Introducing Launch—For Seed-Stage Founders
Lightspeed is thrilled to announce our new program for Seed-stage founders: Launch. Launch is the culmination of 20+ years of hard-won expertise as Seed investors, partnering with founders who have the drive and irrational optimism to build generational companies.
Over the years we at Lightspeed have had a chance to observe hundreds of founders up close. Over time, we’ve developed an important insight as to what separates the best from the rest, and here it is: The most successful founders are the ones who rapidly and constantly learn and adapt to the needs of their company and the changes in their environment.
Founders’ roles are ever-changing and by definition filled with new and stressful challenges. Founders must juggle product development, hiring, fundraising, customer/user discovery, finance, marketing/PR, operations, and family/personal life. That’s a lot, particularly in today’s turbulent economic environment.
Lightspeed’s role as a Seed investor is to shorten learning cycles, to help founders identify and solve known challenges, and to provide expert perspectives at the right time in a company’s lifecycle. We want our efforts with Seed companies to be judged on one sole factor: Did we accelerate a startup’s progress from Seed to Series A?
To develop the program, we interviewed hundreds of founders and industry experts about their journey to PMF. While each founder had unique challenges, they had many common struggles created by constant context switching into new areas outside their core expertise. We mapped out those common struggles, and productized their collective wisdom of company-building best practices.
Here are a few that Launch will help founders navigate:
Universal seed founder challenges
Interviewing enough customers/users before building: Every founder, whether they spoke to 20 or 200 people, wished they had interviewed more potential customers and users before building their MVP.
- Building for on-prem vs. cloud
- Choosing the wrong Ideal Customer Profile
- Developing a direct sales motion when PLG was a better option
Ineffective founder-led sales and growth: Acquiring customers and users is new to most founders. Effective sales and growth require a well-oiled process, a scalable tech stack, and constant experimentation.
- Manually running customer engagement campaigns
- Managing the sales pipeline out of a spreadsheet, leading to operational mistakes
- Pitching to customers with the same messaging as VCs
- Relying exclusively on paid acquisition to fuel growth
- Selling only to the user and not the economic buyer, resulting in a failure to close the deal
Hiring the wrong early team members: Mis-hires are costly in time, money, and negative cultural impact. A bad hire within the core team can be fatal to the company.
- Prioritizing pedigree over experience
- Overlooking cultural mismatch in favor of technical abilities
- Hiring a sales leader before finding PMF
Wasting time-solving known operational challenges: All first-time founders are faced with a set of decisions that are new to them, but solved by others: running a first board meeting, building an operating model, setting up payroll, etc.
- Incorrectly modeling COGS and burn rates
- Doing everything yourself to save small amounts of money
- Picking vendors that don’t specialize in your stage
How Lightspeed Launch Works
Rather than the typical six-week startup boot camp, Launch is designed to deeply support founders through their Seed to Series A journey. The program, only available to Lightspeed portfolio companies, provides founders with several layers of support.
1-on-1 Advisory: Deep hands-on company-building support led by your board partner, our Lighthouse platform team, and our extensive operator network.
The right insight at the right time can change the trajectory of a company. The program is anchored by our Launch Partner, Luke Beseda, who has spent the last nine years at Lightspeed supporting hundreds of seed companies, from conception through product market fit.
Luke works with our founders to develop a customized plan designed around Series A milestones. He ensures we match our vast operator network with founders’ particular challenges when it matters most.
Lighthouse Seed Knowledge Base: Our custom-built library of Seed playbooks and toolkits.
An increasingly global and remote workforce has forced companies to become experts at documentation and asynchronous knowledge transfer. We have developed a deep repository of company-building playbooks so anyone on your team anywhere in the world can begin the learning process. From videos and hiring guides to benchmark data and operating models, all Launch programming is available through Lighthouse.
To give back to the startup community, we will continually open source popular modules in the Launch website.
Seed founder workshops: Expert-led workshops designed specifically to instill key founder skills.
Sometimes nothing beats founders sharing their challenges and learning in a group. Throughout the year we run small founder workshops hosted by founders, operators, and industry experts. The sessions are designed to be highly actionable with data and frameworks that can be employed immediately. A sampling of sessions this year includes Developer Tools GTM, Getting to Series A: Consumer Metrics, Customer Pitching & Discovery, Candidate Engagement, PLG Best Practices, among many others.
The Future: Much more to come
While we are excited for our Launch (pun intended), this is only the first iteration. While the program is globally relevant, it’s currently designed for companies operating in the US, UK, and EU. Through the end of this year, we will learn from our founders how to develop, deploy, and continually improve impactful programming. Just like all products, we expect Launch to scale and evolve as we listen to customers – founders.