Australian growth marketing agency Ammo helps startups calibrate their efforts

When you are the founder of a young startup, it is always very hard to gauge the right amount of effort to dedicate to marketing. Botch it and you risk looking unprofessional. Hire a traditional agency and you might be wasting time and money.

Australian growth marketing agency Ammo, in contrast, wants to make sure that its clients aren’t overinvesting nor underinvesting. Geared toward tech startups, it boasts that it has “supercharged the growth of over 200 innovative businesses,” from fintech and SaaS to hardware.

Ammo is based in Perth and an active member of Western Australia’s startup community, where it is “very highly regarded,” in the words of the survey respondent who recommended it to TechCrunch. But if that person decided to work with Ammo, they said it’s because “their results spoke.” (If you have growth marketing agencies or freelancers to recommend, please fill out our survey!)

After reading this, we reached out to Ammo’s director Cam Sinclair for insights on early-stage brand development, marketing readiness and more. Check out our interview below:

Editor’s note: The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you give us an overview of Ammo?

Cam Sinclair: Ammo is a growth marketing team based in Perth, Western Australia. We work with startups and innovative businesses to help them set and reach their growth goals.

Cam Sinclair

Cam Sinclair. Image Credits: Aline Kuba(opens in a new window)

We’ve been in this community for seven years now, and have a small, lean team from a variety of backgrounds — none of which are traditional marketing.

As a nerdy kid I loved tech and was fascinated by how business works. I always knew I wanted to find some way to help founders and innovators get their great ideas out into the world. After working in political campaigns, I realized that many of the skillsets overlapped with what startups need: moving fast, being lean, communicating well, being adaptable and staying flexible.

That inspired me to grow an “anti-agency” where startup founders could genuinely feel like they had someone on their team who understood their challenges and the risks they were taking.

How do you collaborate with startups?

Our services cater to every stage of the founder journey. When you’re starting, you’ll need a brand, strategy and the marketing infrastructure to reach early customers. As you’re growing, you’ll need ongoing marketing campaigns and automation that bolsters your funnel. As you’re maturing, you’ll need the broader reach that PR and ongoing strategic advice provides.

We like to keep engagements as flexible as possible because startups are always discovering new marketing opportunities or customer needs. Some relationships are ongoing, others are quick projects completed in a week. Our long-term relationships start with a growth strategy workshop, where we identify a north star metric so that everyone is pulling in the same direction from day one.

Our workshops help startup teams design a customer journey using the pirate metrics framework and turn that into a clear, step-by-step action plan which they can implement or outsource.


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There’s a survey on your site that encourages companies to check whether they are “ready for growth marketing.” What are the high-level points that make a company ready?

It’s really about having a small number of early fanatical customers — evangelists. Many people call it product-market-fit, but it’s really customer fit.

There is little point in lighting a rocket under a startup to grow and reach a wide audience without a clear, confident direction. Sure, you might get somewhere fast, but where are you going?

We’ve made the mistake of taking on clients who were too early for growth, so we know how important it is to say “no” when it’s not a good fit. We can direct all the traffic in the world to your website, but without customer fit you’ll be fighting for every sale.

Startups need to get a few things right to be primed for growth. Not every startup will be ready for what we can do for them. We’re focused on our own customer fit too.

For one-on-one work, who are your typical clients? 

Our most successful relationships are with startups who have already established customer fit and are looking to grow quickly. We work with B2B and B2C SaaS companies, as well as more traditional businesses who are looking to disrupt the way things are done in their industry.

We’ve grown startups in Australia and abroad, including neuroscience startup Humm, based in Berkeley, California. We worked with them to identify early customers and preorder channels while they were gathering initial investment, build a learning/experimenting system within the team as they grew and, more recently, provide advisory at a strategic level.

What mistakes do you help startups avoid when it comes to branding? 

After working with over 230 startups, we know what works and what doesn’t. Our clients work with us because they know we can help them avoid the pitfalls that inexperienced founders regularly fall into and make the most of the tight budgets that startups run on.

Marketing agencies are taking money that startups don’t have to build brand identities that startups don’t need. We would much prefer to see those resources invested into building their product and talking to their customers.

That said, it’s important for a landing page or slide deck to be believable to customers, investors and partners — and when startups underinvest in their branding, people are less likely to hand over their attention, email address and money.

For example, some clients often don’t even have suitable logo files or a wide enough color palette to create websites that effectively convert people into customers. If someone can’t clearly see your “sign-up” button when they land on your website because everything on your website is blue, it doesn’t matter how good your product or service is.

Can you explain why you advise startups to create a “minimum viable brand”? 

The temptation in the startup world is to use a freelancer through an online marketplace (or even worse — letting an overenthusiastic employee create a logo in PowerPoint). But this usually results in a surface-level logo design without any consideration for how it might develop over time or fit within a larger brand identity.

Other startups might work with an agency to create a brand identity, and this can lead to brand overkill — stationery kits, photography, lofty mission statements and endless meetings. None of which pre-seed startups need yet. This process wastes time and money better spent elsewhere and traps pivoting startups with an expensive brand that can’t evolve as they do.

We take branding processes used by world-class agencies and distill it down to the core parts of the brand you need right now. This leads to a minimum viable brand identity that’s built to grow and created with the expectation that it will change as your startup does. It’s inspired by lean methodology and the minimum viable product (MVP) — it’s built to challenge assumptions and catch the attention of customers without overinvesting.

What’s the process you follow to help startups develop their minimum viable brand?

Initially we help them come up with a name.

Naming is important so we generally invest time into this part to avoid changing it in the future if possible. We want to make sure it meets the basic principles of distinctiveness, brevity, appropriateness, easy spelling and pronunciation, likeability, extendibility and protectability (based on Marty Neumeier’s branding-in-business book Zag).

From there we design a logo. A good logomark (the “icon” part of the logo) is generally figurative and not literal. It should be scalable, simple and work in multiple environments including single color black or white. The logo is then complemented with brand color selections, fonts and simple imagery direction to create a basic but useful brand guide.

Most importantly, we believe your startup’s brand guidelines should be available publicly online, rather than in a PDF hidden in a folder on your Dropbox. Somewhere that you can direct your team members and partners to so you can ensure everyone can maintain brand consistency.

How does Ammo compare to having an in-house CMO?

Like a CMO, we’re strategic. But unlike a CMO, we have experience with hundreds of startups across dozens of industries — we can pull insights and lessons from unexpected places when we’re working with clients.

While we align closely with commercial goals like an in-house CMO, we also know the importance for startups to move quickly. That’s why everyone at Ammo rolls up their sleeves and gets things done for our clients.

We don’t have the mindset of taking months to develop an annual marketing strategy, we want to help our clients get in front of customers quickly, collect valuable data along the way and stay nimble to adapt when they need it.

How do you and your clients measure your impact?

At Ammo, we don’t measure time, we measure outcomes. At the start of every project we define what success looks like with the client. Every client is different, and we’re responsive to that. We check back in with ongoing clients in monthly meetings to see how we’re tracking toward the success metric we agreed on, adjusting as necessary.

All of this is measured through quantitative analytics, qualitative feedback from customers and gut instinct.

In the past we have described our role as making ourselves obsolete — that our clients would grow large enough to be able to hire their own in-house marketing team. Today we still retain many of these client relationships in different ways, by providing more strategic advice. Those long-term relationships are the greatest indication to us that we’ve had a valuable impact.

#australia, #brand-management, #growth-marketing, #lean-methodology, #marketing, #perth, #startups, #tc, #tc-experts, #verified-experts

Tips for managing growth across iOS updates

“I’ve seen startups spend thousands of dollars inefficiently as a result of not having optimal signal in their paid acquisition campaigns. I’ve also spent millions at companies such as Postmates refining our signal to the best possible state,” says growth marketer Jonathan Martinez in a guest column for Extra Crunch this week. “I’d like every startup to avoid the painful mistake of not having this set up correctly, instead making the most of every important ad dollar.”

The TechCrunch team has been busy this past week, especially with Disrupt next week and the iOS 15 release date quickly approaching. If you haven’t already registered for Disrupt, it’s not too late to get a ticket. We’re excited for all of the sessions, including “The Subtle Challenges of Assessing Product-Market Fit” on Tuesday, September 21 from 2:05 PM – 2:45 PM EDT the Extra Crunch stage. The marketing world was full steam ahead this past week, Martinez covered how to optimize signal and Miranda Halpern spoke with Vivek Sharma, CEO of Movable Ink about the impact that iOS 15 will have on email marketers. We also had guest posts from Bryan Dsouza of Grammarly and Xiaoyun TU of Brightpearl. More details below.

Help TechCrunch find the best growth marketers for startups.

Provide a recommendation in this quick survey and we’ll share the results with everybody.

If you didn’t already hear, we’re giving away one free ticket to Disrupt, through the Experts survey. Check out the schedule for Disrupt, and read on to learn about the giveaway details:

  • Have you already submitted a recommendation? That’s great — we’re counting all previous survey submissions as an entry for the Disrupt ticket.
  • We’ll also enter the next 100 survey submissions into the giveaway.
  • Do you want to submit 10 recommendations to increase your chance at winning? We love the enthusiasm, but we ask that you only submit one recommendation for each marketer that you’ve worked with.
  • Don’t know what to say in your recommendation? Start with what traits they had, what they did to help your company, how their work affected your business and go from there!
  • We manually go through all entries, so please don’t copy and paste the same response multiple times.
  • Have a question about the giveaway? Send us an email at ec_editors@techcrunch.com.
  • The survey will stay open, but we won’t be counting submissions as entries to this giveaway after Sunday, September 19, 11:59 pm PT.

Marketer: Andrew Race, Juice
Recommended by: Orin Singh, Merchant Industry
Testimonial: “We were referred to Juice by a family friend of my company’s owner and as a personal courtesy they said they were giving us their best guy. Naturally we thought that is what everyone says but they were not kidding. Andrew was singularly leagues above our previous marketing company. Having someone so knowledgeable and willing to learn a new industry proved to be the turning point for us.”

In growth marketing, signal determines success: Martinez learned from his mistakes, and share the lessons learned with us. From selecting the signal, to how to enhance it, Martinez covers key aspects including how to take advantage of iOS 14. He says, “So how do you stay ahead and continue moving the needle on your growth marketing campaigns? First and foremost, constantly question the events you’re optimizing for. And second, leave no stone unturned.”

Marketers should plan for more DIY metrics as iOS 15 nears: The release of iOS 15 will change that playing field for marketers. They’ll have to rely on metrics that use zero and first-party data rather than relying on email open rates as the main metric. Miranda spoke with Sharma about how this release will impact the industry and what marketers should focus on. One tip from Sharma is, “Focus on down funnel metrics like clicks and conversions — that’s what it really comes down to and that’s the truest indicator of engagement.”

(Extra Crunch) Demand Curve: How to get social proof that grows your startup: Nick Costelloe, head of content at Demand Curve, dives into social proof and how startups can use it to their advantage. On social proof, Costelloe says, “Have you ever stopped to check out a restaurant because it had a large lineup out front? That wasn’t by chance. It’s common for restaurants to limit the size of their reception area. This forces people to wait outside, and the line signals to people walking past that the restaurant is so good it’s worth waiting for.”

(Extra Crunch) 5 things you need to win your first customer: Dsouza, product marketing lead at Grammarly, walks us through how to win your first customer. He includes explanations, how-tos, and practice use cases. Dsouza says,” . . .ask any founder what really proves their startup has taken off, and they will almost instantly say it’s when they win their first customer.”

(Extra Crunch) 4 ways to leverage ROAS to triple lead generation: TU, global director of demand generation at Brightpearl, walks us through ways to use return on advertising spending (ROAS). She says, “When you choose a return metric, you need to make sure it matches your company goal without taking ages to get the data.”

