Best Tips of 2019: From Experts & Entrepreneurs

In 2019, Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs opened LIFT Labs PHL, a new space for founders in Philadelphia, where they host some of the greatest minds in entrepreneurship. They welcomed leaders in venture capital, successful startup founders, and best-selling authors who dropped nuggets of knowledge to help elevate young companies.

Here are some of the year’s best tips for founders we heard at LIFT Labs PHL this year:

1. When you need a break, take one

“There’s a pervasive message in the entrepreneurial community that tells people to wake up at 4 a.m., take no days off, never stop hustling, fail fast and often, and that rest is for suckers. You know what I have to say to that? Take a nap! Learning from your failures is great in the long run, but in the short term, failures hurt. Add sleep deprivation and financial constraint on top of that and you’re headed for disaster.”

-Alex Banayan, best-selling author of The Third Door

2. Test, test and test again

“Really smart early-stage leaders not only have great ideas, they are clever about figuring out ways to test ideas quickly, cheaply and easily. They know how to fake it and hack it. That helps you learn fast.”

-Marc Randolph, co-founder and first CEO of Netflix

3. Sell aspirin not vitamins

If you’re driving to work but forgot to take a multivitamin, you won’t turn your car around and go back. If you’ve got a raging headache and forgot to take an aspirin, you’ll definitely go back. “It’s a good way to think about the products and solutions you’re offering to the market. Are they so compelling and providing so much value that customers will obviously pay for them? If you’ve got an aspirin — a must-have — you’re likely to overcome the initial inertia of getting customers or businesses to switch to your product.”

-Scott Kupor, Managing Partner at Andreessen Horowitz

4. It’s never been a better time to start a podcast

“Everybody I know wants to write a book and nobody ever says, ‘but there are so many books out there already.’ The number of podcasts that exist will only grow, and I guarantee that if you do not start your podcast this year, you’ll regret it in five years.”

-Molly Beck, CEO of podcast production platform

5. To break in with a large corporation, find an internal champion

“You’ve got to find a champion inside the organization, somebody who really resonates with what you’re trying to accomplish, with your culture, with the objectives you targeting — and then use that champion as a wedge in and somebody who can consistently help you get over the bumps and weather the storms.”

-Sam Schwartz, Chief Business Development Officer at Comcast

6. Get your company values “off the walls and into the halls.”

Whether your company values have stood for 100 years or they’re brand new, living your values everyday sets great workplaces apart. “Know your values — get them off the walls and into the halls. You can’t just have your values on a plaque on the wall. They have to come alive and be meaningful.”

-Erica Keswin, author of Bring Your Human to Work

7. Remember, small steps lead to your grand vision

“By necessity, founders are thinking about the end state of their vision, but understanding what steps are going to get you to that vision are important. From identifying the initial milestones, to approaching their go-to-market strategy with the right perspective, all the way to the potential their technology might have inside a larger organization, connecting all those dots is crucial.”

– Matt Zelesko, Chief Technology Officer at Comcast

8. Set your sights on the right goals

Founders need to focus their energy on what truly makes them happy, rather than getting caught up in today’s social media culture. “With the content we consume, so much of our identity is tied to how much money we make or how much we look like we make … but you didn’t come out of the womb wanting Louboutin shoes or needing to build a multi-million dollar enterprise.”

-Erica Williams Simon, consultant and author of You Deserve the Truth

9. The investor/founder relationship should be collaborative, not adversarial

“There was this perception that you and your investors are on opposite sides of the table, that you have to package your information and put a spin on it with your investors. I’ve come to realize that’s just wasted energy. If you cannot have an objective, real conversation with your investors, you have the wrong investors.”

-Apu Gupta, CEO of Curalate

10. Spend time on distribution, not just content creation

You should be spending the same amount of time on distributing content as you do creating it. “If it took an hour to write a post, then spend an hour looking for channels, rewording things and trying to get that content into different people’s hands. We tend to think if we make wonderful content people will come, but no, you have to spend the same amount of time getting that content to where people are.”

-Kelly Moffitt, producer at StoryCorps and contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition

Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs gives talented entrepreneurs access to Comcast NBCUniversal’s renowned network of partners, brands and mentors to foster rapid breakthroughs in connectivity, media, and entertainment. Visit to learn more about our resources and collection of programs.

Best Tips of 2019: From Experts & Entrepreneurs 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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Meet the Startup Program’s First 200 Confirmed Exhibitors at #SGGlobal 2020

The countdown has begun for Startup Grind’s 10th Anniversary Global Conference hosted in Silicon Valley! While startups from all over the world are still joining the Startup Program, this time we thought we would give you a deeper look into some of the most exciting startups out of our first 200

A few to look out for at the Global Conference:

AeroGuest — Growth

AeroGuest is the platform that reconnects you with your guests — seamlessly, as we integrate with every PMS on Earth.

