Justin Kan’s Twitter bio is a good map of his evolution as a business person, from entrepreneur to investor, and back again. Since marketing his first project, Kiko, 12 years ago, Kan has co-founded 7 successful companies and invested in over 25 startups as a partner with Y-Combinator. Kan sits down with SheWorx to discuss the perspective he has gained along the way.
Treat Every “Project” like a Strategic Business
Business planning is necessary for company growth and success. When Kan launched his first business, Kiko, an online calendar app, he didn’t have a strategic plan. “I didn’t know how to hire a tech team. I didn’t know how to scale a company. We weren’t set up to be successful.” After launching Justin.tv and Twitch (fundraising a combined total of 53 million dollars), Kan recommends treating every “project” like a strategic business. Planning. Monitoring. Analysis. Assessment. Where is this idea going? What actions are needed to make progress? How will we know if it is successful? Making a list and checking it twice will help to set a cohesive vision and mission for your company.
Skill-Match with Passionate, Trustworthy Co-Founders
“I want to hire people who are better than me so I don’t have to make all the decisions.”
As a founder of a new company, it’s easy to slip into a puritanical “I have to do everything in order for this business to succeed” mindset. In Kan’s current endeavor, “Whale”, he’s taken a different approach: 4 founders. 4 diverse skill sets. Fundraising. Customer acquisition and growth. Product development. Tech. Each founder has their own area of expertise and that’s what they stick to. Kan’s advice: don’t dabble in too many pots - know what you’re good at and source talented, passionate and trustworthy co-founders to handle the rest.
Cherry-Pick the Right Investors for your Business
Businesses are diverse. They have different capital requirements. The first key to finding the right investors is to understand the different funding options. Private equity. Venture capital. Angel investing. Equity crowdfunding. Decide what’s right for your business, based on a strategic analysis. Then, determine what you want investors to provide for you. Ask questions about recent investments. Research their area of focus and what stage of development they typically invest in. Find out how involved they like to be. Get references. With this information, develop an aggressive vision, and learn how to pitch it to the right people.
Develop an Aggressive Vision and Perfect your Pitch
Investors wants to fund billion dollar companies. Full stop. When Kan started Twitch, his founding team had an aggressive vision: to be the biggest video gaming site on the web, with more than 10 million active users. “Investors want to believe that you have a plan that’s going to make them rich”. As an investor, Kan funds founders who are relentless in their pursuit to grow their business. Take Liz Wessel with Campus Jobs, for example. She managed to raise a seed round in less than a month. She was incredibly good at conveying the message, “this business is going to be big, and we’re leaving this station with or without you, so climb aboard or get out of the way.” Have an aggressive vision, and find your own personal style for pitching your company. “You don’t have to be the loudest person in the room, but have conviction.”
Get comfortable with getting rejected. Keep going.
7 Powers: The Foundations of Business Strategy by Hamilton Helmer
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Are you building an incredible company? Join us at the upcoming SheWorx100 Summit in San Francisco with 200 female founders and 30+ investors, where Justin will also be sharing more actionable advice.