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Weeks 6 and 7: Halfway There

With the announcement of the 2016 Republican National Convention coming to Cleveland, as well as the return of LeBron James to the Cavaliers, there’s a lot of excitement in our city– and all of our teams are feeling it. The last two weeks, while exciting, have been busy, as our teams pass the halfway point of the summer program and get closer and closer to Demo Day.

Food for Thought: Marketing Your Startup On A Shoestring Budget


In last week’s Food for Thought, our teams and interns heard from Jason Therrien of thunder::tech on startup marketing. Though they’ve been working hard at building and improving their businesses, they were ready to hear some sage advice on marketing (which he assured us wasn’t rocket science.) Here are some key takeaways from the talk:

#1 Who’s the buyer?

When marketing your product, the first question you need to consider is: who’s the buyer? What do they want? Though you may feel that you know your target audience, remember that your buyer is not you, and they’re probably nothing like you. You understand the customers who are like you, which is comfortable, but think: who are you missing? Understanding your buyer(s) will widen your reach and be a huge help in your marketing efforts.

#2 Put it all on paper

There’s a lot to do when it comes to marketing your business, but the first step to getting it done is writing it all down. At the very least, you should have a 1-pager on your marketing plan. Give it time and don’t shy away from revisiting and revising it as you learn more about your market and customers. Put it on paper– it can’t just all be in your head.

#3 Getting your name out there

On this journey, it’s critical to know your story. Why did you start this company? What need do you fulfill? Know your story, and know your elevator pitch. Think hard about what your hook is. Make sure your elevator pitch is good by testing it on a lot of people (who will give you honest feedback) and practice it until it’s easy and comfortable. 

When it comes to audience development, know that the world owes you nothing– and social media owes you even less. Use your social media platforms with purpose, with the goal of building an audience and connecting with them. From there, do your best to form a relationship with your audience, via email or LinkedIn or some other platform. Facebook is a starting point for a customer relationship, not an ending one. When trying to engage your audience, continually be asking yourself this question: what value am I giving them?

#4 The customer experience is marketing

Marketing touch-points are the way by which your customers are going to get to know and understand your company. Helping is the new selling, and by showing your potential to make life easier, customers will be drawn to you because you fulfill a need. You’ve got to do marketing anyway, so you might as well take the time and thought to do it well!

Food for Thought: Todd Federman


In this week’s Food for Thought, the teams learned about angel investing and the VC environment in Northeast Ohio from Todd Federman of North Coast Angel Fund. Here are some memorable snippets of advice:

  • There is never an easy time to raise capital.
  • Potential angels are a large and elusive group, and not all angels are equal. Consider: what’s their area of expertise? What kind of support can they bring? Think strategically about angels to pursue.
  • There are good angels and bad angels. Take care in choosing who you form relationships with.
  • When seeking funding, startups should be validated– have an MVP and at least one customer. Show that there’s a need for your product and that you’ve done your due diligence.
  • Angels are optimists! They want you to win, and they want to help you get there, so make sure you come to the table prepared and ready to move forward.

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