Alfa Technologies, Inc. — Growth

Developing killer apps to foster mainstream adoption of cryptocurrency.

Grandhood — Growth

100% digital pension for SMEs and their employees.

Indorse — Growth

Hire the right candidates — Leverage the experience of industry experts spread across the world & get reliable and actionable insights about tech candidates.

Super Heroic Inc. — Growth

Building products to entertain, delight and surprise every child in the world through physical, interactive and imaginative play.


A Philadelphia-based mobile-first nurse and caregiver recruitment and retention platform focused on creating a better experience for all individuals involved in the home care industry — agencies, caregivers, and patients.

Tonic App — Growth

Tonic App is a mobile communication app for medical communication with two sides. Professional content and safe and organized discussions.

Airalo — Grind

Airalo is the world’s first eSIM store for travelers to access over 100 eSIMs at affordable, local rates from around the world. Airalo offers connectivity and freedom — you’ll never have to carry multiple SIM cards or change your number again.

Tymit — Grind

The credit card, reinvented. We’ve changed the credit card to make it completely transparent, fair and exciting to use, with cutting edge fraud protection.

Zuper — Grind

A new way to save. A new way to bank. Anywhere. Anytime.

Fancy checking out the full list?

Have a look at our list of exhibiting innovators in the list below. You can filter and sort the data as you please.

200 Startup list

An update on what it has taken to get here…!

After months of vetting thousands of some of the most competitive ideas and solutions out there, these 200 startups have been given the opportunity to showcase their products and technologies across two days and to over 10,000 attendees in what is anticipated to be our biggest Conference yet.

These startups represent:

  • 40 countries
  • 35 industries that include Software, Healthcare, Finance, IT and Business Tools
  • 15 tech categories highlighting SaaS, AI, IoT, Mobile Applications, Blockchain and more

Have You Applied to The Startup Program Yet?

The Startup Program is revamped, steadily growing and exclusively designed for entrepreneurs from around the world. Whether you are Grind (< 3M in funding) or Growth (>3M in funding) we have a place for you.

All exhibiting startups at this year’s Global Conference will receive connections to potential customers and investors, massive media exposure, access on-site branding, complimentary demo stand, and so much more. Each of them are now also official members of the Startup Program Community Platform, which will give them the opportunity to stay connected to the world’s largest community of entrepreneurs!

Deadline to Apply

The deadline to submit your application for the Startup Program 2020 is January 17th.

Apply NOW! Secure your Exhibition Space and join our Global Startup Grind Community!

Meet the Startup Program’s First 200 Confirmed Exhibitors at #SGGlobal 2020 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: Guy Weaver

Guy is a Director at Praetura Ventures focused on investing in high growth businesses. Prior to joining Praetura, he was a Director at KPMG where he raised over 1.5 billion of capital for businesses. Whilst Guy has mainly worked in the UK, he has also spent time working in Australia, Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea. He launched his own startup called IntroStream, a business to help companies connect with startup technology businesses through challenges. Through this, he connected businesses to large retailers and financial institutions.

— What is your / your fund’s mission?

We back exceptional teams that demonstrate not just their potential, but their ability to achieve it. And with decades of experience in founding and scaling businesses, we are a supportive partner along the journey.

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

The rise of the chatbot. More organizations will adopt chatbots to aid efficiency both externally and internally facing. Many people associate chatbots with FAQ’s, they can do so much more and drive significant value for a number of businesses.

— Who is one founder you think we should watch?

I might be a little bias but Richard Potter of Peak is doing some incredible work in the AI sector.

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

  1. Passion for their sector and business
  2. The ability to listen, learn and take on advice
  3. A great people manager capable of bringing together a team and motivating them throughout the journey

— What and when was your very first investment? What struck you about them?

My first investment at Preatura was Dr. Fertility. They have an incredible passion for what they are doing, and we instantly knew we could work well with the founders. The founders set up their business whilst they were both on maternity leave. To set up a business whilst you have a new baby takes incredible determination and resilience. As a new father, I appreciate how hard this would have been.

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

Can we work with the founders and team?

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

Are you ready? We see so many businesses that just are not prepared for a VC investment process. If the meeting goes well you need to maintain the momentum which means you should have a detailed plan, financial forecast, and key materials ready to send after a meeting.

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

  1. Know your finances and have a good finance person you trust
  2. Know your value to the business as a founder. If you are leading on sales then you may need to bring someone in to run the business whilst you focus on sales
  3. Build, motivate and inspire a great team

— Favorite business book, blog or podcast?

Dave Allen, Getting Things Done. The book and course completely changed how I work and made me more efficient- my email inbox is regularly cleared to zero each week as a result of the techniques in the book.

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

Anything active including running, mountain biking and motorcycling.

— Who is one leader you admire?

I was lucky to have dinner with Jeff Hoffman, the founder of It is incredible what he has done in his career and the businesses he has set up.

