After a great first week of building trust, verbalizing our collective goals for the program, and learning about our strengths, this week we got straight down to business. Vidya led us through her specialty – product. This included value proposition, customer, and problem statement. Using the Business Model Canvas, our founders used a framework for laying out their business for increased discussion with the investor-founder champion team as well as the entire cohort. We dove into the big problem that our founders are trying to solve, who the people most affected by the problem are and how they will reach potential customers through various channels and partnerships. We also had our first pitch prep, so our cohort was ready for their first speaker and panel of experts.

On the leadership and female factor side, we discussed Dana Kanze’s research and Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk. Our interactive discussions focused around (1) how to change a prevention question typically asked to female founders to promotion questions typically asked to male founders, (2) tactics to not go down the “rabbit hole” during questioning and (3) ways to “sit at the table” and promote other female funders to do the same.  We also presented our first set of proprietary Ad Astra Toolbox, “tools and tactics” for the founders to practice for the next 10 weeks. This toolbox is filled with practical elements for founders to transition from running a business to leading a successful startup.

We wrapped up the week by introducing our Founders to a panel of experts. We were so fortunate to have an all-star mentor line up last week.  First, we had Crystal McKellar, Managing Director at Mithril Capital, start us off with a great perspective of what VCs look for when making an investment. She also spent time providing valuable personalized feedback to each of our founders.  Then we welcomed Ken Hood, Partner at FusionX Ventures; Joven Matias, Brain Corp Product Manager; and Claire Weston, Founder and CEO of Reveal Biosciences.  We learned from the three product experts why it’s so important to clearly identify your customer and how that decision impacts product design and direction going forward. Then our mentors stayed for one-on-one practice investor sessions with our cohort. This simulation allows for our founders to practice or “try on” their newly acquired Ad Astra toolbox tactics in a trusted environment for essential feedback. Thank you Crystal, Ken, Joven, and Claire!  We are so grateful for your time and expertise.

Questions you should be able to answer about your business and your product before pitching investors:  

  1. What is the problem you’re solving?

  2. How many people are experiencing the problem?

    If you don’t know this answer, there are two ways to go about this: top down or bottom up. (a) Top down: do some market research around the population you are thinking experience this problem, what is the market how big is the market for the problem. (b) Bottoms up: ask people who are experiencing the problem about how they are solving for it currently, then extrapolate how many people have that specific problem (i.e. all women past 50 years of age, then dive into the census information to get that number)

  3. How does your product or service help this population?

  4. Who is the ideal person your product is aimed at?

    This is your Persona. Be as specific as possible so you can feel and see that person using your product.

  5. Develop a 30 sec to 1 min pitch of your product idea so that you can talk to anyone about it and get feedback. Iterating on that feedback will be a strong way to build your founder leadership tools.