Key Learnings: Start Co. in San Francisco 2016


Each year, select Start Co. teams are invited to San Francisco to meet with potential investors, mentors and network with founders in the Bay Area. This year, six teams made the trek to the West Coast to attend the Evolving E Summit, meet with investors from ventures like Growth X and meet founders at incubators like Runway. In “Week in Review”, we recapped the top learnings from the trip.

From our meetings with West Coast investors to our tours of different incubators to hearing various speakers speak at the Evolving E Summit, there were a lot of trends that the experts were talking about and unique insights shared. Here’s our take on the biggest takeaways from this year’s trip to SF:

As mentioned in our “Week in Review” post, one of the highlights of the trip was the 2016 Evolving E Summit hosted by GGV Capital, located at the Terra Gallery in the South Beach area of the city. The Summit featured multiple talks throughout the day with a handful of talented and experienced entrepreneurs. The first discussion talked about using technology to surprise and delight customers. We heard from the SVP of North America at Ebay, the VP of digital product at Sephora, the CEO of BigCommerce, and the CEO of Tile, along with the coordinator and managing partner at GGV Capital, Jeff Richards.

We heard tips on how to scale new brands and go global from a panel of experts including the Global VP of Ecommerce at Diageo; the CEO of Eloquii; the Founder and CEO of Teespring; and the Head of Asia for Shopbop & East Dane. They talked about how to remain respectful to the brand and customer needs once the global market is reached. It’s also important to know what the client wants, especially when it comes to technology because it is always about the current client and customer experience, which is something Start Co. startups learn from the very beginning in the phase of customer discovery.

The final talk of the Summit was about social media and how it’s becoming the storefront to scale and market your business. We heard from the Head of Business Development of Pinterest, the President of North America of, the Co-founder and CEO of Darby Smart, and the VP of marketplace operations at Poshmark. They stressed the fact that new users come from organic platforms, which is a valuable asset when starting your own company. It’s important to do content discovery to create your own organic platform as a part of satisfying customer experience.

Some key trends we learned at the Summit include:

Building SAS platforms: Statistical Analysis Systems that deal with advanced analytics, multivariate analyses, business intelligence, data management, and predictive analytics are becoming more popular and what people are focusing on basing their platforms on. “We provide a platform to allow certain communities within Pinterest to coordinate and organize content, which was the biggest thing we had to do to expand internationally.”-Pinterest

The Use of Simple and Straightforward Language: Use language to get your point across and let the customer know exactly what the message is. Embrace smarter ways to use the human language. “There’s the capability to get positive feedback in a community. There’s a ton of discovery that happens on the platform”

Customer Experience: Everyone should be obsessed with their customer’s needs. You’re never finished with customer discovery. “Client experience is queen.” -Sephora

Causation vs. Correlation: Correlation doesn’t imply Causation. -Pinterest

Organic Growth vs. Paid Growth: You want to grow your business organically and create an organic platform. Respect your brand and customer needs once your platform goes global. “We were founded for the community. A big reason Darby isn’t named after me is because the brand represents everyone in the community. I’m incredibly protective of our brand and our presence in it and how we credit people who have roles there and how we’re building aspiring talent.” -Darby Smart

Lindsay Gess is a rising senior at Rhodes College and an Associate at Start Co. She can be reached at