Founding a Startup: What Everyone Ought To Know

Kate Bradley Chernis is the founder of Lately, an AI-powered social media marketing company. She wasn’t always a marketing guru, in fact she started out as an XM Radio DJ. But she wasn’t feeling fulfilled in the radio industry. Kate was tired of not getting credit for her work and felt really frustrated. She moved to another company but was having the same kind of problems. Kate saw the lack of praise and raises, not being listened to, and being devalued as her own failure. Then, one day, Kate said her father lovingly shook her by the shoulders and told her “you can’t work for other people and there’s no shame in that.” Kate’s boyfriend at the time, who is now her husband, recommended she read Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start and the rest is history.



Don’t Make a Plan to Found a Startup, Just Get Started

Kate recalls that somewhere in the first chapter of The Art of the Startthat Kawasaki’s advice to readers is: “don’t make a plan, just get started.” The next day, Kate went to lunch with some guys who had come to deliver a product for her work. Unbeknownst to Kate, they were angel investors and gave her $50,000 to start her first company. Her first company was a music company that propelled her into the world of marketing. Kate found herself consulting for Walmart on behalf of the National Disability Institute. Kate took a simple spreadsheet organization system to get the program on track and turned it into 130% ROI, year over year, for 3 years.

Lately is Born

A few years later, Steve Blood, an angel investor and a friend of Kate’s, kept asking her about automating her spreadsheets. Kate was resistant at first. She couldn’t imagine the vision and didn’t have the $25,000 to front for the project. Steve saw the potential in Kate’s system, spent $25,000 out of his own pocket, and brought in a designer to build the blueprints. Kate finally saw the vision and that designer is now Kate’s chief product officer.

Part of Kate’s role consulting for Walmart was to exploit social media. She took content such as blogs, podcasts, and press releases and combed through them adding links and making social posts out of each sentence to drive traffic back to the website, by hand. Kate was talking with Steve and her designer, and they told her how much easier it would be to automate that process. Now, Kate uses artificial intelligence to turn one piece of content in to dozens of amazing social posts.

Startup Funding

“Don’t raise it if you don’t have to…it all depends on the game you want to play.” Kate made a nice living with the business she had, but she says, “that’s not the game I’m playing.” Kate says that you’ve got to have “the startup mentality, the ability to bet on the horse with the least odds.” There are two choices and you have to pick whichever one is “less worse” for you:

Not knowing when the next paycheck is going to come.

or

Working for someone you don’t love working for.

Simple Marketing

Companies right now spend $3.1 billion on remedial writing training. Lack of writing skills is impacting internal and external communication. Internal being emails, Slack…etc. External is more impactful because you communicate with customers through sales and marketing to build trust. Kate says that “marketing hasn’t changed since they were marketing the wheel.” These are the three ingredients she says are necessary for good marketing:

  1. Organization
  2. Good Writing
  3. Chutzpah

Word Choice and the Golden Rule

Kate looks at how her own staff is writing and how they can do better. One of Kate’s writing pet peeves is the phrase “check out” as in “check out my blog, check out my podcast.” She says that it means nothing and is a “lazy, vapid phrase that doesn’t compel anybody.” Kate says that when it comes to word choice, she believes in the ‘golden rule’, doing unto others as you would want done to you. “Give me what you would want,” says Kate. Help the reader understand what’s behind that link.

Instead of:

Check out our building guide.

Use:

Learn how to keep your building up to code through this guide. 

Kate says that the simple change of words leads the reader to click on the link and find out how that guide is going to help them.

Lately

“I believe in the power of writing and the power of the human being.” Kate shares that there are a lot of tools, automation, and artificial intelligence in marketing but the most important thing to remember is that marketing can never be without a human being. “Marketing runs on emotion. Emotion is what makes us trust you and give you money.” She also says that, “you can’t take the human out of that and let the robots do all of the work, but you can let the robots help you.” That’s what Kate is doing at Lately. Their AI takes content like blog posts and podcasts and turns them into dozens of great social posts. She says that 60-80% of those come out really great but, “all of them require your eyeball…you better read them,” because they don’t always come out perfectly. A word might be the incorrect spelling or the post just needs a little personal touch.

It takes 12 minutes on average to create a social post, so Kate is helping people get there faster but keeping that human element in-tact. She wants to help her customers, everyone from small entrepreneurs and spas to banks and nonprofits, get better at marketing through using Lately’s tools. Kate says that Lately has also been successful with their enterprise clients because they “didn’t make a product for enterprise, we just made a product for humans.”

To the Women Out There

Kate’s advice to women entrepreneurs: “Entrepreneurship is possible. You can do this from wherever you come. You don’t have to be perfect.” 

Image: Depositphotos.com

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