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

I supported the British Olympic Taekwondo team for 6 years in a number of areas from fundraising with UK Sport and Sport England through to governance. It was incredible to be with the team at London 2012 when they won their first gold medal.

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

Surround yourself with great people, not just in your company team but also in your network.

Startups interested in an opportunity to pitch Praetura Ventures can apply here.

VC Corner Q&A: Guy Weaver 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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4 Common Misconceptions of Product Managers — How You Can Break Through Them

Here’s how to encourage the holistic view of Product Management — and discourage common misconceptions.

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Startup Spotlight Q&A: SeedLegals

At SeedLegals, we make it super easy for startups to raise investment and manage company equity — all at a fraction of the cost of traditional service providers. No paper. No law firms. No accountants.

— In a sentence, what does your company do?

SeedLegals generates the end to end legals for founders in their fundraising journey. We support them every step of the way with access to a committed team and deal data from thousands of previous rounds.

— What makes your company/product different in this market?

We go beyond the funding round legals. Our integrated Cap Table, and automated EMI Option Schemes allow us to act as the Operating system of any company.

— Describe how and when your company came to be. In other words, what was the problem you found and the ‘aha’ moment?

SeedLegals founders met at a party in Rome. Anthony being a serial entrepreneur, and Laurent Laffy a serial investor, they’d both experienced the time and financial cost of funding rounds, from opposite sides of the table. There and then, they decided to change it.

— What milestone are you most proud of so far?

Within 2.5 years of launching, our platform has helped more entrepreneurs close investment than any single law firm or crowdfunding platform.

— What are people most excited by?

The rise of ‘borderless legals’ coming to life with our French launch in January 2020. An English investor can now lead with his Term Sheet, which will translate into the French equivalent over a single interface.

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

We closed a Series A of $4 million with Index Ventures

— What KPIs are you tracking that you think will lead to revenue generation/growth?

What is my WHY? What problem am I solving?

— How do you build and develop talent?

We’ve created and implemented great on-boarding structures that develop each person’s skill, but integrate them into the company’s culture.

— How do you manage growth vs sustainability?

To maintain the quality and consistency of our work whilst growing rapidly, we hire accordingly with a smooth onboarding transition.

— What are the biggest challenges for the team?

1. Attracting international talent in the run-up to Brexit, and scaling our hiring processes concurrently to scaling our core business outputs.
2. Making company systems ready for scale.
3. Product: Widening our product offering to cater for any type of company at any stage of growth.

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

We’ve been recognised as a legal tech pioneer across the market. So far we’ve been named the UKTN Fintech Startup of the Year, Best New Entrant to the Angel Market by UKBAA, Best Legal Team for Early Stage Deals Star by UKBAA 2019, Top 100 Disruptive Brands by Marketing Week and a TechNation’s Rising Star 2019, and Growth Investment Awards 2019 Industry Game Changer.

— What advice would you give to other founders?

Have a viable and MVP before you approach investors. Choose your investor wisely because most investor/founder relationships last longer than most marriages.

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

Tech Nation Upscale 2019.

Startup Spotlight Q&A: SeedLegals 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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2020: 5 Predictions for the Startup & VC Community

A return to fiscal responsibility and sound board governance

Private companies with inflated unicorn values got a reality check in the public markets in 2019. Lyft and Uber felt it on the largest scale, but it’s happened at all stages, as companies prioritized growth ahead of fiscal fundamentals. WeWork imploded because calling yourself a technology company when you aren’t doesn’t actually produce a scalable $40 billion-dollar business, just an illusion of one. The growth-at-all-cost mantra isn’t paying off.

The market will continue to return to fundamentals, fiscal responsibly, and sound board governance. Founder equity at the early stage will be structured so that board involvement will have more oversight. For example, founder’s equity at the angel round will be forced into the option pool as they have to earn it out. You’ll see SoftBank and VisionFund tweak their mega-funding, grow-at-all-cost strategy and evolve towards more fiscal responsibility. Masayoshi Son will still be the maverick risk-taker, but I’m betting VisionFund 2 doesn’t get off the ground. The original fund needs the focus, and investors will demand it.

Dual-class, super-voting shares fade away with tech startups

The last few years have seen a rise in dual-class shares particularly with technology startups. These are shares that give founders super-voting rights. Mark Zuckerberg’s class B shares give him 60% control. That means Zuck controls everything at Facebook. This scenario played out during the recent WeWork debacle with Softbank having to buy out founder Adam Neumann to the tune of $1.7 billion.

As noted in a recent Vox article: “Companies like Facebook are basically putting in place a share structure that is a bulwark against management change,” said Amy Borrus, the deputy director of the Council of Institutional Investors (CII).

Dual-class shares aren’t going away altogether. It will take some time to come to fruition, but next year we will see the earliest stage deals set this up. All-powerful, all-ruling founders will gradually give way to more structured and equitable governance.

