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CommunityHiring engineers at early stage startups
How do you hire your first engineers? It’s a challenge many early stage companies spend a good amount of time and resourcing trying to figure out. Save yourself some time and meet with technical founders Paul Klein and Anne Solmssen, and technical recruiter Hudson Brock. The trio shed light on their successful experiences attracting and hiring engineers to early stage startups. From different approaches to sourcing candidates to what to look for and unlearn, the conversation is a resource you’ll want to bookmark and revisit often.
CommunityHow to get the most out of online communities
We’ve seen Propel members stick around long after their initial goal is met. Whilst on the team we might like to take full credit, we know that getting value out of a virtual community takes an equal amount effort from its members. You might be thinking of the usual steps like attending events or asking questions from time to time, which definitely help. But at Propel our members come up with creative ways to find and create value month after month. Here we’re spotlighting them so you can get inspired!
CryptoGetting started: a beginner's guide to crypto
Past phases of innovation, adoption, resets, and resurgence teach us that whilst it’s hard to currently say how the future of crypto unfolds, it doesn’t seem rational to assume that nothing will come out of this moment. It isn't too late to get started in crypto. The ship hasn't sailed. Find your bearings in this beginner-friendly guide to the basics.
AcceleratorsAccelerator review: Newchip - an equity-free option for startup founders
Are you a Pre-Seed - Series A stage founder looking for an equity-free accelerator program? After positive experiences from a few Propel members, we can say that Newchip may be what you're looking for. In this review find out where the program is based, what it will cost you and a few other things to consider.
Best PracticesSurvival Mode: evaluating job opportunities in a market reset
During an economic downturn operators and job searchers need to build communal knowledge and support systems just as much as founders and business leaders do. Here let's dig into practical ways to optimize for job security and evaluate opportunities thoughtfully as the market resets.
FundraisingA guide to pre-seed venture capital funding
Selecting a pre-seed VC and ensuring it’s a good match will take a lot of research in crafting a strategy and networking to get the pitch deck in front of the right people. It’s often said that partnering with an investment firm is like entering into a marriage, which is just to say that the relationship is legally binding and you have to make a lot of decisions together.
Career PivotsChanging gears: making the move from corporate enterprises to startup environments
In the Corporate vs. Startup debate there is a tendency to only ever sell the upside of the latter. Every startup will change the world. Every startup will mint millionaires of their rockstar operators. Or, so go the ideals! Startup reality is often not so given. Throughout the process of finding an opportunity right through to the first few days in a role, there are ways to de-risk the bet you’d be making on a bright, young company.
MarketingThe Inside Scoop: What Gen Z consumers want to see from your brand’s social media
Now more than ever, consumers are looking for authenticity and transparency from brands and influencers. But just how is Gen Z’s trust gained and maintained? Hear from them directly in this roundup of our live panel in collaboration with Home From College.
EntrepreneurshipBuilding in web3: lessons learned and innovations to come
Get the best advice on building in web3 and crypto and see where these industries are headed. Insights and learnings are shared by 5 web3 builders here at Propel.
EntrepreneurshipGetting started: building a web3 business
Having a reliable sounding board or receiving technical advice from peers is key in an emerging industry, like web3. Peers help with problem-solving, provide valuable perspectives, and offer inspiration. Our members share which resources helped them discover peers and get involved in projects.
Mental HealthThe 5 ways I learned to silence imposter syndrome
"There isn't enough conversation surrounding what to do when we feel inadequate — especially in a professional capacity. But feelings of insecurity are something that we all experience. By initiating uncomfortable conversations, we can help one another."
EntrepreneurshipThe future of entrepreneurship in a post-Covid world
"Why work at a single company when I can work fractionally at several companies? It lowers my risk, allows me to super-craft my work, and makes me resilient to change." - Taylor Black
AcceleratorsAccelerators in detail: slowing down to speed up
“The accelerator experience is a process of intense, rapid, and immersive education aimed at accelerating the life cycle of young innovative companies, compressing years’ worth of learning-by-doing into just a few months.” - Ian Hathaway, Investor and Strategic Advisor
Building in PublicBuilding better founders and moving with purpose - Matthew Busel, Whalesync
“Putting yourself out there and being all in on something, pays a lot of dividends. When people see that you are committed it attracts other equally dedicated people.” - Matthew Busel
Career Pivots3 Lessons from switching my career in 2021
For Sophia Wronsky, change was the only constant of 2021. She moved across the country, switched jobs, and changed industry. Here she joins Propel's End Of Year Reflections to share the challenges and lessons in finding and starting her role as Director of Strategic Initiatives at metabolic health startup, Calibrate.
