Is it a sort of validation for your product?
BV: It’s a validation of your product. Exactly. So these are the two different strategies that companies normally adapt. So it depends on what your needs are, and how and, and what you want to do with that launch. Because if you just launch it, just send out a press release, nobody is going to care for you. I mean, you’ve you’re one among thousand press releases that go out every day, it has no meaning at all. So the press release has to have some meaning, there has to be some meat behind that. So either it has to be fundraising, or it is fundraising with customers, right? It becomes stronger that way, your launch will become very strong at that time.
On Positioning-Pipeline-People-PR: What’s your “onlyness”?
On day five of the Founder’s Workshop, we went over marketing essentials, and BV talked about differentiating your offering in the market leveraging your “onlyness”:
BV: “We can deliver applications 10 times faster than anybody else. So that’s a unique differentiated value. When you are launching, you have that differentiated offering. Don’t worry about whether somebody else is going to work on it a year or two years from now, because your only ness will continue to change with time.
So some of the examples are: one of our own companies in FalconX, a company called Tetrate, is a startup building the only enterprise service mesh platform. There is a service mesh that a lot of other people are using, but no one is actually doing this for the enterprise. So now we say we are the only enterprise service mesh platform. So it’s very clear. If someone reads this, they know, this is for the enterprise. And these are the go-to people who make this product ready for the enterprise. So there is another example of this company called cast iron. “
“Case study-2: Only Cast Iron gives you the integration of various applications in 10 or 20 days while typically, to integrate these applications in a corporate environment takes three to six months. So positioning the message, as I said, things like including the colors for marketing collateral, you as a company have to think through a lot of these things. It makes it look like it is overdone. But at the end of the day, you have to assume you’re going to grow. And you start planning for these things as you start getting leads from trade shows, your website, Google keywords, also lead from cold calling, etc. People may be reading about you like in an article that gets published and then they’ll call you. And that’s a lead! So you take those leads, and it will get processed through a sales lead. “
So it’s not about how great your product is, it’s about how great your product is for this customer, or how much this customer is actually appreciating your product. As you start winning customers, you just start turning the story to say that this customer is seeing value in my product.”
FalconX T-Hub Founder’s Workshop was more than just an immersive workshop, simply because, every attendee-founder, investor, entrepreneur or wantrepreneur and participant acknowledged that this knowledge needs to be made available to a large number of people. The workshop has inspired BV’s first book, on his personal journeys in guiding founders and seeing them through highs and lows, through billion-dollar success stories and IPO moments!
What BV’s upcoming book An Entrepreneur’s First Mile: Addressing Needs of Cross Border Founders is about –
An Entrepreneur’s First Mile has been developed as a series of handy booklets to help first-time founders to find answers to their dilemmas and unanswered questions, coming from the life experiences of BV Jagadeesh who has successfully floated and guided multiple startups over the past three decades in silicon valley, and across the globe, and part of several incubators, accelerators and innovation ecosystems across industry and academia. Founding a company can be a lonely journey, and it helps to have a buddy-like booklet that can accompany founders on a specific question that they are juggling with.
For instance, at the very start of a venture, every founder poses this question to him/herself: “How do I identify my co-founder? Do investors prefer companies with a single founder?” Also as you mature into an early-stage startup, a startup founder tends to wonder, “We are still unprofitable, should we hire a sales guy to generate more leads?”. Or maybe, “I hear it is better off not filing for a patent, my product has many imitators already, but is patenting more expensive than it appears? Can I chat with a lawyer about this, or should I hire them?” It has been a fun and exciting journey working with BV on this. I will keep you posted as we create the book as a labor of love and service to the community of entrepreneurs in enabling them to change the world, wherever they are…in whatever they are trying to do.
Vidyangi (Vida) is a serial author and her recent publication The Solution Book has launched her as a coach on creativity and innovation strategy, also Medium’s top blogger in innovation, currently advises/consults with silicon valley and emerging market startups and non-profits (coach at iStartValley accelerator, AI Fellow at R42 ).
NOTE: This article was originally published in LinkedIn on October 30, 2020 with the title – An Entrepreneur’s First Mile: Addressing Needs of Cross-border Founders.