Fundraising for an early stage startup is challenging. But what about fundraising when your team is sprawled across the country, or even the world? In this guest post, Fiona Lee -- COO and Co-founder at Pod Foods -- shares her insights on how you can run a company and raise capital even when members of your team are located all over the world.
From Left to Right: Pod Food Co-founders Fiona Lee and Larissa Russell take a boat ride down the river.
Guest Author: Fiona Lee, COO and Co-founder, Pod Foods
Fundraising for an early stage startup is challenging. But what about fundraising when your team is sprawled across the country, or even the world? At Pod Foods, we established three offices -- one in San Francisco, one in Chicago, and one in Hanoi, Vietnam. We also have remote employees! In the last year, we’ve grown our company to support two major cities in the US as well as closed our seed round. Here are our thoughts on how to grow a successful startup while working as a distributed team:
In a nutshell, it comes down to TRUST, TRUST, and TRUST.
- Trust yourself
Being alone is difficult when your team is everywhere else. Especially if they are in multiple time zones, across continents! At Pod Foods, our Slack workspace constantly reminds us that each message we send to @everyone is distributed to more than 5 different time zones. It is a challenge to work when some people are sleeping while others are in the middle of their day. It can also be a challenge to wake up to hundreds of urgent messages.
Remote work is not for the weak-minded. When the sun is out shining and the exciting city awaits, the temptation to shut down the computer and go out for a drink is always around - especially when the rest of your team is deep in slumber.
If you cannot trust yourself, do not expect others to trust you. We enjoy building our company, and our team does too. We continue to refine how we can get things done in the most effective way possible. If you are unsure of your own self-discipline, start with working remotely from home for a week as a first step to see if you truly have the mettle to continue this lifestyle. If it helps, there are plenty of coworking spaces nationally and internationally that can help you feel like you’re going to “work” even if you are all by yourself.
- Trust the division of labor between your team
Having a dynamic duo was essential in closing capital. One of us is focused on external meetings -- sales, partnerships and fundraising -- while the other focused on the internal operation -- working with the team, building the product and running the daily operations of our business. This doesn’t mean that we don’t overlap. It just means that we are each driving a piece of the puzzle forward, and we trust each other to do so.
We have a lot of places to be at once, so we have to trust each other to be in the right places as needed, and to execute as expected. Many times, we were on opposite sides of the world working on different agendas. Each time, we trusted that we were kept in the loop regarding what was going on, and what required both of us to be involved in. Any questions or concerns were immediately addressed, even if it meant waking up at 3am for a call.
Tip : If you’re working alone and looking to build a strong business, growing the company should *always* take precedence over raising money. Until not having money is the only remaining roadblock for growing your company, focus on what you can do to advance the business. Making progress toward your mission helps with fundraising anyway! If it’s time to raise money and you don’t have a partner to work with, you can still manage your time and trust your prioritization skills in the same way you would trust a cofounder.
- Trust the outcomes
Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, was so good at winning that he couldn’t imagine losing. He famously said, “It never occurred to me that I might lose; to me, it was always as if I had the right to win. Thinking like that often seems to turn into a self fulfilling prophecy.”
Visualizing your success is critical to getting what you want. The path to get there may take you by surprise, and things may not work out exactly as you imagined, but that doesn’t make the envisioning any less important. There are lots of pathways forward, and usually the right way will illuminate in due time. Don’t get too attached to outcomes. Trust your instincts and your intuition.
When you are not in physical proximity to your team or cofounder, this is especially true. Together, you’ll need to make decisions that will impact the future without fully understanding what’s going on on the ground in either scenario. But in the end, there are multiple ways of stepping forward. Part of being a founder is letting go and trusting the flow!
In summary: trust, trust and trust. In fact, trust is quite possibly the most important aspect of leading a company, regardless of whether you’re fundraising, living across the world from your team, or running a one person, revenue-generating small business. It can be one of the hardest parts of being an entrepreneur, and also one of the most indulgent and rewarding.
The opinions of our guest bloggers are their own and not those of 1871. Fiona Lee is a Co-founder of Pod Foods, the distribution solution for growing brands. For more information about Pod Foods, follow @podfoodsco on all social channels, or visit https://podfoods.co.