Highlights of #StartupGrind Global Conference 2017

Event Reflections

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Startup Grind Conference

Original Post
Lulu Wang on Medium

Thanks to Women Who Code (WWCode), a global non-profit organization dedicated to inspire women to excel in technology careers, I got the opportunity to attend Startup Grind Global Conference 2017 in Redwood City, California at the Fox Theater. This two-day conference boasted “5,000 founders and investors, more than 40 keynote and fireside sessions, and over 50 exhibiting startups”. Keynote speakers including Co-Founder and CEO of Stripe Patrick Collison, Co-Founder and CEO of WhatsApp Jan Koum, Ben Horowitz, Co-Founding Partner of Andreessen Horowitz, and Fei-Fei Li, Co-lead of Machine Learning Group, Google Cloud shared insights on the current climate and trends in the startup world.

Speaker sessions took place at the main stage as well as three breakout stages: Founder Stage, VC/Q&A Stage, Workshop Stage. Here are the key takeaways from the sessions I attended:

Takeaways from Main Stage:

  1. Intelligent Growth: Finding & Testing Your Marketing Channels - by Hiten Shah, Co-founder of Kissmetrics

Ask these three questions: Who are your target customers? Where do they hangout? How do you engage them?



2. Starting up with heart -by Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder and CEO of Chobani


  • Doing and be in motion is better than sitting there and wondering
  • “ Everyday I have one quality control, would my mom be ok with this”
  • Build the culture
  • internal incubator for new ideas/products
  • share and get involved
  • keep it simple
  • If you do it right, you can help people & change their lives

3. The Business of Dating, Sean Rad, Founder of Tinder


  • 5 year and long term goal?- AI as an enabler to innovate the way people meet
  • improve relevance, filtering noise, meaningful relationship as a reward
  • Think in global context, hard thing to do but rewarding
  • Empathy for your users
  • Market is right for disruption
  • Great companies are diverse at their core, promote diversity and make it a priority

4. Culture and revolution, Ben Horowitz, Co-Founding Partner of Andreessen Horowitz, Author of The Hard Thing About Hard Things


culture is built through revolution, not perks

  • Keep what works
  • Create shocking rules
  • Incorporate other cultures
  • Make decisions that demonstrate priorities


5. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, by Nir Eyal, Author, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Product


  • Engage with users, product engagement is more important than growth
  • Through Hooks, products can increase user engagement.
  • 4 steps of hooks:

*Trigger (The actuator of a behavior, both external and internal)

*Action(simple action with big reward, motivation is the energy for action,

*Habit —( the more you do, the more likely and easier you do)

*Reward (create wanting in the user)

*Investment (the user is asked to do bit of work)

6. Invent the Future You Want, by Vinod Khosla, Founder of Khosla Ventures


  • willing to take risks,do something unknown, stretch yourself, be open minded
  • Pick something you love, so you don’t give up easily, be flexible with your tactics
  • companies become the people they hire
  • Learn quickly, assemble diverse talents
  • How the person thinks matters
  • Advice to grow: culture, questions many things
  • Build an awesome team, a diverse team don’t have to agree with the founder, people who challenge, critically push you
  • Understand why investors don’t invest, which is a big learning experience
  • Tech in future: AI+ robotics, healthcare, and Fin tech, but all areas can be innovated
  • Hire great people even they are not relevant immediately

7. Work Sucks(but it shouldn’t), by Chris O’Neill, CEO of Evernote



  • Do things uncomfortably excited about
  • Go deeper- focus on one thing
  • Write down goals, Objectives and Key Results (OKR) is a popular technique for setting and communicating goals and results in organizations. Its main goal is to connect company, team and personal objectives to measurable results, making people move together in right direction.