Tell us who your favorite startup growth marketing expert to work with is by filling out our survey.

#advertising-tech, #ec-growth-marketing, #growth-marketing, #growth-roundup, #marketing, #startups, #tc, #tc-experts, #verified-experts

Demand Curve: How to get social proof that grows your startup

When people are uncertain, they look to others for behavioral guidance. This is called social proof, which is a physiological effect that influences your decisions every day, whether you know it or not.

At Demand Curve and through our agency Bell Curve, we’ve helped over 1,000 startups improve their ability to convert cold traffic into repeat customers. We’ve found that effectively using social proof can lead to up to 400% improvement in conversion.

This post shares exactly how to collect and use social proof to help grow your SaaS, e-commerce, or B2B startup.

Surprisingly, we’ve actually seen negative reviews help improve conversion rates. Why? Because they help set customer expectations.

How businesses use social proof

Have you ever stopped to check out a restaurant because it had a large line of people out front? That wasn’t by chance.

It’s common for restaurants to limit the size of their reception area. This forces people to wait outside, and the line signals to people walking past that the restaurant is so good it’s worth waiting for.

But for Internet-based businesses, social proof looks a bit different. Instead of people lining up outside your storefront, you’re going to need to create social proof that resonates with your target customers — they’ll be looking for different clues to signal whether doing business with your company is “normal” or “acceptable” behavior.

Social proof for B2B

People love to compare themselves to others, and this is especially true when it comes to the customers of B2B businesses. If your competitor is able to get a contract with a company that you’ve been nurturing for months, you’d be upset (and want to know how they did it).

Therefore, B2B social proof is most effective when you display the logos of companies you do business with. This signals to people checking out your website that other businesses trust you to deliver on your offer. The more noteworthy or respected the logos on your site, the stronger the influence will be.

Social proof for SaaS

Depending on the type of SaaS product or service you’re selling, you’ll either be selling to an individual or to a business. The strategy remains the same, but the channels will vary slightly.

The most effective way to generate social proof for SaaS products is through positive reviews from trusted sources. For consumer SaaS, that will be through influential bloggers and YouTubers speaking highly of your product. For B2B SaaS, it will be through positive ratings on review sites like G2 or Capterra. Proudly display these testimonials on your site.

Social proof for e-commerce brands

E-commerce brands will typically sell directly to an individual through ads, but because anyone can purchase an ad, you’re going to need to signal trust in other ways. The most common way we see e-commerce brands building social proof is by nurturing an organic social media following on Instagram or TikTok.

This signals to new customers that you’ve gotten the seal of approval from others like them. Having an audience also allows you to showcase user-generated content from your existing customers.

How to collect social proof

There are five avenues startups can tap to collect social proof:

  1. Product reviews
  2. Testimonials
  3. Public relations and earned media
  4. Influencers
  5. Social media and community

Here are a few tactics we’ve used to help startups build social proof.

#assistant, #cloud, #column, #e-commerce, #e-sports, #ec-column, #ec-growth-marketing, #ecommerce, #growth-marketing, #marketing, #review-tools, #saas, #social-media, #social-networks, #social-proof, #startups, #user-generated-content, #verified-experts

Marketers should plan for more DIY metrics as iOS 15 nears

Apple is planning to remove developer access to important user data as part of its iOS 15 release on Monday, leaving email marketers in a dilemma about how they will figure out metrics. To find out how the industry is approaching this problem, we spoke with Vivek Sharma, CEO of Movable Ink, a software consultancy that helps marketers act on the data they’re collecting.

This conversation builds on our Extra Crunch post from August exploring how email marketers can prepare for Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection changes.

The game-changer for email marketers with this update is that as an Apple Mail user, you’ll have the option to hide your IP address.

How can marketers pivot their tactics to remain in control of their metrics? Sharma feels we’ll see more focus on downstream metrics rather than the open rate — on clicks, conversions and revenue. “That sounds great and everything, but you have less of that data. But by definition, that funnel kind of narrows; there are fewer people to get to at that point, so it might take you longer to know if something is working or not working for you.”

Help TechCrunch find the best growth marketers for startups.

Provide a recommendation in this quick survey and we’ll share the results with everybody.

Sharma says zero and first-party data is something that businesses have been focused on. “There are two components: There’s ‘open’ as a metric, and there’s some of the information you’re getting at open time, like the IP address, the time of day, and the inferred weather — that is perceived as data leakage. These are just a couple of the data points. [This data] tend to be things that [marketers] have already been investing in, and they’ve been earning the right to learn more about the customer,” he says.

The challenge, according to Sharma, is: How can marketers collect zero-party data in an interesting, visually appealing way, and then personalize its contents for every customer at scale?

One way that Movable Ink has collected zero-party data is displayed below:

Sharma says, “Everything in here is a polling question: ‘What do you typically shop for?’ ‘What’s your shoe size?’ And they’re giving you loyalty points in return, so there’s an exchange of value happening here. They’re learning about you in a clear way and giving you an easy way to engage with the brand you’re interested in.”

Once you have the data, the question is: How do you use it? Below we see an example from JetBlue.

Sharma outlines three takeaways from iOS 15 for email marketers:

  1. Focus on down-funnel metrics like clicks and conversions — that’s what it really comes down to and it’s the truest indicator of engagement.
  2. Invest in your zero and first-party data assets. True personalization is what people experience and what they see. You can do that from your zero and first-party assets.
  3. Email is a great channel to engage your customers, because it’s a mature one that’s been invested in. Email is an awesome channel for building a one-to-one relationship with your customer, and far more. It has gone through lots of changes over the last 10 or 15 years. The industry will evolve and we’ll find that balance of privacy and personalization.

#advertising-tech, #apple-privacy, #email-marketing, #growth-marketing, #ios-15, #movable-ink, #online-privacy, #privacy, #startups, #tc, #tc-experts, #verified-experts

Choices and constraints: How DTC companies decide which strategy to follow

Companies typically have to settle on strategies that align with their customers, employees, investors, and regulators. The more they know about how the other side will decide, the clearer their own strategies become.

If regulators always prefer choice for consumers, then it is easy for a platform to allow multiple payment choices: Shopify allows multiple payment options from its partners, Apple doesn’t.

By regulatory intervention, it will have to now.

Nash equilibrium and Netflix time

Nash equilibrium is a fascinating, post-facto explanation for some of the interesting decisions you will often see in business.

In simple terms, Nash equilibrium states that if you have clarity on the other side’s decision, you can make yours without regret. In other words, there is no incentive to change strategy once each side knows what the optimal position of the other side is, in their combined transaction.

All physical products cannot escape retail, because ignoring retail means a smaller serviceable market. But it is a choice companies can make.

I see this playing out every weekend at home. I don’t mind reading a book alone or watching Netflix with my kid, but when I am available for Netflix and my kid decides to read a book, it is a bummer.

DTCs, DNVBs and game theory

In DTC, how companies decide their omnichannel strategy depends on how well they know what their customers’ choices are and what their ideal strategy will be. In many transactions, constraints are actually good forcing functions — they narrow down choices and help you arrive at an equilibrium faster and cheaper.

The marketing and public-market filing languages make for a fascinating read into the minds of companies.

When Warby Parker filed its IPO prospectus last month, the company referred to its digitally-native status in the past tense. The model was effectively flipped in 2020, as its share of online sales to total sales dropped from 65% to 40%. Meanwhile, its physical store count increased from 126 to 145.

#d2c, #direct-to-consumer, #dtc, #ec-column, #ec-ecommerce-and-d2c, #ecommerce, #growth-marketing, #marketing, #marketing-strategy, #merchandising, #omnichannel, #online-shopping, #startups, #verified-experts

Extra Crunch roundup: Adtech investing, Intuit buys Mailchimp, ideal customer profiles

Major gains in online advertising have boosted valuations for adtech startups since the pandemic began, but one insider says investors are missing the party.

“Adtech is having a moment,” writes industry veteran Casey Saran.

“And while much of the oxygen has been soaked up by large legacy companies hitting the public market, there have been smaller deals that indicate a hunger for better creative adtech.”

Saran shares five reasons “why VCs should consider ratcheting up their investment into adtech startups building the next generation of creative tools.”


Full Extra Crunch articles are only available to members
Use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription


On Wednesday, September 22 at 9:05 a.m PT, I’m moderating “The Path for Underrepresented Entrepreneurs,” a panel discussion at Disrupt 2021.

Our conversation will examine some of the unique challenges facing founders from historically marginalized groups, the strategies they used along the way, and the disruptive changes we need to consider if we want to see fundamental change.

I’ll be speaking with:

  • Hana Mohan, founder & CEO, MagicBell
  • Leslie Feinzaig, founder & CEO, Female Founders Alliance
  • Stephen Bailey, co-founder & CEO, ExecOnline

I hope you’ll attend; we’ll take audience questions after our discussion concludes. Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch this week, and have a great weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

5 things you need to win your first customer

Putting the final building block onto the top of a rising pile signifying success and achievement

Image Credits: AndrewLilley (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Congratulations on shipping your product, but how much do you know about your target customers?

Companies that haven’t created an ideal customer profile and performed a SWOT analysis are making big bets on guesswork and intuition. Sometimes that works out, but more frequently, it leads to tears.

In a guest post that walks readers through the fundamentals of creating customer personas that map to your company’s goals, Grammarly product marketing lead Bryan Dsouza shares five basic requirements for customer acquisition.

“Understanding and executing on these things can guarantee you that first customer win, provided you do them well and with sincerity,” he says.

“Your investors will also see the fruits of your labor and be comforted knowing their dollars are at good work.”

4 ways to leverage ROAS to triple lead generation

Someone pops the tab on a soda can, releasing a mist/spray

Image Credits: joshblake (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

In school, it’s highly unethical to copy someone else’s work and pass it off as your own. In business, however, it is expected.

Xiaoyun TU, global director of demand generation at Brightpearl, wrote a comprehensive guide for how to use the key metric of return on advertising spend (ROAS) to triple your company’s lead generation.

“A ‘good’ ROAS score is different for each company and campaign,” she says. “If your figure isn’t where you’d like it to be, you can leverage ROAS data to create targeted campaigns and personalized experiences.”

3 strategies to make adopting new HR tech easier for hiring managers

Steps with Check Mark on Chalkboard

Image Credits: porcorex (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Most of us prefer to trust our instincts instead of letting automated tools help us make decisions, particularly when it comes to hiring. But that’s not smart.

If your startup relies on an ad hoc hiring process, you’re probably not tracking candidates properly, there’s likely little consistency regarding how they’re treated, and bias can play a major role in who gets hired.

It’s fine to be skeptical of automated hiring tools — but not ignorant.

What could stop the startup boom?

In yesterday’s edition of The Exchange, Anna Heim and Alex Wilhelm speculated about the conditions that could combine to cool off a hot startup market currently fueled by low interest rates and a sweeping digital transformation.

“From where we stand, the factors underpinning the startup fundraising boom appear solid and unlikely to unwind overnight. Still, no golden period shines forever, and even today’s luster will eventually tarnish.”

Intuit’s $12B Mailchimp acquisition is about expanding its small business focus

Signage for financial software company Intuit at the company's headquarters in the Silicon Valley town of Mountain View, California, August 24, 2016. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images).

Image Credits: Smith Collection/Gado / Getty Images

Before news broke this week that Intuit was acquiring Mailchimp for $12 billion, the ’80s-born fintech giant’s biggest buy was spending $7.1 billion last year for Credit Karma.

In the last few years, Mailchimp “has been expanding upon its core email marketing functionality” with offerings like web design and CRM, writes enterprise reporter Ron Miller.