Female founders finally break the 2% threshold and get real VC traction

Here are two key facts in our industry: first, there are more opportunities to access funding than at any other time in history. Second, report after report shows that companies with women in leadership positions experience better innovation, increase productivity, and improve financial results. Still, women are still getting a paltry amount of venture funding (hovering around the 2% figure for years) according to data from PitchBook (and others).

2020 is the year we finally see real growth pushing that 2% to at least 8%. That’s not anywhere near where it should be — it could take 10 years to see parity — but at least we’ll start to see upward traction. I see the wave building across the industry from conferences to boardrooms to the startups working with Oracle.

Some of the strongest, most insightful startups in our program are led by female founders. Each of them cite access to capital as a major hurdle in starting and growing their businesses, which is a shame because companies like Snap Tech, Transmute, Jobecam, Gapsquare and others are solving big global problems and helping both the enterprise and our society advance.

Explosive growth in environmental and agricultural tech

2020 will bring tremendous growth in solutions solving for environmental and agricultural advancements. Our societal and human needs are pushing the urgency. There is also a tension with how social enterprise and impact funds are realized. AgriTech and environmental tech will be where this happens.

We are already seeing this in our Oracle for Startups program. Kinetica, a platform for active analytics and real-time insights, is partnering with the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) to protect the fragile ecosystems and waters around the San Francisco Bay. In the realm of food production in an increasingly unstable climate, LettUsGrow helps indoor farms thrive to produce healthy, sustainable, and safe food. TechShelta provides technological support to greenhouse farmers in Ghana and across Africa to help optimize production. Agroscout uses drone technology and real-time data to give farmers better ways to plant, irrigate, rotate, nurture, and maximize crops for better food production.

Shift from traditional “incubators” to a focus on virtual support via corporates

While there has always been a focus on helping startups and entrepreneurs through traditional accelerators, you’ll see a greater increase and collaboration with startups and corporations. Regional incubators will continue to pop up, and they will have short lives, well-established firms notwithstanding. Instead, there will be a focus on virtual acceleration and collaboration. Much like what we see from Coursera and Udemy for education, we will see more virtual offerings for incubation and acceleration. Corporations across the globe have launched virtual startup programs and innovation hubs to connect and support startups.

As Steve Case’s “Rise of the Rest” mantra underscores, great ideas and technological solutions can happen anywhere across the globe. No longer limited to the traditional hotspots of San Francisco, Boston, London, and Tel Aviv, we are seeing solutions pop up everywhere. That’s why you’ll see the strong uptick in “virtual” programs to meet and reach those entrepreneurs with the resources they need regardless of where they live.

2020: 5 Predictions for the Startup & VC 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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IP Strategy 101: What Startups Need to Know

Photo by Ricardo Resende on Unsplash

Though startup founders wear many hats when they launch their businesses — innovator, creator, delegator, coder, fundraiser, and marketer — not many list patent attorney among their titles. In fact, the absence of a cohesive intellectual property (IP) strategy is a common trait of many startup teams.

With so many things to think about — building a product, hiring a staff, fundraising, marketing, sales and more — there’s often little time left for a patent strategy. The problem with this reactionary mindset is that by the time an IP problem is large enough for leadership to deal with, the entire business could be at risk.

That’s why having a plan upfront will save you from a lot of expense and legal hassle later on down the road. Here’s how to think about putting one together.

Be proactive: protect your technology and build your IP portfolio

Understand and take stock of all the IP that your company owns or uses. Then, identify what it is that sets you apart from other companies — that’s part of your competitive advantage, and what you need to protect, so that your technology can’t be used by another company without your permission.

One way to build your IP portfolio is, of course, to file patents. If you’re not certain where to begin or what specifically you can patent, you can discuss your options with a patent attorney, who can guide you through the process. You should also determine in which countries your patents should be filed. If you plan to stick to one market exclusively, such as the United States, a single filing may suffice — although many companies have an eye toward eventual expansion and may be well served to begin exploring international patents that will prove lucrative in the future.

You can also acquire patents by buying them: often, companies add patents to their portfolios by acquiring other companies. Having a solid patent portfolio in your industry makes it easier to expand your product and develop new innovations — and can sometimes be less expensive than developing the technology internally through your own R&D.

Be defensive: protect your innovation

One major reason you need a proactive strategy is to thwart off patent assertion entities (PAEs), sometimes known as “patent trolls.” Trolls tend to be shell companies with no tangible products or services that often purchase patents from existing companies or companies that no longer exist. They make most of their money by suing companies using those patents. And, over the last decade, patent trolls have ramped up their targeting of startups.

With the rise of startups in recent years, patent trolls have focused their efforts on these smaller, less patent-savvy companies in an effort to gain financial compensation.

With a single lawsuit, a troll can target multiple start-ups — most of which aren’t likely to have lawyers in-house, and don’t have the $3.2 million on average it takes to defend a lawsuit — which are likely to settle. Because of the windfall that settlements can provide, today, more than 50% of patent troll targets have less than $10 million in annual revenues.

