17 Tips for Taking Care of Your Team, Your Work, and Yourself While Remote

Working remotely or leading a remote team definitely comes with a unique set of challenges. How often do I need to communicate with my team? How can critical meetings be run efficiently on video? What happens if my dog starts barking during a super important call? How can I stay focused when there’s cheese in my fridge? Etc.

Since the Startup Grind Team has been fully remote and global since nearly the beginning, we wanted to share a few #remoteteamtips we’ve learned over the years. These are meant to help you weather any new remote working circumstances you’re suddenly facing during these unpredictable times. But we hope they also help you if you find yourself working or leading remotely in the future, too.

Tip #1. Lead the charge by leading by example.

When in-person interactions are removed from our day-to-day, it can add a lot of uncertainty to the mix. Suddenly we’re unable to read reactions or see if our teammate is at their desk. A lot of time this results in teams feeling unsure about how to act, react, or work together. Luckily the golden rule of remote work is simple: lead how you would want to be led.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or unclear on something, be the one take initiative to get people on the same page. If you want more communication from a team, communicate more yourself. You already know the things you’d want from others to help make your workday efficient. Use that to set a standard.

Tip #2. Overcommunicate expectations.

Being clear about expectations is always extremely important, but especially so for remote teams. We lose a lot of impromptu “casual questioning” when we’re working remotely. Small details that might’ve been nailed down while walking together to our next meeting can quickly get lost in the remote shuffle. The more you can highlight specific expectations to your team or teammates, the better.

Be crystal clear about deadlines or timelines when requesting an action or deliverable. Set calendar reminders to make sure your teammates know how often they should be updating particular documents. Share exact expectations about scheduling. Etc.

Tip #3. There are no stupid questions when it comes to getting clarity.

Don’t spend hours trying to piece bits and pieces of information together in isolation. If you’re confused by something, ask for more information ASAP.

“I don’t quite understand. Can you tell me more?” and “Does EOD mean 6pm or midnight?” and “By Y do you mean X+Y+Z?” These are all perfect examples of questions that help you get better clarity. Believe us, it’s much faster — and saves so much wasted energy — to face the beast and quickly clear things up with your teammate or team via Slack or a by jumping on a quick phone call.

Tip #4. Be quick to let your team know of unique or unusual circumstances.

Life happens. Sometimes at odd times during a remote workday. And when it does? It’s important to quickly update the team. If you suddenly have to run an errand or you know you’re going to have to get up to sign for a package during an important video conference, simply let involved parties know. Then plan from there.

Do you have to share everything? Of course not. But whenever there’s an unexpected or potentially disruptive schedule change that’ll affect the team, it’s best to quickly give your team the heads-up.

Tip #5. Assume the best from your teammates and always seek to understand first.

Going remote inherently comes with added “communication gaps” and “unknowns” during our day. And we humans sure do love to fill these gaps with assumptions. Why is my teammate ignoring my Slack message? Am I being left out of important conversations? Why is nobody responding to my email?

Go ahead and push all those gremlins to the side.

Always assume good intent before spending any energy getting unnecessarily frustrated. If somebody isn’t being as responsive as you’re used to, assume they’re heads-down on a project. If a Slack message seemingly comes across as haphazard or terse, don’t assume the person on the other end is being careless or is upset. 99% of the time we’re all just trying to do our best. Always start there. And, as per the point above, it’s always OK to ask for more clarity.

Tip #6. Make sure to prioritize human moments in your day.

Fully remote work very quickly dissolves those small — often unnoticed — social niceties we share when working together in an office. Being remote means you won’t casually catch-up with your deskmate before diving into a project. And you can’t chat about your coworkers’ weekends while walking to lunch. Small as those things might be, they’re such an important part of our workdays.

Be sure to maintain a good cadence of non-work connections with your remote teammates, too. That can be a quick “Hi! How are you holding up?” message on Slack or an occasional appreciation email sent round to your team.

Tip #7. Do everything you possibly can to build your ideal working space.

Working on the couch is fun for a few days, but it gets old quickly. Create a dedicated space for working that fits your personal in-office work style. If you work with a monitor and keyboard at your office, invest in one for home. If you like to stand in the office, figure out how to stand at home. Having a space that feels like your own will also help you maintain a sense of “working space” that’s separate from your “living space.”