The industry watchers he interviewed said the move signals Intuit’s interest in acquiring and serving more SMB customers with a variety of tools:

  • Laurie McCabe, co-founder and partner, SMB Group
  • Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst, CRM Essentials
  • Holger Mueller, analyst, Constellation Research

Forge’s SPAC deal is a bet on unicorn illiquidity

“One of my favorite long-term issues with the late-stage startup market is that it is far better at creating value than it is at finding an exit point for that accreted value,” Alex Wilhelm writes for The Exchange. “More simply, the startup market is excellent at creating unicorns but somewhat poor at taking them public.”

That’s good news for Forge Global, a technology startup that operates a market for secondary transactions in private companies, with Alex dubbing its plans to go public via a SPAC combination “perfectly reasonable.”

Dear Sophie: Should I apply for citizenship if I have a conviction?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

At Burning Man a few years ago, I was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for smoking marijuana in public (in my car) and driving under the influence.

I currently have a green card and want to apply for U.S. citizenship next year.

Can I? If so, how should I handle my criminal record?

— Remorseful About the Reefer

Atlanta’s sundry startups join in global VC funding boom

Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim continued their tour of U.S. cities after hitting up Chicago and Boston in recent weeks.

This time, they dug into Atlanta’s booming startup scene, which is seeing record capital inflows.

“The picture that forms is one of a city enjoying a rising tide of venture activity, boosted by some local dynamics that may have helped some of its earlier-stage companies scale for cheaper than they might have in other markets,” they write.

#adtech, #advertising-tech, #business, #ec-roundup, #entrepreneurship, #extra-crunch-roundup, #finance, #growth-marketing, #intuit, #lawyers, #mailchimp, #private-equity, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #venture-capital, #verified-experts

5 things you need to win your first customer

A startup is a beautiful thing. It’s the tangible outcome of an idea birthed in a garage or on the back of a napkin. But ask any founder what really proves their startup has taken off, and they will almost instantly say it’s when they win their first customer.

That’s easier said than done, though, because winning that first customer will take a lot more than an Ivy-educated founder and/or a celebrity investor pool.

To begin with, you’ll have to craft a strong ideal customer profile to know your customer’s pain points, while developing a competitive SWOT analysis to scope out alternatives your customers can go to.

Your target customer will pick a solution that will help them achieve their goals. In other words, your goals should align with your customer’s goals.

You’ll also need to create a shortlist of influencers who have your customer’s trust, identify their decision-makers who make the call to buy (or not), and create a mapped list of goals that align your customer’s goals to yours.

Understanding and executing on these things can guarantee you that first customer win, provided you do them well and with sincerity. Your investors will also see the fruits of your labor and be comforted knowing their dollars are at good work.

Let’s see how:

1. Craft the ideal customer profile (ICP)

The ICP is a great framework for figuring out who your target customer is, how big they are, where they operate, and why they exist. As you write up your ICP, you will soon see the pain points you assumed about them start to become more real.

To create an ICP, you will need to have a strong articulation of the problem you are trying to solve and the customers that experience this problem the most. This will be your baseline hypothesis. Then, as you develop your ICP, keep testing your baseline hypothesis to weed out inaccurate assumptions.

Getting crystal clear here will set you up with the proper launchpad. No shortcuts.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Develop an ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) framework.
  2. Identify three target customers that fit your defined ICP.
  3. Write a problem statement for each identified target customer.
  4. Prioritize the problem statement that resonates with your product the most.
  5. Lock on the target customer of the prioritized problem statement.

Practice use case:

You are the co-founder at an upcoming SaaS startup focused on simplifying the shopping experience in car showrooms so buyers enjoy the process. What would your ICP look like?

2. Develop the SWOT

The SWOT framework cannot be overrated. This is a great structure to articulate who your competitors are and how you show up against them. Note that your competitors can be direct or indirect (as an alternative), and it’s important to categorize these buckets correctly.

#business, #business-intelligence, #column, #customer-experience, #ec-column, #ec-how-to, #growth-marketing, #market-research, #marketing, #startup-advice, #startup-tips, #startups, #tc, #verified-experts

In growth marketing, signal determines success

Unlike a weak phone signal solely causing a grainy sound, in growth marketing, it can mean the difference between a successful program or a massive cash bleed. As we move toward an increasingly privacy-centric world, it is even more necessary for companies to nail down signal early on.

So what exactly is “signal” in growth marketing? It can carry many different meanings, but holistically speaking, it’s the event data in our arsenal to help guide decisions. When it comes to paid acquisition, it’s vital to optimize and pass back the correct event data to paid channels. This is so that targeting and bidding algorithms have the most enriched data to utilize.

I’ve seen startups spend thousands of dollars inefficiently as a result of not having optimal signal in their paid acquisition campaigns. I’ve also spent millions at companies such as Postmates refining our signal to the best possible state. I’d like every startup to avoid the painful mistake of not having this set up correctly, instead making the most of every important ad dollar.

The selection

When starting out, it may seem obvious to optimize toward a north-star metric such as a purchase. If spend is very minimal, that could mean that the conversion volume will be low across campaigns. On the flip side, if the optimization event is set at a top-of-funnel event such as a landing page view, the signal strength may be very weak. The reason that the strength may be weak is due to passing back a low-intent event as successful to the paid channels. By marking a landing page view as successful, paid channels such as Facebook will continue to find users that are similar to these lower-propensity users that are converting.

Let’s take an example of a health-and-wellness app with a goal of driving memberships to their coaching program. They’re just starting out with exploring paid acquisition and spending $5,000 per week on Facebook. Below is a look at their events in the funnel, weekly volume and cost per event:

Example of a health-and-wellness app and their weekly conversion volume at $5,000 spend. Image Credits: Jonathan Martinez

In the above example, we can see that there’s significant volume for landing page views. As we go down the simplified flow, there is less volume as users drop off the funnel. Almost everyone’s instinct would be to optimize for either the landing page view, because there’s so much data, or the subscription event, because it’s the strongest. I would argue (after extensive testing across multiple ad accounts) that neither of these events would be the correct pick. With landing page views as an optimization event, the users have an egregiously low propensity since the landing page view to subscription conversion rate is 0.61%.

The correct event to optimize for here would either be sign up or trial start because they have sufficient enough volume and are strong signals of a user converting to the north-star metric (subscription). Looking at the conversion rate between sign up and subscription, it’s a much healthier 10.21%, versus the 0.61% from landing page view.

I’m always a huge proponent of testing all events, as there can definitely be big surprises in what may work best for you. When testing events, make sure that there’s a stat-sig baseline that’s being followed to make decisions. Additionally, I think it’s a great practice to test events regularly early on because conversion rates can change as other channel variables are adjusted.

Flow adjustments

In certain cases, the current events that are set up aren’t optimal for paid acquisition campaigns. I’ve seen this happen frequently with startups that have long windows of time between conversion events. Take a startup such as Thumbtack, which provides a marketplace of providers who can help with home repairs. After someone signs up to their app, the user may place a request but not hire someone until a few weeks later. In this case, making flow adjustments could potentially improve the signal and data that you collect from users.

A solution that Thumbtack could implement to gather a stronger signal would be to add another step between the request being placed and hiring someone. This could potentially be a survey with propensity check questions that could ask how soon the user needs help or how important their project is from a 1–10.

Example of in-app survey responses to “How important is your project?” Image Credits: Jonathan Martinez.

After accumulating the data, if there’s a high correlation between survey answers and someone starting their project, we can start to explore optimizing for that event.

In the above example, we see that users who responded with “9” have a 7.66% likelihood to convert. Therefore, this should be the event we optimize for. Artificially adding steps that qualify users in a longer flow can help steer optimization targeting in the right direction.

Enhancing signal

Let’s imagine that you have the most ideal flow that captures large volumes of event signal without much of a delay to your optimization event. That’s still far from perfect. There are myriad solutions that can be implemented to further enhance the signal.

For Facebook specifically, there are connections such as CAPI that can be integrated to pass back data in a more accurate way. CAPI is a method of passing back web events server-to-server rather than relying on cookies and the Facebook pixel. This helps mitigate browsers that block cookies or users who may delete their web history. This is just one example. I won’t run through all the channels, but each has its own solution to help enhance event signal being passed back to it.

iOS 14 signal

This wouldn’t be a column written in 2021 without mention of iOS 14 and the strategies that can be leveraged for this growing user segment. I’ve written another piece about iOS-14-specific tactics, but I’ll cover it here on a broad level. If the north-star metric (i.e., purchase) event can be triggered within 24 hours of the initial app launch, then that’s golden.

This would bring large volumes of high-intent data that would not be at the mercy of the SKAD 24-hour event timer. For most companies, this may sound like a lofty goal, so the target should be to have an event fire within 24 hours that is a high-likelihood indicator of someone completing your north-star metric. Think of which events happen in the flow that lead to someone eventually purchasing. Maybe someone adding a payment method happens within 24 hours and historically has a 90% conversion rate to someone purchasing. An “add payment info” event would be a great conversion event to use in this case. The landscape of iOS 14 is constantly changing but this should apply for the immediate future.

Incrementality and staying ahead

As a rule of thumb, incrementality checks should constantly be performed in growth marketing. It gives an important read on whether advertising dollars are bringing in users that wouldn’t have converted had they not seen an ad.

When comparing optimization events, this rule still applies. Make sure that costs per action aren’t the only metric that’s being used as a measure of success, but instead, use the incremental lift on each conversion event as the ultimate key performance indicator. In this piece, I detail how to run lean incrementality tests without swarms of data scientists.

So how do you stay ahead and continue moving the needle on your growth marketing campaigns? First and foremost, constantly question the events you’re optimizing for. And second, leave no stone unturned.

If you’re using the same optimization event forever, it will be a disservice to your campaign performance potential. By experimenting with flow changes and running tests on new events, you’ll be way ahead of the curve. When iterating on the flow, think about user behavior and events from the user’s perspective. Which flow events, if added, would correlate to a high propensity conversion segment?

#column, #digital-marketing, #facebook, #growth-marketing, #marketing, #online-advertising, #social-media, #startups, #targeted-advertising, #tc, #verified-experts

Dear Sophie: Should I apply for citizenship if I have a conviction?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

At Burning Man a few years ago, I was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for smoking marijuana in public (in my car) and driving under the influence.

I currently have a green card and want to apply for U.S. citizenship next year.

Can I? If so, how should I handle my criminal record?

— Remorseful About the Reefer

Dear Remorseful,

As you’ve discovered, you have to be extra careful when you’re an immigrant: Obviously, you should never break the law, but as an immigrant, if you do, it can have severe and lasting consequences.

You even need to be careful to avoid doing things that an immigration officer might consider to be outside the bounds of good moral character, even if they are not crimes. All immigrants should remember that even though limited use of marijuana for recreational and medical uses is legal in several states, it’s illegal under federal law.

My law partner, Anita Koumriqian, recently podcasted on how various crimes can impact your green card status and affect your ability to become a U.S. citizen. Take a listen and (always in this situation) consult an experienced immigration attorney. Tell your attorney about your DUI and marijuana charges, any subsequent marijuana use, any other arrests or citations, and even things you might consider minor such as speeding, parking or jaywalking tickets. An immigration attorney can determine whether you should proceed with applying for U.S. citizenship and if so, when and how to do so.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

What is good moral character?

As you know, you must be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least five years — or three years if you have a green card through marriage — to be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. Additionally, you must demonstrate “good moral character” during the five- or three-year statutory period.

#column, #diversity, #ec-column, #green-card, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #sophie-alcorn, #tc, #united-states, #verified-experts

Have ‘The Privacy Talk’ with your business partners

As a parent of teenagers, I’m used to having tough, sometimes even awkward, conversations about topics that are complex but important. Most parents will likely agree with me when I say those types of conversations never get easier, but over time, you tend to develop a roadmap of how to approach the subject, how to make sure you’re being clear, and how to answer hard questions.

And like many parents, I quickly learned that my children have just as much to teach me as I can teach them. I’ve learned that tough conversations build trust.

