Week 4 at XRC Labs

Alex Abelin, Liquid Talent:
Date: November 10, 2015
Track: How to be a Great Company
Topic: Managing Your Board of Advisors and Team

Description: Boards and advisors can be good for you or they can make life tough for you.

Alex Abelin of LiquidTalent will walk you through the ups and downs of board /advisory board selection and managing them over time. He also will provide best practices on team culture and management along with board and advisor optimization.


Bio: Alex Abelin is the Co-Founder and CEO of LiquidTalent, a new generation job platform modernizing the way professionals discover, connect and work together. Prior to starting LiquidTalent, Alex served as Google’s Public Affairs Manager from 2005 to 2013 where he was the architect behind the development of eight Google sponsored outdoor WiFi networks, the most notable being the Chelsea CIC WiFi network, the largest contiguous NYC WiFi network ever created. Currently at LiquidTalent, Alex and his company help connect exceptional professionals in the technology and creative fields with fast-growing, mission-driven companies. Alex holds a B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business. Alex is from San Diego, CA and currently lives in New York City.

Session Notes:

Biggest takeaways from building a team:

One bad egg can take a hit on the whole group

Look through networks – more referrals and more connections

Want to create a condition where they can perform at their best

Independence, less micro management, option to work from home, but where does it become counter productive?

Your company is about your people

If you are really honest with yourself, you want to bring in people that are different than you

My 5 and 7 hires were direct referrals to me from my network. You always have to look too far.

The insight you get from people who know you and the candidate  – I put a lot of emphasis on those people

Respect that it’s not just competitive for you to get them but for them to get you, don’t forget that

Make sure the hires REALLY have a zest for your vision. If they do it is a big reasons to bring them in for your team.
“Hire slow, fire quickly.”

Definitely apply this principle if you are giving equity out!

Give out equity thinking that one day this company will be a big deal
Brought in an advisor to help them figure out what pieces of our team we were missing

3 senior engineers from google, gave them equity

Funding seed round personally very challenging

Brace for rejections, you’re going to get more no’s than yes’s but you only need a couple yes’s

You really learn a lot about yourself,  “Don’t take it personally”
There’s nothing more illuminating about yourself than being an entrepreneur.

Ultimately you get better because of it
Emails/phone calls/meetings all the time

Managing advisors and investors takes more time than you think

some let you do your thing, others want to know all the time what’s going on with your business

bring in the right investors, time is the most precious resource

Structure of board and people on it/matching personality types?

If advisors help us expand the pie, then we will all win.

Bring in people who are super influential, people that are better than you – but that means they are really busy. You don’t want to be annoying but you also just gave them equity. But they don’t report to you and you aren’t directly paying them. Interesting dynamic situation.

Board of directors vs. board of advisors

Advisors – care about money. They are rich. They manage their money really well.
Try to do a board meeting every 6 weeks
Next few weeks will be very telling before our launch.

Amy, XRC: What about specific projects or hiring on a project basis?

Big fan of 1099 project based economy

Make it easier to start and easier to finish. You want to date before you are married.

You really learn a LOT about somebody working with them for just a couple of weeks.

You will see more independent contractors in the next 5 years at all levels

All for temp agreements

Stacey, Forrge: How do you know how much equity to give?

  • Your first 10 employees should have 10% of company
  • Next 10 should have 5%
  • Err on the side of generosity. Problem comes in when investors manage these very tightly and think you are crazy. You have to make both sides happy.
  • salary negotiations and full time placement can take a long time – months

Advisors .25% or .5%. Some do .1% some for 1%.

Everything in life are tradeoffs.

What kind of KPIs do you track before your Series A?

How many companies join platform

how much talent is coming through

how many connections we make for each of these every week

adoption and growth vs. engagement and retention

Philosophy on pre revenue and post revenue? From Sumeet, Our Program Manager:

People, product and pipeline

What’s one thing that is going to take your business to next level the fastest?

