I Was a Contestant on 'Planet of the Apps' and Got a $5 Million Investment. Here Are 5 Things I Learned From the Experience. Important lessons for any entrepreneur -- even if your advisor isn't Gwyneth Paltrow.
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When I started Dote, I made a deal with myself -- to give my new company everything I had. So, when the opportunity to pitch on Apple Music's new series Planet of the Apps, came across my inbox, I knew it was the kind of thing I should embrace. I flew to LA and met developers from all over, from all professional backgrounds and from all walks of life. We each gave our nerve-wracking escalator pitches, but just some of us were chosen by an advisor. Gwyneth Paltrow picked me, so I met with her and the Goop team over the next six weeks and prepared for the VC pitch.
Pitch day we were back in LA again. All went as planned until I received a huge offer, much more than I had asked for: $5 million from Lightspeed Ventures. I was over the moon, but I wanted to get ahold of our board member and lead investor Michael Dearing before accepting. Standing outside of the pitch room, Paltrow and I were frantically calling but he wasn't picking up. She looked at me and said, "I think it's just you and me, baby girl." It was. So I said, "Let's do this."
It was an amazing experience. Here are five things I learned:
1. Focus on your rate of improvement.
Where you start doesn't matter nearly as much as your rate of growth. On the show and in the startup world in general, companies at varying stages compete for funding. I think that Jeremy Liew and Nikki Quinn were impressed not only with our product but with the growth I was able to show during the six weeks between landing an advisor and pitching to Lightspeed. I measure rate of growth two ways: how quickly I'm learning how to get better and how quickly revenue is growing.
2. Say "thank you" when people give you feedback.
When you've built something from nothing, it's easy to get defensive. Try to reframe your reaction as one of gratitude -- if someone cares enough to spend their time with you and respond honestly to your work, it's worth listening to them, whether you ultimately agree with them or not. Paltrow was my advisor on the show, and I was grateful that she and the whole Goop team were willing to bring a new perspective to Dote. And the ripple effect is real -- setting this tone cultivates a generosity for giving and appreciation for getting feedback among your own team as well.
3. Use fear to your advantage.
Bravery isn't not being afraid, it's not letting fear stop you. Whenever I sense myself hesitating, I remind myself that fear is simply one more of the market's barriers to entry. The switch really flipped for me when I realized that fear was something that could be an obstacle for my competitors. But, I'm not willing to let it hinder me or my team.
4. Opportunities lead to more opportunities.
Some people think opportunities come and go on an endless conveyor belt of chances (and if you live in the Bay Area, I can see why it's easy to think that way). But, I have a scarcity mindset when it comes to opportunity (probably because I grew up in Alaska!). Taking advantage of every window that comes your way will lead to more and more doors. As Gary Vaynerchuk says, hustle, because you make your own luck.
5. Find your people, then treat them like gold.
From colleagues to partners to customers -- the people in your corner are yours to treat well. Because no matter how productive or hardworking you are, entrepreneurship is never a solo act. So whether it's Will.i.am or the mailman, being the person everyone wants to work with pays big dividends.