Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

Welcome to Startups Weekly, a fresh look at this week’s start and startup trends. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.

As we entered 2021, I wrote about the big question that every startup for 2021 is concerned with: How will a catastrophic event like a pandemic appear in post-pandemic innovation? Well, spoiler alert: We’re nearing the end of another pandemic year, and it looks like this state will make our world last longer than I’d like to predict. In other words, my question has not gotten old, and today I want to ask a new one.

My question heading into 2022 is: how can the tech community sneak activation energy into startups, especially those built by historically overlooked founders, outside of capital? I’m not talking about hype machines or weekly luncheons on specific topics, I’m talking about more elusive services.

In this money-rich environment, I think entrepreneurs need more human resources than ever when it comes to building their business. Don’t get me wrong, the gender gap in fundraising remains a blaring, embarrassing issue for the company to resolve. But while we emphasize the need to get more checks to more founders, we also need to figure out how to keep those same founders in an increasingly competitive environment. After all, venture doesn’t solve all things — and can even complicate a startup’s growth.

Activation energy can look different every day. For example, this week I wrote about Z Fellows, an accelerator that pays people $10,000 to take a week off from their day job and flirt with finally building their startup idea.

The average age for a Z Fellow is 20 to 25 years old, meaning the program has successfully convinced new founders to take the plunge. Founder Cory Levy attributes interest to the program’s condition: you only need to take one week off from work.

“The best programs out there, whether that’s Y Combinator or the Thiel Fellowship, require these big commitment, big life decisions,” whether it’s dropping out of school or working full-time on an idea, Levy said. “Do not do that; just simulate a little bit what life would be like for a few days or a week: if you like it, fine, if you don’t, no harm no harm.

While Levy demonstrates the importance of time, I think we will also see a growing importance for founders to rely on community and mental health support. For my full take on this topic, check out my BestFitnessBands+ column: More Than Another Check, Founders Need Activation Energy.

Thank you so much for your continued readership during this wild year. We have unpacked a lot together, from unicorns in need of a haircut nasty tech mafia in need of a modern refresh. We thought too much about dollars, thinking about hot due diligence summer and gaslighting in fundraising. We went sector specific and commented on: why crypto doesn’t need NFTs, but NFTs crypto and multiplayer fintech. And finally, we became transparent and talked about why Democratization can sometimes hurt more than help and how to build vulnerability in your workflow.

It’s been a tiring year, but one with a lot of learning (and unlearning) that will continue to shape how ideas become businesses and realizations into thoughtful stories. That said, I’m excited to take a break so you don’t hear from Startups Weekly until the first full week of January.

Now, for one last time in 2021, let’s get into the rest of this newsletter. We will talk about diversity in money, climate versus crypto and the creative economy of trucks. As always you can follow my thoughts on Twitter @nmasc_ or my emotions on Revue.

Company culture and trying not to be the “fool in the room”

Seamless eyes spy abstract background pattern

Image Credits: filo / Getty Images

Mobility Reporter Rebecca Bellan recently published a nuanced interview with Ample co-founder John de Souza, who was born and raised in Ethiopia. The series founder is building a battery exchange company for electric vehicles, and as Bellan points out, the odds are against him thanks to a well-capitalized competitor. The entire interview is worth reading, but I was most drawn to his comments on culture, which is apparently a big focus for him, even in the heart of a red-hot industry.

Here’s what you need to know:The problem with growing businesses, especially in the Valley, is that you have a high turnover, so it’s very difficult to grow the business while you’re losing. If you can stop people leaving, you can grow the business very efficiently, so we realize that the way to retain people is not just to pay them to stay, but to create a corporate culture.” , says de Souza. This line stood out because it underscores what I believe will be a major conversation in 2022: internal communications at a company and how the major layoff changed what employees want from their company.

Culture cannot be ignored:

And the start of the week is…

Blue Little Guy Characters Vector Art Illustration.  Copy space.

Image Credits: alashi (Opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Not We! The early-stage startup aims to help other companies identify the best journalists and influencers to work with, based on a deep scan of the social web. They even used their own algorithm to target me before announcing their funding round.

Here’s what you need to know: The startup confirmed that Alexis Ohanian’s 776 recently led a $1.25 million round, with the participation of angels from Glossier and Tesla. Ohanian pointed out that “as the internet has unbundled the media, influence has been fragmented,” which I think makes it harder than ever for a brand to reach and truly understand their audience. In our latest Equity podcast, Alex, Mary Ann, I talked about the limitations of Notus despite the possibility in the future.

Honorable Mentions:

BestFitnessBands Gift Guide 2021

during the week

Seen on BestFitnessBands

A new growth equity group, Camber Partners, just raised $100M to buy stranded SaaS startups

Space Florida’s Incredible Shrinking Rivian Stake

Well TikTok now has a Discord

The Irrational Exuberance of Web

The ‘art’ of VC startup valuations is a fake

Seen on BestFitnessBands+

Metaverse startup with $1M in 2021 revenue to go public through SPAC

Dear Sophie: How to maneuver the latest travel bans, H-1B alternatives

A safe end to the holiday season, and I can’t wait to talk (maybe in person) next year,

N

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