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5 Questions With Bowery's Revenue Council: Nisha Ahluwalia

December 08, 2021

Why did you join the Bowery Capital Revenue Council?

I love working with a variety of early stage startups and founders/CEOs, as every founder and startup journey is unique.. Many times the question is simple... where do I start? Unless someone comes from a marketing or sales background, it may be difficult for them to know where to focus their energy and people. The opportunity to work with a variety of companies and people across different industries is really fun for me. Bowery Capital is vetting and learning a ton about these companies in the due diligence process, then I can come in and support these founders at a really critical time in their company’s growth.

How has the marketing landscape for seed stage startups changed in the last 5 years?

Marketing has been impacted by the trend of technology, data, and information all getting tighter, faster, and more detailed... so marketing being able to use these tools and how we use them is an always evolving process.

Intent data; being able to see customers before they become customers or see visitors before they are known visitors is the latest and greatest. It presents a different lens on how early in the cycle marketers can be engaged in the conversation. 50 years ago, brand advertising on billboards, television, etc. was about getting to those people you can’t reach. Now it’s all digital and accessible in ways that open up new opportunities for marketing and sales.

As marketers, we not only need to be on top of technology, but also need to know what to use and when to use it. It’s not the right answer to use everything. What’s right for the business? Is this right at this stage? The complexity around how to build and where to start is interesting.

What are some indicators of a healthy early-stage marketing operation?

Testing a lot. Creating a lot. Not spending all their time in spreadsheets trying to find the answer with data because you don’t have the data yet. Early stage is about having a hypothesis and testing it.

Unlike mature companies who can look back and examine trends… the early stage is all about creating it. Create as much as you can until you figure out what is going to work. Talk to customers and prospects and people who are relevant to what you are doing and have a hypothesis and go and create it.

It’s important to set time limits to your research. It’s usually better to experiment with an idea than to research for 3 weeks before taking any action.

What are the most common roadblocks you’ve helped startups overcome at the early stage?

A big internal mistake I see a lot is having a founding team debating about what to do. This leads to lots of google docs with plans and ideas but you don’t know if it’s going to work until you get out there and figure out why they buy. Can you containerize and amplify the magic?

A lot of people focus on products... but no one wants to buy a product. The product is a means to an end. What are the ends? What are they trying to get to? Companies spend money on things that solve their problems.

This means you often need to reframe. Instead of talking about your product in its entirety and all the bells, whistles, and features it has… you need to realize companies usually buy for a specific thing or outcome. How do you hone in very early on what that thing or few things are… which is all about talking to people who bought, or will be your users. You should also talk to the people that didn’t buy; what was the thing that made the difference? Then go build a company and a solution that solves the problem. Sellers can’t assume that talking about the product is enough.

What advice would you share with a founder looking to scale revenue at the seed stage?

You need a repeatable and scalable sales process. Whether it's a product-led sales process or sales-led sales process you need that spark of a flywheel that you can scale.

How do you do that? As a founder you have to figure out the sales process yourselves and go do it. Or, go hire an expert and spend money finding the right people who know how to create the process and can do it for your product and industry.

Another critical piece of advice is to not hire too late; every time you need a role filled now, it means you should have been hiring for it 3 to 6 months ago because it takes time to find, hire, and ramp up a new hire!