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30 Startup Lessons Learned by Velocity Companies

Over the years, Velocity has offered advice to hundreds of startups, and now it’s their turn to offer our community some advice of their own. Enjoy reading the words of wisdom below, provided by current Velocity companies and alumni.

1. Acorn CryotechSteven ten Holder
When you pitch, believe that you’re conveying a valuable and meaningful message to an audience that is excited to hear about it. Also, keep in mind that your slides only add value to the thing you’re saying. People are primarily interested in listening to you speak.

2. AnsikShiva Bharadwaj
You can choose to be scared of the competition or you can look at your competition, face it head on, try to talk to them, and think about where you can position yourself. The biggest transition for us was learning that yes, we are competing but we’re also trying to be better, through understanding how to partner, and by being better focused on our unique value proposition.

3. ApplyBoardMeti Basiri
Work hard, and when you see someone not working as hard, that’s the best motivation to work even harder. If you believe you’re solving a problem, that’s all that matters. Just make it happen.

4. AryllaPerry Everett
One lesson that we learned the hard way is to be realistic about the stage of your company. After winning VFF, we received some opportunities that we just weren’t ready for, and I think it took us longer than it should have to realize that.

5. Chalk.comWilliam Zhou
Startups are hard. Resilience matters. You will go through highs feeling like you’re on top of the world and lows feeling like you’re alone by yourself. It is an emotional rollercoaster that can last years. It’s only worth it if you find something you truly care about – something you’re passionate about. Otherwise, you may just end up crashing in this emotional rollercoaster.

6. Code Connect
Be very wary of depending on other companies. For a long time, Code Connect had a hard dependency on the release of Visual Studio 2015, a product that had been repeatedly delayed. If this dependency cannot be avoided, ensure that your burn rate is very low. 

7. EyeCheckRachel Friesen
There’s no better time than now to be a woman entrepreneur, so don’t undervalue what you can bring to a situation. Apply to industries that don’t necessarily fit with your background, and don’t feel like you have to prove yourself because you’re a woman, or because you don’t come from a STEM background.

8. HealthIM
Take time to get comfortable with the stage before you pitch, it will take the edge off your nervousness. Talk to people on the day of the pitch. Friends, other companies, or anyone who can make you laugh – it will help you relax. Check out the clicker before pitching starts – it’s one less thing to figure out on stage.

9. KaizenaMax Brodie
Yet again, Velocity is about to grow significantly. Whenever communities grow, their members tend to become more distant. Defy this trend: know the people behind the companies.

10. LaniPablo Eder
Build the business side of your company before doing the coding or the hardware. You can either grow slowly and take your time developing your business, or rapidly push products out the door. There’s no right answer.

11. MetricWireBrian Stewart
Talk to customers as soon as possible. Don’t build in the dark. Find out the value that your customers perceive, and get customers to pay you as soon as possible. Many people will tell you early on what you’re working on is great, but few will pay for it.

12. Nicoya LifesciencesRyan Denomme
Focus on getting customers as early as you can. Everything becomes easier and everyone will take you more seriously once you have some market validation and real revenue.

13. OnesetAmad Abdullah
Go to various events and programs, like the Velocity Start workshops. Get involved, don’t hold yourself back from pursuing your goals based on your program or faculty; those shouldn’t restrict you. What is important is the discipline school teaches you.

14. PebbleEric Migicovsky
When marketing a product, pick 3 key features to focus on as your backbone and make them great.

15. Penta MedicalAlexa Roeper
Don’t miss any key opportunities and collaborate with other teams to expand everyone’s network opportunity. Sign up for opportunities, but also make careful decisions about whether the event being considered is something that is really going to benefit your company in the long run.

16. PiinPointJim Robeson
Accepting advice and knowing what to do with it is a struggle. We used to take advice from everyone. However, the advice we received was not always correct. We learned the hard way to have a select group of mentors, get multiple perspectives from trusted advisors, and couple that advice with what you believe.

17. PoutLaura Smith
Tap into the alumni network as much as possible. Try to meet as many people in the Velocity network as you can, because those relationships will define your experience. You have to be willing to accept their advice or criticisms in order to grow.

18. PumpUp
For the developers and tech guys – learn how to take breaks if you’re in it for the long term, or you’ll burn out. Celebrate successes. We worked really hard, but we also knew to take breaks – take a power nap … pick up a game of hacky sack.

19. SesameIan Tao
The number one priority of every Velocity Garage company should be to get out of the Garage. The support that Velocity provides is almost surreal, and can create a false sense of comfort that companies are definitely guilty of from time to time. The most successful founders I know are those that can balance the daunting realization of what’s ahead, but still celebrate each step forward.

20. Site2SiteAlex Snyder
Ask for advice. There are amazing resources at Velocity and Communitech. There are people who have experience in almost any subject matter you can think of. The biggest part about asking for advice is to ask for blunt and honest advice. There’s an old adage that says ‘if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room’. 

21. Sortable
Find something you care about, build a great product, push it to market sooner than is comfortable, and seek out great people to do it with.

22. SparkGigDesmond Choi
Everyone wants to ride the limo with you, but not everyone is willing to take the bus.

23. Thalo
80% of the time you won’t have any idea what you’re doing, but that’s okay, you haven’t done this before. Learn from your mistakes and move on.

24. TinkerGareth MacLeod
Build things you think are interesting. Work with lots of different people. Read the startup literature, like Paul Graham, Sam Altman, Fred Wilson, etc. and take it to heart. Be generous to other people, including weak ties.

25. TritonWearTristan Lehari
People will always think you’re crazy, silly, naive, or all of the above by starting your own company, but you do this for two key reasons: freedom and impact. You own your own company, so you already have the freedom, now go out and create IMPACT.

26. UCICSukh Singh
Immerse yourself in the community through any means, make mistakes, and subsequently learn from them. It’s impossible to get a sense of entrepreneurship without- metaphorically- being in the trenches. Regardless if it’s through joining a startup, working with one on your co-op term, or starting your own, it’s very difficult to get a sense of it unless you try.

27. UHWKShea Kewin
Just friggin’ do it. The idea is a small part of it- the rest is all execution.

28. Varden LabsMichael Skupien
Practice, but don’t memorize your pitch. We find that rehearsing the same speech over and over again, word for word, you start to stumble when the words are not said in the exact same place.  Run through your pitch once with only key points, take a 15 minute break, and repeat. This way you don’t rely on the correct order of words, only the correct order of ideas.

29. Vertical
Focus. Focus. Focus. Make a decision, stick to it until you have new data telling you, you were wrong. If you are ever in doubt, talk to your customer. Most startups fail at this and spend years meandering.

30. VitameterJames Maclean
People are too okay with failure, startups especially, and it’s slightly glorified in the industry. Realistically, you want to avoid that, as redundant as that sounds. Have dialogue with as many people as you can; it’s an invaluable resource for anyone starting a new business. Sleep tomorrow.