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The 3 key messages I learned with Kat Manalac

It was very engaging to watch a talk from Kat Manalac, Y Combinator partner, where she showed her passion to what she knows best, startup storytelling and also her anger when startups make mistakes that could be avoided and end up hurting their growth steepness. Kat used several examples of startups part of YC alum that she has worked with to exemplify the 3 keys messages that I summarized below.

1. A clear idea is the foundation for growth

Kat starts by saying "Talking clearly and concisely about your business will be one of the skills you have to have as a founder". As she has worked with several startups at YC as well as at Wired magazine, she has tons of experience to define why this is such an important skill to have. First, you will have to talk about your startup to bring co-founders onboard as well as investors, users, and others. Second, the clearer all these stakeholders understand your idea, the faster they will be able to talk about your company - the famous word of mouth is key for growth! She mentioned a couple of companies such as Airbnb and Uber and it is true, most of us started using because we heard about it from someone else.

Whenever working on your startup storytelling, think about how people will understand what you do and will share that with friends and family at the dinner table. Make your pitch descriptive, concise and comprehensible.

2. No one is better at pitching your company than you

“You (the founder) are the best person!” Kat lively says when referring to who should pitch your company to reporters. Kat goes into details why, how and when you should reach to the press.

Her advice for startups is that reporters are interested in hearing the story of your startup from you and not from a PR firm. PR firms will build a story and sell that story for different media channels. However, the PR firm don't know as much as you do so instead of telling them, build your story and talk directly to reporters. This way you will also be building long lasting relationships with the reporters. How to start reaching to reporters?

  • Research which reporters are covering and have interest in the industry that your startup is part of
  • Ask for warm introductions. Check who in your network is connected to that reporter. Do you know anyone or any of the companies that the reporter has written about
  • Remember to give advanced notice. Both the person making the introduction and the reporter will appreciate having a little of time to research about you and your company.
  • Finally, don't be short term driven or as she clearly puts "don't be an a-hole". Relationships with reporters should be respectful and last for a long time.

Before meeting a reporter, make sure to have these questions answered about your startup:

  • What is it?
  • How it works?
  • Who, where and when people use it?
  • Why is it better than other players? and why now?
  • Who are the founders?

This will help to have an engaging and insightful conversation with the reporter. Just remember to be succinct and comprehensible.

3. Make something people want

Before closing Kat discussed the 2 main focuses startups have when they are at YC program:

  1. Build products. This point is very aligned to what I learned from Patrick Collison, Stripe CEO and YC alum. You can see Patrick's talk here

  2. Talk to users. Engage with your 100 first users and get their feedback about the product, the experience they are having.

These should be the main priorities for an entrepreneur. Once you get the product right for your users, everything else becomes easier and smoother. If you want to learn more from YC you can check Sam Altman, YC CEO talk on PlatziConf in 2015.

Kat Manalac talk happened in PlatziConf Mexico and you can watch the whole video for more details and additional learning.