Michelle, FindMine: Do you have a gut sense of when you cut and run?

If you think of value they are bringing is greater than problem and they bring a much needed skill set, you have to stick it out. But if they are becoming a detriment to the company then you have to cut and run. Every situation is unique. You know what you have to do. Start interviewing and seeing what’s out there before you make the cut. You will either realize there are lots better out there or that this position is rare and you will value them more.

You only want to work with good people but good people know they can get more elsewhere.
Know that your relationships with people will be different after time, 6 months, 12 months, 2 years, etc. Get out of your normal routine in a new space and learn about the relationship with that person in a different light.

Manuela, Tahaanga: We have product/inventory, now how do I build a team without seed money?

Send a LOI, put it on paper and be upfront about when you will get funding. If they are behind you and your vision, then they will ride that out with you. If not, then they are not the right person. Be ok with giving more equity if you have less cash.

  • build tiered equity systems on a trial period

Aaron, Eastern Kingdom: How do you hold your advisors more accountable?

Overcommunication is helpful.

Shared docs are helpful.

Calendar invites are helpful.

Put it in a contact.

If you both care about each other then hard conversations will be easier.

Know that some areas will be heavier on the business than others.

Hudson Sutler: How have you handled that specific advisor you had that wasn’t pulling their weight?

  • We had an equity deal that was 4 stages. We went through the first and then split ways.

How do you approach developing culture when you are in the middle of meeting deliverables? How do you deal with the soft aspect that gets you through tough times and how do you reinforce that?

  • Get it right early; establish it with your co founders.
  • Lay out values, principles, vision and mission statement
  • Check back in with these

I want to work with people I like, that are friends that I can have dinner with.

You will see these people every day of your life. Who do you want to see everyday?

Companies that do this right are significantly better to win.

Gut check – are we being too relaxed and not putting enough pressure on our employees?
Stay hungry – always want to get better

Healthy – long hours w/ bad food – take the time!

Humble – take positive news and maintain balance between highs and lows. stay grounded.

Happy – why else? pure joy!

How did you go about reaching out to advisors that are not your friends? How did you recruit them? How many meetings did you have? How did you find them?

Broker the relationship – start with mentorship.

You want to have experience with people before you bring them on as an advisor.

Hire slow, fire fast works with advisors and investors.


Rob Sanchez, Venture Professor at Fordham School of Law
Date: November 11, 2015 (7:00-8:30PM)
Topic: How to be a Great Company
Track: Capitalization Tables and Venture Capital Math

Description: “In this presentation, we will explore the Cap Table and what it represents. They’ll include:
– How to think about Founder Equity
– Your Stock plan
– How VCs will view your decisions
This will be an interactive session so bring your questions and come prepared to gain a better understanding of the issues.”


Bio: Rob Sanchez is currently COO for the Fashion Media Center, co-founder of Anvil Venture Partners, co-host of the Fashion Is Your Business podcast, and an Adjunct Professor of Law at Fordham Law School. Rob founded Ralph & Remington as a radically transparent menswear line created in partnership with the Fashion Media Center. Previously, he was the Chief Strategy Officer for Manufacture New York, an innovation hub at the intersection of fashion, manufacturing, and technology, and co-founded Fashioning Our Industry, an organization that brought together professionals and entrepreneurs in fashion, business, law, manufacturing, design, and technology. Rob holds a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law and B.A. from Yale University. He was named one of the top 12 people to watch in Fashion Tech by AlleyWatch and was featured in the Fordham Lawyer for his work in entrepreneurship and the fashion industry.


Session Notes: To Come 


Courtney Symons, Shopify
Date: November 12, 2015 (7:00-8:30PM)
Track: How to be a Great Brand/CPG
Topic: Best Practices to Selling Online

Description: So how do you sell online? What is the role of domain name? What is the best way to get a great domain name? Role of SEO and SEM? Which online platform should you use? If you are using an omnichannel model to start, how are they integrated?