Tip #8. Create a professional background “set” for video calls.

It’s safe to say you’ll be on more video calls and conferences as a remote worker. Knowing that, it’s important to consider what type of “set” you want to present during your time on screen. Think about your environment in terms of video calls and what your team will be seeing and hearing (distractions like dogs and kids, private things in the background, etc.). Ask a teammate to help you test for sound, lighting, and also ask them to point out any background distractions that may have gone unnoticed.

And speaking of video conferencing, just remember that the camera doesn’t stop rolling just because you’ve stopped paying attention. You’ve likely seen the “Zoom Fail” videos by now. Treat your video conferences like you would an in-person meeting. That goes for sound, too. Mute yourself when you’re not talking.

Tip #9. Set “Working Hours” on your calendar so others can understand when you’ll be online and available.

It’s super easy to slip into being “on” 24/7 when you’re remote. Suddenly we can sit down at our computers as soon as we wake up. And there’s no one there to tell us to leave the office.

Not only is this unhealthy for you, it also sets an unhealthy expectation for a remote team. To make sure you’re working a healthy number of hours, set some rules around what hours you’ll be working (just as you would if you were physically going to an office and leaving an office). Then share these hours with your team.

Tip #10. Keep your calendar up to date, even with your non-work time blocks.

If you know you’re going to be offline for a chunk of time, add it to your calendar ahead of time so people don’t schedule a meeting. This makes it easier for people to know when you’ll be offline. Of course you can set non-work events to “Private” so others aren’t seeing the details of your doctor’s appointments or personal events.

Tip#11. Schedule — yes, schedule! — the same number of breaks you would normally take if you were working in an office.

Think about what a typical workday looks like when you’re working in an office. You commute. You might have a 10-minute chat here or there when you arrive. You might get some good work in at your desk before going out to lunch with a teammate. Etc. Within that typical day, there are lots of little “micro-breaks,” often without us really noticing.

But those off-the-cuff breaks disappear when you’re working from home. It’s all too easy to hop onto your computer at 6am only to emerge in a fog after a break-less 12 hours. That’s why it’s so important to be strict with yourself about setting (and actually taking) breaks during your remote workday.

Here’s one way to do it: Take a quick audit of your typical office day and mark down every “break.” Then turnaround and add those breaks to your calendar. Then commit to taking these breaks hell or high water.

Tip #12. Occasionally change locations to keep productivity high.

Changing your view gives you a mental cue that you’ve entered into a different productivity block. Even if it’s just sitting in a different position at the same table. Move to new locations or change up your positions throughout the day.

Tip #13. Back away from your computer. Really.

You’ve just put in a solid chunk of working hours at your computer and you’re ready to take a break. What’s your next move? Most people open up a new browser tab or take out their phone. But when you’ve been staring at a screen for work, continuing to stare at your screen during downtime is energy depleting.

Give yourself a different kind of break when the time comes. Get off your computer. Stretch for 10 mins. Take a walk and get some fresh air. Lightly tidy. Read. Sit and stare into space. Etc.

Tip #14. Set mental boundaries by using “Start” and “End” rituals for your work days.

It’s incredibly easy for work to blur into home life when you’re working from home all day. That’s why important to set boundaries for yourself by always starting your day with purpose and ending your day with purpose.

One great way to do this is by creating small rituals to indicate when your working day has begun and when it’s finished. For example, beginning-of-workday ritual might be always meditating for 10-mins or working out or reading 15-pages of a book while drinking your coffee. An end-of-day ritual might look like physically turning off your computer or taking a short walk to unwind.

Tip #15. Remember the five senses for your remote work environment.

Oftentimes you’ll hear “keep your space tidy” as the #1 tip for maintaining sanity while working from. And in many ways that’s absolutely true! An orderly atmosphere has a hugely positive effect on your headspace and morale.

But usually what’s left out of the conversation is just how much our other senses play into our morale. Scent, sound, and sight are big contributors, too. When building your space remember to incorporate those other senses as well. Open a window. Light a candle. Play music in the background. These small things matter.

