Driving Start-Up Growth and Giving Back
Will Bunker and Sean Sheppard founders of GrowthX Academy joined us recently on Popping the Bubbl Both are seasoned, serial entrepreneurs and masters of growth and sales. Will and Sean met up when they collaborated on an MBA-like program for start-ups called Tradecraft
At the time, Will was running an early stage fund that was sending many companies through the program based on Sean’s curriculum. The impact to the start-ups was a significant increase in startup values. Seeing this positive impact drove Will and Sean to partner up and create a new new investment fund, with the thesis of taking a hands-on approach to accelerating growth with the support of a seasoned in-house team of sales and marketing experts that could guide start-ups on the path to finding product market fit and increasing lifetime value.
Unlike traditional accelerators that are in business to help developers create product and raise money, GrowthX is focused on companies with already developed technologies and customers and helping those companies grow exponentially.
The GrowthX academy experience is open to companies that are vetted by first being part of the fund’s portfolio. Unlike the typical batch process of many Silicon Valley accelerators, GrowthX accepts 1-2 companies each month to participate in the hands-on and very intensive process.
A recent start-up that made it through the Academy is doing well is Glam Street, a female led start-up out of Uruguay that is building a virtual make-over technology. Glam Street started as gamified consumer application which was then was converted into a business application helping help cosmetic brands apply make-up virtually to sell more product. In just 6 months Glam Street has closed on dozens of new B2b customers and is now breaking-even.. setting them on a path to control their own destiny.
Given Will & Sean’s extensive expertise as both founders and founder coaches, we asked them what was it that made a founder great? According to Will it all comes down to grit and determination as well as mental flexibility because founders need to be able to pivot and adapt in the high likelihood that their assumptions are wrong, especially when making data based decisions which is a must for getting to product market fit. Another especially important quality for strong founders to have is a sense of humility, seeing feedback as a gift and being coachable and an ability to accept external help to achieve those goals.
Finding true product market fit is really the holy grail when it comes start-up success, that is when inbound interest exceeds outbound manufactured lead generation as well as knowing that there is enough of market to find more of your ideal customer profile, or as Will put it “when you know how to take $1 and turn into $5” that's when you've found product market fit.
One key theme that came up a lot in our conversation was the concept of humility in founders and of being able to find the balance between being optimistic about one’s ability to prevail, yet realistic about what the data tells you in terms of market reality.
Will and Sean believe firmly in giving back and see their success as being tied to the success of the start-ups they advice. That generous attitude is one that pervades GrowthX Academy’s values and attitudes. One of the programs that both founders are very passionate about, is helping vets transition from the military to technology jobs. Skills learned in the military tend to transfer over well to startups and Vets tend to outperform their civilian peers because they come with a set of value based assets that work well with startup life such as:
Vets are coachable and can take direction
Vets know how to deal with adversity and respond well to stress
Military is the biggest company in existence, but can also feel like a start-up when in the field - knowing where you respond best can correlate to the kind of start-up you work at
To date, they’ve had more than 5 successful placements of program graduates at companies like Facebook and Google, which validates how exceptional the program is and valuable in helping Vets realign their military skills to a civilian lifestyle.
Overall we gleaned so much awesome wisdom from this conversation, Sean and Will truly embody the Silicon Valley spirit of openness and generosity and are even helping sales professionals interact on better more personal levels with Sean’s recent series of talks on “How to Talk to Humans” which is a hysterical titled but sadly needed topic to be addressed as we slowly chip away at the interpersonal skills which once came naturally but are now stunted by our screen dependencies and short attention spans.
Big thanks to both Will and Sean and please go check out the valuable work they are doing to help more companies succeed in the volatile and challenging tech ecosystem.