Last week I got an offer from NY-based startup to join their team. The package was good: equity + cash + continuation bonus. It was a deal of my life… Which I politely declined. If you’re a founder who struggles with getting early hires onboard you should definitely read this. It’s not about you not paying the market rate.

Hier und jetzt endet leider meine Reise auf Pixabay aber from Pixabay

You probably think that the most difficult part of a startup journey is to get your hands on VC’s money. If you do — it means that you’re thinking about startups in a totally wrong way and as you’re now you’re probably destined to fail (sorry for the harsh truth). In reality getting VCs onboard is probably the easiest part of all. Because it basically means closing a sales deal after you have closed about a million of others successfully. You “sell” your startup to investors only after you have sold it with a high level of success to:


We all hear how “connected” founders whoosh through their rounds. But if you don’t know a single investor personally the chances of being rejected are pretty high. This is a workable plan how to avoid it.

How did you first get funded outside friends and family?”

— this is the question I just love to ask founders I work with.

Most of them actually say either “I knew the right people” or “I made the right product” (that is, to be honest, just another variation of the first statement, because let’s face it — if you don’t know the right people how on Earth would they find out about your right product?!).

However, very few and rare unveil the fact that the only way to get angel investors or VCs on board is through the hard…

Have you ever woke up at nights troubled with one specific nightmare: your most valuable team member (developer, designer, marketer, etc.) have left you in the wind and you’re facing a perspective of losing everything being invested in your startup so far? This practice will help you stop worrying and reduce your risks considerably.

We all are used to thinking of terms sheets as of paperwork that you get down to when investors start coming. But I’ve been negotiating my terms sheet with a US-based startup as an early-hire recently. And this is what every founder and early-hire should be aware of:

For a founder term sheet is not only about cash and equity. It’s about managing risks and motivating talents to stick around.

Imagine, you’re asking someone very special to work for you. You offer a good market rate, because you know this person is going to deliver best results. But it’s not only about money (though, let’s face it — for most founders it’s first and foremost about it). However, you also invest you…

I’m a non-US founder. I’ve never been to SF in my life, but when I started my first business aimed at global markets rather than local customers I obviously landed in the “information bubble” wrapped around Silicon valley-based startups. My bet is: if you googled up startup-related stuff you ended up in the same information universe as I have. It doesn’t come as a surprise, because for many years it’s been a rule of thumb that SF-brewed innovation practices make a golden standard and should be used by startup founders across the globe.

The funniest thing that I’ve had business experience before. I’d build a successful and profitable local online business, a cooking school, as well as a publishing agency. However, I had not considered them to be startups. Because as soon as you hear this word your imagination leaps on the names like Uber, AirBnB, Coinbase… whatever. No one actually thinks of a $600K/year local plumber service as a startup, right? This is a good use case of the phenomenon that David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH), founder of Basecamp calls “disrupto-mania”. …

Finally, you’ve reached this slide of your pitch deck. Time to say how much do you need and what you’re going to spend these funds on. Do you know that there are guidelines and “no-goes” that will definitely raise red flags for VCs?

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

Just a couple of weeks ago a friend of mine asked me to help with his pitch deck.

What exactly can I help you with? — I asked him during our 10 minutes Zoom call.

I’m struggling with proving to VC that I really need these USD $500,000 — was, in a nutshell, his astonishing answer.

On second thoughts, I didn’t find it so astonishing. As I’ve already mentioned in one of my previous articles, even founders with experience who have a seed round behind them are not necessarily certain, how much do they actually need to raise. This uncertainty…

Is it about eye-catching design? Or is it more about “selling copy”? Well, if I knew the exact answer to this question I would probably be next to Jeff Bezos in the Forbes ranking. Still, I have some ideas that might help you figure out the secret sauce ingredients on your own.

Good vs bad design

Ok, let’s begin with the eye-catching part. Designers in general are aware of multiple physical laws that regulate human vision (like, how our retina processes light), as well as most influential theories of objects perception (like, Feature Integration Theory or Recognition by Components Approach). However, when one designer is able to create something impressive with all that knowledge, another one struggles to put two and two together. Why does it happen?

Aren’t there some “golden ratios” that can be used in web design just like artists freely use Leonardo’s heritage for better results?

When me and my team, located in…

Getting as much cash as possible sounds like a plausible strategy for a startup during a round. In practice, it’s a totally wrong path to take.

Photo by Andrew Moca on Unsplash

A couple of years ago I participated in a founder’s bootcamp where one unfortunate guy made a huge impact on everyone with his pitch deck — in a bad way.

I can’t even remember what his startup was about, that’s how bad the pitch was, but the bottom line was that founder described it as a venture with PAYING customers. The founder also proclaimed that business already generated about $700,000 annually. At the same time, he was actively raising and offered 10% of his company’s shares in exchange for — ta-ta-dam — $50,000 check.

To us, he sounded either desperate…

A 5-min long exercise that will help you figure out, whether a designer you’re about to hire would really lift your business to a new level.

Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky to interact with numerous designers. Almost 15 years ago when I ran a publishing business, I worked shoulder to shoulder with dozens of graphic designers. Then I started an e-commerce venture and had a handful web designers in my team. Finally, I’ve launched 2 startups and a digital marketing studio for startup founders where I have to hire, fire, manage and cooperate with UX, web and graphic designers almost daily. …

I’m a member of almost every subreddit dealing with startups. I follow startup people on Twitter and Facebook, listen to podcasts and conversations in CH... You get the picture. And everywhere I go, I meet thousands of non-tech founders looking for tech co-founders. I read their posts, listen to their stories. And all I want is to cry out loud: “You’re tackling this from a totally wrong angle!”

Personal pain

I have to say I was among those people too. I was looking for a tech co-founder for almost a year.


First time my failure was totally predictable as I was not really sure whom to look for, and where to do the search. Being quite far from tech community with a background in education, e-commerce, publishing and wholesale business I couldn’t reach out for my classmates or co-workers, to get a reasonable advice. I knew I wanted a product to be built but I had no idea who might do it.

Sure enough, I went online and googled…

Bad news for strong advocates of neuro-programming concepts: you’ve landed a wrong page. I’m not going to describe secret technics that you can use to “program” your future millions in cash by chanting a specific sequence of sounds. Good news for “old school” science adepts: I’ll be only covering ideas about brain that have come to become mainstream in modern scientific environment. The take away you’ll have to get on your own.

1. SNS is about selection: when running for your life, don’t waste energy on digesting breakfast

As famous Prof. Robert M.Sapolky points out in his book on neural origin of aggression ‘Behave’, our immediate reactions are mostly ruled by two parts of the autonomic nervous system: sympathetic and parasympathetic. It’s been known for a quite while that these two-folded structure is somehow important. But only recently have we come to understand the depth of impact it has on our every action, weather conscious or unconscious. The functions of these systems are fairly opposite. The sympathetic system (SNS) mediates the body’s response to stressful circumstances. For example, producing the famous “fight or flight” response. Meanwhile, the parasympathetic…

Ana Bibikova

Founder and CEO @Alsmark Studio. Being a startup founder, love to help other founders on this exciting journey.

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