What people don’t often know if that you don’t even have to own patents in order to be sued by a troll. Employing the third party technologies commonly used to run a modern business, such as cybersecurity software, video streaming or location tracking technologies, could put a startup at risk of a patent troll lawsuit. With the average cost to defend a software-related patent troll lawsuit sitting at over $3 million, it’s easy to see how patent troll litigation can easily put a startup out of business.

One of the easiest ways to protect your company against patent troll lawsuits is to join a community. My organization, LOT Network,, is a non-profit community of more than 500 companies that agree that if and only if a patent owned by a member company falls into the hands of a patent troll, that company grants the other members a license to that patent. That means that the patent can no longer be used by trolls to sue the members of the community. The usual uses of patents, like buying and selling, and suing companies who infringe on your IP, are still preserved. Best of all, membership is free for startups with less than $25 million in annual revenue.

There are other communities that companies often turn to after they’ve already been sued. Unified Patents looks to deter patent abuse and focuses on challenging the validity of low quality patents that form the underlying basis of many patent troll campaigns. Allied Security Trust is a community of companies who pool their resources to buy patents for defensive purposes.

Having spent more than 20 years protecting intellectual property at tech companies, I believe that an ounce of prevention is well worth the peace of mind and the pain averted in the long run.

IP Strategy 101: What Startups Need to Know 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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Announcing the First 100 Exhibiting Startups on The Startup Program #SGGlobal 2020

While we can’t believe it’s already December, we are proud to announce the selection of our first batch of exhibiting startups! They will be showcasing their latest startup innovations in Silicon Valley in February as part of The Startup Program at the Startup Grind 2020 Global Conference!

Many Thanks!

Thank you to all the applicants so far who have inspired our team. After opening startup applications in August and completing thousands of vetting calls, once again, we bring you some of the top startups in the world.

To date, they represent 29 countries, and cover 27 industries, such as Software, Finance, BioTech, Retail and HR, harnessing technologies such as SaaS, AI, IoT and Blockchain.

These startups have been selected to a hugely competitive program based on their foundational concept, founding team, market fit, user traction and competitive advantage, amongst other things.

Before sharing the list of exhibiting startups, here’s a few things worth noting from our team:

  • Received and vetted 2500+ applications already
  • Accepted 100 outstanding startups
  • …and we are still processing a high volume of applications, so please apply if you haven’t already!

Experience The Startup Program

The Startup Program identifies fast-growth, high-potential, early-stage companies built by founders we think have what it takes to get to the next level.

We work with our community of more than 2 million entrepreneurs across 600+ cities, connecting, educating and supporting them throughout their journey. Our global network and community contributes to the Startup Program’s awesome exhibitions at our flagship conferences in London and Silicon Valley where all startups get the opportunity to showcase their amazing companies. We develop strategic partnerships with brands, governments and organizations looking to reach startups and provide resources to this highly curated community.

Whether you are bootstrapped, have raised a seed round of under $3 million (Grind) or are growing past $3 million and Series A (Growth), we have options for you. Exhibitors will receive a booth, onsite branding, the opportunity to connect with, learn from & pitch to 10,000 high-level Conference attendees, social media coverage to over 1 million followers, full access tickets to attend ongoing panels and much more.

Deadline to Apply

The deadline to submit your application for the Startup Program 2020 is December 15th.

Apply NOW and don’t miss the opportunity to be part of our Global Startup Grind Community!

The Top 100 Exhibiting Startups — Check out the full list here.

Click the image above to see all the startups listed for the Startup Grind Global Conference

The 2020 Startup Grind Conference

The Startup Grind Global Conference (Feb. 11–12, 2020 in Silicon Valley) is the event for startups everywhere. #SGGlobal provides an environment unlike anything else — where more than 10,000 entrepreneurs, partners, investors, thought leaders, and worldwide directors come together for two days of dynamic networking events, meetings with investors, access to invaluable resources, and inspiration led by top CEOs and influencers and more. Join us to connect with the largest startup community in the world.

We look forward to meeting you. See you there!

Announcing the First 100 Exhibiting Startups on The Startup Program #SGGlobal 2020 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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2019 Gift Guide

Tis the season! Consider this our gift to you… we put our global heads together to come up with gifts for every person in your life, on any budget. Here is our list of “can’t live without” products (and maybe grab one for yourself while you’re at it)!