Tip #16. Remote work ≠ alone work. Ask for support when you need it.

It’s easy to feel like you’re in it alone when you don’t have a team physically by your side. But if you’re feeling anxious, lonely, or could use connection simply let someone know — teammate or otherwise. Remote work shouldn’t mean “alone” work. Reach out when you need to. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Tip #17. Take each new day as an opportunity to experiment.

You’ll quickly learn that there’s no “right” way to do remote work. As with everything, you have to find what works best for you and then tweak from there. Take each day as it comes and experiment with different approaches to find your fit.

Do You Have Any #remoteteamtips?

Share them in the comments section below! We’re always looking to learn from our community’s collective wisdom. And as you’re adjusting to these new realities all across the world, remember that we’re all in this crazy time together. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Keep grinding.

17 Tips for Taking Care of Your Team, Your Work, and Yourself While Remote was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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How To Nail Your Virtual Interview

We may be hunkered down in our homes, but many companies are still aggressively hiring. That means interviews have transitioned to video and that may be a new experience for both interviewers and interviewees.

Having recently been a hiring manager at a fully remote company, I wanted to put together some advice specifically for those of us that are new at interviewing over video.

Make Eye Contact

The odds are not in your favor on this one, so you’ll have to be mindful about making eye contact. The camera is likely on the very top of your computer or monitor. It’s not a natural place to look, especially since your interviewer’s video feed is probably only occupying a portion of your screen elsewhere.

Here’s what I like to do to help with this: resize the other person’s video window to be as small as possible and position it at the top center of your screen. This way, you can maintain perceived eye contact (or as close as you can get) while watching their video feed for visual cues.

Hide Your (Full of Your-) Self View

Let’s face it, we’re all narcissists at our core. If there’s a live video showing us, we’re going to look at it. I’ve found that when I hide my own video during conversations, it helps me be more present and concentrate on what the other person is saying — not checking to see if my hair looks good or stressing about whether I should have cleaned off the table in the background.

Minimize Sound Disruption

Obviously, you should take your interview from as quiet of a space as possible. But if you’re like me and are currently at home with a partner who’s working full time and a child, then that’s not very realistic.

My two less obvious pieces of advice here are to:

  1. Go on mute when you’re not speaking. Learn the keyboard shortcut for muting/unmuting on. Use it frequently!
  2. Look into noise cancelling software. I’ve personally had really good experience with

Remember to Speak Concisely and Take Pauses

While this is good practice for any conversation in general, it’s even more important when interviewing remotely. For whatever reason, people tend to be longer-winded when on video conference. Participants on video are also less likely to cut you off if they’ve already gotten what they wanted out of your answer. That means you need to be especially mindful of making sure you’re not talking too much.

In fact, err on the side of giving less information. You can always further elaborate, but when you talk uninterrupted for 15 mins when someone asks you to tell them about yourself you will come across as oblivious.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask to Share Your Screen and Show the Interviewer Something

Are you talking about your experience making changes to the sign up flow that resulted in a 30% better conversion rate? Don’t be afraid to share your screen so your interviewer can follow along with a visual.

Lastly, Don’t Forget to Make Some Small Talk

You may be literally talking to a computer, but don’t forget there’s an actual person on the other end. Remember to be yourself, share some of your personality, and try to establish a rapport with your interviewer.

It’s a strange time to be interviewing, so hopefully these tips and tricks will help you shine in your next virtual interview.

Good luck out there!

How To Nail Your Virtual Interview was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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How to Adjust to Challenging Times by Re-Evaluating Your Resources

This article was contributed by Pablo Lascurain, one of our Startup Grind Directors from Latam. He’s an active participant of our director community and has, like so many other entrepreneurs, been feeling the effects of city-wide lockdowns. Below he shares his advice for founders on how to tackle challenging times with creativity.

The current circumstances are tough and they may get even tougher for entrepreneurs. Many of us are feeling uneasy about the unknowns. So what can entrepreneurs be doing during these uncertain times? One of the best things we can do to regain some sense of control is to look at our existing resources in new ways.

Right now, there are three main areas where you’re probably feeling major disruption:

  1. Disruption to the value of your time.
  2. Disruption to your productivity.
  3. Disruption to your business interactions.