I’ve applied this lesson about trust-building conversations to an extremely important aspect of my role as the chief legal officer at Foursquare: Conducting “The Privacy Talk.”

The discussion should convey an understanding of how the legislative and regulatory environment are going to affect product offerings, including what’s being done to get ahead of that change.

What exactly is ‘The Privacy Talk’?

It’s the conversation that goes beyond the written, publicly-posted privacy policy, and dives deep into a customer, vendor, supplier or partner’s approach to ethics. This conversation seeks to convey and align the expectations that two companies must have at the beginning of a new engagement.

RFIs may ask a lot of questions about privacy compliance, information security, and data ethics. But it’s no match for asking your prospective partner to hop on a Zoom to walk you through their broader approach. Unless you hear it first-hand, it can be hard to discern whether a partner is thinking strategically about privacy, if they are truly committed to data ethics, and how compliance is woven into their organization’s culture.

#column, #digital-advertising, #digital-rights, #ec-column, #ec-how-to, #foursquare, #identity-management, #lawyers, #privacy, #security, #startups, #terms-of-service, #verified-experts

TikTok, influencers on the clock

Alex is on a well-deserved vacation this week, so for the Equity Wednesday deep dive, we took the conversation to Twitter Spaces. Danny, Mary Ann and Jonathan Metrick, the chief growth officer at Portage Ventures, dove into growth marketing. You can listen to the full episode on the Equity Podcast feed.

This conversation was spurred by the TechCrunch Experts project, where we’re looking for the best growth marketers for startups. Metrick was recommended to us in July (you can read his featured recommendation in our growth roundup) and we were eager to learn from his experience.

Help TechCrunch find the best growth marketers for startups.

Provide a recommendation in this quick survey and we’ll share the results with everybody.

In this conversation, we cover:

  • Influencers taking on the marketing world
  • The challenges marketers face with iOS 14
  • How Metrick sees trends developing geographically
  • What holiday advertising might look like in 2021
  • How to build a growth marketing team

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#ec-growth-marketing, #equity, #equity-podcast, #experts, #growth-marketing, #influencers, #marketing, #podcasts, #social-marketing, #startups, #tc, #tik-tok, #verified-experts

Dear Sophie: When can I apply for my US work permit?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

My husband just accepted a job in Silicon Valley. His new employer will be sponsoring him for an E-3 visa.

I would like to continue working after we move to the United States. I understand I can get a work permit with the E-3 visa for spouses.

How soon can I apply for my U.S. work permit?

— Adaptive Aussie

Dear Adaptive,

Thanks for your question and congrats on the new employment opportunities for both you and your husband! Listen to my podcast episode on work permits, or Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) as they are officially known, to find out who qualifies for one, when you can apply for one, what you can do with one and how long it takes to get one.

You can apply for a work permit once you arrive in the United States in E-3 status (a professional work visa for Australians in the U.S.). It’s not possible to apply for a work permit at the consulate in Sydney when you apply for your E-3 visas. To do that, you will need to submit Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) and supporting documents to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If USCIS approves your application, you will not be able to start working until you receive the physical, plastic EAD card, which proves to prospective employers that you are authorized to work in the United States.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

How long will it take?

USCIS is currently backlogged and is taking about 11 months to process EAD applications. Since any mistakes or omissions in an EAD application can create further delays, I recommend hiring an immigration attorney to submit the application on your behalf. An immigration attorney can also discuss other options that could enable you to start working sooner.

#column, #ec-column, #ec-future-of-work, #green-card, #labor, #lawyers, #sophie-alcorn, #sports, #tc, #verified-experts

Performance marketing agency MuteSix bets on content and data to boost DTC e-commerce

Warby Parker filing to IPO last week was one more sign that direct-to-consumer (DTC) is an extremely powerful e-commerce trend. But LA-based performance marketing agency MuteSix didn’t wait that long to build its business around scaling DTC brands.

Created in 2014 and acquired by Dentsu in 2019, MuteSix was recommended to TechCrunch by Rhoda Ullmann, VP Consumer at Sense, a Boston-based startup building a home energy monitor. “They demonstrate best-in-class expertise with Facebook and Google paid ad platforms. They also have a very smart and efficient approach to creative development that was critical to helping us scale,” she wrote. (If you have growth marketing agencies or freelancers to recommend, please fill out our survey!)

Besides Sense, MuteSix’s former and current clients include companies such as Adidas, Petco, Ring and Theragun, to whom it provides a full range of marketing services, including top-notch direct response videos. But regardless of whether you can afford this, we think you’ll learn interesting lessons from our conversation with their CRO, Greg Gillman. The key takeaway? In today’s highly competitive ad environment, both content and data are kings.

Editor’s note: The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

What can you tell us about MuteSix as an agency?

Greg Gillman

Image Credits: MuteSix

Greg Gillman: We’ve been around for about nine years. We started out as a Facebook ad agency — as opposed to a lot of agencies that start out by saying they do everything, we decided to focus on what we were really good at. At the time, it was doing Facebook media buying for e-commerce companies. Primarily here in LA, which is kind of the hub of these companies, but also all over. And then bit by bit, we grew the organization.

At this point, we’re a little over 400 people, and we manage upward of $500 million in spend on Facebook and Google, including Instagram and YouTube. What we’ve grown into is a one-stop shop for DTC e-commerce companies: We manage all the channels that a DTC brand needs. And we’re a performance agency; everything we do is based on results. People come to us to drive revenue into their e-commerce businesses.

Why do you think that performance marketing is the right fit for DTC?

DTC entrepreneurs are more focused on immediate impact, because if they’re not selling product, there’s no large brand propping them up. So I think that doing DTC marketing requires you to be more performance focused. For agencies that work with large brands, usually it’s more about impression buying versus performance buying. They can say: I did a reach campaign today to hit 10 million eyeballs, and whatever happens happens, because at the end of the day, you just told us to do 10 million impressions. It’s different than working with a group like us that’s trying to optimize every small piece of the funnel, and being accountable for the entire funnel to drive as much sales or revenue.

What type of clients do you work with?

The majority of the companies we work with are digitally native DTC companies. We’ve mostly stayed in that lane, because we’re really good at it. That being said, we work with companies of all sizes — startups, companies that are already established, and very large companies that need to rework both their creative and their media buying strategy.

I oversee sales, marketing and partnerships, and my role is really trying to figure out which brands make most sense to partner with MuteSix. We’re looking for high-growth brands that we can scale, and we’ve learned through the years that what works well are demonstrable products that have cool user value props.

We’ve worked with lots of startups at different points in the funnel, starting from the ground up and working with them through various rounds of funding, all the way through acquisitions, including two by unicorns. But these days, ground up is tougher. I like them to have some proof of concept — putting through $10,000-$15,000 per month on Facebook or $5,000-10,000 on Google usually shows me that there’s some life to it. But I don’t want to limit us if it’s a cool idea. I talk to a lot of people who come back once they’ve proven it out a little bit.


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Respond to our survey and help other startups find top growth marketers they can work with!


What kind of clients are definitely not a good fit?

It won’t be a fit if there’s no real unique value prop for the product. If it’s just another run-of-the-mill company, a consultant can charge them a lower amount of money and set up Facebook ads, but what we are looking for are high-growth businesses.

The compensation for our campaign managers is actually tied to the performance of the campaigns, so if I bring a bunch of campaigns that we can’t scale, we’re gonna have a lot of unhappy media buyers who ask: “Greg, why would we take on this brand?” It’s a business model that has helped us attract top talent, but we need to make sure that we’re bringing brands that we think we can scale.

And it’s easier than ever to start a company, but it’s tougher now to scale it and take it past the $2 million-$3 million run rate. So I always revert back to asking founders: What are five reasons why people want to buy your product? What are the five reasons that they don’t? If the entrepreneur has trouble answering this, it’s not going to work. If they can’t tell somebody why their business is good, then we’re not going to be good at selling it.

How is MuteSix different from other agencies?

I’d say the main difference is that we have a 70-person in-house video creative team; and what we’re really good at doing is shooting and coming up with performance content. Not just content that looks and feels great, but video that is reverse-engineered to sell product.

Another key component is that we have a whole data science team that is also integrated with our media buying team, and that helps companies navigate things like attribution and signal loss due to the iOS 14 update. Right now, that means focusing on looking at the whole picture rather than by channel and working on mix-modeling attribution.

What are some of the things your data team focuses on?

One of the biggest things that brands struggle with is figuring out attribution, and how you continue to spend money even though you may have lost some signal into the platform. If Facebook skews too heavily, and Google is on last click, then sometimes it looks like things are never working. To help companies make informed business decisions, we are building statistical models that show information at higher-than-the-platform level.

We are also building better segments of customer profiles that help the clients understand who their core audience is, but also helps us build predictive audiences for finding new people.

Another big thing we’re trying to solve is incrementality. We work with large brands that have a strong organic following on social media; and their question is: “Hey, Greg, why should I spend more money if I would have acquired those users anyway?” So we’ve done incrementality testing with brands that spend a lot in other channels than Facebook and Google. We helped them build out different ways to look at the data so that we continue to spend in those channels and they actually know the incremental lift that they’re getting.

There’s one other piece that I think is super important and usually overlooked: first-party data. We work with brands to try and acquire as much of that first-party data as possible, segment it and use it, because that’s what they’d be left with if Facebook shut off tomorrow.

How do you prepare and adapt for changes in the marketing ecosystem?

Because we work with so many brands, we have a lot of senior leadership on each channel level. We routinely meet across departments and share insights. The data science team also builds pretty robust reporting. We try to stay ahead of our brands and to be forward-thinking about anything that is ultimately going to impact the agency. We’re constantly trying to hack our way through things like the types of content that work and things that we know will help us scale.

That’s how we have always approached it. Every major shift in our business was done to answer the needs of the brands that we were working with. For instance, there’s a data side to our business because it’s more important than ever to use that. Facebook used to be a platform where you could throw anything at the wall, and you would get a 4x or 5x return. No one’s asking about data when you’re literally printing money out of Facebook, right? It only happens when the margins get tight. But then Facebook became a more crowded platform, and the same happened with Google: more advertisers, higher CPM and a more competitive environment. We needed to be smarter about what we were doing, so we built out our data team.

Now there’s two levers that we can pull: the data side and the creative side of the business. Again, we are a performance marketing agency, focusing on all the levers. Because platforms like Facebook are only going to be more competitive, they’re only going to get more expensive, and we are only going to lose more traffic. So the more agile agencies have to think much farther outside of what we are doing on these platforms; because we’re going to make up the incremental revenue on things like SMS, influencer marketing and organic content, to continue to drive money into the top of the funnel.

Why is your content arm so important as a lever?

We have an integrated solution where our media buyers are paired directly with our video editors and producers to allow us to be agile and quick; because as everyone knows, content is king. What we try to do is optimize around things like what we call the thumbs-up rate on Facebook — three-second video views. If I held someone for that long in their newsfeed, I can potentially get them into our flow. We do the same on YouTube, and we do things like this on programmatic, because the name of the game is to get people into the funnel and work them through it. And we’re using both our data science team and our creative team to build out and optimize on the front end around these quick metrics to get things moving.

In my opinion, there’s no close second to an SMB agency that has a content arm like we do. Leveraging our content team to build performance content is one of the biggest levers that we have. Three and a half years ago, Facebook was telling us: “If you don’t build video content, and if you don’t prioritize video in the newsfeed, it’s not going to work.” At the time, we leaned in very hard — and the pain of growing a creative team of 70 people is real, especially in LA. But it’s allowed us to scale our agency.

#content-marketing, #d2c, #d2c-brands, #dtc, #e-commerce, #facebook, #growth-marketing, #los-angeles, #marketing, #online-advertising, #startups, #tc, #tc-experts, #verified-experts

Dear Sophie: How can I present a strong O-1A or EB-1A application?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

A few years ago, I moved my startup’s headquarters to New York from Estonia on an E-2 investor visa.

