Moving The Needle: Advisers as a Startup Catalyst

Guest post by Marcus Singleton, the chief operating officer of EdConnective

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, EdConnective has had the opportunity to be a part of a startup accelerator affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania for the past three months.

Each month we arrive at the accelerator sessions full of pride in what we’ve accomplished in the Catalyze.jpgpast month, and somehow at the end of the weekend, we end up with a to-do list longer than we imagined, and an impending sense that we have a long way to go. In our most recent session, we discussed our sales strategy and techniques for generating leads. Previously, we had achieved what we considered good traction by reaching out to school-level administrators on an individual basis.

After some discussion, however, we quickly realized that although this method was beneficial in the beginning to prove that we could get people to say yes, we would be old and gray by the time we scaled the business to the size we desired. What we needed was something that would “move the needle” for us.

What that meant for us was two things: adding experienced mentors to our adviser team and finding the right strategic partnerships. We hoped that these two efforts would complement each other by asking our advisers to provide us with valuable introductions to potential partners.

Anyone who has spent any time selling to schools will share, that it is a uniquely difficult market to penetrate. Schools don’t typically trust new companies with whom they have never worked, which is why partnerships can be such a valuable tool. One well-thought-out partnership can instantly open the door to entire school districts that otherwise would have either been closed off or would have potentially taken years to cultivate a working relationship with. This is where we concluded we would need place our energy.

As for mentorships, the right adviser can be an invaluable resource for a startup. During our startup accelerator session, we were introduced to a mentor who subsequently joined EdConnective as an advisor. He brings extensive sales experience (something the EdConnective founders do not have), and has already been able to share with us some terrific ideas for moving the needle. It was actually his idea for us to seek out strategic partnership opportunities, and now we’re putting together a roadmap to make it happen.

The most important lesson learned might be the fact that startup founders cannot be shy when it comes to seeking out help. Had we not specifically approached our new adviser and asked him for his assistance, we would have missed an important opportunity to connect with someone who could fill in some of our blind spots. If you believe in your product and company, you should also believe that it is worth asking someone else to expend some of their resources (in our case this was social capital and time) to help you move the needle.

With all of this excitement comes an ever increasing workload, so look forward to the results in the coming months.

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