Each of the above presents a challenge to any business, but especially to entrepreneurs who may depend on these types of resources to thrive. Rather than letting those challenges rule us, I’d like to walk through a few options for pushing through these disruptions by re-evaluating our resources to uncover opportunities. These ideas are meant specifically for entrepreneurs, but can also help non-entrepreneurs.

1. Re-Evaluate Opportunities When it Comes to Your Time.

Regardless of your profession, your time can be priced in the market. This is based on your income, revenue-generated, added value, or any other monetary metric. Because of the lock-down, my team has just hit the “Black Friday” price for our hourly rates (we internally call this the Black Friday time paradox). It’s tough. But it also means we can allocate our time to activities we usually thought about as less valuable, but in reality are transformational for companies.

As an example, here are a few things my team has done to turn our newly available time into something more valuable under the current circumstances:

  • Write the company manifesto. For us, a company Manifesto means answering questions around what makes our company special and how we do things around here. That includes defining our mission, vision, and values. Then we take it a step further by creating a Wiki or document explaining how the mission, vision, and values are lived and how they will be implemented inside our organization.
  • Document processes and build manuals. This is one of the fastest way to come up with new ideas for optimization. Write down the top 5 most common or revenue-generating processes ie. Stages, Time, Stakeholders, etc. Then evaluate those to begin pinpointing bottlenecks and efficiency opportunities, all the while documenting how you’ll attempt to improve the process in the future.
  • Create or identify your personal or company differentiator. Most companies struggle when asked: What’s your company superpower? What made or will make your company a success? Take the opportunity to really dig into these questions during this time. Hint: your company superpower is not price and it’s not delivery time. It should be super specific and super unique.

2. Re-Evaluate Opportunities When It Comes to Your Productivity.

On my team, we tend to measure productivity using external factors like sales, revenue, growth, KPI’s, etc. But in a lockdown, most of those external factors are going to be in standby for the short-term. So does this means we’re no longer productive? Not at all. In uncertainty, we evaluate new solutions! The first step to re-evaluating your opportunities when it comes to productivity is to ask yourself: “How can we measure or maintain our productivity outside of numbers?”

Here are a few ideas for things you can focus on:

  • Explore digital tools for time management. You can check out,, among others. There are also some methodologies for measuring productivity, like chunking. Chunking groups together information into ideally sized pieces so they can be used effectively to produce the outcome you want without stress.
  • Define how you measure success in your life. Can you imagine choosing only one metric for measuring how successful you were in your life? It sounds a bit extreme, but it’s an amazing exercise to attach meaning to your priorities. What does success mean to you? You company? Your family? Your partner? Your starting point here should be checking out Clay Christiensen’s book: How Will You Measure Your Life?.
  • Learn a set of skills. We regularly upgrade the operating system for our smartphones or computers. When time is available, we should think of updating ourselves. This means asking yourself: “Which skills can help me evolve?” Are you a CFO? Learn about service design instead of financial reporting 2.0. Are you a CMO? Think about psychology or web development. My team likes to think that by adopting radical new skills we can also transform the way we approach our day-to-day activities.

3. Re-Evaluate Opportunities When it Comes to Your Business Interactions.

By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard about social distancing, a term applied to certain actions that are taken by Public Health officials to stop or slow down the spread of a highly contagious disease. Essentially it means avoiding physical social interaction. This, of course, disrupts how you can do (past, present, and future) business. Entrepreneurs will likely be nervous about how they will be able to get new customers and avoid losing existing ones.

Here are some actions that we’re implementing with some of our clients:

  • Start building relationships with potential clients by showing value upfront. Because of the Black Friday time paradox, our team had a lot of newly available time. And so we decided to create yearly strategies for clients and prospects, with simulations that showed the impact of working with us. This means putting a lot of hours in upfront, but also creates a mechanism that generates fidelity, curiosity, word of mouth, and keeps relationships alive.
  • Deepen existing relationships by reaching out to current customers or clients. Post-sales are one of the most forgotten or underrated areas of the sales process. Oftentimes, once your customer has gotten their product or service and paid for it, the relationship is over. Because of our overtime, my team implemented a calendar for everyone in a 500+ employees company to schedule 10-min calls with clients to understand the experience of being a client. They also took the opportunity to offer these clients 30% off their next transaction. This mechanism optimizes interactions that generate empathy, learnings, customer development, and customer satisfaction. It’s also great for word of mouth and keeps relationships alive.

