Introducing Founder Scaling

We’ve helped over 250 companies scale their message to the world.

Now we are helping our founders scale themselves.

VSC is announcing a new partnership with Dane Holewinski, a former founder turned executive coach who works with startup CEOs to navigate the intense pressure, complexity, and opportunity of building a rapidly growing company.

What our clients can expect:

  • Startup CEO 360 – independent assessment of your strengths and areas for development across 16 Startup CEO Competencies
  • Mini projects that will deliver a clear development plan for elevating your skills in a few short weeks
  • Clarity, focus and confidence for your executive team
  • An initial complimentary coaching consultation – request at stacy@vscconsulting.com

Prior to coaching, Dane spent over a decade building companies in Silicon Valley including VSC partner Greystripe which sold to Conversant in 2015.

What Dane’s clients are saying…

I turned to Dane after hearing glowing recommendations from a number of entrepreneurs I trust. They were spot on. As a former venture-backed startup founder himself, Dane helped guide me through the noise and isolate the signal so I could execute from a place of clarity, confidence and strength. Not only am I a better CEO for working with Dane, I am a better human – more balanced, happy and clear than ever before. I recommend Dane to any CEO looking to gain a competitive edge.

– Dale Fox, Co-Founder & CEO, Tribogenics

Dane helped me shift mindsets from ‘building great products’ to ‘building a great company’ by uncovering and unlocking patterns that were keeping me from reaching my full potential as a leader and person. Our work together allowed me to find the space to be more strategic, build a powerful exec team, delegate and build the foundation for a world-class company all while being less stressed, healthier and happier.

– Co-Founder & CEO, Jonathan Matus, Zendrive

Intrigued? Request a complimentary coaching consultation at stacy@vscconsulting.com.

Startup Storytelling with Y-Combinator Partner Kat Mañalac | VSC Freestyle

We invited Kat Mañalac from Y-Combinator to our office to share her thoughts on startup storytelling, media outreach, Silicon Valley culture and more.

Kat is a Partner and the Director of Outreach at Y Combinator. Her focus is on finding great entrepreneurs for the Y Combinator program, and has developed programs like YC Hacks and helped take YC’s Startup School global.

Follow our YouTube Channel Here: VSC Freestyle

A PR Crisis is a Rite of Passage. Here’s How to Deal With It.

We’re used to living with natural disasters in the Bay Area – and as PR people here, we see our share of PR disasters. Everywhere you look, companies are scrambling to attend to the latest employee misstep, leaked memo, tone deaf Tweet or corporate policy gone Uber wrong.

 

Over the last 15 years, we’ve guided my clients through every imaginable kind of crisis – from Senate inquiries and sexual harassment claims, to defective products, management shuffles and layoffs, leaked acquisition talks, broken product embargoes and even government bans.

 

Every successful business encounters a crisis (or several). If you’re faced with one, you’ll want experts and multiple confidantes to provide guidance through every step. The key to winning in a crisis revolves around a few key steps: preparation, speed of response, empathy towards those impacted by the crisis, transparency and business corrections.

But there’s one thing to make absolutely clear: PR Crisis equals Business Crisis. Whether small or explosive, they’re often simplified by the outside world as ‘PR problems,’ but that’s bullshit. They are business problems that need to be solved with business changes not PR responses.

 

An incredible PR team can definitely help you navigate a crisis, but that doesn’t solve the underlying issue. If the business, company culture or technology don’t evolve or create a more transparent environment, then you’re in for a long road.

So what happens when you do find yourself in one of those crisis scenarios. First, assess the damage….what threat level are you operating at?:

 

Level 1 – A few customer complaints have come through via email and/or social.

 

  • Action: Deal with the issue as quickly as possible. Either remedy the problem, refund the customer, or explain that you’re working on the issue…and then work on it!

    Show contrition. Fix the problem quickly.

Level 2 – The media has started asking questions about a particular problem.

 

  • Action: Assess the situation. Figure out how you will communicate what you are doing to fix the issue or clarify the situation.

    Don’t ignore the press. Ignoring means you have something to hide.

Level 3 – Media is now publishing stories about the issue.

  • Action: Analyze the press coverage. Check into the facts and understand if the problem is real. Deal with the problem – and then deal with the media.

    If the problem is fixed or being fixed, immediately contact the journalist or outlet and explain the situation and what is being done to fix it. If more than two days go by and the journalist or their boss (the editors) don’t respond, leave a comment in the comment section of the article.

Inform your stakeholders and employees. Let them know what’s going on before they tell you.  And tell them what your plan is to solve it.

Level 4– Viral spread of your crisis.

