Before the end of last year, I put together a list of our top insights for scaling up – all from the astounding conversations had on the Scaleup Valley podcast.
Now, with the new year in tow, I wanted to put together a list of the best insights gathered from the investor perspective last year to help you develop the most productive scaling resolutions to live by this year.
To help you turn these insights into scale, I’m also giving you key questions that you should be asking yourself throughout the scaleup process.
Let’s start with a investor that was very active in the SaaS world in 2019 and expects nothing less in 2020…
Notion – A key scaleup lesson from Stephen Millard
Working with a brand portfolio that includes Upvest, Futrili, and our friends over at Mews Systems (they joined us on the podcast in 2019), Notion describes themselves as the VC they never had. Millard presented the same sentiment when he joined us on the podcast.
His biggest piece of advice for scaling businesses is something that we see our clients struggle with constantly.
He says to get the leadership team into a room, and then look around. If everyone in the room is in the biggest jobs of their lives – that’s a problem. He says have to be able to ask: Who has experience scaling to our next goal? And then ensure that there are people in the room who have that experience.
This is something that we hear time and time again from the CEOs that we work with. It’s a difficult challenge once you reach a certain stage of growth, but it’s crucial if you’d like to see a healthy path to success.
Key Questions: Have you tested the standard of your leadership team? What areas of the team do you need to improve in order to have a qualified leadership team?
2. Cabiedes and Partners – A key scaleup lesson from Luis Martin Cabiedes
Cabiedes and Partners is a seed round investor who has worked with a portfolio of brands such as BlaBlaCar and Apprendum.
One of Luis Martin Cabiedes’ key insights from the podcast was his model of aiming to become (and in his case invest in) a capital efficient company right from the beginning. This means that, before growing, you need to get your model right and it needs to be efficient for scaling.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s quite often forgotten once the excitement of scaling fires up.
If you make a mistake with 500,000 or even a working capital, you may just lose out on 80,000. But if you make that mistake when you’re selling at 200 million, then it will be 5 million that will be held over your head.
By focusing on the beginning on getting the model right before concerning yourself with ultra-fast growth, you’ll actually be setting yourself up better for the scaling to come.
Key questions: Would you consider yourself a capital efficient company? Do you feel like your model is ready for scale?
3. Isomer Capital – A key scaleup less from Chris Wade
Investing in companies such as Deliveroo, Centrifuge, and Friendsurance, Isomer Capital is privy to the challenges that tend to crop up during the scale up process.
The way Chris Wade put it was, “The road to success for a VC or for a company is completely uncharted. You are trying to do something new, something imaginative. And you just don’t know what obstacles are going to be in the way.”
But the insight comes from how companies deal with the struggles that arise in the uncharted waters.
More than an explanation of the obstacles that stall growth, what Isomer wants to hear from the leadership teams is this critical point: here’s what we’re going to do next.
If that’s the kind of value your team is providing, then you know that you’re working with the right people.
Key Questions: When issues arise, how do you pass that information on to your investors and the board? Are you able to provide clear paths forward or do you get lost in the uncharted waters? How can you be more clear this year when passing on information to your board?
4. Capnamic Ventures – A key scaleup lesson from Olaf Jacobi
Capnamic Ventures has a healthy base of companies that they work with, including Agorize, Chronext, and Getsafe. One point that Olaf Jacobi has learned from working with this vast range of companies may seriously help your scaling process.
He noted that most founders come out of school having studied how to build technology. That’s covered! But there’s a major gap that leaves many growing businesses in the dust.
In Jacobi’s experience, it’s often in Sales. “Enterprise sales is not something you can study, you have to learn it in practice,” he said.
Key Questions: Does your company have a sales gap? Are you prepared for the scale that enterprise sales demands? Do you have the scope that is required to reach that level?
5. AXA Venture Partners – A key scaleup lesson from Imran Akram
AXA Venture Partners is a global technology venture capital firm with clients such as (our friends at) ForceManager, Blockstream, and Incepto. When Imran Akram joined the podcast, he shared a key lesson through the help of the Rockefeller Habits.
To be specific, Rockefeller Habit #10: “The company’s plan and performance are visible to everyone.”
This is an important one because, as Akram pointed out, there are always big choices that each team needs to make that will shape the fate of the company. Using the example of the product team, he described a scenario in which the team is planning their product roadmap.
When making the choice between, for example, designing new features that will speed up product implementation versus features that will help you open into a new vertical, you have to look at the value that each will bring to all aspects of the company.
When each employee has the ability to look into the financial and operational data that would come with making either decision, the choice will not only be more informed – it will allow the team to feel aligned on their road to scaling up.
Key Questions: How available is your company information to other employees? Are you setting up your employees well enough to make the best, most productive decisions in their sectors?
6. Faraday Venture Partners – A key scaleup lesson from Gonzalo Tradecete
Last, but not least, Faraday Ventures Partners invests in individuals, small investment funds, and family offices for example PlaySpace and Habitissimo.
When Gonzalo Tradecete joined the podcast, he put a focus on the importance of supporting projects that make an impact. He really believes in the value that their investments provide, not just to the companies that they are choosing to support, but to society.
So what does this mean for you? For Tradecete it’s about values. If Faraday feels like they’ll be spending board meetings in yelling matches, then that’s not a company that they wish to invest in.
It sounds simple but many jump in to quickly to keep healthy communication and respect in mind.
Key Questions: Do your board meetings ever end in yelling matches? How do you dissolve tense moments when they start to crop up? If there are more tense moments and arguing then not, what can you do to change this kind of communication in your company?
I hope the investor perspective that we bring onto the podcast is helpful for you. If you do, then why not hear them right from the horses mouth?
Listen to each investor episode of the Scaleup Valley podcast right here and every world-class CEO interview as well!
Then, keep scaling!