The Precious Value Of Great Guidance
All of us have ideas, we all dream, and there are certain configurations of expectations which we apply to our ambitions as well as our diverse life experiences in general. We reach for the stars, with our feet still firmly planted on the ground, but there’s no plan, no trajectory, no forward momentum. At that point we’re still just puzzling, wondering, and that’s OK.
…Until we reach that point where our thought experiment, our meditation, our “hey…what if I…” has actually evolved into a business we want to establish…a startup we want to grow.
The shift from conception to implementation can take longer than expected. Attachment to imagination should never be completely severed, but there has come a point in the process where imagination is able to connect and form a partnership with strategy, goal-setting, and ultimately execution. None of that is possible however and success is definitely not assured when there’s a fundamental lack of support in terms of information, resources, and support systems.
The paradox of the entrepreneur is found in the longing to continue envisioning while needing to slow down for a moment and then shift attention primarily to precise steps. The entrepreneur gets so excited about the life, the process, and the moving parts that it can be overwhelming. Very overwhelming and pressure-defined.
There’s a need for wise guidance to make all the difference in the dialectic between dreaming and doing. What we need is a rest stop along our journey where we can acquire valuable information, receive a tune-up, and get optimized for the road ahead.
I recently sat down with Victoria Yampolsky, President and Founder of The Startup Station.
An educational and consulting firm, its mission is as straightforward as its fearless mastermind: Committed to help founders succeed and get funded faster, with a focus on creating credible financials and valuations for early-stage ventures. Having over 100 individual founders one-on-one and more than 1,000 in the portfolio, The Startup Station’s courses and learning materials have helped founders learn the basics of accounting, valuation, startup financing and financial modeling.
Victoria has quite the story and I asked her not to hold back!
Hi there Victoria. First question: You know I love stories so this is an easy one. How did all of this begin? How did you find the path to the startup world?
“I started on that path of The Startup Station after my previous venture, Vistar Pictures, a film company I put my heart and soul into, had failed spectacularly. I made all the mistakes inexperienced entrepreneurs make — tried to raise too much money, did not validate a product-market fit, did not assemble a good team. It was hard and heart-breaking.”
Ouch. I’ve been there, I feel like a lot of us have even if it’s not talked about as much as it should be! What happened next, did you have any idea?
“Nope. I had no idea what to do next and then purely by chance, or maybe not, because nothing happens without a reason, I met two young talented entrepreneurs who were building a mobile app design and development company. We got along and I began helping them with their business strategy, market positioning, pricing, value proposition, sales strategy. We worked hard together, and I helped them go from from pre-revenue to revenue and get to the point where they needed to scale further. The company still exists today and is my first success story.”
I appreciate you leaning into vulnerability just now. I feel like that’s hard for a lot of us to do, both in the startup world and beyond. It’s also interesting that you were able, after coming face-to-face with that “monster of failure” to make that crucial encounter which more or less revealed your passion and mission.
What else did you learn along the way?
“This experience made me realize that entrepreneurs, just like film creatives, lacked core business and financial expertise, and this held them back from realizing their full potential. I realized that entrepreneurs, just like film creatives, wanted to change the world, that they were brilliant in their area of expertise and were passionate about what they were doing. They just didn’t quite know how to get there, did not think their plans through enough and that led to wrong decisions, wasted time, capital, and often failure.”
Hm….and so the Startup Station was born?
“And so The Startup Station was born! I created this in order to help every startup founder make his or her dream a reality, and ultimately make the world a better place through innovation. There are many elements in building a successful company: a problem that needs a solution, the team, the product, the ability to execute. The last piece is the strategy of how to make your product solve the problem with the help of your team. I focus on making sure that the strategy piece makes sense financially. It’s critical and it can help indirectly with the other pieces as well.”
Innovation is coined so often these days that it’s meaning can occasionally be lost. I’m happy that you’ve identified the outcome of innovation so clearly — where through creating, experimenting, working hard and being mission-driven we can really create all kinds of positive impact.
Can you build on what you do a bit more and offer some insight into why having a clear, realistic baseline and foundation makes all the difference?
“Well what’s even more important in creating a realistic financial baseline is that when you go to market you can react faster to market feedback, make decisions before it’s too late, and capitalize on the trends that can make you successful.
More specifically, I help founders evaluate if they created a financially feasible business plan at the point when they are looking for capital or about to launch. Sometimes when you put everything together, you realize that the pricing and the cost structure don’t make sense from the get-go, or that you project your venture to grow too slowly thus making it an unattractive investment, or you require too much capital than is justified by where you are.
That is something that is easy to correct, but, if not rectified, will keep you from succeeding.”
Why do you think this can sometimes be harder than it has to be?
“People are scared of finance, they don’t understand how to use it to help them build a stronger business, and that is what I am here to change. To empower all founders learn what they need to make their dreams a reality, to change the world, to drive innovation.”
Indeed! Well…now’s your opportunity to inform the readers of The Monday Moment of any new and exciting things going on with Startup Station!
“Haha. Well as of February 6th we’ve begun offering WEEKLY virtual office hours where anyone can ask me any questions related to fundraising, investor search, valuation, financial modeling and startup financing.
In addition to that, if you sign up for the Startup Station mailing list you can receive a FREE Investor Search Startup Fundraising Guide which outlines six essential investor search strategies and includes twenty four resources.
There’s even a special section for female founders! It also comes equipped with two databases of both U.S and European VC funds.”
Awesome. How can the people find you?
“We’re all over the place! Feel free to go to our website and visit us on social media!”
We will fail, multiple times, it is simply unavoidable. What we do with failure is, much like how we react to unpredictability and unfairness, the key differentiator in what the ultimate outcome will be. We can rise above so much and are capable of much more than the inner-critic typically informs us of. There is no shame in admitting we need assistance, accessing it, and utilizing this method to transform our ideas and creations into tangible realities.
Very little is linear, still less is written in stone, and you are capable of great things.
Get out there and tell your story…Happy Monday.