Review Of The DC Startup Week 2019

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Washington DC Startup
Week 2019 which was from September 9th to the 13th. During this week, the DMV (DC, Maryland, and Virginia) startup community came together to learn and grow from each other and from experts around the world. Following are some of the things I learned as I attended the various talks, pitches, and workshops:

Financial Projections for SaaS Companies from GSP

  • Most SaaS companies charge the client(s) everything upfront for the services
  • Freemium model should be used only to figure out what the actual pricing might be
  • Customer services should be a cost so gross profits look good
  • 15% of base salary is a good measure to determine employee benefits
  • When you add customers then you need to add employee (Sales and Marketing) too
  • Sales and Marketing projections should not be constant over the years
  • To get Venture Capitalist (VC) funding:
    • Keep financial projections until year 3
    • Determine if money will last for what you want to build
  • Know your industry’s Customer Aquisition Costs (CAC)
  • My Thoughts:
    • Determine the likely cost (money, reputation) of a data breach
    • Create a checklist of what to do and not to do when making projections

Accounting Procedures for Startups

  • Investors look at accrual accounting
  • Investors will compare your gross profits to your industry
  • Projects should be positive and show a real picture
  • My Thoughts:
    • Except googling there seems to be no place to look at various industry gross profits for various industries at one centralized location


  • There are three major main sources of funding:
    • Government Grants
    • Angel Investors
    • Venture Capitalists
  • Keep in mind what you are building towards and the specific milestones
  • Provide monthly (or sooner when needed) updates to investors:
    • Summary of what happened
    • Challenges
    • List of Ask(s)
  • Ask investors what is their investing process
  • Pay yourself minimum (initially) to enough (when a company becomes self-sustaining)
  • Avoid these common mistakes:
    • Asking for more money isn’t always better
    • Don’t be afraid to negotiate
    • Focus on product/service and customer service
    • Show the landscape of the market, trends and where you fit in

Best Practices for Corporate and Startup Partnerships

  • Startups bring freshness to the organization
  • 3 things corporations care about when looking at startups:
    • A problem needs to solve
    • See something incidental
    • If this scales up, we will have problems
  • Nurture partnerships overtime
  • Transparency and timing is important
  • Always do due diligence before taking on a partner
  • Help people think outside the box
  • Corporations need mechanisms to speed things up
  • Figure out corporations pain points
  • Have a champion internally in the corporation that can pitch for your product or service
  • Corporations look at their internal capabilities vs. external capabilities of startups
  • 75% of USD $100B Venture Capitalist money goes to California, New York, and Massachusetts

Using Design Thinking for Products and Services

  • Design for simplicity
  • Design to make things easier

Finding Product/Market Fit

  • Have a focus on who your client is going to be
  • Sometimes your products/services might be ahead of its time
  • Don’t lie
  • Don’t assume success in one market will translate into another
  • It is best when the majority of the sales are inbound
  • Show/have evidence of traction
  • The lifecycle of a Startup Funds:
    • Ideation – friends and family, crowdfunding, bootstrapping
    • Seed Stage – minimum viable product (MVP)
    • Series A – real revenue
    • Liquidity – exit
  • To iterate on your MVP go to different groups to see what works and why it works
  • Be self-aware
  • Show repeatable product/service and then figure out how to get customers
  • Customer Aquisition Costs (CAC) strategy is very important
  • Think about your exit strategy and who would buy your company
  • Validate the market
  • Have a conversation with your competitors
  • Develop relationships with potential acquirers
  • Always have a domain experience
  • Watch a customer go through the product
  • To get a product/service market fit:
    • Who are you trying to help
    • Make it your priority to know pain points
    • Listen to negative reviews
  • As investors, they care more about the numbers (money) than the story
  • Figure out your why
  • Focus on the revenue model
  • Give real-world examples of pain points

Startup Pitches

1. Guardian Savings – a digital savings bank for children

2. JSkills – providing career transition skills training for journalists

3. Forget me not AI – personalized automated customer interaction

4. Akku – portable battery pack pickup and drop-off

5. Tabitha – Restaurant payment processing app for customers

6. Mully Lingua – Language and culture immersion app

7. Co-Tripper – Single mom group travel

8. Koin Street – A place to manage digital assets

9. Please Assist Me – Chores completion services when you are out of the house

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How Do You Create A Seamless Channel From Offline/Physical To Online/Digital And Vice Versa?

In the video below on CxO Talk, I asked Charlie Cole, Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of Tumi about how to create cohesion between offline/physical and online/digital customer experiences.

In my view, organizations of all sizes also have to be cognizant of the following:

  1. People’s attitude can affect your customer experiences
  2. Process/Flow/Organization/Order can affect your customer experiences
  3. Products of lower quality can affect your customer experiences
  4. Services that are not friendly can affect your customer experiences
  5. Technology that does not keep the customer as the focus can affect your customer experiences

How do we spark new thinking among physicians and, at the same time, how do we get physicians to think about technology beyond just being a user, but actually harness that technology?

In the video below on CxO Talk, I asked Dr. Rasu Shrestha, Chief Innovation Office at Univerity of Pittsburg Medical Center (UPMC) about technology and the medical field.

In my view, in order to get doctors interested in technology and its benefits, we have to look at three things:

  1. Education/Training – Is there adequate traning being given to doctor’s to not only use technology and but also harness its power through data?
  2. Patient’s Experience – Are we creating experiences through technology that are better than before?
  3. Doctor’s Experience – Are we properly allocating a doctor’s time and resources?

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How does Privacy affect Mobile Computing?

In the video below on CxO Talk, I asked Kevin Henrikson of Microsoft and Anindya Ghose of New York University (NYU) about the importance of data privacy.

In my opinion, beyond Notice and Consent for use of consumer data, other areas we should consider are:

  1. Data Breach – What should the consumers’ expect in the likelihood that the consumer data is compromised/hacked/lost?
  2. Data Portablity –  How can the consumers know which countries their data has been hosted or used for transit and what third-parties are using their data?

From the surface it might seem that the above consumer expectations are only for B2C companies but upon closer look it would be prudent to know that these expectations apply to B2B, B2G, Governments and also internal employees of these organizations.

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Would it be helpful if the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the Chief Operations Officer (COO) was the same person to achieve organizational transformation?

In the video below, on CxO Talk, I asked Jay Ferro, Chief Information Officer (CIO) of The American Cancer Society about the relationship between business operations and Information Technology (IT).

In my view, broadly speaking, there are two types of operations:

  1. Business Operations which includes overall organizational operations such as supply chain management but also function-specific operations such as accounting, human resources, marketing and sales.
  2. Technology Operations which includes network support, hardware support, software support, providing services to colleagues inside the organization and to outside customers.

When business operations and technology operations are not in aligment that is where handing off things from one function to another not only creates friction but also creates silos.

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