TL;DR: Andres Bilbao from Rappi, Dileep Thazhmon from Jeeves, and Ingrid Barth from Linker advised on how to think big from day 0. Early-stage startup founders should:
- Consider if they're ready to dedicate themselves when deciding on when to launch their startup, while also considering the competitive landscape;
- Strive to achieve some form of market fit as their first goal. Dileep shared his own step-by-step for that;
- And have setting up the startup's vision, recruiting talent, and fundraising as your roles as a founder. The third one becomes increasingly important as the startup grows, and not only because of money.
So you have an idea for a startup. Maybe you even have your core team and an early roadmap going. But is there such a thing as the perfect timing to present your idea to the world? After launching your startup, how can you gear it towards a big future from the very beginning? And how can you become the founder that will always take it to the next level?
These were some of the questions that founders from startups like Rappi, Jeeves, and Linker gave their answers to during Vamos Latam Summit. On the stage of Latitud's connections and knowledge event, the Colombian Andres Bilbao, the American Dileep Thazhmon, and the Brazilian Ingrid Barth talked about how you can think big from day 0.
The journey of launching a startup could be described in a lot of ways. Andres, Dileep, and Ingrid described it in a bunch of ways in less than one hour: it could be an adventure, a marriage, or even a baby. Choose your word – and it will represent how you see the startup life.
If everyone sees the startup life differently, there's also no specific schedule to follow to achieve perfect timing. When you're ready to launch your startup is an individual question for founders, says Bilbao.
We'll help you navigate that subjectivity. Ask yourself a question before deciding if you're ready or not to launch your startup: will I be able to be all-in for a long, long time?
The matter of timing to launch your startup can be decided more by taking into consideration the founders' life rather than by the idea in itself. What stage are you on your personal journey? Are you ready to fully dedicate yourself to this nascent project?
"I don't believe in work-life balance when you're a founder. For me, it's very cruel to say that you have to have it because it's not possible", Ingrid says. Dileep agrees. "For the first two or three years, the company is like a baby: you need to give it full attention. And that's your call."
Another warning from Jeeves' founder: you can't wait too long because you just might miss the boat. A competitor can come in, conquer the market, and make your journey way more difficult or even impossible.
"If there's something you're passionate about, that you want to build even if you don't get funded and if no one else wants to do it, that you wake up and are excited to do – that's what will keep you going. Do it as soon as possible."
Jeeves is a global bank for startups currently valued at US$ 2,1 billion, and Dileep's second startup. Based on his experience, it's easier to start with the least amount of variables possible: your first objective is to simply "have some form of market fit."
What exactly does that mean? Bilbao made a visual description of it: "the definition of a market fit is when you have something that the users snatch out of your hands. It's so obvious that everyone wants it."
Easier said than done to achieve this with your startup, right? Yes, we're right with you. But Dileep also shared his own steps to help you achieve market fit and get the gears of your startup running:
Dileep has a warning to early-stage founders and startups: your business is going to pivot at some point. Just accept that the gears aren't going to run as smoothly as you've planned them.
(That's also one of the eight pieces of advice that Instagram's Mike Krieger also gave to tech entrepreneurs during Vamos Latam Summit. Do you need any more convincing?)
You need to accept the constant pivoting, but you also need to prepare for it. To maximize your chances in advance, dive into a market with big opportunities. That way, you'll have more room to maneuver when a pivot happens.
Describing what a startup founder does, Bilbao came up with three roles that a startup founder needs to have. They're like your mom's recipes: deceptively simple. (Yep, we saw that carbonized stuff you prepared that was supposed to be lasagna.)
I know – you're doing that on top of everything you have to do while you don't have that dream team. But neglect any of these roles and you're asking for trouble.
When the company begins to grow super fast and you can afford to have more people working on keeping your vision going and hiring accordingly, getting money should become your full-time job, says Bilbao.
Having these good co-founders and early team members might help you focus (finally!). That's what happened with Ingrid. "We needed a cofounder who was very good in operations so we could fundraise in peace."
She created Linker four years ago as a digital bank for the SMB segment in Brazil. The fintech's money came from a round with angels and family funds. Three years later, Linker was acquired by the management software startup Omie for R$ 120 million, at the beginning of its series A.
In Ingrid's experience, angel investors sometimes had to be taught the basics of the startup world, which added time to the fundraising process. But it's time well spent – especially if there's a diversity of backgrounds and industries involved.
Fundraising is not just about money, but also about having people who can bring a fresh perspective and maybe even a fresh recommendation into your operations.
"The angel ecosystem is super important not just for money, but for your network. The best angel will be the one who opens the right door for you when you need it", she explains.
Bilbao, who is now an active investor himself, echoes that thought and goes further: the best founders seek different people out and learn all the time (and also the best investors, as ALLVP's Jimena Pardo has told us before.)
"The best founders are like 3-year-olds: they ask, and ask, and ask. So find the top people you can come across and ask all day", says Bilbao.