  • Action: Issue an official statement – one from the company to the press, and then a personal one that is distributed across relevant channels.Note that if you are a consumer product, and the crisis is a back-end business issue such as an employee lawsuit, there is no need to inform end consumers via social media. However you should issue a statement to all media covering the situation.

Level 5 – Extreme external pressure from investors, government inquiries and calls for regime change

 

  • Action: Interestingly enough, in the highest pressure situations, there is almost a sense of calm that comes over a good crisis expert. Almost an excitement of knowing what’s about to happen and predict it as it unfolds.It’s a time when I hear the lyrics of Sound of Silence overtake me with the word ‘Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gFnCwVqbWs 

A good Level 5 requires a few things:

  • Daily communication with your Board of Directors and PR counsel
  • Having a positive and welcoming disposition with government bodies or authorities (if they’re involved)The good news: depending on the severity of the issue, after the initial PR splash, governments often move slow. Authorities may make a lot of noise when they investigate an issue, but like a bad health diagnosis – they’ll freak out initially, but then get used to the new reality.
  • External monitoring of velocity of movements like #DeleteUber

Your final step, when the storm has passed, is to learn from your experience and do a post-crisis evaluation. Ask yourself what the company learned from this? What processes could have been put in place to avert or minimize it? How can the company fix its problems to avoid such a crisis in the future. If you expect ongoing crisis as a result of just the business you are in, you must accept the new reality and prepare your stakeholders for this as your business continues to grow.

Some additional resources when faced with a crisis:

 

Your first steps are the most critical

Regardless of the crisis, there are some universal steps to take. Media intelligence company Meltwater includes some of these best practices in their 10 Steps to Managing a PR Crisis:

 

  • Assemble & brief your Crisis Team: these are the execs, PR and social media leads, and customer-facing employees who will be on the front lines. Give them the status along with timelines and next steps on how/if/when they should communicate externally.
  • Get the full story: don’t react until you know those details. Ask a ton of questions. Determine how your response will impact your overall business.
  • Listen and watch: monitor social channels, your online community and the news media. What’s the noise level? You’ll be able to gauge how significant the crisis is by the size of the conversation.
  • Decide on your channels: depending on the situation and messaging you’ve created, figure out which medium(s) will be your best bet for delivery – company blog, social, press release distributed over a newswire, via a select reporter or a group of them, etc.

Your social gameplan

 

Thinking through your social media communication plan specifically is critical. Social monitoring company Hootsuite recommends to:

 

“Outline the exact steps everyone should take on social media—from top executives to the most junior employees. Include a list of who should be contacted at each stage of a potential crisis, and provide guidelines for how all employees are expected to communicate on social media.”

 

And they advise to act fast:

 

“Not using the real-time nature of social media to your advantage is where many companies stumble in a crisis. Social media offers a public forum to immediately acknowledge the situation while you work on fine tuning more in-depth communication… A simple message from a company acknowledging the issue and letting people know that more information is coming soon can help contain the negative sentiment around an issue and prevent it from spiraling out of control.”

 

Another bright light here: social media movements lose steam. They’ll trend for a day and two and then most likely, people will be on to the next crisis. Why? People have short attention spans.

 

This is why two of the most important groups to cater to are your Board and your team. Most companies and leaders understand issues will occur and are more interested in your response and your open line of communication.

 

According to Fortune: “Don’t forget about your employees. In a crisis, it’s common to focus on brand and trying to make sure that not too much external damage is done. But that crisis also has a huge impact on your own people—many of whom have had their faith shaken in their company’s values and are afraid for their own livelihoods.”

 

Meanwhile, be careful what you email your teams. Those memos are often leaked. Don’t write anything that you wouldn’t want to see published in Techcrunch.

Making news, not faking news

These are uncertain times, but we’re intent on doing what we always do – help entrepreneurs break out and tell their stories.

With that in mind, we’ve chosen a few principles to guide us.

  • In business as in life, diversity is a competitive advantage.
  • Immigration fuels innovation.
  • Despite our social feeds, it’s a historically good time to be alive.

Regardless of global trends, we’re grateful to our companies and recognize their work including eight exits in the past year.

WE JUST HIRED SEAN SPICER

Ok that’s fake news…but we did hire two execs that actually know what they’re doing.

We boosted our team with the addition of marketing and communication pros Archie Chattha and Julia Konstantinovsky.

Check out the PR Week story here.

RANKED TOP PLACES TO WORK

According to CareerCast, PR was rated as the 6th most stressful job. Yes, it may all look like fun and games, but Silicon Valley is a competitive place and the stakes are high.

This is why we take culture seriously and we’re proud that PRNews recognized us as one of the top places to work in our industry.