I’ve taken on a few investors since then, but if I take on more, I run the risk of no longer qualifying for an E-2 because my equity is diluting. I’m considering either having my startup sponsor me for an O-1A visa or self-petitioning an EB-1A green card.

Any advice or insights on how to present a strong case for an O-1A or EB-1A? Thanks!

— Savvy Startup Founder

Dear Savvy,

Congrats on your success so far! Yes, we have many best practices to pass along for filing for an O-1A extraordinary ability visa or an EB-1A extraordinary ability green card.

Nadia Zaidi, an associate attorney at Alcorn Immigration Law and an expert in immigration law services for startups and creatives, and I recently did a podcast reviewing what to keep in mind when filing for an O-1A visa, EB-1A green card or EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) green card. Take a listen! I would also recommend you consult an experienced immigration attorney who can help you determine the best approach based on your timing and goals.

Keep in mind that if you pursue an O-1A visa, you will need to show that your startup and you have an employer-employee relationship, or you will need an agent to file on your behalf. If demonstrating an employer-employee relationship, that usually involves showing that your startup’s board of directors oversees your work and can fire you.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

You might also want to consider filing for International Entrepreneur Parole (IEP). My firm has filed several IEP petitions on behalf of clients. Based on our experience, it takes less time to prepare an IEP petition than an O-1A petition because it’s not as document-intensive. Moreover, if you’re married and you’re granted IEP status, your spouse will be eligible to apply for a work permit. The spouse of an O-1A visa holder is not eligible for a work permit.

Getting back to answering your question, here are some best practices for filing for either an O-1A or an EB-1A:

Field of expertise

Spend some time homing in on your area of expertise. Because both the O-1A and EB-1A are for individuals of extraordinary ability or accomplishments who are at the top of their field, the more narrowly defined your field of expertise is, the easier it will be to demonstrate that you are at the top of it. For example, instead of listing tech entrepreneurship as your area of expertise, narrow it to something like entrepreneurship focused on developing machine learning software for the healthcare industry. Work with an experienced immigration attorney to craft your field for the petition.

Qualification criteria

Familiarize yourself with the qualification criteria for the O-1A and EB-1A, which are similar, and determine which of your skills and achievements best meet the criteria. As a startup founder, the critical and essential role you play at your startup should be easy to demonstrate. Remember, this is not the time to be humble.

Under your leadership, how much funding has your startup raised? Have you received any significant awards? What is your startup’s annual recurring revenue, and how many jobs have you created in the U.S.? Were you invited to judge a pitch competition, speak on a panel or mentor others based on your background, experience or skill set? Were you invited to become a member of an exclusive organization that has a rigorous selection process? Are you a thought leader in your field?

You will need to gather recommendation letters — more on those in a moment — and documentary evidence to demonstrate your achievements, such as a scan or photo of an award, email correspondences, copies or screenshots of articles written either about you or by you, or screenshots of a conference agenda or presentation on YouTube that generated a significant number of views. You should know that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not consider awards or prizes given out at the university level to be significant accomplishments. Some investments through competitions can qualify as awards, and some investments might not.

Recommendation letters

We typically recommend obtaining five to eight letters from experts in your field who can discuss your abilities and accomplishments and the significance of their impact on your field or beyond. Typically, the more details and examples provided in the recommendation letter — discussed in easy-to-understand terms — the more compelling the letter. You should keep in mind that the immigration official who is evaluating your case will likely not be an expert in your field.

It’s often valuable to submit letters from a variety of individuals, such as those who have worked directly with you and those who only know of you based on your work within your field, academic and professional experts, and individuals from both inside and outside the United States.

Make sure to ask prospective recommenders if they’re willing to submit a letter to USCIS on your behalf. While most recommenders are time-constrained individuals who prefer that you write a draft letter that they can edit, some recommenders prefer to write their own letters, which is good to know from the get-go. Make sure that those individuals who are doing so are willing to edit and make changes to any drafts, such as eliminating jargon or adding more detail.

The process of finalizing recommendation letters and getting them signed along with gathering documentary evidence for a case usually takes longer than most people anticipate. That said, get started!

All the best in the next phase of growing your startup!

Sophie


Have a question for Sophie? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space.

The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limitations of “Dear Sophie,” please view our full disclaimer. You can contact Sophie directly at Alcorn Immigration Law.

Sophie’s podcast, Immigration Law for Tech Startups, is available on all major platforms. If you’d like to be a guest, she’s accepting applications!

#column, #diversity, #green-card, #immigration-law, #lawyers, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #talent, #tc, #verified-experts, #work-visa

Making a splash in the marketing world

“There are three common blunders that most SaaS marketers make time and again when it comes to clarity and high-converting content,” says Konrad Sanders, founder and CEO of The Creative Copywriter, “1. Not differentiating from competitors. 2. Not humanizing ‘tech talk.’ 3. Not tuning their messaging to prospects’ stage of awareness at the appropriate stage of the funnel.”

In an oversaturated market, how can you differentiate yourself? This week in marketing, Sanders took the time to answer that, break down B2B SaaS marketing, and tell us how marketers can do it right. Anna Heim, Extra Crunch daily reporter, interviewed Robert Katai, a Romanian marketing expert, as part of our TechCrunch Experts series. If there’s a growth marketer that you think we should know about, fill out our survey and tell us why!

Marketer: One Net Inc.
Recommended by: The Good Ride
Testimonial: “Exceptional SEO expertise. My e-comm startup relies 100% on SEO traffic and three years ago we were delisted from Google because we didn’t understand about duple content. One Net fixed our site and optimized it for Google, which allowed us to get back into the SERPs. Bottom line is: They saved our business.”

Marketer: Natalia Bandach, Hypertry
Recommended by: Jean-Noel Saunier, Growth Hacking Course
Testimonial: “Natalia is someone with an out-of-the-box approach to growth drivers and experimentation, full of creative solutions and many ideas that she quickly tests through experimentation. Rather than focusing on one area, she tries to verify what makes the most sense to a business and designs experiments that are crucial not only short but also long term. She is an ethical growth manager, likes to know that the business brings real value and is ready to pivot in every direction, [which] she does fast, however, with a focus on the team’s well-being, professional growth and always avoiding burnout.”

Help TechCrunch find the best growth marketers for startups.

Provide a recommendation in this quick survey and we’ll share the results with everybody.

Marketer: Avi Grondin, Variance Marketing
Recommended by: Adam Czach, Explorator Labs
Testimonial: “They have a hands-on approach and worked with my team to not only drive results, but educate us on how we can grow our company further.”

Marketer: Nate Dame, Profound Strategy
Recommended by: Amanda Valle, Adobe
Testimonial: “They offered a robust content research, management and writing platform, which is enabling us to manage, produce and collaborate around our content better.”

Marketer: Oren Greenberg, Kurve
Recommended by: Michael Lorenzos
Testimonial: “He’s the most well-versed growth marketer I’ve met with a wide range of expertise and an uncanny ability to zoom in and out for business context and tactical implementation.”

(Extra Crunch) Are B2B SaaS marketers getting it wrong?: Konrad Sanders, a content strategist in addition to being the founder and CEO at The Creative Copywriter, wrote about SaaS marketing for Extra Crunch. He dove into what SaaS marketers are getting wrong, how to stand out in the crowded industry and the importance of how to approach each section of your funnel. Sanders says, “By creating content for every stage of the funnel, you’ll address your prospects’ concerns at the appropriate point in the buyer journey and increase the chances that when they do come to make a purchase, it’s with you.”

Romanian marketing expert Robert Katai explains how to get the most out of your content: This week, Anna profiled Robert Katai. Katai told her all about Romania’s startup scene and his views on repurposing content. When speaking about using content for carousels on Instagram and LinkedIn, he says, “The first slide should grab attention — it can be a question. The second slide can be a link to the interview so that even if people don’t click it, it will be on their minds. Then you can have slides with insights.” Read the full interview to find out what the third slide should be!

Tell us who your favorite startup growth marketing expert to work with is by filling out our survey.

#content-marketing, #ec-growth-marketing, #experts, #growth-marketing, #growth-roundup, #marketing, #saas, #tc, #tc-experts, #verified-experts

Romanian marketing expert Robert Katai explains how to get the most out of your content

There’s a lot of advice out there on how to grab people’s attention, but there’s one aspect of marketing that Robert Katai thinks isn’t talked about as often: maintaining their attention. The solution, he says, is a combination of content strategy and positioning.

Based in Romania, Katai is known for his podcasts and speeches covering the gamut of content marketing. A product manager at online graphic design platform Creatopy, he also works with clients as a freelance content strategist, and it is in this capacity that he was recommended to TechCrunch via our growth marketer survey. (If you have growth marketers to recommend, please fill out the survey!)

Katai was recommended by multiple Romanian clients and contacts who vouched for his content strategy prowess, so we were curious to know more. Who is he? And is his advice applicable beyond borders?

The short answer is yes. In a freewheeling interview, Katai spoke about how content marketing should integrate with users’ daily lives, and how content can be repurposed across multiple formats. He also shared some insights on the booming Romanian startup ecosystem.

Editor’s note: The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

TC: How do you help your clients as a freelancer?

Robert Katai: One of the two things I’m doing is that I’m helping clients with creating their content strategy based on their objective. You can get web traffic, but you can also create a message and build the brand. You don’t have to start at the beginning; You can rebuild the brand later.

For instance, I’m working with a Romanian outsourcing company that started in 1993. They pioneered this industry in our city of Cluj-Napoca, but lately they started to realize that they should be more attractive from a sales as well as from an employee perspective. So I worked with them to perform an internal audit to see why employees love the company, why they leave, why they stay and what they want from the company.

Robert Katai

Image Credits: Robert Katai.

From there, I got to the idea that they needed to reshape their brand to not just have people notice them but to also maintain their attention. And here comes the content: I started an ambassador program, because there are people outside of the company who love it.

I also recommended they create an internal print magazine. It’s a very well-designed magazine that their 200 to 300 employees can take home and read. It’s not just about the job; it’s also about their hobbies, things to do in the city and some thought leadership articles that can inspire them to have a better life.

What’s the second way you are helping clients?

Apart from content strategy, I’m working with clients on their positioning for their audience, community and market, but also sometimes in terms of employer branding. Content can be a bridge between the two ways I am helping clients, because I’m using a lot of content marketing here and not focusing only on performance or growth marketing hacks. I’m helping them understand that if they want to establish a memorable, long-lasting brand in the market, they have to make content marketing part of their life.

If they want to reposition themselves in the industry, they need to say: Okay, these are the kinds of content we have to create for our goals; who will amplify the content, who will connect with us, and who will consume the content. Today, content creation is free — everybody can do it. The hard part is how you distribute and amplify that. And here’s how I can help the startups: Make a big piece of content and repurpose it in several small pieces; get it in front of people so that the brand is on their minds.


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How can brands achieve that top-of-mind status?

We all know that there are four kinds of content: Text, video, pictures and audio. These four formats never die. The platform can change, but the format will stay the same. A video can be an Instagram Reel, a documentary or something else, but it’s a video. The same goes for a photo. So the content strategy I’m working with is how brands can use that content ecosystem.

When I work with my clients — and also with Creatopy where I’m a product marketer — I recommend them to use content to build their brand and be visible to their users every day in their feeds. Every morning, when their customers are waking up and checking their phones, they don’t open a newspaper. They will open Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, and maybe then when they get out of the bathroom and make coffee, they will open YouTube and connect with Alexa.

I really believe that brands should create content that can just be in the mind of the user. Snackable content, Reels, TikTok … It doesn’t matter what we call it.

You also talked about repurposing content. Can you explain that?

