Our COO, AJ Audino, vividly remembers the day Particle signed its Series A term sheet in early March 2020. Here are some of his personal observations-- both big and small-- gathered over this past year.
I vividly remember the day we signed our Series A term sheet with our preferred lead, Menlo Ventures. This was early March 2020, and we were a small group of dreamers. Our initial reaction was, naturally, to celebrate 🍾 . That jubilance was quickly followed by another realization: the stakes have increased, and it’s time to embrace hard work.
In a few short weeks, COVID would explode across our collective conscience, and of course, everything changed. It’s been a rollercoaster journey ever since. There have been moments of every stripe, from joyful to painful, as we’ve worked to crack the code on our product and build out our growing team. Lots of moments of growth, big wins, hard lessons and even failures. Ultimately: it’s all been wildly rewarding.
So here are some of my personal observations—both big and small—gathered over this past year. I’m going to share what we’ve done well at Particle, lessons I wish I’d known sooner, and even concepts we’re still struggling to tackle today. I’ll let you—reader—go ahead and guess which is which 🙂
#1 – Prioritize and maintain RELENTLESS focus
I’ve been told that startups are like flickering flames, easily blown out with the slightest breeze. Before Particle I was on the founding team of two failed startups, so I have the scars to prove it. When you allow too many distractions, poor choices that fester and “boiling the ocean” strategies, then you almost guarantee that flame is going to blow out. Prioritize what’s critically important to the success of your business and set reminders to focus on that relentlessly.
#2 - Stock up on mantras
I’ve been a personal believer in mantras since a fateful day in high school when I had to pull an all-nighter to study for a test. I repeated a mantra ad nauseum to keep me awake and focused (it worked!) Mantras distill and communicate important ideas; they’re a rallying cry. And mantras help you stay disciplined. Here’s a sampling of our company mantras: “We’re a technology company in healthcare, and not the other way around”... “Be on the right side of history”, and of course, “#DestroyTheFaxmachine!”
#3 – Use a PEO
Startups need to find ways to punch above their weight, and Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) are a great way to bring high-quality HR and related services to your team. We use JustWorks (#notapaidad), and although they can be a little pricey, they’ve been indispensable. This goes for other platforms we use too like Lever (ATS) and Lattice (Performance Management). Don’t look at these services as extra costs; they’re investments in the time and energy of your entire team.
#4 – Set up a strong recruiting process as early as you can
Recruiting is the lifeblood of a growing startup, and putting in the time to set up the foundation of a strong recruiting and interviewing process, before you need it, will pay dividends when you need to push on the accelerator and scale-up.
#5 – Conserve that cash until you’re ready
Oh, the other lifeblood of a startup… cash. Once that Series A money hits the bank account, it’s tempting to accelerate spending. Until your strategy / go-to-market plan starts to show tangible signs of life, be conservative. Now, this is the COO talking. I’m sure Troy would say it’s a balancing act. And he’s right. But you never know what’s going to happen (COVID), or what opportunity is going to present itself (senior-level hires, acquisition, etc.). The more cash you have on hand, the greater your ability to weather storms and be aggressive when the timing is right.
#6 – Choose to invest in your people (and travel as a team!)
The larger theme here is, wherever possible, when making decisions about benefits, personal policies, etc. invest in your people. Specifically, though, this allows me to bring up something we did as a team that was instrumental in our early success. Right before we raised our Series A, we went away for a week on a team trip. Bear with me here—I know it sounds counterintuitive. “AJ… you mentioned that flame before,” you might be thinking. “This sure sounds like a distraction.” The reality is, we got a heck of a lot of work done that week. More importantly—it galvanized the team. The connections forged on sandy beaches translated to moments we could lean on in tougher times back in the office. If that type of experience is right for your organization, I couldn’t recommend it more.
That essentially summarizes a few of my top personal observations as COO. With a year on the books, it’s been a tremendous experience from which we’ll continue to learn from and grow. If you’re ever interested in having a conversation about tech startup operations, or specifically curious about Particle Health’s offerings, be sure to reach out!