“For seven days every June, over 100,000 creative and cultural trendsetters converge in Brooklyn to uncover the future of music, innovation and content; with over 400 bands, 150 speakers and 100 content creators.”


ICYMI: #NorthsideFestival was happening in Williamsburg last week. Our team managed to swing by some sessions, and while we can’t possibly distill the awesomeness into one blog post, we curated some key insights to share with you all in a series of short-and-sweet ones.

First up was “What Startups Need Next” with the founders of Birchbox and Zady, and it was a rapid-fire round of Q&A with two exceptionally badass women. We took such copious notes that our pens were practically emitting steam! When we recall who was speaking, we’ll note it, otherwise just know it was one of these two awesome entrepreneurs.


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Images via http://northsidefestival.com

When do you know whether you should invest in a startup? (Hayley Bay Barna)

  • Sometimes an idea just feels right
  • If a founder has a feeling of being purpose-driven
  • If they’ve done good due diligence before even meeting with you

How do you know if you should pursue your idea?

  • Building a startup is INTENSE
  • Think of the “shower test” — are you thinking about your idea or business all the time, even in the shower every day consistently? Then you should pursue it

How much should you have tested an idea before launch? (Hayley)

  • First Round Capital invests early (usually before revenue) but only usually when the founder has done or proven something with their target market. They should be able to talk about testing “in the wild” because real-world testing trumps facts and figures.

How do you know that you’ve found product or market fit?

  • If consumers are shouting that you’ve solved a problem for them, you’ve got market fit!

How do you launch your idea/product well?

  • Have a strong idea of who your customer is
  • Be able to describe your product or service in ONE sentence (not a paragraph)
  • Know your KPIs — you are what you measure
  • Have the right team in place. The team makes the product work! It’s a problem if as an investor, you have to actively ask to meet more than one person on the team
  • Build a badass core team — sometimes that means looking to your inner circle and that’s totally okay
  • Your team must have alignment in vision, and be able to talk openly about each other’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Hire generalists — “business athletes” who can adapt to changing needs (with the exception of specialized talent such as tech)


“Find trusted brand advisors in your network who can give you honest direction and feedback”


Other gems that we heard the ladies emphasize have to do with the startup scene in NYC, and how it has changed over time.

  • It’s okay to not be a founder! Be PART of a fast-growing company, learn and hone your skills there, and then go out and be a founder if you truly want to
  • Right now in the startup ecosystem, it’s easier to get seed funding, but more difficult to get subsequent funding. Seed round sizes are much bigger than they used to be which has shifted the market
  • If you’re meeting with Fortune 100 folks, stand tall! Many sunsetting businesses need you — small, nimble, fresh companies — to stay relevant
    • If you’re meeting with a large company who is offering funding or partnership, ask for references of other companies who have received funding or who have partnered with them
  • Early-stage startups need to think about their brand and polish it early on. Be aspirational from the get-go!
  • You should refresh your brand identity about every two years. Ensure that you’re resonating with where your users are HEADED, not where they are now
  • Use freelance talent to support your early team, get going fast. “three months to hire” is a great rule to make sure there’s fit on both sides (Soraya Darabi)

We hope you enjoyed our summary as much as we enjoyed the session. Stay tuned for another Sparknotes session soon!