There exist a myriad of answers to the question, “How do you found your first startup?” But which of those answers apply to you and your situation? Whose advice do you follow when the world’s full of people ready with suggestions?
Well, there’s no easy answer to those questions, and sometimes it’s best to just listen to people who have pulled it off and take away the greater message at heart. That’s why at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023, we asked founders Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins of Promise, Ruben Harris of Career Karma, and Ritu Narayan of Zūm to share their experiences in launching their companies and the lessons they’ve learned that entrepreneurs should keep in mind when building their own startups.
To begin with, all the panelists said they’d decided to take the venture capital route so they could scale and tackle the complex problems they wished to solve. Narayan, whose company provides transportation to students, said she needed guidance from experienced individuals in the industry to help her navigate the school and transportation industry. “So I ended up partnering with investors like Sequoia and SoftBank, and today Zūm is post-Series D,” she said.
Still, Narayan’s first checks came from angel investors, and in the early days, she had a lot of customers who wanted to invest. She said the best way to find an angel investor is asking for introductions and simply talking to people about your product. Harris agreed, saying he had a lot of angel investors and shared how he raised millions by simply DMing people on Twitter.
“Be willing to reach out to people and be clear on what you stand for publicly,” he said. “What I set out to do is make sure that when I’m not fundraising, I’m building the relationships with people who I plan to raise from in the future.”