In January, we officially launched The Slingshot Ventures podcast titled The Founders’ Fable. We’ve been blown away by the response! We’re so glad you like listening to a hawk, a  platypus, and a stingray talk with entrepreneurs about their journey. 

With the first handful of episodes under our belt, we’d like to take a look back at the lessons we’ve learned so far.

Episode One - Care and be Aware with the Podcast Team

In our very first episode, we sat down and laid out the foundation for what The Founders’ Fable was, what each episode would look like, and its purpose. 

We started with what Slingshot Ventures is: the startup arm of Slingshot, where we help cofound B2B tech companies with entrepreneurs. Unlike other ventures studios we focus on growth of the overall business and tech as opposed to funding. Our main goal is to elevate the founder. 

One question brought up was ‘If a founder could only come to Slingshot Ventures with one thing, what would it be?’ Dave’s answer was ‘deeply caring and understanding the idea for the business.’ We want to work with someone who’s in it for the long haul, and didn’t think up the idea in the shower. Savannah put it best: ‘A founder who cares more about the final success of the idea rather than their original idea making it to the end.’  

Dan mentioned that we want to work with people who are ‘aware of what they don’t know.’ No one can be an expert in all areas of starting a business. Slingshot Ventures wants to work with people who understand they may not be a technology for marketing specialists, and are actively searching for guidance.

Why are we doing the podcast in the first place? We are passionate, and enjoy helping others. 

It’s about Founders, because we want it to be informative for someone starting out with startups. It’s a Fable, because we want to share the stories and experiences of ourselves and others to help guide the next group.  

Episode Two - Don’t Lose Your Focus with John Williamson

It’s our first interview! With John, we discussed his founder’s journey (the whole point of the podcast), and touched on investments, skill sets, and sales.

John talked about his experience with Angel investors. His product was built over the course of investment searching, so he says the best way to start out (pre-product) is to focus on relationships. Show that you are a capable person who’s passionate about the business. He also touched on how one-on-one conversations help lead you to the right person; since everybody knows everybody, they will probably introduce you to the next investor. 

A unique part of John’s story was his move in and out of entrepreneurship: he started a company, went back to ‘corporate America,’ and then started another company. We discussed how certain jobs within established businesses lean more towards entrepreneurs. Product manager’s have to do a lot of things that founders do: delegate resources, talk with customers, and sell your ideas.

A sales tip John mentioned was focusing on the problem. As a founder, sales can sometimes be the hardest point. Focusing on building relationships rather than selling solutions is a great start. You want to understand what your potential client’s real problem is, and try to solve that. If your product doesn’t actually solve their issue, help lead them in the right direction to a product that can help. Check up with them, and see how they solve the issue. This allows you to be there at the right time when they or someone they know needs your solution. 

With the last year of remote working, we talked on how the Louisville startup scene doesn’t necessarily have to be in Louisville. It’s broken down what you used to need to start a business; you can be anywhere and bring in anyone to start your startup.

Dan mentioned that we want to work with people who are ‘aware of what they don’t know.’ No one can be an expert in all areas of starting a business. Slingshot Ventures wants to work with people who understand they may not be a technology for marketing specialists, and are actively searching for guidance.

Why are we doing the podcast in the first place? We are passionate, and enjoy helping others. 

It’s about Founders, because we want it to be informative for someone starting out with startups. It’s a Fable, because we want to share the stories and experiences of ourselves and others to help guide the next group.  

Episode Three - Straightforward and Simple with Brandon Powers

In our last ‘launch’ episode, we talked with Brandon about MVPs, constraints on startups, the importance of research, setting expectations, and prototyping products. 

Iterating through several times is an important part of the Slingshot process. For a startup, Brandon had a great idea on the best place to start. He recommends starting simply with pencil and paper. While it isn’t technically tech, this allows you to cheaply and quickly tackle the most glaring issues before spending time and money on wireframes and prototypes. 

Brandon also emphasizes that simplicity is so vital to your first MVP. When starting out, we always want to make our product the biggest and the best; chances are you have 100’s of ideas. Brandon’s advice is to write out all your ideas in order of importance. That way, you can make sure your focus for all your decisions is on your top priority, followed by 2 or 3 other high-priority items. Those bottom-tier ideas shouldn’t cause you to throw away your main point. 

