KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are the backbone of Techstars, and my cofounders and I took them to heart every week during the program. But when we started, none of us really knew what it would take from us to maintain a steep upward curve with the clock ticking.
The backstory was never discussed in our weekly KPI meetings, only the impressive figures. In this post, I want to share what growing 7% week to week meant for us in our day to day life during the 3 months including key strategies and challenges. Let’s face it, for any organization to grow at such a pace, there has got to be something crazy going on in the background.
Planting scenarios in our minds early in the game
Our goal was to boost revenue to put ourselves in a good position to raise our first round. GroupRaise makes money from our restaurant partners paying $39 for every fundraiser scheduled on our site. This made our target straightforward – X number of events scheduled by the end of January.
Email has been our key marketing channel, and considering our previous conversion rates our ultimate goal suggested that we increase our email marketing in size and frequency sixfold. This in turn meant each step of the way from research, lead collection, data cleanup, and draft write-up required at least 4 or more times the previous capacity. We decided to put 90% of our effort into championing what’s worked previously (college markets) and 10% on trying new channels. We also brought on one new hire and outsourced a ton of redundant work in advance to get ready for the biggest outreach we’ve ever done.
In retrospect, having a detailed scenario with the help of clear KPI goals not only pulled us together to mentally prepare for one big goal that seemed impossible, but also gave us a better sense of what every week and every day should look like.
Working with staff
Techstars is known for its robust mentor network, and we definitely learned a ton interacting with people that we would otherwise never have gotten a chance to meet. What we did not expect going into the program was how important of a role the staff was going to play in scaling our business.
Our two program directors, Rob and Alex, both had extensive experience in running multi-million dollar companies prior to the program, and we had to talk to them every single day about everything. As you can imagine, a big difference between staff and mentors is that the former has another two or three layers of understanding of what you worked on last week, the amount of progress made this week, and what your biggest pain is just by breathing in the same room.
In our case, after a series of conversations with Rob we got to redefine our position in the space – GroupRaise was in the group booking business rather than event hosting. This simple change in our messaging ended up tripling our conversion rate in email marketing campaigns to restaurants. At the same time, associates were readily available when we needed an extra hand (which was always the case) or feedback on new initiatives. All we had to do was to ask.
Being proactive about feeling worn out
The pressure of maintaining growth is immense, and feeling overworked is something we accepted as part of the program. However, this does not mean that we shouldn’t be proactive about avoiding wearing out, because it can be really detrimental.
We realized that when the amount of work goes 10x in all directions in a matter of days, trying to divide the work evenly is never a smart approach. This wasted everyone’s time and talent while losing the sense of ownership. Instead, it required each founder to be extra mindful about how to empower one another and promote ownership of their work. Especially when everyone does everything together, promoting ownership gets SUPER tricky and important.
So the bottom line is instead of growing a mentality of “I am doing this, so you do this.”, you should adopt something in the lines of “Since you’ve got that taken care of, I will make sure this is squared away. Let me know if you need any help.”
This sounds like marriage counseling, but we learned that how you cope with stress and panics determined the quality of founder relationships, which will also shape your company culture down the road.