On Saturday, May 20th, High Alpha Managing Partner Scott Dorsey took the stage at VeeCon 2023 alongside President of Vayner3, Avery Akkineni and CEO of Utopia, Alejandro (Nino) Saez Novales to dive into what it takes to build a modern tech company. While the panelists had much valuable knowledge to share, we compiled the important highlights.
Building Teams & Culture
To start the conversation, the panelists dug into how to build strong teams and company culture from the get-go. They had two main takeaways.
Build a Complementary Team. When you start a company, it is easy to turn to your network to build out your founding team. But be careful–you do not want to fall into the group-think trap. Scott reminded the audience you must hire employees who follow the same core values but bring diverse thoughts and experience. If you surround yourself with people who think and act like you, why should you hire them? Building a complementary team will fuel innovation and creativity and give your company a competitive advantage.
Intentional Human Connection is Key. In this hybrid environment, the so-called “water-cooler conversations” have disappeared. Scott said it is hard to get the most out of your team if there is no human connection and the work is more transactional. Leaders must set an example. When you log onto a Zoom meeting, spend the first five minutes asking how everyone’s day is going. When you plan an offsite, intentionally build time into the programming where employees can get to know each other. According to Avery, developing these relationships will establish trust and, as a result, generate speed. Companies must go fast to differentiate themselves from competitors. If you take the time to build a relationship with your direct reports and colleagues, you will learn to trust that they will get the work done and do it well.
Fundraising in a Challenging Market
The next topic of conversation was timely. As companies navigate the down market, what should they be considering as they go out to fundraise? The panelists had a couple pieces of advice.
Leverage PMF And Your Network. There is no one-size-fits-all advice when it comes to fundraising. However, Scott said that the foundation for success for any business is finding product-market fit (PMF) and building its network. If you create a product that the market is willing to pay for repeatedly and have connections you can tap into, these will be helpful levers as you fundraise.
Seek Investors That Complement Your Business. It may be tempting for companies to accept any term sheet. However, businesses must refrain from doing this. Scott encouraged founders to find an investor(s) that complement their organization. Do they have the same values as you? Do they have tools and resources to support you in the ways you need most? Your investor should provide more than capital.
What It Takes To Be CEO
To continue the discussion, the panelists dove into what it takes to be a software start-up founder. Do CEOs need tech expertise to build and lead software companies, especially if ChatGPT can write code for them?
Tech Expertise May Not Be Necessary. The panelists do not believe the CEO needs technical expertise if they take their earlier advice: build a complementary team. CEOs do not need the same background as their CTO. However, there are other skills a CEO must need to be successful.
Product Instincts Are King. CEOs must understand the customer to build the minimal viable product (MVP) and product roadmap. Having these instincts and communicating them to the CTO will turn their product into a “must have” rather than a “nice to have.”
As the conversation was winding down, the panelists left the audience with one more piece of advice: how to create connections.
Make Yourself Useful. As you reach out to people you want to connect with, ask yourself: how can I help them? Doing this will make people more likely to network with you.
Do Not Be Afraid To Make The First Move. More often than not, people are happy to meet with you as long as you ask and treat it as a two-way relationship.
Show Up. Everyone is busy, but you must show up however you can. Can you volunteer to help that person put on an event? Can you attend one of their panels? Showing up and showing that you care will speak volumes.
Be Kind And Thoughtful. Remember that people meet with you out of kindness. You must show your appreciation and bring thoughtfulness into the relationship.
High Alpha is so glad that VeeCon chose Indianapolis as its host site this year. We hope everyone took away valuable insights and action items they can implement in their companies.