The moral of Brandon’s story is love: surround yourself with people you love and build a business you love to work with. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, the idea will slowly peter out. However, the other side is important: don’t give up on your loved ones for your startup. Work hard, but keep time for your friends and family. 

Episode Four - Adapting is Essential with Steve Huey

Our February 2021 episode was with Steve, where we discussed adapting, research, and passion. Our biggest topic is investment dollars: who should and shouldn’t take money, and the implications of that decision. 

A big part of Steve’s founder’s journey was adapting. He’s lived in 5+ cities all across the country, he’s worked in several different industries, and has had a wide range of jobs. By being able to adapt when necessary, it allowed him to ‘roll with the punches’ and keep moving forward. We also touched on how his ability to adapt helped him help others during the pandemic; teaching companies how to adjust their plans and workspace to keep their customers and employees safe. 

The passion is important in being a founder, but research to ensure your idea is viable. Steve recommends doing research to see if your solution solves a problem that people actually want solved before using your savings to build a product. He also talked about doing some research to make sure you’re not ‘overbuilding:’ putting too many unnecessary things in your solution that raises your cost and time to market. 

Steve mentioned in our interview that the ‘number one thing a CEO or founder has to keep in mind is to not run out of money,’ and that the main way to get money is through sales. If you raise money, you have to spend that money extremely effectively and efficiently. Steve recommends deciding early when and if you want to raise capital, as that will affect how your business grows. 

Episode Five - Understand Yourself with Lydia Henshaw

March is National Women’s History Month, so it was the perfect time to bring in our first female guest! We talked with Lydia about the corporate world vs startup environments, letting go and being human, being passionate, finding your level of preparedness, the importance of early data, being a woman in business, and building the right partnerships.

Lydia started her entrepreneurial journey in the corporate world, and we touched on the biggest differences between a major corporation and startup. One good thing about an established brand is that you can work off of the brand awareness that’s already been built. A startup is basically starting at ground zero. However, Lydia points out that that can be a good thing; the sky’s the limit, and you can go any direction you want to. Startups are also much more open to creative and experimental ideas. 

Just like everyone has a different founder’s journey, everyone has a different level of preparedness; some people have spent months on the side building the mission and brand, and some are still in the idea stage. Lydia recommends deciding what kind of company your startup is going to be: is it a weekend passion project, or is it your full time job? Once you have an idea of the commitment that’s best for you and your business, you can start working on next steps. 

Lydia’s ending piece of advice was to surround yourself with a team that’s better than you and be willing to ask for help. It’s a point that we’ve discussed quite a bit: a founder needs to know what they don’t know. If you’re not willing to ask for help, your idea won’t reach its full potential. Try and find a mentor you look up to, and be open to looking for help when the time’s right. 

Episode Six - Find Your Timing with Charley Miller

The episode we released in April was with Charley. In it, we discussed finding your timing, the importance of culture, pivoting and failure, being a finder, control vs connecting, finding the right momentum, and never looking down. 

Charley mentioned that ‘startups are like comedy: if you don’t land at the right moment, you’ll be too early or too late.’ he also had advice for entrepreneurs who feel they’re a little off on timing. If you’re too late, use the already created market to your advantage. See what works, what’s missing, and see if there’s a segment of the market no one is selling to. Being early is trickier; your idea may be a great one, but it takes time for people to warm up to bold and new ideas. 

One important aspect of a successful company is great culture. Sometimes we look at a culture as a buzzword, but it’s a vital part of your business’s structure. With the explosion of remote work, companies now are competing with everyone from everywhere to find great talent. To build a strong company, you need a culture that is not just great, but also sustainable in the long term. It’s awesome to say who you want to be, but if your culture isn’t really who you are, it’ll fall flat much quicker.  

While it may sound cliché, a big part of Charley’s journey has been learning from failure. He talked about how almost every founder will fail at their first go around; it’s the people with passion for the idea and drive to pivot and keep going that will find success. Look at failures as a step forward in the right direction as opposed to a step back. 

Conclusion

Every entrepreneur goes through a different journey; it’s the reason we started our podcast! What piece of advice stuck with you the most?

Look out for episode seven with Greg Langdon next week on May 28th! 

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