8. State of the Art of Artificial Intelligence: What is Real Today, Will be Tomorrow and Should be in the Future, by Fei-Fei Li, Co-lead of Google Cloud, Machine Learning Group


  • her vision is to democratize artificial intelligence, an important technology benefits the entire humanity, so shouldn’t be in the hand of a few privileged and elite
  • focus on the problem trying to solve, develop empathetic understanding about the problem, and look into data
  • ask her students to take away the romance out if they want to do startups, seek guidance and mentorship

9. Mission Driven: Put Purpose First at Your Startup, by Justin Rosenstein, Co-founder of Asana

*Build products that solve problems and have impact
*Have the clarity of the sense of purpose


10. Less is More: The Future is Short Form Entertainment, by Alex Chung, Co-founder&CEO of GIPHY


  • The Future is Short Form Entertainment
  • Attention span is declining, but positive side is new forms of content, e.g. Vine, giphy
  • Content producers create short form content for time gaps
  • medium shifted from ad platform to subscription platform
  • Stay on top of trend, look beyond the surface
  • Execution >idea

11. Charting a Global Course through User Driven Growth,by Noam Bardin, Founder &CEO of Waze


  • Outsmart the traffic together
  • Waze Carpool is an extension of their vision
  • Mindset and tools for sharing have been paved by sharing economy companies such as Uber, Airbnb, right timing
  • Stay lean and move fast

12. WhatsApp: Our Road to 1B Users, by Jay Koum, Co-Founder &CEO of WhatsApp


  • Important to have someone for support
  • Pivoted and started to solve a problem for people and then whatsapp started to take off
  • no pitchdeck, no press, no marketing campaigns, so no distractions & full focus on product performance and customer experience

Takeaways from VC Stage:

1. How to Succeed at Fundraising from Seed to Scale, by Jeff Richards, Managing Partner, GGV Ventures

-Seed funding stage:


-series A stage:

Key: Team/Market/Business Model

do: understand the market

Don't : believe the hype (be rational and realistic)

-Series B stage:


General tips:

  • Relationships matter
  • Make it easy
  • Get introduced to investors by a mutual friend
  • ask for help, get mentors

2. Q&A with Y Combinator, Justin Kan (twitter@justinkan), Partner of Y Combinator

  • Spread ideas and Get feedback with your ideas
  • Demonstrate value: Teach you something quickly (do your homework and add value )
  • He’s excited about companies using Machine learning, customer facing companies

3. What Makes a Great VC Pitch, Rebecca Kaden @Rebeccak46, Partner of Maveron (customer-only VC)


  • Pitching to the right audience
  • Start with an investment thesis: What are you doing and why it matters
  • Put your team upfront, why are you the best person to build it- founder market fit, who's around you
  • Marry stories and stats
  • Don't bury the bad stuff- take the tough stuff head on
  • Anticipate the questions
  • Manage the meeting

Qualities of founders:

  • See the big picture, but operates simultaneously
  • Self awareness
  • Optimize your time

On Brand building:

Share and be transparent

On Growth strategy:

apply k factor (In viral marketing, the K-factor can be used to describe the growth rate of websites, apps, or a customer base.)

4. The 5 Keys to Hitting Escape Velocity, by Ann Miura-Ko, Co-founder of Floodgate


Takeaway from Workshop Stage:

1. Tomorrow Today: How to Think Exponentially, by Pascal Finette, Vice President, Startup Solutions & Entrepreneurship Chair of Singularity University


  • Identify and then cross the chasm between early adopters and early majority
  • Business becomes digital- cost of replication and duplication becomes zero
  • Look at the big picture. Think and act big!
  • Be unreasonable !


Slides available here: https://hello.finette.com/

Finally, here’s the gist:

  • the journey of building a successful startup is a tough one full of ups and downs(mostly downs)
  • persist and focus on users, keep pivoting till you solve problems for users
  • make decisions on what’s good, and follow the option has more positives
  • keep lean and move fast
  • build a diverse team and create motivating culture
  • have a long term vision and big picture, but need to execute and take actions
  • build partnerships and seek mentorship
  • keep learning and growing

Again, thank you Startup Grind, WWCode, and awesome speakers and entrepreurs for a wonderful learning experience in Sillcon Valley, the capital of innovations and startup dreams!

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