Awesome People - Ep 46

6 awesome people, user research, AWS costs

Hi founders and fellow VC Friends!

Each week we deliver one awesome person to your inbox. These are the people you need to know—the marketers, sales gurus, engineers, ops wizzes— who give your startup superpowers 🚀. The best part is, everyone is hireable on a part-time basis.

As the world becomes crazier and crazier, we’re continuing to immerse ourselves in all things Awesome People. We’re building our own version of reality filled with gems like you! Before we dive in, I hope you’re all well and building worlds that bring you joy ❤️.

Here’s what’s on the docket: 

  • 6 awesome people and their pro-tips 

  • User researchers that will make your product pop 

  • P.S. Spend less on AWS 

Today’s founders special - 6 Awesome People who you need on your talent bench 🤩

All of these awesome people recently spoke at our Talent Accelerator. As a surprise thank you, we’re featuring them today. They’ve all contributed a ton to the community, worked with my founder friends, and I’m excited to vouch for them.  

Email me if you want intros to any of them ✨.

Taylor Slyder is your freelance art director + designer who helps you stand out from the crowd

Do you ever see super cool brands on Instagram with tons of low-fi gifs, colors, memes, and animations? Then wonder how they look so cool? Well, Taylor makes that magic happen! Check out her insta and portfolio. She helps young DTC brands grow through social-first creative and builds engaging brands. She's trusted by Thinx, Beautyblender, Lululemon, Anheuser Busch, Popsugar and more. 

You can hire her to lead your rebrand, create and build out your brand’s presence on social, and concept your digital campaigns. 

Pro-tip from Taylor: There are so many tools to create content and community, test them, and see what sticks.

Expensive, highly produced shoots and perfectly-placed art direction are being replaced by instant, in-the-moment, no-set-aesthetic techniques. Brands that do it right, use all the tools in their arsenals to connect with their consumer— user generated content (UGC), Tik-Tok, Slack channels, SMS campaigns, and more. Remember that it’s a game of testing and iterating. Not everything will work the first time or is right for every brand. Have an open mind and give it time. Brands and communities aren’t built overnight!

Mykim Dang is your freelance executive video producer who makes video magic happen

I met Mykim through Taylor. I was immediately impressed by Mykim’s passion and talent (portfolio here). Most recently she was the Video Editor for Facebook’s “Video Lab” and “Curated by FB,” where she pioneered new formats for mobile storytelling. She’s also transformed the 25-year-old food show, “America’s Test Kitchen” by building out their video content across channels. In less than 2 years, she’s grown their audience by 200%+. 

You can hire her to build your video strategy, executive produce your video content, and help you engage your audience on social with videos. 

Pro-tip from Mykim: Your videos should be tailored to each platform.

The ultimate goal of all content is to keep your audience engaged on the platform. Remember, building an audience is more important than chasing a view. On YouTube you should consider creating multiple videos that fall somewhere between 2-7 minutes and distributing them over time. These often perform better than a long 40 minute video. On TikTok, shorter ~ 15-second videos created with native tools features like low-fi lenses and stickers often perform best. When possible, tie your content to current trends.

Jason Yeh is your executive fundraising coach who makes fundraising suck less

Jason is a trusted advisor in the LA startup community and Silicon Valley Bank’s go-to-partner for executive coaching around fundraising. He’s helped companies raise over $100MM and raised seed funding twice as a startup CEO. 

You can hire him to help with your fundraising narrative/deck, speed up your raise, be your fundraising thought partner and coach. 

Jason is a recent feature, so most of you probably remember his pro-tips. This one was my fav. 

Pro-tip from Jason: The first step to fundraising is believing that your company is amazing and deserves to be funded.

Once you’re mentally bought in, communicate with confidence and humility. The trick is to remind yourself that you’re not chasing money. The smart money is chasing you. This mindset shift allows you to interact with investors from a stronger, more confident place. It helps you avoid reaching and “overselling” (one of the most telling desperation signals for investors). Use less words. Be polite, but not deferential. Don’t be afraid to draw out a pass from a naysayer in order to spend more time with investors who get the vision.

Derek Flanzraich is your interim-CMO who builds authentic content-driven brands 

Derek founded Greatist, the largest wellness media publication for millennials. It was backed by Floodgate and acquired by Healthline last year. He grew it to 10-15M unique visitors per month and an average site time of 5-7 minutes. Notably, he once got six-pack abs in six weeks and wrote about how much it sucked 😂. He’s one of the greatest (pun intended!) content marketers of our time. At Awesome People Ventures, he's a go-to expert for our portfolio companies. He's also trusted by the teams at RxBar, Peloton, and Global Executive Group.

