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6 lessons that can improve your startup, in less than 6 minutes

From drones to product design, Big Data to software development — our Driven series runs the gamut of technology topics. We’ve been lucky to hear over 600 industry experts — from Fortune 500 companies to unicorn startups — speak about everything from raising capital to recruiting top talent. Here’s the tl;dr on some of the best takeaways we’ve heard to date:

A chat that can help your team succeed

A famous Google study found that empathy was the number one driver of successful teams. The same applies to fully remote teams, says Trello VP of Product Justin Gallagher — but distance can make empathy a lot harder to cultivate. Take away co-location, and there’s a lot less room for the type of interaction that occurs organically when huddled around a whiteboard or on a coffee run. So Trello decided the best way to cultivate empathy was to simply get intentional about it. They invented a concept called “Mr. Rogers”, pairing up randomly selected individuals for 15 minute video chats. No itinerary, no end-goal, just a chance to get to know a fellow colleague. What started as a potentially cheesy idea has taken off: teammates organize games to play together during their chats, meet up if they’re in the same city, and share write-ups of the cool things they’ve learned about their peers with the rest of the company. Trello’s found that groups of 4 to 6 are the perfect number for this exercise: if someone is sick and can’t make a meeting, or isn’t totally comfortable with the idea of a 1:1 with a stranger, the meeting won’t be too heavily affected.

Watch Justin’s full talk here:

A document to ensure you hit your crowdfunding goal

Eight Sleep’s 2015 crowdfunding campaign resulted in a tremendous 8,000 unit pre-orders and $1.5 million in revenue. The key to their success was spending three months preparing every aspect of the campaign before it launched. Here’s what their launch preparation plan looked like:

Eight Sleep tracked progress by weekly segment and divided the preparation into two phases: researching and determining the best strategies for platform, distribution, and messaging for their target audience, and using all that research to prepare the assets they needed for a successful campaign.

Co-founders Alexandra Zatarain and Matteo Franceschetti provide the detailed Eight Sleep crowdfunding strategy :

A fundraising trick that anyone can implement

“Pitching is a skill just like anything else: the amount of time you put in, the practice, is really what makes you succeed.” — Greg Marsh, Founder & CEO of KeyMe

Whenever an investor passes on KeyMe, Greg asks for a few minutes of their time, so he can understand what their concerns are. He uses the feedback as opportunity to improve his pitch for next time. He credits this simple practice with being the single most impactful factor in KeyMe’s pitch and fundraising success.

Read more fundraising tips from Greg here.

A way to beat the tech giants when building a company

“When there are multiple 800 pound gorillas in your industry, you need to position away from them.” — Matt Turck, Managing Director at FirstMark Capital

Market positioning is a crucial consideration for early startups. Tech giants like Google and Amazon have an imposing advantage when it comes to building products across a horizontal market: they have the clout, talent and money to beat out smaller competitors. The obvious solution is to zig when the giants zag, by focusing on pursuing a niche vertical market that may not be worth a big company’s efforts. Since giants are largely focused on B2C, one of the easiest ways to avoid them is by going after enterprise. For AI startup Hyperscience that meant positioning their broad technology as a solution to the complex, specific business problem of data processing, particularly amongst Fortune 1000 companies with large datasets.

Watch the full talk with Hyperscience:

A call that will close your top job candidate

Instead of having the recruiter make the offer call, Gusto gathers everyone who interviewed the candidate in the room, to make the offer as a group. They start the call as a celebration, with applause and cheering, then go around one by one, each person sharing a few sentences about why they personally are excited to work with that particular candidate. It may sound a bit awkward, but there’s value in this approach: by the time the group disbands so the recruiter can discuss details with the candidate, your team has made the candidate feel special, and therefore more excited about accepting an offer from your company.

More tips on recruiting in-demand candidates are over here.

A prediction that will give designers an edge

“Voice is going to impact every form of digital design.” — Mark Webster, Founder & CEO of Sayspring

More than twelve percent of U.S. homes own an Amazon Alexa, less than three years after the initial product launch. It took the PC 10 years to reach that market penetration. Mark says this rapid adoption means designers need to learn to design for voice, much like they had to learn to design for mobile with the rise of smartphones.

Mark’s full talk available here:

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