Let’s take the interview you’ve done with Peep Laja. You could have recorded it as a video. And he covered several topics, so you could have several short videos — 30 seconds, three minutes, whatever. You can publish them daily on your site or social media channels with a comment that says, “Here’s the link to the full article.” But remember that on LinkedIn, that link will need to go into the comments section, not the post itself.

You can also have a longer video that you can publish on social media or on Wistia, asking people to give their email — so now you also have subscribers.

Then the second type of content you can create is audio. You already have it from the recording. You don’t have to publish the full 45-minute conversation, but you can have a five-minute audio clip, and again link to the articles.

Now we have video and audio, but what if you also designed quotes with his headshot and messaging? If it’s part of a series, you should also give it a name.

And it’s not just motivational; it’s educational, too, so you should take these quotes and create carousels for Instagram and LinkedIn. The first slide should grab attention — it can be a question. The second slide can be a link to the interview so that even if people don’t click it, it will be on their minds. Then you can have slides with insights.

The last slide will always be a call to action: Asking people to share, comment or save it for later — it’s the new currency on Instagram! And once you have your Instagram carousel, you create a PDF and publish it on LinkedIn.

So now you have five formats of content from one piece of content.

Wow, how much do we owe you?! Just kidding, we actually do some of that for the Equity podcast, for instance. Now, what other advice do you have for startups?

I’m a big advocate of documenting the process. Just imagine if Mark Zuckerberg had done that and you could read how he launched Facebook and so on. Noah Kagan is doing that right now. I think startup founders should do it, not just from the PR and marketing perspective, but for their audience. Even if your audience is not paying for your product right now, they are staying with you and giving your brand an essence in the industry.

Just think about what Salesforce is doing right now: They launched Salesforce+, which is like Netflix for B2B. It’s to get the attention of professionals and also maintain it, and I believe this is the currency of the big companies today: People’s attention.

Do you work with any startups in Romania? And do you have any impressions to share on the Romanian startup ecosystem?

Yes, I help a few Romanian startups with their content marketing and positioning. Sometimes other startups email me with questions, so I help them, too, but I don’t charge for email advice. I work with the ones that are looking for a long-term or project-based collaboration.

Startup founders here in Romania are curious, and very courageous to experiment even if it won’t necessarily work. And Romanian startups are very smart. For instance, Planable is doing a great job with content, social media and positioning. We also have social media analytics company Socialinsider, which this year launched virtual events, and TypingDNA, which wants to get rid of needing to log in with passwords and was founded by a former colleague.

I also found that the founders here work harder than their teams and don’t just leave others do the work — at least the ones I have met. We have several startup events in Romania: How to Web, and Techsylvania here in Transylvania.

I don’t like this name, but people say that Cluj-Napoca is the “Silicon Valley of Romania.” Lots of startups have been launched here, but the city that is getting more and more traction is Oradea, where the bet on education is paying off.

(If you are a tech startup founder or investor in Cluj or Oradea, fill in TechCrunch’s European Cities Survey 2021.)

#brand-management, #content-marketing, #growth-marketers, #growth-marketing, #instagram, #marketing, #robert-katai, #romania, #social-media, #social-media-analytics, #social-media-marketing, #startups, #tc, #verified-experts, #youtube

Dear Sophie: Can I still get a green card through marriage if I’m divorcing?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

I received a conditional green card after my wife and I got married in 2019. Recently, we have made the difficult decision to end our marriage. I want to continue living and working in the United States.

Is it still possible for me to complete my green card based on my marriage through the I-751 process or do I need to do something else, like ask my employer to sponsor me for a work visa?

— Better to Have Loved and Lost

Dear Better,

I’m sorry to hear your marriage didn’t work out. Rest assured, you can still proceed with getting a full-fledged green card even though you and your wife are divorcing. Listen to my recent podcast with Anita Koumriqian, my law partner, in which we discuss the removal of conditions on permanent residence for people who got two-year green cards through marriage.

As you know, since you were married for less than two years when you applied for your green card through marriage, you were issued a conditional green card that is only valid for two years rather than a 10-year green card. The purpose of the I-751 is to show that the couple entered into a genuine, good faith marriage. Usually, couples must file an I-751 petition together. However, an individual may file a petition without a spouse if any of the following apply:

  • If the marriage ended through annulment or divorce.
  • If the U.S. citizen spouse died.
  • If the conditional resident (and/or children) was battered or subjected to extreme cruelty.

If your divorce is not yet finalized and you don’t have a family law attorney yet, I do recommend that you work with a family law attorney, who is necessary to help streamline the process. I also recommend consulting an immigration attorney as soon as possible to prepare the I-751 filing since it can get tricky for an individual in divorce proceedings. Both need to work together and in parallel to ensure that everything goes smoothly for you with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

When to file to remove conditions on permanent residence

The I-751 should be filed within the 90-day period before your conditional green card is set to expire. I recommend filing as soon as you can within that window. Keep in mind that, if you file your I-751 petition too early, it may be returned to you. And if you file it after your conditional green card expires, you not only face having to leave the U.S., but USCIS could also deny your petition if you fail to provide a compelling reason. If you are in this situation, definitely let your immigration attorney know.

#column, #diversity, #divorce, #ec-column, #ec-future-of-work, #green-card, #immigration, #lawyers, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #talent, #tc, #united-states, #verified-experts

Dear Sophie: Tips on EB-1A and EB-2 NIW?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

I’m on an H-1B living and working in the U.S. I want to apply for a green card on my own. I’m concerned about only relying on my current employer and I want to be able to easily change jobs or create a startup. I’ve been looking at the EB-1A and EB-2 NIW.

I’m not sure if I would qualify for an EB-1A, but since I was born in India, I face a much longer wait for an EB-2 NIW. Any tips on how to proceed?

— Inventive from India

Dear Inventive,

Thanks for your question. Take a listen to my podcast episode in which I discuss the latest tech immigration news and delve into the benefits and requirements of the EB-1A green card for individuals of extraordinary ability and the EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) green card, which as you know are the main employment-based green cards for which individuals can self-sponsor.

I recommend you consult an experienced immigration attorney who can evaluate your abilities and accomplishments and assess your prospects for each green card. After an initial consultation with new clients, we’re able to provide a lot more detail to folks on their specific options since these are such individualized pathways.

There are some groups of people who might need every advantage. Those can include folks born in India or China, who might face long green card backlogs. Another such group includes people whose skills and accomplishments might be borderline for an EB-1A green card for extraordinary ability. In some cases — if eligible and to have every opportunity for green card security and to mitigate wait times as much as possible — our clients choose to file both the EB-1A and EB-2 NIW in parallel.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

The EB-1A is the highest priority green card and the standard for qualifying is much higher than for the EB-2 NIW. And that means an EB-1A is typically quicker to get, which is particularly the case now: According to the August 2021 Visa Bulletin, there is no wait for an EB-1A green card regardless of country of birth, while only individuals who were born in India and have a priority date of June 1, 2011 or earlier can proceed with their EB-2 NIW petition.

Please remember that the Visa Bulletin fluctuates and changes every month. Also, the EB-1A is currently eligible for premium processing on the I-140. Although there is talk to add this option to the EB-2 NIW one day, premium processing is not available for EB-2 NIW I-140s yet.

#column, #diversity, #ec-column, #ec-future-of-work, #green-card, #h-1b-visa, #immigration, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #verified-experts

For British agency Ascendant, growth marketing is much more than a set of tactics

Growth marketing is often misconceived as a set of tactics when it’s much more: It is a process that startups need to put in place in their early days that will scale as their customer base and internal teams grow.

This is where British growth agency Ascendant shines, Robyn Weatherley, head of marketing at Thirdfort, let us know via our growth marketing survey. Ascendant’s consultants haven’t just helped the British legal tech startup execute growth tactics, she wrote: “They’ve helped us set up the framework to keep executing on those whether we are five, 50 or 500 people.” (If you too have growth marketers to recommend, please fill out the survey!)

We followed up on this recommendation by interviewing Ascendant co-founder Gus Ferguson and partner Alyssa Crankshaw for our ongoing series of growth marketer profiles. If you are in the U.K., you might know them from the TechLondon Slack community, or bumped into them pre-COVID at the OMN London events, the digital marketing meetups they co-organize. In the interview below, they share how they work with early-stage companies, including tactical planning and building out tools for marketers to use without taking up internal engineering resources.

Editor’s note: The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you tell us about your background and how you came to work with startups?

Gus Ferguson: I’ve been a digital marketer for the last 15 or 16 years, and in 2009, I started one of the first content marketing agencies in the U.K. We did a lot of work with big travel brands, but the problem was that in big corporates, teams are in silos, so they weren’t able to take advantage of being at the forefront of marketing.

Gus Ferguson - Ascendant

Gus Ferguson. Image Credits: Ascendant

I was based in East London and I started working with a couple of startups. It’s also around that time that I partnered up with Alyssa. But we were looking at startups being hampered by traditional marketing — because traditional marketers were bringing big corporate problems to startups, when their key strength is their nimbleness and their agility and their ability to adapt.

That’s when we started developing processes for basically building businesses from scratch — when you don’t have any historical data to base your marketing strategies on. We were saying to them: Don’t ask us for a 12-month plan, because it’s a waste of time. But because there was that mindset at the time, that’s just what people expected. So we were going in and saying: You need a broad three-month plan, maximum; then a one-month plan in detail, and ideally a two-week sprint.

What kind of clients does Ascendant work with?

Gus Ferguson: Thanks to the growth framework that we’ve built up over time, we can pretty much work with any new business where there’s no existing process for marketing. We work with fintech, healthcare and legal companies, e-commerce brands, and both B2C and B2B. So startups, but also startup-type businesses. For instance, we worked with corporate ventures like Canon and VCs like Forward Partners, which was really interesting learning, because we were working with earlier-stage businesses than we would normally.

One million in funding is our sweet spot for startups. The reason for that is that it costs money to bring experienced growth experts into business, and up to that point, I believe it is important for founders to understand growth themselves. Being able to understand how to do it at that early stage will create such a valuable foundation of audience centricity for that business moving forward. A lot of what we do is bringing audience centricity into product-focused businesses — and generally encouraging founders to think about why their audience should care that they’ve got a solution to their problem.

Right, “build it and they will come” is a mistake that founders make all the time! Could you give more details on how you help them?

Gus Ferguson: Generally we’ll look at whatever they have as a foundation, and at similar businesses, and we’ll create an initial growth model. We’ll start putting hypotheses in place as to which channels are going to be the most effective at hitting their short-term objectives if they have them ready. But often, part of the process is also defining which metrics matter for that business, and working out how to measure them.

We always start working with founders and sales, and generally before or with one first marketing hire in place. Part of our work is to come up with projected results based on their funnel, but very often, with product-centric businesses, it will be that funnel that’s missing. So we bring in a bit of funnel thinking to those businesses and get that in place.


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Respond to our survey and help other startups find top growth marketers they can work with!


And then there’s all sorts of what we call framework building that needs to be in place before you can start doing more traditional campaign-based marketing. So we’ll start looking at the specific frameworks around data, and how to form an objective truth for that business, with a shared understanding of the key metrics. When nobody knows what the fundamental data framework of that business looks like, for instance, because of team turnover or silos, we’ll tighten that up and make sure that everything is functioning together so that things like marketing automation are possible.

It’s perhaps a bit surprising about siloed teams at an early stage; how big are the startups you work with?

Gus Ferguson: We start when they are small, but we keep our clients for a long time. So, for example, we worked with Elder, which is a health tech startup. When we started off with them, there were 12 people, and when we finished with them, there were hundreds of people. Soldo is another example: When we started the marketing team was one person, and by the time we left, they were spanning three floors at WeWork.

Our lifecycle ends at Series B, because at that point, all the frameworks will be in place and they’ll be bringing everything in-house. So that’s our happy ending when the clients get to huge Series B raises. And then we move on to the next one that needs our help to get there.

