Knowing when to scale is the single most important reason for startup success. Janis Machala of Paladin Partners says that market timing is the biggest reason by orders of magnitude. This part is more art than science and is a function of product market fit. Ahead of her panel during Seattle Startup Week, she chatted with me about this topic and the people on the panel who are the best examples.
Janis Machala is the managing partner of Paladin Partners. Paladin is a consultancy firm based in Kirkland, WA founded in 1995 focused on start-up growth and team building. Janis is moderating a panel on Monday Oct 26 at Seattle Startup Week called Making B2B Companies Scale: Women Entrepreneurs Weigh In. The four speakers on the panel each overcame unique issues in building their own companies:
- Mary Jesse is the founder of IvyCorp. Janis said Mary's unique story revolved around Mary as a brilliant technology person learning how to market and sell her product to enterprise markets.
- Beth Kolko is the co-founder and CEO of Shift Labs. Beth developed a better UI for medical devices used in the field. Her obstacle was communicating with 3rd world NGOs and government entities.
- Adina Mangubat is the CEO of Spiral Genetics. Her challenge was learning to sell a great idea on an enterprise level without the major credibility boost that goes with having Microsoft, Google, or Oracle on your business card.
- Rebecca Norlander is the co-founder and CEO of Health123. Her story deals with gaining domain expertise while learning to solve customer pain points in the health care industry.
Janis also recommended reading Four Steps to Epiphany by Steve Blank. She says she wishes she had written this book, and that every client she has ever served should read it. Here is a PDF of a shorter presentation on the book. Additionally, Janis recommends founders read this article by Mark Leslie to learn more about how to scale their startup and why. Janis says market focus must be as narrow as possible in the beginning, and once you have nailed the sales in one area move to the next. In each step of growth, it's vital to focus your time as a founder and CEO interviewing users, identifying pain points, and adjusting the product to fit. Janis said you must listen more than you talk if you want to succeed. This is where Janis feels women have an advantage over men. “Women are better listeners than men,” she said.
Janis acknowledged the broad generalization there, but that statement is not without truth. Janis has the business chops to make such a conclusion. Her background is solid and results are impressive.
Janis will also be hosting a B2C panel on scaling on Friday, Oct. 30. There is value in the panels she is hosting. Janis said she wanted to have distinct panels for each segment as there are issues inherent to the markets that don't cross over. Seattle Startup Week runs Oct 26-30 in downtown Seattle and many other locations in the area.