WARENESS

In 2013, we debuted Wareness, a marketing studio and seed investment fund devoted to helping entrepreneurs in hardware and connected devices. We’re proud to report that we have successfully launched 18 companies, including Navdy, Moov, goTenna, Osmo and Teforia – with a combined $120M in sales.
Now our doors are open to companies specializing in AI, robotics and computer vision.  Read more about it in TechCrunch.

We are already building brands in these focus areas – with clients like H2O.ai (open source machine learning), Nanit (computer vision & AI-enabled baby monitor), Zume Pizza (automating pie creation, shown above), and API.ai (speech AI interface, acquired by Google). And we’re making strides in the New Year, as three of our clients have made it to the CB Insights AI100 list.

GIVING BACK

We continue to dedicate ourselves to important organizations and causes that serve our community, locally and internationally.

Here’s a list of organizations we supported last year:

FREESTYLE

Interesting people who sat down with us:

MORE AWESOMENESS

Osmo was recognized as one of the most innovative toys for early school-aged kids

On demand massage app Soothe was featured as one of Ellen’s coveted Mother’s Day Giveaways

Leading fashion marketplace Poshmark expanded into men’s and kid’s categories

b8ta’s expansion spurred the question: Can Technology Save Brick and Mortar?

Lego-drone Flybrix was cited as one of the 14 Coolest Toys for the Holiday Season

Candy-bar-size goTenna turns phones into walkie-talkies and is featured as a must-have in any modern explorer’s survival kit

Legacy Republic named one of the “5 Modern Ways to Save Your Mementos

Spotify-backed Soundtrack Your Brand brings music to McDonalds in global partnership

Nanit was featured as a nursery must-have, and named by Business Insider as one of the top 27 startups of 2016

Nearpod’s education software, used in 10,000 US schools, launched virtual reality lessons

E-commerce fraud protector Signifyd was named to the Forbes Fintech50 for 2016

Mobile payments tech company Ezetap was named as one of the top 50 Disruptors of 2016

Case Study: MightyTV was one of the biggest app launches of 2016

Flywheel wins Best Travel and Hospitality PR Campaign of the Year.

Since no one actually reads any full article, we are rewarding the first five people who email here. You are entitled to a complimentary bottle of VSC Liquid Courage Wine.

Innovation with impact: Two of Our Clients Named to Fast Company’s Most Innovative List

Congratulations are in order for our clients Osmo and SirionLabs, which were selected for Fast Company’s World’s Most Innovative Companies of 2017.

This annual list is assembled by Fast Company writers and editors, who surveyed thousands of enterprises around the world and identified the companies with the most impact on the broader business world, industry and culture.

We have to agree – these companies have had tremendous impact on their respective fields. And for us, it’s awesome validation of our work in AI, automation and computer vision through our Wareness studio

Topping the Education list is Osmo, an award-winning game system that uses augmented reality (AR) and computer vision to change how kids interact with their iPads, opening it up to hands-on play. Co-founders Pramod Sharma and Jérôme Scholler, and Head of Marketing & Community Karen O’Dell, have been instrumental in building the “new play movement,” one that introduces a dimension of digital play where kids use their hands to draw and play, boosting fine motor skills and creativity. Fascinating and fun for kids, and a sigh of relief for parents concerned with mindless screentime zombifying their kids.

SirionLabs, a SaaS platform that automates the fulfillment of complex contracts, was named as one of India’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies.

Founded in 2012, our clients Ajay Agrawal (CEO), Claude Marais (President), and Indus Khaitan (CMO) have built SirionLabs into a company now recognized for reinventing the way enterprises increase the value of their complex services agreements, while reducing risk and slashing inefficiencies. SirionLabs’ technology combines contract management with performance, financial, risk, and relationship management in order to drive higher value in strategic relationships for enterprises. Sirion tracks contracts with over $3 billion in total value and has delivered hard savings of over $44.2M for its customers over the period of a year.

Congrats to Osmo and SirionLabs – we are excited to watch your innovations impact the world.

Venturing Into New Frontiers: Wareness Expands Into Artificial Intelligence, Automation, Robotics and Computer Vision

Just a little over three years ago, we set up the Wareness.io shop. It was then – and remains today – a unique, new breed of marketing consultancy meets seed investment fund, dedicated to helping entrepreneurs in hardware and connected devices get the counsel and support they need to go to market.

 

Over the course of those three years, we have had the pleasure of working with clients across a breadth of industries, including automotive tech (Navdy), education (Osmo), fintech (Coin), retail (b8ta), even food and beverage tech (Teforia). So far, we’ve invested in 14 companies, our campaigns have helped generate over $120 million in direct-to-consumer revenue, and our portfolio companies have achieved $200 million of follow-on funding.

