Veteran startup founders and entrepreneurial experts shared their best advice for scaling up a startup at Rev’s networking night on October 24. Guests enjoyed flavorful fare catered by Luna Street Food, as well as local wine and beer.
The evening’s panel was made up of five experts who answered questions by moderator and Rev Director Ken Rother about best practices in growing a company. Here are some of the panel’s answers.
Marnie LaVigne is CEO of Launch NY, a nonprofit venture development organization serving western New York which provides pro bono mentoring to companies at their most nascent stages.
Rother: When a team applies, what items are at the top of your checklist that they need to meet?
LaVigne: The number one quality a company needs to exhibit is coachability. Founders need to be open to our suggestions, instead of simply saying, “I just want money for fill-in-the-blank.” We do a leadership assessment on the whole team. Often, we will give partial funding up front, and once the business’s leadership follows through on an important recommendation of ours, we will allocate the rest.
Brad Treat is a Rev Entrepreneur-in-Residence who is also a program lead for the Southern Tier Startup Alliance and an instructor at Ithaca College.
Rother: What’s the biggest misconception companies have about their first hires after the founder level?
Treat: Thinking that they need to hire salespeople too early. Companies should find out what customers need first and use the existing team to do sales while they are getting to understand the customer intimately.
Pete Petrella is managing director of Viaduct, a recruitment agency which helps startups find talent in the form of direct hires, contract laborers, and independent contractors.
Rother: What happens when there’s a difference between what a company tells you it needs and what you know it needs?
Petrella: CEOs often tell us, “I need a clone of me,” but successful businesses rely on a diversity of abilities and viewpoints. Viaduct assesses what that person’s good at and helps them find someone whose skills complement, rather than reproduce, their abilities.
Chelsey Kingsley is CEO of Kingsley Quality Woodworking, a local manufacturer of architectural woodworking, specializing in interiors and precision components.
Rother: When hiring someone, how do you think about their skills and bringing them into a family business?
Kingsley: I need to make sure we’re operating in the same world; flat and straight have a different meaning to me and my husband than they do for a layperson. We’re experts in furniture-making. Our new hires need to see our products and the fine-tuning of them as they enter the market. It takes time to train someone to get to the level of product we want to send out into the world. We’re a family business at Generation 1 and we hope our hires will stay with us as we work and raise our children.
Charlie Mulligan is CEO of GiveGab, an online platform for nonprofits to raise funds and manage supporter engagement.
Rother: Your company has reached 55 employees now – is all of the hiring still on you?
Mulligan: I haven’t made a hire in a while. Each team at GiveGab makes its own hires. NBA players are the highest-paid first-employees in the world and general managers get hires wrong all the time, so how could I get it right all the time? If someone’s going to work with that person, they should be the one to make the hire. Plus, other employees being the ones to bring new people in is a big driver of workplace culture.
Rev has more programs and events coming down the pipeline!
- Applications are now open for the Hardware Accelerator’s Napkin-to-Prototype and Prototype-to-Production programs.
- The first-ever Grow-NY food and agricultural competition is holding its pitch competition and summit, where winners will be chosen, November 12-13 in Rochester. The event is open to the public and RSVPs are still being accepted.
- Ithaca College students with business ideas will pitch to a panel of experienced entrepreneurs for a chance to receive funding at IC’s Demo Day on November 19, from 5:00 – 7:00 pm at Rev: Ithaca Startup Works.
Rev will host our next networking night in the new year! Join us on January 30 for a hardware-themed event.