But to go back to your question, slips happen because these are very venture-backed companies with very high growth not just in customers but also in their internal teams. Everybody is doing everything, everybody is new at their jobs, and there aren’t very many internal processes, so there’s an element of chaos. That’s where the need for cross-functional teams grew from — to step out of everybody’s individual chaotic worlds and create an island of shared objectives and order.

Alyssa Crankshaw - Ascendant

Alyssa Crankshaw. Image Credits: Ascendant

Alyssa Crankshaw: It’s just important for us to make people communicate. We often end up actually becoming a reason for the whole team to talk to each other — because we are external, they see more value in these tasks that they wouldn’t do otherwise.

How does that work in practice?

Gus Ferguson: An example of that is the CMS system we are putting in place for one client that we’re working with at the moment, where salespeople use it, marketing people use it, customer services people use it — and those teams were fairly siloed beforehand.

We also know that probably one of the biggest barriers to growth is marketers being dependent on developers, which are such a rare resource. We address that by implementing marketing frameworks at a basic level of the business whereby marketers are able to at least control basic marketing operations directly.

But one of the most important processes that we bring in is the cross-functional team, with one stakeholder from each department. It means that there’s at least one person on each team who understands what the objectives are, and then people start problem-solving together.

Didn’t that become more difficult with COVID-19?

Gus Ferguson: Potentially it got easier with remote. Usually, we find one person on each team – generally the team’s leader – and we bring them as spokespersons into the cross-functional team. In a remote world, it’s actually easier because you can just all jump on Zoom calls.

Alyssa Crankshaw: Even before COVID, we weren’t the type of consultants who sit several days a week in their client’s office. We are problem-solvers across the company, and we’ve always done that, whether it was from our old office or remotely now.

Gus Ferguson: Our own model also proved exceptionally flexible when we needed it to be during the pandemic. We are a core team of three people, and we are working with a network of specialized freelancers — so instead of worrying about fixed overheads, we can have agreements with trusted partners and morph into whatever our clients need at that time. Because of the nature of startups, as I said earlier, it doesn’t make sense to have long-term plans for businesses where there’s such a high rate of change. And from an agency perspective, it means that what we’re doing one month is always very different from what we’re doing the next month.

Alyssa Crankshaw: It’s a conscious decision not to follow a traditional agency model, because it helps us be flexible and bring in the specialists when we need them, rather than just having to use that person that sits on your payroll just because you have them. It’s much more effective for everybody.

What’s a thing that people might not know about what you do?

Gus Ferguson: Growth marketing is a process; it’s really how I differentiate it from traditional marketing. A lot of people will say that growth marketing is the AARRR funnel, but is that really any different from traditional marketing? Not really. Maybe you’ve got a broader set of channels than a traditional marketer would focus on. But what’s really different is the process that gives our clients confidence that they’re doing the right thing, even if they’ve never done it before. Because that’s how you learn.

One of the challenges with doing something new for the first time, in a team of people who are also doing a new thing for the first time with no historical data, is that you quite often don’t even know how to frame that. If you don’t come from a growth marketing background, you don’t know how to even frame the problem, let alone fix it. This is why so much startup marketing is tactical rather than strategic, or even worse, tool-led. People think: “Oh, if I was using this tool, then all my problems would be solved,”  when, actually, you need to be able to create the hypotheses and understand the objectives that the hypotheses are answering.

Alyssa Crankshaw: We give our clients the roadmap, the foundation, and the operational structure in which to run campaigns, retention, acquisition or whatever the target may be, which is huge for them. Because when creating everything from scratch, that’s where we often see a lot of overtesting. We love a good test — we’re both marketers — but we only like to test the big things. And sometimes when working with inexperienced people, we see a lot of new tests about the smallest things, which is a waste of time and resources. And there are some other things that are foundational, and you just know which they are if you are an experienced marketer and you have done this so many times in your life.

#ascendant, #growth-hacking, #growth-marketers, #growth-marketing, #london, #startups, #tc, #united-kingdom, #verified-experts

Building a growth community in India with Ayush Srivastava of Growth Folks

Indian startups of all sizes are raising record amounts of investment funding this year and getting public exits, as we’ve been covering in recent months. To hear more about the growth behind the numbers we caught up with Ayush Srivastava, a cofounder of growth marketing group Growth Folks (and a growth marketer at Zynga by day).

The organization, which describes itself as “India’s largest community of growth enthusiasts,” began as in-person events for growth marketers across major cities, but made the jump to online networking during the pandemic. From there it began an online speaker series for its 1300-some members, introduced more community networking groups and virtual events, and one-on-one mentoring.

In the interview below, part of our ongoing series profiling growth marketers around the world, he says India’s startup scene has quickly gotten more sophisticated about growth in recent years. Companies are centering high-quality user growth as a shared team goal, not as a side job, and are thinking more creatively about where and how to find users. “I am amazed at how the startups are focusing on tier 2-3 cities here in India. With the pace with which internet access has grown… they are making sure they are solving the problem faced by rural Indians as well. [I] just love the fact that proper solutions are being built in the right manner for the concerned pain point.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You describe Growth Folks as “India’s largest community of growth enthusiasts,” with more than 1,300 members. What does “growth enthusiast” mean to you, and how does that term define you?

The terms ‘growth’ and ‘growth marketing’ have picked up a lot in the last five years in the Indian startup ecosystem. All of a sudden there are more than a million heads who are interested to be a part of this circle or are already a part of this community. This had a positive impact as more and more people started to look at their growth problems and not only just promoting their business. For us, growth enthusiasts are everyone and anyone who is even a percent excited about how to grow a particular brand/service.

How did the focus and efforts of Growth Folks change during the pandemic for community engagement?

In the pre-COVID era, Growth Folks was heavily functional in the offline space. We used to manage and engage the community online but most of the efforts went in and success used to come from the offline activities that we used to organize. From December 2018 through the end of 2019, we organized more than 80+ offline events in nine cities of India. These events were previously panel discussions, industry talks or seminars followed by networking sessions…

[H]owever, once COVID came into the picture, our operations shifted completely online and I must say the shift was quite smooth but exciting for me.
We started hosting bi-weekly online webinars with industry leaders and tried giving our community folks (and new attendees) a look and feel of the physical event in the form of this virtual gathering so that they feel connected.

Ever since lockdown began, we have done over 25+ events and have had speakers from companies like SEMRush, Baremetrics, Zynga, Indigo Airlines, Adjust, Myntra and many more. Not only this, we started a lot of interesting threads on our Facebook group to get people to engage more. Within the same period, we launched our website to give people an idea about all our services.

We made sure that we are having dedicated networking sessions after the webinars for people to interact with each other. In October 2020, we re-launched the online version of “Brunch Sessions” that we used to have in the pre-COVID times. These brunch sessions helped the fellow community people to come together on a single day and interact and chill with each other virtually. We started producing more online content knowing the fact that this could be a way to have a value add and it worked.

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Growth Folks is multifaceted, offering traditional growth marketing services as well as hosting a “growth hackathon” and community activities. What can a startup expect when working with Growth Folks? How is it different from existing services?

We have been virtually able to connect with so many people and we continue to do so… [W]e started something which is called “growth huddle”. It is a highly curated one-on-one mentorship session with a few of the best talents out there in the growth space. You can book your session and we will take you through the entire process to make sure that the session is right on point and you learn what you want, not what we want.

All of the mentors who were onboarded vary from experience level to expertise and provide the right set of guidance needed for individuals and startups to grow further. We also partnered with startups and companies for various online events to promote them and make sure that the right voice reaches out to the right set of people who matter to them – the Growth Folks. We have collaborated with companies like Adjust, Microsoft, Rocketium, Canva and many more and we have been able to make people learn the right things.

What are startups doing better now than ever before? In India? Around the world?

Companies have started realizing the true importance of having a fully functional growth team and they have started acknowledging their one metric that matters as well. The growth marketers have also started setting up a lot of experiments and have taken a data-driven approach to solving a problem. Now, I see many startups going out of the box and putting in efforts to find new ways of acquisition. They haven’t restricted them to acquiring users via the traditional ways and that’s why you see so many ideas going viral so easily. And all in different ways…

I see so many founders not restricting themselves to hiring just a growth marketer for leading all growth initiatives. Rather, they have spent time understanding the importance of it and have ended up building a full force growth team of marketers, PMs, tech people, designers etc. I feel that is the best way to look at any growth problem statement.

I am amazed at how the startups are focusing on tier 2-3 cities here in India. With the pace with which internet access has grown… they are making sure they are solving the problem faced by rural Indians as well. [I] just love the fact that proper solutions are being built in the right manner for the concerned pain point.

Lastly, companies have started considering the importance of the entire customer experience more seriously than ever before. This is helping brands to grow via communities easily and create a strong brand presence.

#asia, #digital-marketing, #experts, #growth-hacking, #growth-marketing, #india, #startups, #tc, #verified-experts

The art of startup storytelling with Julian Shapiro

Although he’s coming from a numbers-driven background, growth expert Julian Shapiro focuses on the emotional power of storytelling these days.

“I like to think of successful brand-building as creating a company that customers would be upset to separate from their identity,” he says in an interview below. “For example, they’d cease to be the man with Slack stickers all over his laptop. Or the woman who no longer wears Nike shoes every day. And that bugs them.”

A prolific Twitter user, writer and now podcaster, he advises startups to “just blow your own mind” to best explain the value of what you are offering. Don’t overthink it. Your own excitement will take your audience on a journey with you in ways that paid acquisition can’t.

He’s informed by years working with hundreds of startups as the cofounder of Demand Curve (growth training courses) and Bell Curve (a growth agency), but also as a repeat startup founder, angel investor and open-source web developer (Velocity.js).

In the discussion below, he tells us more about the path he’s taken through the startup world, how companies are changing their public communication and what he’s most excited about.

An illustration of Julian Shapiro

Image Credits: Julian Shapiro

 

What has led you from web development and startups to growth marketing in recent years, and most recently to your own personal writing for the public on Twitter, etc.? Many people in your position would be more comfortable just founding new tech companies, or investing in crypto or what-have-you.

I try to avoid being contained by momentum. If something’s going well in one field (engineering) but I’ve found something more fulfilling (like growth strategy), then I’ll switch. I don’t switch for the sake of switching, but I will keep switching until I find something I love. That eventually brought me to writing, which I will never stop doing.

Trying a little bit of a lot of things gives you exposure to learn what else you could (and should) be doing. To break out of a local maximum, you need to always remain curious: What else don’t I know about?

What I ultimately stick with is whatever process I enjoy (not just enjoy the outcome). This usually means the process is fun, educational, adventurous and helps me meet like-minded people. Writing is a bat signal for like-minded people.

You’re focused on the art of storytelling right now — what are the key things that the startups you work with continue to get wrong here?

The story of a startup is essentially their (1) investor pitch and (2) customer-facing brand.

I like to think of successful brand-building as creating a company that customers would be upset to separate from their identity. For example, they’d cease to be the man with Slack stickers all over his laptop. Or the woman who no longer wears Nike shoes every day. And that bugs them.

To get to that point, you need a mix of goodwill, what-we-stand-for ideology, social prestige and customer delight—among other affinity-building ingredients.

How do you see companies changing the way they talk about themselves to the public in the future, given larger societal trends? Fewer press releases full of canned legalese, more public engagement on social media from the CEO?

Employees with audiences who broadcast corporate messages on a human-to-human level. Plus company social media accounts gaining personality and acting more like their employees.

It’s really hard to grab attention otherwise, especially with the explosion of content creators who are very good at hogging attention and optimizing content for the platforms. Corporate blogs haven’t been competing with them. I’m not sure they could. So much of this is personality-driven, to my point in the previous paragraph.