  1. Airpod Case. We all know one… the person that has all the latest tech accessories. Stock their stocking with a handy Airpod Case. They come in different colors to fit any personality, so spice up their AirPods this holiday season. Grab one from Amazon for only $8
    — Coco Chia, AirPod Case Connoisseur

2. Patagonia Vest. A winter wardrobe staple for all budding tech bros and wannabe VC’s! Especially useful for those who suffer from “warm arms, cold heart” syndrome. Get one from Patagonia starting at $79
— Imo Watson, Practical Jacket Enthusiast

3. Personal Zen Garden. You probably won’t have to look far to find someone in your life that could use a little relaxation. The solution (other than hitting the eggnog bowl with gusto)? A few minutes with a personal Zen Garden and all those stresses will drift away. Grab a personal Zen Garden for only $10
Mac Jones, Zen Specialist

4. Sous-vide. For the aspiring chef who maybe needs a little help? Get them a sous-vide and they can say goodbye to overcooking and say hello to juicy, delicious dinners. Get one for $200
— Karlie Valine, Aspiring Home Chef

5. Adidas Slides. The person that has everything? They’ll still appreciate these slides for the house, the beach, the corner store, and even a fashion show. They last forever, feel great, and look even better. Head to Adidas and grab a pair for $50.
— Grace Lancaster, Resident Fashionista + Deal Finder

6. Aer Daypack. Men and women alike need a sleek way to stay organized. This stylish backpack will keep everything in its place while leaving hands free to grab another holiday cocktail. The best part? An internal water bottle holder to try and rehydrate between holiday parties. Head to Aer to get one for $125.
— Becca Rogers, Queen of Fashion Meets Function

7. MUD/WTR. With the holidays come New Year’s resolutions and giving up coffee makes the list for many. Help them check that resolution off with MUD/WTR, a coffee alternative that replaces the caffeine jitters with increased focus and energy throughout the day. Get a tin of MUD/WTR for $30.
Madeline Ulivieri, Organic Enthusiast

8. Succulent. A few colorful succulents can brighten up any space, not to mention mood. Easier to take care of than a pet and don’t have to be taken to doggy day care on long trips. Get a succulent for only $20.
— Jessica Aldrich, Resident Green Thumb

9. Nintendo Switch Lite. Long commutes, road trips to family gatherings, or even just stuck on a long conference call. Everyone needs a way to stay entertained and a Nintendo Switch Lite will do just the trick. Snap one up for $199.
— Ashlee Hunt, Entertainment Enforcer

10. International Sim Card. Travelers can all relate to running from coffee shop to hotel, trying to find some free wifi. But this International sim card is permanently attached to your local sim card and allows data usage while traveling (without the exorbitant rates). Grab a card for $30.
— Guillaume de Smedt, Offbeat Traveler

BONUS GIFT: We know that everyone in your life would like nothing more than to be able to attend the premiere conference that is Startup Grind Global 2020! (Forgive our shameless plug). Our conference is the chance to network with the brightest minds from around the world & build relationships that are unlike any other. So it really is the gift that keeps on giving! Tickets range from $305–$550.

Happy Shopping!

The Startup Grind Team

2019 Gift Guide 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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Simone Musgrave – Grit, Sales, and using Femininity in business.

Aneme Dlamini of Startup Grind chats to Simone Musgrave of Musgrave Gin about perseverance, building an actual business, and bringing your femininity as a force to be reckoned with in the business world.

Aneme = A, Simone = S

A: Welcome!

S: Thanks.

A: So, I am not going to go with the traditional ‘background story’ (laughs), I am sure you’ve been asked that many times.

S: I have, yeah (laughs).

A: Cool. So, to jump right in, you left the food industry after 13 years. Why after 13 years, why not before or after then? You mentioned in your SG talk that you actually started Musgrave as a side hustle…

S: Yeah, I was single mom with two small children and I needed that stability. So I stayed in the role. It was also a really good role in the business. I got to travel a lot, I was exposed to every brand within the business. So, the role was a great opportunity to further learn the industry. But towards the end of my time there, my kids had finished school, and I felt like I was not being challenged enough. So, I decided to leave. So long story short, the timing was right (laughs).

A: Awesome! Uhm, I wanted to also question you about your thoughts on expansion (in business). So, first you did Musgrave Original, then Musgrave Pink. Musgrave Pink exploded and was well-received. But my question is, as an entrepreneur, when did you know it was the right time to expand?

S:  Yeah, so I always wanted to do a pink from the beginning. But I knew had to cut my teeth on a classic gin, and I launched the classic. But I needed more sales, so that meant I needed another product. My history being in product development and category management, taught me that. Also, from it, I knew that about a year, would do, for us to launch the next product. The timing, again, was important. People were starting to buy and love Musgrave, and they wanted something more from us. It’s never one factor, it’s a combination of factors. I also had the entrepreneurial surge of ‘f*ck it, I’m going to do this now.’ (laughs).

A: Okay, and how do you mix that sense of urgency and patience, like how do you balance the two for the sanity and sake of your business?

