THE PROPELLER

Knowledge and perspectives from top operators, founders, and VCs in the community.
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Pivoting at the early stages with Cathy Tie, Jordan Huck, and Genevieve Ryan BellairePivoting 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.”
Founding an idea and finding joy with Jiive CEO, Jhanelle Elissa
Entrepreneurship
 | 
Oct 14
Founding 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."
Acquiring small businesses with Mudit Rawat and Curtis Kline
Angel Investing
 | 
Oct 7
Acquiring 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.
Navigating accelerators and studios: Yasmin Cruz Ferrine, Gadi Borovich, Greg Maiatico
Accelerators
 | 
Sep 23
Navigating 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.
Mindful leadership and creating a people-first company
Best Practices
 | 
Sep 9
Mindful 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."
Learnings from 8 years in Product: an AMA with Reza Shirazi
Best Practices
 | 
Aug 26
Learnings 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?"
Pivoting and Parenting at a startup (in a pandemic)
Career Pivots
 | 
Aug 19
Pivoting 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..."
Taking the leap (realistically)Taking 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."
Mastering your narrative as a generalist
Best Practices
 | 
Jul 19
Mastering 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?"
Designing remote-first startup teamsDesigning 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."
What to know about working with technical co-founders and engineersWhat 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."
Paths to product
Career Pivots
 | 
May 14
Paths 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."
Everything you need to know about newslettersEverything 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 the age of diversity enlightenmentBuilding 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."
Making sense of career pivots and communicating with managers
Career Pivots
 | 
Apr 12
Making 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."
Giving yourself permission to write and buildGiving 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."
The pandemic is ending, but virtual connections have only just begun
Community
 | 
Mar 25
The 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."
What I learned about mentorship as a first gen student
Mentorship
 | 
Mar 19
What 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."
Cake or Death? How to intelligently load-test a startup idea
Best Practices
 | 
Mar 12
Cake 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."
Real processes that work: user-centered problem solving
Best Practices
 | 
Feb 26
Real 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? "
How to be your own growth marketer
Best Practices
 | 
Feb 25
How 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?'"
Getting in the career move mindset
Career Pivots
 | 
Feb 19
Getting 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."
From one island to another
Career Pivots
 | 
Feb 12
From 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."
The four categories of community curation
Community
 | 
Feb 9
The 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."
How to build your personal advisory board
Mentorship
 | 
Jan 29
How 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?
Pivoting from enterprise to startup and engineering to business, in a pandemic
Career Pivots
 | 
Jan 28
Pivoting 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."
Breaking momentum through career stepping
Career Pivots
 | 
Jan 28
Breaking 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."
Creating feedback loops and the types of career advice you should ignore
Entrepreneurship
 | 
Jan 23
Creating 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
Best Practices
 | 
Jan 23
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."
Pivoting from Chief of Staff to Founder
Career Pivots
 | 
Jan 23
Pivoting 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
Best Practices
 | 
Jan 23
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
Best Practices
 | 
Jan 23
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."
Tips for solo founders and what great mentorship looks like
Entrepreneurship
 | 
Jan 23
Tips 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."
Mentorship, being a “Founders’ VC", and balancing investing and operating
Career Pivots
 | 
Jan 20
Mentorship, 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.”

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