Getting a startup off the ground is a challenge in any economic climate, but with the current inflation and the possibility of a recession, it’s that much harder to stay afloat.
Our co-founder and CEO Eric Glyman recently chatted with Ashwin Kumar, Startup Partnerships Lead for Stripe, in a webinar on how startups can build high-velocity teams and produce asymmetric outcomes in a volatile economic environment. He pulled from his personal experience, having launched Ramp in February 2020, shortly before COVID-19 shut down much of the country.
Catch the webinar below or read on for a quick recap.
Think experimentally to drive bigger outcomes
First, growth can be nonlinear. The more you can pinpoint shifts in the way people think or act before your competitors do, the faster you'll be able to accelerate and stand out in the market. Eric highlighted that with an example of his previous business venture, Paribus, where the goal was to create 10% growth, and after putting in 100 hours of work, they came up short of that goal. After missing the target, Ramp co-founder and CTO Karim Atiyeh took a shot in the dark and posted about Paribus on reddit. Within 12 hours they had 400 new users, after adding just 35 over the course of a week.
“I think trying to understand where your audience is truly, really experiment with it, and you'll find some nonlinear outcomes like that,” Eric said. “It's hard to predict what exactly is gonna be the outcome, and so just open yourself up to that asymmetry and try to find what really is more impactful—do more of that. Cut what isn't yielding those outcomes.”
Tackle one asymmetric outcome at a time to drive startup velocity
Velocity is the amount you’re able to produce or affect an outcome in a given time period.
“The goal is with each incremental period of time, figure out one similar asymmetric outcome point earlier,” Eric said. “Can we cut the energy we're spending that isn't yielding the results? And then instead focus on the higher ROI and get more done.
“It's really about setting a clear goal constraining the period of time, and then trying to with each progressive period, you go faster. And if you can do that, that's sort of what results in the exponential curve that people always hope for.”
How to hire for velocity and build a fast-paced culture
Hiring for velocity and building a culture of velocity is much like the concept of central casting when producing a movie, according to Ramp board member Keith Rabois. It’s all about bringing people together, generating excitement, and building on chemistry.
Look for people with strong spikes in critical areas. Not only will they enable you to go after your goals, but they'll help create a sense of momentum and attract the next set of folks you need to hire.
“You're not just hiring that one person,” Ashwin said in response to that theory. “You're hiring all the people that either they will bring in or that they'll inspire to come to the company. And so it's just, there's so much leverage in those first few [hires].”
Culture can be difficult to put into words, and can ultimately come back to values. But instead of cavalierly throwing values up on the wall and not fully understanding what they mean, Eric said the question of values is often “trying to get at what actually represents what people would say and what people sincerely feel about your company. A lot of culture is just really what you're about, what you do."
Spend management best practices
Eric ended the webinar with a few practical spend management tips for founders, all of which Ramp can help with:
- Make it simple for employees to submit receipts, or better yet, pull receipts automatically with integration
- Reduce the amount of time spent closing your books, so you can actually use the time on things that generate higher margins and unfair advantages
- Set card policies for different departments so you know who’s spending what
- Automate bill payments
- Negotiate contracts
Learn more about how Ramp can save your company time and money.