S: It comes down to discipline. What I have seen in the gin industry is that a lot of companies launch one gin, then another, and another, and another. That’s what innovators do, they launch products – the sexy part of the job. Having too many products does not make sense, for an early-stage business. The discipline lies in having a one or two product company and focusing on selling those products to the best of your ability. We haven’t launched a new gin since and we won’t. There is a fine balance between pushing your products and being disciplined enough to not want to do the sexy stuff all the time. It is all about reading the market and knowing whether it makes sense to innovate! ‘Cause often, just putting your energy into your current products will give you more sales and exposure than new products.

A: You’re quite fearless in the way you approach business and the way you have done things. Do you ever have days where you say, ‘Shit, I don’t feel like doing this today’? (laughs)

S: Yeah, the past few days actually! Being an entrepreneur is scary, you know.

A: Yeah

S: I have just had an employee leave me high and dry. No handover, nothing. Just dumped me in the shit. They were working the most important part of the business… So you’ve got to step up. I mean, who else is gonna do it? I am gonna do it! I now have her job, too. So yeah, there are days where I feel, ‘What the hell?’ There’s also the challenge of dealing with retail, when you’re a small player. It’s difficulty, quite a gritty arena to play in. Having said that, I don’t know if I get unmotivated, but I do get tired of the bullshit. And sometimes, that anger energizes me, other times, I just feel like running away (which I can’t) (laughs).

A: Yeah (laughs), that’s the thing about being an entrepreneur, right? You can’t just up and leave when you feel like it.

S: Yeah, I always say, my life looks sexy from the outside. The picture painted on social media is: I am travelling around the world, tasting different gins… but at the end of the day, I actually pick up boxes of gin and sell them. You can have the best product but if you don’t get on and sell them, it’s not a business.

A: So, talk more to that, right. The, what some would call, unsexy part of business, the actual selling of Musgrave Gin. What’s the daily grind?

S: The daily grind is getting listings (getting into the stores you want to be in), and once you’re in: managing that. So, most of my day is spent managing stock coming from the distillery into the warehouse, and out to the retailers – making sure that everything is on time! Big companies have big teams to help them do that. We are four, in the business.

Oh, and chasing distributors to actually do the selling. And finding answers to my questions like, ‘Why aren’t we listed here, I am paying you commission. Why aren’t we listed?’ So, it’s a chasing game, constantly. It all comes back to selling, that’s where I spend most of my time. The parties and the events are cool, but if you don’t sell, you can’t have an event. You have to be a good salesperson as an entrepreneur (laughs).

A: 100%! And talk more towards, what I call, the ‘fake entrepreneurship lifestyle’- entrepreneurs just doing it for the events, the glitz and glamour, the fame etc. What’s your opinion on it? I mean, you were self-funded from the beginning. Didn’t raise any funds etc. Not very typical. Versus startups that raise R 5 million bucks, but haven’t sold anything at all.

S: Hmm. Yeah, I don’t know if those businesses would survive. Also, someone else owns you. I believe in keeping the business 100% owned by myself. I think, if you see an entrepreneur being involved in the glitz and glam that may be just for show. A true entrepreneur does long hours of gritty work. The unsexy stuff – HR, recruitment, cash flow management, etc. So, the guys who you see raising R5 million won’t be around for long. I just don’t believe money comes easily, nor does quality business growth. I think, truly long-term successful people will have done everything from the ground level.

A: 100%! What are some of the characteristics that you define as ‘vital’, for an entrepreneur to succeed?

S: Grit! I really believe that they need to have grit. Grit and hard work. You have to be focused. You can’t let anyone tell you ‘no’. Whoever tells you ‘no’, just ignore them. And the ability to break the rules. You have to break rules every day. The rules are not made for entrepreneurs or innovative spaces. Just do it, and find out how, later.

I also believe an ethical or moral stance will keep you going in the long-term. The guys that say bad things about other brands, bad mouth others in the industry – aren’t going to work out in the long-term. You get caught out much quicker these days than in the old days.

If you can put all those things together, you can do anything you want with any product. And I look at the youngsters of today (you’re a youngster, no offence), and it is really hard to find those qualities. Young people don’t have as much grit. And in a time where you’re having to be an entrepreneur more than an employee, I really worry, sometimes.

A: What do you look for in employees, or in strategic partners?

S: Yeah, so for strategic alliances, we mainly look at whether or not the brand aligns with our brand and whether our customers align. We pay attention to how they speak to their customers, how they treat their customers, and all such things. From an employment point of view, I look for experience. We have a small team. And as a result, we need super-experienced people. I don’t really have the time right now, to grow people, in my business.

People management is the hardest part about running a business. The unsexist part, but it is going to be the future of business.

A: I have noticed that you’re very open, quite public with your vulnerability. Do you feel like that adds a certain authenticity to your business?

S: Hmm. It seems like people like to connect to human spirit. Things that they can relate to. Putting my surname on the bottle is me putting myself out there. Also, I was a single mom – I don’t like to talk about it that much, because nobody would ask a man in business if he was a single dad – I actually reject the question quite a lot. But it is my reality, and that is why I speak about it. I am who I am. I am on this journey, not to be famous, but to build a successful business and a legacy.

