10 Tips for Founders Just Starting Out

In our most recent Founders Workshop, January Ventures Partner Jennifer Neundorfer hosted a session with Ahva Sadeghi, Co-Founder and CEO of Symba, Nikita Gupta, Co-Founder and CTO of Symba and Aagya Mathur, Co-Founder and CEO of Aavia to discuss the “firsts” in starting a company. We talked about how they came up with their idea, how they validated it, how they raised capital, and more.

1. FINDING A CO-FOUNDER: OPPOSITES ATTRACT

“I brought more industry and business experience and my co-founders focused more on product design, hardware and the patented sensor technology. We shared similar passions, similar pain points, and brought such different expertise.” — Aagya Mathur

2. FINDING A CO-FOUNDER DOESN’T HAPPEN OVERNIGHT

“You need to understand what kind of skills you require from that person, be open-minded and put yourself out there, and manifest the idea with mentors, friends and communities so they can make intros. Also, you have to remember that you don’t become a co-founder overnight.” — Ahva Sadeghi

3. ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS DURING “COURTSHIP”

“It’s a courtship process to understand, do we work well together? Do we communicate well? Do we push back in a healthy way yet make decisions and grow together?” — Ahva Sadeghi

4. “DATE” YOUR CO-FOUNDERS FIRST

“We had the benefit of “dating” for a year while at MIT before we incorporated.” — Aagya Mathur

5. LISTEN, LISTEN AND KEEP LISTENING TO YOUR CUSTOMERS

“After 250 focus groups and conversations, we realized our product and hypothesis was incorrect. Always continue to be passionate about the space, but you need to really listen to your customers to solve their problems.” — Ahva Sadeghi

6. SELL THE PRODUCT BEFORE YOU BUILD IT

“We didn’t build out software at first, but we built out interactive sketch files. This helped us conduct different demos to understand what their pain points were and what kind of features they wanted to have. It’s so painful when you build a beautiful product and it’s not what customers want.” — Nikita Gupta

7. PASSION FOR YOUR IDEA IS KEY

“A startup is something you need to be passionate about and you have to find someone who gravitates toward the idea with the same passion or even more.” — Ahva Sadeghi

8. THINK ABOUT FINDING INVESTORS LIKE FINDING CO-FOUNDERS

“We thought about the kind of company we were, the challenges we would face and what we needed to do in 18 months. Then we went out and found the investors who could help us do all of those things.” — Aagya Mathur

9. ASK FOR INTROS TO BUILD YOUR INVESTOR PIPELINE

“I spent more time preparing to fundraise than actually fundraising. We had target investors and made it extremely easy for people to introduce us by sending forwardable emails. The more personalized, the more willing investors are to have a conversation with you.” — Aagya Mathur

10. YOU ARE ALWAYS FUNDRAISING

“You are always fundraising even when you aren’t raising. Segment investors, send press releases to keep those audiences engaged and continue to prove out what you’re doing.” — Ahva Sadeghi

Tweet us and share your favorite takeaways from Aagya, Ahva and Nikita on all of the firsts of starting a company.

At January Ventures, we’re committed to supporting early-stage founders, including prospective founders who are thinking of starting something. Founding a company isn’t easy, and this workshop aimed to bring the early stage to life by hearing directly from founders who are a few steps ahead.

Thank you to our sponsors Oracle for Startups and AngelList.

January Ventures (previously known as Jane VC) invests early and opens doors for the visionary founders of the future.