I’m also hoping, but not expecting, companies to dial back frequency of content production and increase quality of content production. Signal is more important than frequency in an era where we’re overloaded with content.

Given how many startups you work with across YC, etc., and since you are also an angel investor, what are key industry trends that have you most excited?

I’m interested in businesses with product-led growth, brand affinity moats and who get harder to compete with the larger they get. In other words, customers do the selling, customers fall in love and defensibility is in their design.

This is in part a reaction to not wanting startups to be so reliant on paid acquisition. And it’s also a reflection of how I want startups to be thinking more about not just providing transactional value to customers but also making customers truly delighted.

#demand-curve, #growth-marketing, #julian-shapiro, #startups, #tc, #tc-experts, #verified-experts

Which person should you hire: A growth hacker or a digital marketer?

Ward van Gasteren embraces the “growth hacker” term, despite the fact that some in the profession prefer the term “growth marketing” or simply “growth.” What’s the difference to him? The hacking part should be a distinct effort from ongoing marketing efforts, he says.

“Growth hacking is great to kickstart growth, test new opportunities and see what tactics work,” van Gasteren said. “Marketeers should be there to continue where the growth hackers left off: build out those strategies, maintain customer engagement and keep tactics fresh and relevant.”

“The choice between working with a growth hacker versus a digital marketer is not a one-or-the-other choice; the fields are very different in focus and actually complementary to each other.”

Based in The Netherlands, he has developed his own growth hacking courses, Grow With Ward, and worked with large companies like TikTok, Pepsi and Cisco, and startups like Cyclemasters, Somnox and Zigzag. In the conversation below, van Gasteren shares the importance of building internal processes around growth for the long term, the state of growth today and his own development.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You’re a certified growth hacker — how do you think this sets you apart from others? How has this certification changed the way you approach working with clients?

I was part of the first-ever class from Growth Tribe (when they still offered multimonth traineeships), which was an amazing experience. The difference that a certification shows is that you know that a certified growth hacker has knowledge of the beginning-to-end process of growth hacking, and that this person is supposed to look at more than just a single experiment to hack their growth.

There are a lot of cowboy growth hackers who simply repeat the same tactics, instead of trying to work from a repeatable process, where you identify problems through data, have a non-biased prioritization process for ideas and will focus on long-term learnings over direct impact. A proper certificate shows that you know what it takes.

When do you think clients should invest in the beginner growth hacking course you offer on your website rather than investing in working with you directly?

I created the course to make growth hacking available to a larger audience. I noticed that almost all other growth hacking courses fell into one of two buckets: (1) cheap (<$200), but focused on superficial growth tactics, or (2) good quality in-depth content, but very expensive ($1,500-$5,000). And I believe everybody should have access to that knowledge of how to build a systematic process to achieve long-term sustainable growth, so I created my own course, since I know that working one-on-one with me is also too expensive for most people.

Especially if you’d look at students or junior marketeers, for whom I created a proper beginner growth hacking course that will teach you 20% of the knowledge that is necessary to achieve the first 80% of the results.

Growth hacking does have some noticeable differences from marketing, as outlined on your website. How should clients make the decision between working with you, a growth hacker, instead of with a marketer?

The choice between working with a growth hacker versus a digital marketer is not a one-or-the-other choice; the fields are very different in focus and actually complementary to each other. Growth hacking is great to kickstart growth, test new opportunities and see what tactics work. Marketeers should be there to continue where the growth hackers left off: build out those strategies, maintain customer engagement and keep tactics fresh and relevant. You shouldn’t hire a growth hacker to maintain your marketing strategies; they’re excited to make new growth steps and would get bored when they can’t test new ideas.

Most of the time, I help a client get up to speed, show which opportunities are valuable and give them a strategy to execute. Then I hand it over to marketing for the long-term execution and coach them on the execution, and step back in when there’s a need for new growth input.

What are some common misconceptions about growth hacking?

A lot of growth hackers still present growth hacking as a perfect approach, where thanks to our data-driven way of working we can always make the right moves. But that’s not true: The hard data that you see in your analytics tools, can only tell you what is slowing down your growth, but not why your growth slows down there. While the “why” is what we build our experiments on top of … many growth hackers just fill that with their own assumptions to keep their speed, but that’s not sustainable long term.

Next to the hard data, you need soft data: the why. And that comes from talking with customers, running hypothesis-focused experiments (not result-focused) and maybe by looking at your feedback from customer support or surveys. Every time I implement a soft data feedback loop with my clients, I see that we increase our experiment effectiveness from 1 in 10 up to 1 in 3.

What trends are you seeing in the growth hacking world right now?

The growth industry is definitely maturing. Less hacks, more teams, more focus on velocity. Everybody within the field is getting to know the best practices very quickly and implementing them even quicker. So then what? We need more knowledge, more qualitative feedback and a more systematic approach to scale up our impact, to be able to rise above best practices and implement truly relevant and sophisticated tactics for our businesses. Since the field is maturing, you see people starting to get rid of the shoestring tools.

For this reason, I’m currently rolling out a growth management tool for growth teams, called Upgrow, where teams can more easily manage their experiment velocity, report to stakeholders with the click of a button and make sure that they systemize the knowledge retention from their articles to build companywide knowledge. And you see that mature growth teams need this kind of software to really level up and manage these trends that are putting stress on their process due to the growth of their company.

What do startups continue to get wrong?

Most startups just keep perfecting their product forever-and-ever: “Just this one extra feature and then we go live.” I can understand that, since north-star metrics, NPS scores and product-led growth are dominating the conversation around startup growth nowadays, but let me be real: You will never be fully done. There will always be a next feature. And you will only have a benefit if you grow alongside your customers. Put a “coming soon” on your website for the features that are in the making, and just start selling and scaling up your growth efforts: Different channels bring different kinds of users, who will have new demands, so you have to be adapting all the time. Not just now.

#experts, #growth-hacking, #growth-marketing, #startups, #tc, #verified-experts

Dear Sophie: Which immigration options allow me to launch my own startup?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

I’ve been working on an H-1B in the U.S. for nearly two years.

While I’m immensely appreciative of my company’s sponsorship and that I made it through the H-1B lottery and am working, I’m stuck in a rut. I really want to start something of my own and work on my own terms in the United States.

Are there any immigration options that would allow me to do that?

— Seeking Satisfaction near Stanford

Dear Seeking,

A couple of exciting immigration news updates to get us started today! In breaking startup founder news, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced the LIKE Act for startup founders in the House of Representatives last week. Below, we’ll share what this could mean for your startup aspirations. Also, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) conducted a second H-1B lottery because it didn’t receive enough H-1B petitions to meet the annual cap. So, if you or your employer were selected, be sure to file an H-1B petition by November 3.

Although job dissatisfaction and frustration on an H-1B can be normal, according to Edward Gorbis, there’s a lot you can do to take control of your U.S. immigration situation and go out on your own. I interviewed Gorbis for my podcast; he’s the founder of Career Meets World and a performance coach who works with immigrants and first-generation professionals to help them find fulfillment and thrive in their careers and life. Gorbis said that “once immigrants reach stability, they start to think, ‘Who am I, what do I value, what’s my core identity?’” It’s possible for any of us to retrain our brain for success.

Gorbis said that imagining overcoming the hurdles that stand in the way of doing the work that will fulfill you is the first step. So, here are some options that can help you imagine how to build the life of your dreams.

Become a founding CEO and raise $250,000

A great new option for aspiring entrepreneurs is International Entrepreneur Parole (IEP), a new immigration program in the United States that allows CEOs, CTOs and others to live in the U.S. and run their company for 2.5 years with an option for a 2.5-year extension. Your spouse can obtain a work permit.

How to qualify? You need to own at least 10% of a U.S. company, such as a Delaware C corporation registered in California. Ideally, you’ll want to show that your company bank account has at least $250,000 raised from qualified U.S. investors, but you can use other evidence to demonstrate that your company has the potential to grow rapidly and create jobs in the U.S.

A startup visa and path to a green card may be soon on the way for entrepreneurs and their crucial employees: Last week, Lofgren introduced the Let Immigrants Kickstart Employment (LIKE) Act. The requirements for the proposed startup visa are the same as for IEP but would allow a longer stay — up to eight years total if the startup creates jobs and generates substantial revenue.

I’m very proud to have aided in drafting the LIKE Act. It’s a thrill to see how my suggestions were included, such as making Startup Green Cards not subject to the visa bulletin, clarifying that you can seek consecutive Startup Visas from different companies, how to allocate employee visas to startups, ensuring the Startup Visa is a dual intent status, and adding premium processing. It was such a joy to be able to contribute ideas to this amazing process. I look forward to supporting this bill to become a law; please reach out to me if you want to support this worthy cause.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

See yourself at another company

There is technically no limit to how many H-1B employers you can have or how many — or few — hours you work in an H-1B position. So, think about other companies.

One option would be to have concurrent H-1Bs: Keep your current H-1B job for stability and start your own company, preferably with another individual or two, and have your startup sponsor you for an H-1B. Take a look at this Dear Sophie column for what to do before embarking on this path.

Another option would be to transfer your H-1B to another employer, or your own startup if you are going to work there. Since you already went through the H-1B lottery with your current employer, you will not have to go through the lottery process again for a second H-1B whether you choose the concurrent or transfer option.

Setting up a startup that can sponsor you for an H-1B is complicated, so I suggest you work with both a corporate attorney and an immigration attorney. Keep in mind that you will not be able to do any work for your startup until an H-1B with your startup has been approved, which is why having co-founders is helpful. Another reason is H-1Bs require an employer-employee relationship between a startup and the H-1B candidate. That means a co-founder — or the startup’s board — must supervise you and have the ability to fire you. Moreover, we often advise founders that it may be best to own less than a 50% stake in the startup when applying for an H-1B.

Consider a green card

If you end up pursuing concurrent H-1Bs, consider asking your employer whether it is willing to sponsor you for a green card. If that’s not the case, your startup can sponsor you for one, or you can self-petition for a green card:

All EB-2 green cards — except the EB-2 NIW — and the EB-3 green card require labor certification approval (PERM) from the U.S. Department of Labor. The two green cards that allow an individual to self-sponsor are the EB-1A and EB-2 NIW.

Imagine yourself doing gigs in your field

Many startup founders qualify for an O-1A extraordinary ability visa. However, you cannot have both an H-1B and an O-1A at the same time, so if your startup sponsors you for an O-1A, you will be required to leave your current H-1B job once an O-1A is approved.

An O-1A offers more flexibility than an H-1B. You can work for a single petitioning company or on multiple gigs through an agent. However, qualifying for an O-1A is more difficult than an H-1B. Resources, such as through my firm, support people with getting qualified. The one similarity with the H-1B is that you must show your startup and you have an employer-employee relationship.

Invest in your own company

The E-2 visa for treaty investors and employees is ideal for startup founders whose home country has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the U.S. Here is a list of treaty countries. For more details on E-2 visas for founders and employees, check out this previous Dear Sophie column and podcast episode.

Although there is no minimum dollar amount that a founder must invest in a startup to qualify for an E-2, we often advise founders to invest at least $100,000 to have a strong case. You cannot have both an H-1B and an E-2, so you will need to leave your current H-1B job if your E-2 is approved.

An immigration attorney can offer additional options based on your personal circumstances and legal advice tailored to you.

Enjoy the journey of building your dreams!

Sophie


Have a question for Sophie? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space.

The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limitations of “Dear Sophie,” please view our full disclaimer. You can contact Sophie directly at Alcorn Immigration Law.

Sophie’s podcast, Immigration Law for Tech Startups, is available on all major platforms. If you’d like to be a guest, she’s accepting applications!

#column, #diversity, #green-card, #h-1b, #h-1b-visa, #lawyers, #sophie-alcorn, #startup-visa, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #verified-experts, #zoe-lofgren