As mentioned earlier, these are uncertain times and that can be unnerving. But by re-evaluating your resources you can uncover opportunities to make the best of the unknown. I hope you find these tips helpful and please feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments below.

Pablo Lascurain is a Startup Grind Chapter Director in Latam. He’s founded 7 companies, sold 4 and helped more than 200 companies solve problems, scale, and thrive. Read more by Pablo Lascurain on his Medium account.

How to Adjust to Challenging Times by Re-Evaluating Your Resources was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Startup Spotlight Q&A: Swit

Josh Lee is the CEO & Founder of Swit, a team collaboration platform for the Enterprise. Swit launched just one year ago and recently won the coveted “Growth Startup of the Year” at Startup Grind’s 2020 Global Conference.

Check out what Josh had to say about the biggest challenges & milestones for his fast-growing company.

— In a single sentence, what does Swit do?

We provide enterprises with a team collaboration platform that combines team chat with task management in a revolutionary way.

– How did Swit come to be? What was the problem you found and the ‘aha’ moment?

We used to be heavy users of Slack, integrating multiple apps into it like Trello and Asana. But all we could do with those integrations was receive text-based notifications in selected channels. This actually doubled the number of distractions without getting more done. It was frustrating to go back and forth between chat and tasks. And so we built Swit to bring everything we needed to get things done into one convenient place for company-wide, cross-functional teams.

— What milestone are you most proud of so far?

We built Slack and Asana’s years of work in just one year, and with fewer resources. Our product performs better and our initial traction for user acquisition growth is also faster. We’re literally writing a new history.

— What are people most excited by when they first use Swit?

Beautiful design, fast performance, and interactive functionality. Tasks can be shared in a chat channel simply by dragging-and-dropping. Users are excited when they see they can move between workflows while maintaining context and data.

— Have you pursued funding and if so, what steps did you take?

We raised $7M Seed investment last year and have just started to raise $35M Series A investment, which I hope will be closed by the end of June.

What KPIs are you tracking at Swit that you think will lead to revenue generation or growth?

Growth rate for daily active users is the KPI we currently care most about.

— What is one thing every founder should ask themselves before walking into a meeting with a potential investor?

Every single startup should have their own go-to-market strategies and make potential investors assured that their investment will be returned with exponential profit in time. Also, be yourself and find your fit!

— How do you build and develop talent?

We’ve been enjoying product-led growth with virility so far. We’ve just now started to hire talent for Marketing and Sales in the SF office.

— How do you manage growth vs sustainability?

We have two different GTM strategies. Freemium for initial fast growth and Premium for monetization. The first targets SME with a more marketing-dependent, individual contributor-driven, bottom-up GTM strategy. The other targets larger organizations with the opposite.

— What are the biggest challenges for the team?

If we say, “Swit is much better than the sum of Slack and Trello or Asana” no one believes us until they actually see Swit in action. The challenge for us, then, is getting those new audiences to try Swit for themselves.

— What’s been the biggest success for the team?

The market we’re in is the biggest and fastest growing industry across all Enterprise SaaS categories, but the existing team collaboration tools were designed and built only for small-sized single teams. There’s a huge innovation vacuum space Swit can fill by creating our own category and re-bundling functions.

— What advice would you give to other founders?

Lean startup methodology will never work for Enterprise startups. Your niche won’t be found in a shallow shore; Dive deep and hold a long-lasting oxygen tank.

Startup Spotlight Q&A: Swit was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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VC Corner Q&A: Kira Noodleman

Kira Noodleman enjoys tackling problems in disruptive industries and across cultures. Her appreciation for skillful risk-taking attracted her to entrepreneurship, and ultimately to her role in venture capital. Kira is currently a principal at Bee Partners and also advises at Berkeley SkyDeck.

— What is your / your fund’s mission?