AcceleratorsAccelerators in review: startup founders on the USA’s top accelerator programs
“Accelerators are playing an increasing role in startup communities throughout the United States and beyond. Early evidence demonstrates the significant potential of accelerators to improve startups’ outcomes.” - Ian Hathaway, Investor and Strategic Advisor
Building in PublicDisrupting a category and building sustainably with Eli Halliwell, CEO of Hairstory
“I think you can use lots of examples, Google being one of them, of the first to market not being the winner. There's a bit of a false paradigm there. Take your time to really get your product right. If you have an amazing product, you can bring it to life and it can win in the end.” - Eli Halliwell
EntrepreneurshipOn acting on your passions and forgiving yourself as an early stage builder and founder
“There are no big mistakes in being an entrepreneur and founding a startup - as long as you keep moving.”
Building in PublicPivoting at the early stages with Cathy Tie, Jordan Huck, and Genevieve Ryan Bellaire
“I just saw this massive opportunity, and that’s one of the great things about being a solo founder, is that you don’t have to get anybody, you don’t have to convince anybody … You can wake up tomorrow and be like, ‘this isn’t working, I’m going to do this.’ This was one of the moments where I needed to make that decision for the company without having to get anybody’s approval.”
EntrepreneurshipFounding an idea and finding joy with Jiive CEO, Jhanelle Elissa
"Being mission-driven in anything and existing right in your element will keep you going. When you’re really living in alignment with what you’re meant to do, it’s a lot easier to just keep going."
Angel InvestingAcquiring small businesses with Mudit Rawat and Curtis Kline
Can builders 'settle down' as buyers? What does acquiring a small business entail. We spoke with serial founders and serial buyers Mudit Rawat and Curtis Kline about their experiences on both sides of the table, due diligence processes, and more.
AcceleratorsNavigating accelerators and studios: Yasmin Cruz Ferrine, Gadi Borovich, Greg Maiatico
At the earliest stages of your idea and entrepreneurial journey, there is support. But who exactly offers it? What does that support look like? Is it the right kind of opportunity for you? To answer these questions, we spoke with three leaders from exceptional founder-first accelerators and studios.
Best PracticesMindful leadership and creating a people-first company
I won't put you on the spot, but most people don't know what a balance sheet is. What happens if as an employer you can invest in your employees' financial literacy? What happens when they start to understand what they can do to make a dent? "They show up in a completely different way...and they run the business like owners."
Best PracticesLearnings from 8 years in Product: an AMA with Reza Shirazi
"Product management is a team sport and collaboration is such an important part of the role. Being remote creates some challenges as you lose the contextual richness of being in person. So how do you up your communication game to make sure you make up for it?"
Career PivotsPivoting and Parenting at a startup (in a pandemic)
"If you’re pursuing a startup you might identify as a high performer at work and be willing to take on any challenge. [The environment] lends itself to a feeling that there’s an infinite amount of work to be done...It’s easy to find yourself in a situation where you’re juggling too many promising projects and have to evaluate where to spend most of your time..."
Building in PublicTaking the leap (realistically)
"While you're hoping there will be a net that magically appears when you leap helps lower the fear, realistically you’re going to be leaping into a pitch black hole. What helps is knowing some definitions and structures of the net, its potential to extend, and your own ability to expand the net."
Best PracticesMastering your narrative as a generalist
"I didn’t put much thought into my professional brand until I wanted to pivot from entrepreneur to operator. At this point I came up against two uncomfortable realities. The first: when you can do many things, it is difficult to convince most hiring managers you can do one thing well. The second: generalists are often undervalued. Sound familiar?"
Building in PublicDesigning remote-first startup teams
"We made the decision to hire a People Operations Manager pretty early on. It’s another early investment in the people function. We’re making OKRs on developing a stronger orientation program because we feel that we've really got to double down on those early days to make sure folks understand our remote work and communication philosophies, and that they're embedded into our culture from day one."
EntrepreneurshipWhat to know about working with technical co-founders and engineers
"There aren’t many 'unicorns' — people who are extremely good programmers, incredible people managers, and also top designers. This happens with technical hires a lot, where you expect the world from your first technical hire. Sometimes that can be a blocker for making the hire you need. You might need to hire someone who's not the best communicator, but they're a great programmer, and you just have a communication debt that you'll have to pay off over time by hiring a great manager."
Career PivotsPaths to product
"PM's come from a myriad of experiences. They usually have a T-shaped skillset, meaning they know a little about a lot of fields and generally a lot about one specific area. They are also drivers, in terms of keeping the company agile in delivering product, removing ambiguity, and analyzing the tradeoffs."
Building in PublicEverything you need to know about newsletters
"Focus on executing the writing and worry about strategy later on. I always advise the writers we work with to write something and then we’ll see what it turns into. It’ll take several iterations to get it right but that’s the process. The kind of writer you're going to be is more likely to be revealed than planned."
Building in PublicBuilding in the age of diversity enlightenment
"So what exactly are the requirements for building products in a time when everyone now cares or gives the impression they care about IDEA? What are the resume requirements for founders seeking to build social-impact-driven experiences? I don't write checks, but I favor personal experience as the lead requirement for building social-impact-driven experiences. Reflecting on why I decided to finally build Cowrie, I realize it’s because of years of hurtful and frustrating experiences as an individual, community builder, employee, and entrepreneur. What accelerated me to build Cowrie was a feeling of corporate DEI burnout."
