Raising your Series A is a whirlwind, and closing it might feel like you’ve crossed the finish line. By raising, you’ve proven that your company just might be onto something, and that your team has the tenacity to take an idea from nothing and turn it into a real, functioning business. The only problem: the pressure only goes up from here.
As someone who has been running a post-Series A startup for the past year (we raised our round in April 2015 from General Catalyst), and has watched it grow from six full-time employees to 35 one year later, I’ve learned a lot of lessons that are applicable to most companies trying to grow after their first or second fundraise.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned that have helped me and my co–founder grow our business (and keep our sanity!)
1. Create an org chart
I remember sitting down with Ali Rowghani (former COO of Twitter) right after our fundraise, with a napkin and a pen, and drawing out org charts. If you’re planning to hire more people after your fundraise, you need to understand where they fit within the organization – especially so that you don’t end up having 20 people reporting to the CEO. Try laying out a realistic plan for the positions you need to fill over the next 12 months.
How? First, you need to prioritize what roles are necessary. Then, take a look at where your current employees fit in (sometimes they may not). Next, prioritize who you need to hire, and which part of your organization they fit into best. It’s common to break the company up into Engineering, Product, Operations, Marketing and Sales.
2. Find the right advisers and mentors
Building a business is something that you should not do alone.
Find people who have done this before, preferably in the last several years, so that they can mentor and guide you through both the logistical and psychological challenges. They can be founders, seniors leaders at companies who have faced similar challenges, investors, or even fellow CEOs. It’s vital that you and your team find advisers that understand your vision to help you make it a reality.
3. Be very specific when defining your company culture
The culture of your company will start being defined by the time you have your first few employees. But how are you going to make sure that your culture scales when you get to 40 employees? Or 1,000?
My suggestion is to take a day over the weekend out of the office, and think about the aspects that you (and others) like and don’t like about your company and the employees who work for you. What makes your company special? What are the aspects of what your team does that have helped the company grow so quickly? I suggest then writing out the values of your company – we have seven – and sharing them with everyone on the team. Incorporate them into your candidate interviews and into your employee assessments (if you do them).
4. Create a strategic hiring process
Hiring well is possibly the single most important thing you can do for your business.
When you’re hiring, don’t just test for skills – test for tenacity and a desire to learn. Test for whether the candidate fits your company’s values. Test for whether you think the candidate will be truly happy in a role working for you. Startups are incredibly challenging, and you don’t have time for lots of employee turnover.
On a tactical level, here are a few more tips:
- Use a robust Applicant Tracking System (“ATS”) like Greenhouse or Lever, and get employees to invest time into using it so that no candidate slips through the cracks.
- Be strict on salaries. We obviously love using WayUp to hire because the talent is great and typically less expensive. But even when we’re meeting with very experienced candidates, we’re honest about the fact that we’re a startup and cannot always match the salaries of Google or Facebook.
- Start looking for people who will be great at a specific role you’re hiring for. As opposed to during the “seed stage” of your company, when everyone acts like more of a generalist, as you grow your team, people’s roles become more defined and specific.
5. Stay scrappy and disciplined
When you have so much more money in the bank, it can be easy to think that you have a license to spend. Yes, you can get a real office (move out of the garage!)… and yes, you may want to buy office snacks. But offering three catered meals per day is unnecessary.
Stay disciplined by making strict rules about what you will and won’t spend money on. You may have raised money, but as Paul Buchheit recites to Y Combinator companies: it’s not your money.
– Liz Wessel is the CEO & Co-founder of WayUp, a platform connecting college students with jobs and internships.