 

Now we’re ready to expand into new frontiers – opening our doors to companies specializing in AI/automation and computer vision. These are exciting, dynamic new industries, and we’re excited to partner with the next generation of innovators making magic. We’ve already started to help brands build momentum, like API.ai (acquired by Google), Moov and Zume Pizza in AI/automation, and Nanit and Osmo in computer vision.

 

We’re actively investing in seed and Series A rounds ranging from $25,000 to $50,000. The capital is being allocated from the previously announced $6 million fund, with additional capital available from Wareness’ network of angel and institutional investment partners. Some co-investments to-date include Accel, Andreessen Horowitz, BBG Ventures, Bloomberg Beta, Brooklyn Bridge, Comcast Ventures, Eniac Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Female Founders Fund, Flextronics, Forerunner Ventures, Formation 8, FirstMark, First Round Capital, K9 Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Mayfield Fund, Promus Capital, Qualcomm Ventures, RedPoint Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Sherpa Capital, Sierra Ventures, SV Angel, Spark Capital, SoftTech VC, Social Capital, SignalFire, Translink Capital, RRE Ventures, TriplePoint Capital, and Upfront Ventures. We have also worked with incubators and accelerators such as Y Combinator, Funders Club, Ludlow Ventures, NFX, Expa, Lemnos Labs, Techstars and Highway 1.

 

From our CEO Vijay: “Communications, consulting and investments are core to how our venture partners guide their companies, so it made sense for us to co-invest, as the partner responsible for their media and consumer brand perception. Bottom line: we put our money where our mouth is.”

 

We’re looking to partner with innovative companies in AI, automation, computer vision and hardware. Reach out if you’d like to work with us!

And check out more information here from our story in TechCrunch: https://techcrunch.com/2017/01/18/wareness-expands/

15 Years and 800 Steps Down the Street – Two Friends Join Forces Again

I had the pleasure of working with Archie and Julia starting in 2001at Metreon, a futuristic entertainment center located in SF’s developing SOMA district. It was the first showcase destination for emerging tech, hot gadgets, and digital entertainment experiences in a brand new, non-traditional physical retail location.

 

2001 was a crazy time and San Francisco was a startup wasteland, having shed thousands of jobs as the web 1.0 bubble burst in a big way. Sony’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. It offered a jolt to the city and set to create a technical hub in the South of Market district, which was primarily warehouses and nightclubs.

 

Archie and Julia were all part of the team that put Metreon on the map and San Francisco back in effect from an innovation and entertainment perspective.  The movement dipped into various segments from tech hackathons (now commonplace), video game launches, major movie premieres, and Billboard Top 10 music performers.  Working together with VSC (Metreon’s PR agency of record), the team also created a Mann’s Chinese Theatre tribute for Gaming, known as the Walk of Game, to honor gaming icons such as Nolan Bushnell,  Pong,  and Super Mario, among others.

Fifteen years and 200+ clients later, VSC is still in SOMA just a few blocks from Metreon. SOMA is a changed place. It is now the Sunset Boulevard of startups. Hundreds exist here and the neighborhood is one of the most bustling and thriving business districts in the world.

 

So it feels full circle to welcome these two back. Since our time working together, they’ve amassed a depth of experience that any agency would kill for. Now, they’re bringing it back home to VSC.

 

Archie joins us as Partner and Vice President of Networks, and helps us introduce a new kind of integrated service into our mix. She’ll focus on helping our clients make strategic business connections, leveraging her network to connect them with Silicon Valley influencers and entrepreneurs. In addition to her two decades of marketing and brand development experience, Archie also offers VSC her unique perspective as a startup angel investor and real estate developer. Plus the insight she will be able to give our partners about branding, franchises, licensing and retail distribution channels is unparalleled.  Archie is also an active philanthropist, works with several amazing organizations and is a founding member of Eden, Utah-based entrepreneurial community, Summit Powder Mountain.

 

Julia is our new Director of Client Strategy. After Metreon, she joined Atomic PR, an agency that specialized early in infusing data and analytics into PR strategy. There she worked with some genre-defining tech brands in both consumer and enterprise – and saw the practice of PR shift and change through the advent of social media, infographics and data, the explosion of smartphone and app use, all across economic upswings and downturns. Advancing from account management into a role as vice president shaped both her client and business management skills, and then a move to an operations position as Atomic was absorbed by global PR firm Grayling, strengthened her experience in marketing, training & development, budgeting and team utilization. We are excited to have her bring that experience to VSC where she’ll assist account with planning, mentorship and guide marketing strategy.

 

We’re really looking forward to this next chapter opening. Speaking of which – our door’s always open, so come by next time you find yourself in SOMA.

 

Read the full press release here: http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=206311