Advice for first-time founders on getting your startup off the ground

September 9, 2020 Derrick Harris

Launching a tech startup is always difficult, but it’s especially difficult when you don’t have any real connections to the tech world. From hiring engineers to raising venture capital, there can be a steep learning curve for first-time founders who aren’t already immersed in Silicon Valley.

In this episode of our new Cloud & Culture podcast, we speak with Jackie Ros Amable about her experience starting a company called Revolar while still an undergraduate and then post-graduation as a Spanish teacher. Ros Amable discusses how she was able to navigate what was to her a very new world, and eventually get her company off the ground and products developed by learning the ropes on her own, finding the right investors, and partnering with VMware Pivotal Labs. Now an entrepreneurial advocate, she continues to share the lessons she learned and to help other founders get their ideas off the ground.

You can listen to the entire episode below—and you should for some inspiring stories about bootstrapping and hiring friends’ cousins—but keep reading for some more highlights from the discussion with Ros Amable.

Listen on Apple, Google, or Spotify, or search in your favorite podcast app.

Building the right product, fast

“Our engagement with Pivotal [Labs] made it possible for us to move fast and save money in the long run, because we weren't having to rebuild bad code. … If we lost somebody or somebody moved away, we didn't lose that knowledge. And when I looked at some of my friends who decided to go a different path, or first only hire in-house before giving themselves the time to hire the right people—especially in hardware—they didn't deliver products for like two, three years after they were supposed to.

“So, overwhelmingly, the feedback I got externally was it was almost like a shock of, ‘How did you all move so fast and build such a strong product?’ And I was always very open that we were engaged with Pivotal and that they were helping make that software come to life.”

Hire what you don’t know

“I almost wouldn't say that I see a difference between being engineer-led or being passion-led. I see a difference between founders who are comfortable not being the smartest person in the room, and founders who aren't. 

“I've seen engineering teams that are brilliant engineers, but who really don't like biz dev or biz dev people, and they refuse to hire for it. So they build these phenomenal products, but they're never able to figure out the channel strategy or their marketing strategy, and it's because they seem uncomfortable with those concepts or they don't hire the right people for those concepts, and vice versa. 

"I see a lot of people they're like, ‘Oh, I'd rather hire really young and hungry.’ I'm like, ‘Yeah, young and hungry is great to a certain degree, but at some point you need this thing to exist. This has to be real if somebody's going to invest in it and if people are going to buy it.'"

Remember that investors are stakeholders, too

“Especially as a non-technical founder . . .  you want everybody to be aligned. You want your investors to be comfortable with your strategy. They deserve that respect. 

“I loved working with my board. I had a lot of learnings as a first-time founder learning to manage and work with a board. I definitely made a few mistakes along [the way],  but the one thing we were always on the same page about was the hiring strategy and why we'd gone down that route. And for us, that meant working with Pivotal in the early days.”

More information on VMware Pivotal Labs

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About the Author

Derrick Harris

Derrick Harris is a product marketing manager at VMware.

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