You can hire him as your interim CMO, and brand and content advisor. 

Pro-tip from Derek: Don’t try to be relevant to everyone.

We found a curious thing at Greatist-- the more specific our target user was, the bigger our audience got! It's hard and (gulp) a bit scary to alienate any potential customer when you're trying to build a business. There's never been more brand noise out there, so the only way to create a signal is to really focus. What's most scary is not being relevant enough to anyone.To put things another way-- people want oranges and people want lemons... but nobody wants a citrus.

Craig dos Santos is your negotiating coach for all things deals

Craig is a startup negotiation consultant. Did you know this was a thing?! I def didn’t 😎  until I met Craig via my friend and fellow investor, Tommy Leep. Recently Craig helped a co-founder negotiate a life-changing exit from their own startup and another founder get a 280% increase on an 8-figure acquisition offer 📈. Pretty impressive! He's trusted by clients at Airbnb, Youtube, Facebook, Stripe, Cloudflare, Lyft, and many more startups and venture firms. He also volunteers at the Suicide Hotline in SF to save lives. Talk about high-pressure negotiation 🙏.

You can hire him any time you have an important deal — think hiring, partnerships, acquisitions, fundraising, and co-founder agreements. If you happen to be job hunting, he also helps negotiate A LOT of comp packages. 

Pro-tip from Craig: Asking the right questions is your secret weapon. 

Asking questions is a critical way to gather information, which can then be used to better empathize with your counterpart. People don’t like being interrogated, so ask questions that make them feel good, rather than digging holes in their reasoning. Here are some quick tips: 

  • Ask open-ended questions. These give you the chance to gather more info and they come across as less threatening. Not all open-ended questions are equal, use 'how' and 'what' questions. Avoid 'why', which makes people defensive.

  • Let them have the power. Ask for advice. I like the phrases "Help me understand..." or "What would your advice be on..." This allows you to gain information while making them feel in control. 

  • End your thoughts with a question. Plan how to end your thoughts. If you don’t, you’ll run on and leak information. Use endpoints like "is that in line with your thinking?" or "how does that sound?" to hand the reins back to your counterpart. 

Ryan Shaening Pokrasso is your startup lawyer who won't break the bank

Ryan is the co-founder of SPZ Legal. He was highly recommended by Mitch, the founder of Verto, an Awesome People Ventures portfolio company. I’ve been impressed by the level of service and compassion Ryan brings to the job (not words I use often to describe lawyers ). He’s a fraction of the cost of a big law firm. Startups often use him in tandem with their big law firm to avoid running up the bill.

You can hire him to do the full range of startup legal work: forming the company, drafting and negotiating contracts, fundraising, protecting IP, hiring contracts, GDPR compliance… the list is endless.

Pro-tip from Ryan: Use contracts, especially when working with friends.

Contracts serve two purposes: to enforce legal rights (obviously) and to communicate expectations. Contracts get parties on the same page and the importance of that cannot be understated. We have seen it time and again when friends assume that they are on the same page about their goals in a business relationship. Then it becomes clear that they aren't and the relationship falls apart. Contracts force the hard discussions up front and help avoid a mess later.  

Woooohoooo!!! That was a lot of goodness in one email!

Let me know if you want intros to any of these awesome people and we’ll make it happen 🙏.

Oh wait… there’s more! Introducing the researchers list 🥳

One of our Awesome People, Behzod Sirjani, is a leader in the product and user research space. He kindly helped us curate a list of his go-to researchers. If you’re looking to optimize your product, funnels, better understand your customers, check out his recommendations here. Feel free to reach out to anyone on the list directly! 

That’s all for now folks! Let me know if you want an intro to any of the 6 awesome people above and we’ll make the magic happen.

Stay awesome (and safe and sane),

Julia Lipton

Founder of Awesome People and Awesome People Ventures

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P.S. The AWS Console is 👎, check out Vantage for a better alternative

One of my besties, Ben Schaechter, is building an alternative console for AWS focused on developer experience and cost transparency. He worked at Digital Ocean and AWS and is obsessed with this problem. They’re still in beta, but he offered to hook our community up. Early customers are loving it. If you’re an AWS customer, sign up here.