Upcoming Webinar: Startup Growth Lessons from Tara Spalding, a Seasoned Incubator

Tara Spalding will join Dan Woods on an Early Adopter Research Webinar at 1pm ET on March 12, 2021 to discuss her theory of how to make enterprise startups work.

Spalding is managing director at BoomStartup Accelerator, and founder of Hen House Ventures. She has held senior marketing positions at several companies including SugarCRM.

I had a fascinating conversation with Tara Spalding about what she’s learned about building business that we will discuss more fully in the webinar.

Here are some of her ideas. You can find her full bio at the end of this article.

Silicon Valley Mindset

Spalding is based in Utah which has a far different mindset from Silicon Valley startups.

Up and down 101, the mantra is growth, growth, growth.

In Utah, the goal is to build as lean as possible, testing out hypotheses as you go, and making sure you have a balanced set of victories. The Business Model Canvas is often used to organize the big picture and determine the allocation of resources.

“Because funding is scarce in Utah compared to the coasts, going too far down the wrong path can be too costly since it’s often the founders bootstrapping the business creation. When there’s less support, there’s more scrutiny on product market fit and market need validation.”

In the webinar, Spalding will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches.

Business Creation Mechanics

Spalding sees a top down approach to startups as working well, especially in the enterprise software space, where she has spent her career.

Instead of seeking to productize an innovation, she recommends starting with a space that interests you, and then determine what’s missing. Get to know the customers intimately by running many iterations of hypothesis testing before going big on building any product, service, or innovation. If you do this, you have a much better chance at rapid adoption with paying customers.

“The best founders are those who have first hand knowledge of what their ideal customer’s problem is, and even better, the problem’s root cause. These founders empathize with their future customers, and can lead a direct and expedited path to deliver value vs. innovation. These founders are also often successful because they not only have a keen sense of their ideal customer base, they also have a keen sense for sales channel development, partnerships, and even funding sources.”

She points out that VCs are still in love with enterprise software, having written checks for $30 billion in investment in 2019 and probably more in 2020.

The Big Win: Growth and Category Strategy

When founders really know the buyer, they can grow quickly. First they show they have a business, a kitchen gadget everyone needs. The big win comes from creating a category supported by a platform that is made up of a bunch of integrated kitchen gadgets.

“Investors will quickly walk away from founders who are creating a new category with their unproven innovation and business. It’s the easiest way to kill a deal. However, investors will pay attention to startups that have figured out a new widget that sits nicely in a growing sector, that’s being rapidly embraced by a growing market base. And after coming up with several, compatible widgets, where the business model, innovation, and packaging delivers more value by being combined, only then can a company begin carving out a category.”

Often, Spalding points out that the hard part is recognizing that your product is for an organization, not just a few personas. In addition, she warns to look out for making sure you spend enough time integrating with all the existing systems that are relevant to your product, something that is often far harder than it should be.

Sign up for the webinar at this link.


Tara Spalding’s Bio

Tara Spalding is Managing Director of BoomStartup Accelerator. BoomStartup is an accelerator and mentorship-driven angel-stage investment program for startups. It operates as an online technology-driven accelerator, providing entrepreneurs a custom business plan including business maturity guidance, investment preparation, and capital structuring relevant to growth, and investment strategies as well as a curated marketplace for services. Tara is also the founder of Hen House Ventures, an early stage incubator that helps tech companies rapidly scale when entering massive markets, and is also on the board of trustees for VentureCapital.org. Tara is the recipient of 2020 Utah Business 30 Women to Watch award.

Tara began her high-tech career in Silicon Valley when she taught herself to code software and became the first employee, and eventually VP of marketing at industry leader, SugarCRM. Her Silicon Valley experience included roles as CMO at GroundWork Open Source, VP marketing at Magnet Systems, and co-founder and CPO at BenchPick. Tara received her bachelors from University of Colorado, Boulder.