At Bee Partners, we embrace the reality that machines will win at precision, complexity, and data inference. Humans will still own purpose, ingenuity, and instinct.

We seek exceptional Founders with unbounded potential who execute. We then write them their first check, and live their mission. As a result, we have been that first check writer in 65% of our portfolio, we’ve led 17 of our last 20 investments, 70% of our companies succeed to the Series A, and we resolve 95% of our portfolio requests within 48 hours.

— What is one thing you are excited about right now?

I’m super excited about robotics right now applied to industrial and retail/logistics settings. It’s interesting because there is always a question of whether retrofitting existing machines or building from the ground up is the right call — and depends on the cost of customization and the ultimate value delivered, weighed against whether that value created is appropriately extensible to other use cases. There aren’t many hardware or software platforms or ecosystems out there, so often folks are trying to build from the ground up. Commercializing the robot is REALLY hard to do, and we are looking out for and excited to see applied, tangible use cases.

I’m also excited about the efforts I’m a part of in building the #FemaleFunders community for Bay Area women in VC, and the work I do with female founders via mentorship of groups like The Violet Society.

— Who is one founder you think we should watch?

Definitely Shely Aronov, Founder and CEO of Inner Plant. She’s currently raising her Series A, and has been developing technology that makes plants into living sensors. This will enable early detection of pathogens and nutrient deficiencies directly from plants in the field. Literally, farmers can talk to plants and understand what is happening in real time on a microbiological level — it feels like sci-fi.

The reason I love this opportunity is 2-fold: it has massive potential to generate financial returns AND significantly reduce drivers of climate change.

— What are the 3 top qualities of every great leader?

Having a strategic “big hairy audacious goal” (BHAG) paired with excellence in tactical execution is a winning combination.

Grit — what situations have you persevered through? What did you learn?

Uncanny passion for the problem you’re solving — why are you THE Founder to solve this problem?

— What was your very first investment/when? And what struck you about them?

The first deal I sourced is New Culture — a company producing cow cheese without the cow by using fermentation instead of animals to make dairy proteins; they later add plant-based fats and sugars as part of the traditional cheesemaking process. I was struck by how good the cheese tasted (I love a good cheese plate), and how well the Founding team knew both their market and technology — Matt is a serial founder from New Zealand, and Inja has a Master’s Degree in Biophysics and Protein Structure. Multiple companies have tried to produce fake cheese with non-dairy proteins, but low resemblance to real cheese resulted in slow and limited adoption. So basically, I could tell what they were doing was different by simply tasting it; the cheese was delicious and they had hardly modified it for flavor.

I also loved the positive impact New Culture will effect on the environment — methane from cows is incredibly damaging.

— What is one question you ask yourself before investing in a company?

Does this Founder have “Founder-Problem fit”? Meaning, is this THE Founder to be solving this problem? It’s a mix of the Founder having uncanny passion plus articulating a deep market insight that hasn’t been exploited in the market before.

— What is one thing every founder should ask themselves before walking into a meeting with a potential investor?

Be thoughtful about how you frame the problem, as that inevitably leads to the solution you’re pitching. Without a powerful problem statement, I’m not hooked.

— What do you think should be in a CEO’s top 3 company priorities?

Resource magnetism is #1 with a bullet — and it translates to 3 things. Are you able to effectively and efficiently attract capital, customers and talent? We don’t expect Founders to be able to do it all individually — but we do expect them to find a way to bring it all together. Those are the pillars that any startup must develop.

— Favorite business book, blog or podcast?

“Great by Choice” is awesome. For anyone building a foundational business, read up on the 20 Mile March (or Google it if a book feels daunting).

— What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?

Yoga. It’s a moving meditation through which I can reconnect to myself after a chaotic day. I also appreciate meditation in general and try to attend a weekly sangha or sitting group.

— Who is one leader you admire?

Josh Harder, formerly a VC from Bessemer, is now in Congress in California’s Central Valley. I admire how he jumped into a brand new arena of influence to try to drive more impact in politics. And it’s really fun to imagine VC skills being harnessed in the public sector.

— What is one interesting thing most people won’t know about you?