The ‘new consumer’ wants a story, they actually want to know the person behind the brand.

A: That’s quite deep.

S: Yeah.

A: How, if they have, have your daughters impacted the way you do business? Your values etc.?

S: Growing up in a single mom household (our cat is the only male in the house – laughs), they are quite strong and opinionated. They come with a force and a confidence, and I see them becoming powerful and vulnerable – in a balanced way. That inspires me to do as I do.

A: Staying on the parenting topic – as a parent you had to make sure your daughters were in school, everything was okay etc. How did you balance the discipline of ‘I really want to start this business vs. parental responsibilities’

 Also, what is your advice for parents that want to start businesses but are worried, for example, that the first six months will be unpredictable and they still have kids in school etc.?

S: Yeah, so I started it my business while still working. So, I was still getting paid a salary. Just make sure that you are exposed to very little risk.  For me, that worked. It will not always work. But I was at a point in my career where, they weren’t using me that much. So, I had a lot of free time. It’s about finding something that keeps you secure – even if it is your basic salary, and cutting your costs I wouldn’t suggest dumping it all and going straight into business.

It’s not about not taking a risk, it’s about taking a smart risk. I am not a conservative person in terms of risk, but I am conservative when it comes to making sure my home, daughters and other necessities are secure – then I do the risky stuff.

Also, a lot of people are in a rush. To become an overnight success. It’s okay to transition from a job into a business. I still don’t pay myself as much as I was earning at corporate.

A: What are some of the things that you have had to sacrifice?

S: I miss leave. Having time off with no responsibilities. That is what I miss the most. Going from four weeks of leave, to zero days at all, isn’t as cool. I don’t eat out as much etc., when I do, it is for Musgrave.

A: You had a baby food business that you said didn’t pan out too sexily. Did it knock your confidence as an entrepreneur?

S: Not at all. I am actually very thankful that it failed. I learned so much from that business and it actually launched me into the cool corporate position I spoke about earlier. Without that failure, I wouldn’t have been where I am today.

It was disappointing, yes. I felt like I had a good idea, and a good product. But you know, that’s part of the game. But I think, if you look at every successful entrepreneur, they have about 3-4 businesses that didn’t work out.

A: So, when did you know it was time to let go of that business?

S: Yeah, so you could see it, you know? I wasn’t making that much money, the sales were dropping. I was losing too much money on a monthly basis, to continue.

A: Do you feel like burnout is a frequent thing in your life?

S: Yeah, I do. I have burned out, almost twice, this year. As an entrepreneur, you hardly switch off. You can’t. It’s also part of your personality. A lot of entrepreneurs face the same problem. I think, part of dealing with burnout in a better way, is learning to see the signs. It’s not about taking four weeks of leave a year, it’s about that ‘in between’, are you taking care of yourself when you need to?

A: Do you feel like the Type-A/’never switch off’ personality ever disadvantages you? Do you ever feel like you dwell/overthink on certain things?

S:  Yeah, I do think it disadvantages us. Not so much overthinking, but I just think that we don’t become as effective. It’s not only about work now, it then becomes ‘I must do yoga everyday’ or I must go for my run every evening. And you just become obsessive. And it actually helps nothing. It makes you less effective, less creative, and less of a leader. With an A-Type personality, you have to watch yourself.

A: Just to go back to the beginning for a bit, how did you survive those tough first weeks/months of your business?

S: Grit and determination. But also being surrounded by amazing friends. Friends that are supportive and loving can do a world of good! My friends are my go-to group about complaints or successes, anything really. It is important to find laughter within the chaos.

A: One key piece of emotional advice to entreps?

S: There is an obligation to be true. You don’t really want to paint a sexy picture and have people saying ‘Oh, I can’t achieve that’. Always paint an honest picture of the way things are. You never know who you are inspiring.

A: The age-old question, being a female in a male-dominated industry?

S: Yeah, it is quite difficult. I often find myself having to put on my ‘manly boots’ in order to have an equal conversation. I am conscious of keeping my femininity with me in meetings, but also not letting people step all over me. And that balance is quite exhausting, I must say. I come back from conferences emotionally tired, sometimes – because I am constantly putting on my ‘male’ side.

A: What’s the one message you’d love to give to female entrepreneurs?

S: Self-belief and lack of fear. You just have to say to yourself that you’re going to do it. There is no other way. There really isn’t. If you have a good concept, and you work really hard, you will be respected and doors will be opened.

And use your femininity. Use it, actually. I am not saying wear short dresses or anything of that manner, but use your intuition. Women have a lot more perceptive ability, emotional connection, and are not as competitive. These three things can really work to your advantage, use your femininity!

A: Thank you so much for your time, Simone. Super awesome to chat to you.

S: Thanks Aneme!

Check out Simone’s super inspiring talk, here:

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind

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