Session Notes:

  • Case study – MVMT watches

Viral movement, 16 year old, $10,000 in sales online

  • Online strategy – see slides
  • Building a business on EBAY or AMAZON, they own your customers and you don’t control the brand experience
  • Claiming your name – domain, subdomain, facebook, twitter, instagram
    • Domain name: make it as easy as possible for someone to find you, short and to the point
  • Shopify does not do domain registration but we can facilitate the process
  • Amazing product photography is key –  especially for responsive checkout!
  • Test browsing on every device, shopify is responsive
  • It’s almost always cheaper to bring back a repeat customer than it is to find a new one
  • The “unboxing” product experience is powerful
  • Instagrams adds 25% engagement more than any other social media platforms
  • 10 ecommerce SEO tip
    • don’t rely on ppc campaigns
    • avoid duplicate content
    • have a content strategy – really helps google re-index you higher the more you update/post
    • don’t use manufacturer product descriptions
    • optimize product images
    • unique meta descriptions for every page
    • organize online store for SEO
    • link to products from homepage
    • optimize your anchor text
    • include product review

– 10% of SEO ranking is from product reviews

– Shopify blog has e-commerce tips, good SEO rankings terms

– Pop Up shops can be great offline solution

1 test a new revenue stream

2 engage customers offline

3 create urgency and scarcity

4 shoppers love holidays

5 educate new customers

6 freedom to sell anywhere

7 generate brand awareness

8 unload old inventory


POS – you get a card reader through shopify

Ex: case study – Warby Parker “Class Trip”


Flash Sales

KITH NYC – over $1 mil in an hour/scarcity tactic, masters of flash sales

The Chive – 100,000 people trying to get 10,000 shirts for flash chive shirts


Use Shopify apps to do more

product up sells, cross sells, logical second purchases


Buy button – add on for $9/mo on wordpress for blogs

buyable pins, buy on twitter, buyable on facebook page


The e-commerce economy – apps add ons


Tiffany, B Side: What are best shopify apps?

yacht po (sp?)- product review manager



zero – accounting


shopify book – grow

shopify partner program – can make money by becoming an affiliate if you choose to put a shopify button on your page and people sign up you get 20%

What are things people do that just don’t work?

Over complicate things, keep it as simple as you possibly can, conversion rates increase the less words and buttons there are

Every bit of screen real estate you’re giving away needs to be there for a purpose

Anything you can do to really mess up your SEO on e-commerce?

Don’t read into SEO and repeat the same phrases all over the same page

Google is starting to penalize those who don’t have responsive websites

Design for mobile first

What direction shopify is going as it relates to big companies it works with?

What type of clients are ready for shopify +?

  • Built infrastructure to handle lots of traffic

John, RFM: Recommendations for referral embeds? give $25 etc?

  • will follow up on

Any app built using shopify API will be able to be used on any shopify site

What are your favorite brands on shopify?

MVMT watches, hillary clinton store, redbull, budweiser


Influencer marketing

Keep trying – if you reach out to 50 and hear back from 1 that’s still something!


Just launched beta pilot project with UBER – for same day shopping in NYC

Same day shipping will be a trend in the future

Because shopify is in Canada and when we traveled to the states we didn’t have cars and started using UBER and loved it


3 big takeaways:

  1. Don’t underestimate the purpose of your early decisions, like domain name
  2. Learn all you can about SEO but don’t beat yourself up for not being able to stay on top of all the trends
  3. Don’t be afraid to experiment with things, think of ways you can do things they have never seen before or a unique spin on something they have seen before


*we have an online shopify competition

best 2 mo of sales over 8 mo period, winner gets flown to NYC (yay!) ring opening bell at NY stock exchange, interviewed on CNBC, then helicopter to castle that was inspiration for Great Gatsby mansion, spend 1 week with Tony Robbins, Russell Simmons, Tim Ferris, Damon John from Shark Tank.

[Reprinted with permission from XRC Labs]