I teach yoga on the side! And host a quarterly “Dealflow Yoga” class with VCs. It’s a fun way to meaningfully connect and go beyond traditional networking.

— What is one piece of advice you’d give every founder?

Create optionality, or create more options for yourself as often as possible for the next inflection point. Capital efficiency and wisely using and raising capital is a very attractive quality to investors.

Startups interested in an opportunity to pitch Bee Partners can apply here.

VC Corner Q&A: Kira Noodleman was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Powering Through Tough Times as a Community

I, like many people, have been thinking a lot about the implications coronavirus is going to have on my team, and the startup community. I wanted to share my thoughts here because that’s a huge part of why communities exist — to acknowledge challenges, and offer support, resources, and connection. Though we’re all facing a tough time, we’re in it together.

As you might know, Startup Grind is a community-based company that has its roots in global chapters and in-person events all over the world. In fact, we recently had our annual Global Conference in Redwood City at the beginning of February. We were extremely lucky to get to host the event this year.

Many conferences have since cancelled their events (Mobile World Congress, F8, Shopify conference, GDC was moved to the summer, Saastr, Qualtrics X4 was moved). Conference cancellations are not normal for the industry and we should recognize that this is a very, very rare event. Mobile World Congress, for instance, cancelled their show for the first time in 33 years.

The repercussions of what this means are tough to ignore.

In the short term, many industries are going to be negatively affected by this. Travel and transportation, food, exported/imported goods, sports, labor, tourism, apparel. I spoke with a friend this week whose family member has all the products they sell coming from China and it’s all come to a standstill. Sequoia Capital’s letter to its company CEOs last week is sobering. There are lots of really difficult stories like this right now in these industries. Startups are going to need more help than ever. We should be prepared to adjust for what may come over the next few weeks and months.

But in the long run, humans are going to continue to want and need to gather and meet with each other. It’s been like this for thousands of years and while we may have 3–6 months (maybe longer) than we’d like with the stress of this news, we will continue to invest long-term in helping our community to thrive even in times of crisis.

So then, what should we be doing? What can we be doing to power through this together as a community?

When it comes to community events, locally run and sourced events and virtual events are a simple way to continue to help people get connected in a safe environment near their home. Though there’s always more, I’ve gathered a few things we can start with to keep communities running:

  1. Consider shifting your in-person event to a virtual event. This is particularly true if your area is affected. I highly doubt the speaker will mind, in fact they may prefer it. Do something different and new. Adjust to fit the new format. Make it memorable.
  2. Be creative about how to build community inside the new parameters that exist. What new or innovative things can you come up with? If you think of new ways, share them. We’re all facing a new type of community together and let’s support each other.
  3. Proactively have conversations with your partners and sponsors to assure them that you’re not going anywhere long-term. Offer to do more and help them get value in different ways until this blows over.
  4. Don’t automatically cancel and refund. Offer credits to new experiences to fulfill on your community’s commitment to you. Be proactive about talking to the community and people affected.
  5. Stay ahead of it. Things change quickly. Keep updating your decision process. Communicate like a legend.

Things like this work — and are already working. Houston’s Startup Grind community organized a digital pitch competition that will be hosted entirely online. One of our chapter directors is crowdsourcing short videos of support to send to the startup community in Italy. And here’s an example of best practices a community lead put together to help China-based communities during these tough times:

The above represent just a few examples of small things we can do to stay connected in big ways. It might be a challenge, but we have options. If you have other ideas be vocal about them. Share with your community.

And remember, of course, at the end of the day the most important thing you can do is to take care of yourself and your family. Nothing is worth jeopardizing your health. If there becomes a concern there that’s an easy thing to answer: stay safe.

We’re in this for the long run. Let’s be patient and thoughtful, adjusting to meet the new and shifting needs of the community and it will emerge stronger out of this challenging crisis.

Most of all again, stay healthy and safe.

Derek Andersen
Co-Founder of Startup Grind & Bevy

Powering Through Tough Times as a Community was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Startup Spotlight Q&A: Evolve Energy

Michael Lee is the CEO and Co-Founder of Evolve Energy. He’s worked in renewable energy for the past 10 years and earned his MBA from Harvard Business School. In 2018, Michael founded Evolve Energy to help consumers save on energy costs while also laying the groundwork for the energy infrastructure of the future. Evolve recently won Grind Startup of the Year award at Global 2020, an honor well-deserved by Michael and the Evolve team. Check out what Michael had to share about Evolve’s biggest moments, advice for founders, and what’s coming up next for Evolve.