Career PivotsMaking sense of career pivots and communicating with managers
"You're never going to know 100% what the next role is. There's a leap at a certain point; however, there is a lot you can do to figure out how to lessen the gap."
Building in PublicGiving yourself permission to write and build
"Writing in public, like building a company in public, isn’t an easy thing to do. For me trying new things in public feels like a trapeze line with no net below, but I’ve found building and writing in public is a useful method for giving yourself permission and following through. Like with taking any risk, often we are our harshest critic and our own self-confidence issues stop us from even starting. That was my experience with writing for the first twenty-four years of my life."
CommunityThe pandemic is ending, but virtual connections have only just begun
"The answer to my own question — 'did I want to recreate this energy virtually?' — was yes. When I figured this out, I immediately started defining ways for collisions to happen among peers in Propel. The impact of collisions on our lives can be profound, even during the pandemic. "The need for virtual collisions isn’t going to go away once the pandemic does. If anything, it will only become more important because we’ve learned more about the right relationships for us and how to find them. Our understanding of how to create virtual friendships will inform the way we spend time with people in person, too."
MentorshipWhat I learned about mentorship as a first gen student
"An immigrant to America at eight years old and the first person in my family to attend formal schooling, I grew up with so many unanswered questions about everything from acceptable lunches to bring to school to picking out a major in college. As soon as I graduated from English as a second language, I began to ask my peers these questions. When they didn't know, I sought advice from my teachers and counselors in school. When I had exhausted their knowledge, I discovered the internet, and a whole new Q+A system materialized."
Best PracticesCake or Death? How to intelligently load-test a startup idea
"You have a Startup Idea. It’s a really good one. You daydream about it as you grind through Excel spreadsheets at your day job. You talk about pieces of it over beers with your friends. But Ideas are a dime a dozen. How do you figure out if it’s a good one? One that you could leave your day job for? One that fulfills that yearn? This is how."
Best PracticesReal processes that work: user-centered problem solving
"At the center of every problem is a real person or group of people experiencing a pain point. As builders, how then can we ensure that we are designing solutions with the user and their pain point in mind from the very start? "
Best PracticesHow to be your own growth marketer
"Start talking to different personas and telling them about your product. The thing you want to figure out is if they'll pay for it. Once you think you've figured out your personas, create a specific landing page for them and start running ads pushing them toward that page. Even if your product isn't ready for purchase yet, it's a great way to answer, 'Can we get people to actually pay for this product?'"
Career PivotsGetting in the career move mindset
"When confronted with frustration toward one’s job, the initial reaction may be to keep pushing. Making sacrifices is great for getting an early head start, but it’s unsustainable. Eventually, many come to the realization that life is too long to do something you hate and too short to not find something you love."
Career PivotsFrom one island to another
"People making big career pivots - and especially pivots to new countries - don’t always have tried-and-true processes. A coffee chat, a 30-minute call, and a forwarded email changed my life."
CommunityThe four categories of community curation
"People are at the heart of any good online community. The flow of knowledge and the spark of new connections between members of the community creates value for everyone who is part of it, and knowledge and connections become fully diffused into the fabric."
MentorshipHow to build your personal advisory board
Advisory boards can be useful to companies, but isn’t creating an advisory board just for yourself just a little much?
Career PivotsPivoting from enterprise to startup and engineering to business, in a pandemic
"Career pivots of any type are challenging. Although 'pivot' may be an understatement when going from a 14-year engineering career in large enterprises to becoming the first business hire at a tech startup."
Career PivotsBreaking momentum through career stepping
"A career is built off of several little steps, not one big jump. Embracing this philosophy relieved some of the pressure I felt to make the 'right' decision."
EntrepreneurshipCreating feedback loops and the types of career advice you should ignore
“That was the point when I decided a lot of the established beliefs on what career progression looks like are irrelevant for this generation.”
The importance of prioritizing health as an operator & builder
"Health, mental and physical, are essential. We should be talking more about that. And when you're independent, it's even more your onus to manage."
Career PivotsPivoting from Chief of Staff to Founder
"The way we tested our idea was to run concept ads. We used stock images and some copy, and put it on Facebook. We got insane click-throughs."
The value of patience and persistence in your career
"I had a phenomenal experience, but probably limited my path by always thinking about what else I could or should be doing. I now try and stay focused on the job I'm doing today, and hold a higher bar to thinking anything else."
The role of product managers and experimentation
"At LinkedIn my team ran tons of experiments. Probably 70% of them failed. But because we focused on experiment velocity and learning, and had processes to apply that learning to the next batch of experiments, we were able to drive significant value."
EntrepreneurshipTips for solo founders and what great mentorship looks like
"One of the biggest things I've learned is to ask the person you're mentoring what they want out of it. Success looks different for everyone."
Career PivotsMentorship, being a “Founders’ VC", and balancing investing and operating
“Mentors allow you to take up space. They empower you to claim your seat at the table.”