— In a sentence, what does Evolve Energy do?

Evolve helps customers cut their electricity bill by 50% and decarbonize their footprint by unlocking the value of smart home products.

— What makes Evolve different in this market?

Other companies sell “fixed priced power,” which means every hour of the day is the same price. We sell wholesale power — this electricity is very cheap, but changes price every few minutes based on grid conditions. We then pair these signals with IOT-enabled products (EVs, smart thermostats, appliances, smart plugs) and optimize the timing they use electricity to align with the cheapest times.

— How did Evolve came to be? What was the problem you found and the ‘aha’ moment?

I’ve been helping build renewable energy projects for the past 10 years. I’ve seen these projects have a 70% reduction in cost over this period — but electricity prices that we all pay haven’t decreased as much. I realized the reason is that renewables create massive surplus and shortage of electricity on the grid. We could easily fix this if devices could respond to these wholesale prices.

— What milestone are you most proud of so far?

Getting to market and selling electricity is very challenging for startups. It traditionally requires large pools of capital for creditworthiness. We have a unique workaround to bypass this through a partnership with a large energy company. Finding the right type of partnership with established players is important to enable scale for startups. But it requires that one knows the nuance of the industry landscape since some of these partners could be competitors.

— What are people most excited by when it comes to using Evolve?

Customers will call thinking that we made a billing mistake and didn’t charge them enough. Yea, we can save people that much money that they think it’s an error how little they pay. Those are the best conversations.

— Have you pursued funding and if so, what steps did you take?

We raised a pre-seed and are raising a seed round. We are loosely related to the “climatetech” investment trend since the lowest electricity times are when renewables are abundant. And so we’re effectively decarbonizing footprints without customers knowing. Raising a seed can be challenging — investors want to pattern match and we don’t fall under any existing patterns. The most important part is to get in front of investors and have a two-way conversation. Capital raising is a full-time process.

— What KPIs are you tracking that you think will lead to revenue generation or growth for Evolve?

We already have customers and so retention/renewal rate is an important KPI. It influences our LTV and decreases our CAC (through referrals) at the same time.

What is one thing every founder should ask themselves before walking into a meeting with a potential investor?

Founders should ask “Does this investor have any companies in their portfolio that look like our model?” I’m not saying it needs to be the same company in the same industry. But if you’re a B2C company and the investor only has B2B in their portfolio, it’s going to be a short meeting. Create a spreadsheet CRM to track your conversations. It’s added work but helpful in the long-run.

— How do you build and develop talent on your team?

Finding great people is the first step. Look for people who are great at what they do yet open to new ideas. Specialists know their craft well and can limit your headaches down the road because you can trust them to make great decisions independently. Having a product that has positive externalizes (carbon reduction in our case) helps keep employees excited about what we’re all building.

— How do you manage growth vs sustainability?

Burnout is a risk for any startup. But growth while the window is open is also really important too. Having KPIs and goals helps keep the team focused on what they can control. The leader’s role is to push the team to achieve something that may feel just out of reach while also managing relationships of investors and stakeholders.

— What are the biggest challenges for the Evolve team?

By definition, in a startup all resources are scarce. The challenge is always about doing more with just enough resources. This is why rapid lean testing is so important — you don’t want to overspend just to find out it was the wrong path.

— What advice would you give to other founders?

Mental health is important. Eat healthy. Get a workout. Get some sleep. Doing this will enable you to ride through the highs and lows without the extremes.

— Have you been or are you part of a corporate startup program or accelerator? If so, which ones and what have been the benefits?

Urban-X (Brooklyn, NY).

— Anything else you’d like to share?

We’re thrilled to win the “Grind Startup of the Year” award. We see a new wave of companies that are using capitalism to unlock benefits for society. Carbon reduction is the next trillion dollar industry and startups have a huge role in this!

Startup Spotlight Q&A: Evolve Energy was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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