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June 23, 2022 // Sarah Natoli  //       //  Opinion

Innovation Buzz in Boston: Takeaways from Silicon Valley Bank’s “Zero to One” Marketing Panel

Massachusetts has made a name for itself as a breeding ground for innovation. For example, Cambridge has quickly become known as a vibrant biotech and research hub, home to the likes of Moderna, Biogen, The Broad Institute and dozens more. Not to mention Flagship Pioneering, where the ideas for many of these companies (e.g., Moderna) were first conceived and nurtured. 

But there’s innovation occurring all over the state. Case in point, earlier this month, my colleagues and I attended an exciting panel and networking event for early-stage startups on Newbury Street. Hosted at the headquarters of Glasswing Ventures, an up-and-coming venture capital firm that funds and provides support for companies developing AI technologies, this event was right in the heart of downtown Boston. 

Glasswing Ventures partnered with
Silicon Valley Bank – an institution that has funded more than 30,000 startups – to host the inaugural event in SVB’s new series, “Zero to One.” The program is designed to address the unique challenges that early-stage startups face as they grow their teams, processes and products. 

A lively discussion on marketing strategies and solutions  

For this first event, Glasswing Ventures’ Venture Partner Carol Meyers moderated a panel on marketing strategies and solutions. Carol’s extensive experience as a marketer made for a lively discussion. Panelists LinkSquares Chief Marketing Officer Juliette Kopecky, Black Kite Senior Channel Marketing Manager Katherine Desy and FeatureByte founder and CEO Razi Raziuddin provided thoughtful answers to the most common marketing and communications questions Carol and her team fielded from the startups they work with. 

As communications professionals, the A+P team was all ears (and we weren’t the only ones –when the panelists spoke, you could hear a pin drop in the room). Below are some of the questions and answers that we found most interesting over the course of the discussion. 

How much should a founder lean in on marketing and sales in the early days?  

Each of the three panelists began their answer the same way – “it depends” – and then explained why. Juliette, Katherine and Razi agreed the choice between marketing and sales comes down to the company founder and their specific strengths. If a startup CEO is highly skilled in sales, they might be inclined to bring on marketing as an early hire, and vice versa. Another key factor is the company’s focus – if it’s on a product, then marketing is a logical early hire. But if a startup seeks to show traction to investors, they’ll likely want to start with sales. 

These answers really resonated with our A+P Boston team, because we also don’t have one-size-fits-all solutions in our line of work. Each of our clients hires us to meet their unique needs and fill in their gaps.  

Which services should startups outsource to agencies, and which should they keep in-house? 

Our interest was already piqued. But when we heard “agency,” we of course all simultaneously leaned in even closer. Across the board, panelists recommended early-stage companies outsource their public relations efforts to agencies. Why? Because the agencies have the reporter relationships to drive media coverage and thus raise brand awareness. 

But it’s not just our relationships or experience pitching; when you hire an agency, you also get your own personal team of PR specialists. A startup might only be able to afford a single in-house PR FTE. But through an agency, that same company can gain access to multiple specialists. They also get access to those team members’ connections, both within the agency and outside of it. And on top of that, they gain access through their account team to expensive yet effective PR tools that help monitor the media landscape and surface opportunities for brands to engage in via earned. 

What are some common mistakes made by early-stage companies? 

This was a fun one! Three answers really stood out to us. The first was founders being obsessed with being secretive about their products, when I reality they really need to get the word out to succeed in bringing these products to market. Pro tip: Agencies make excellent advisors – at A+P, we love when clients seek out our counsel about which things to hold close to the vest and which things to shout from the rooftops.  

The second mistake was around hiring. It’s tempting for many founders to hire from big name brands. But as the panelists pointed out, sometimes those remarkable professionals are just too far removed from the early, scrappy days of startup life.  

The third and final fatal mistake was thinking a go-to-market strategy was repeatable across geographically diverse markets. The example given was rolling out a product in the UK vs. the U.S. We absolutely agree location matters –when we have European clients who come to us for help launching in the U.S., we always recommend a regionalized approach. 

Big thanks to SVB and Glasswing Ventures for allowing us to observe this amazing panel. We look forward to learning more about the companies they support in our ZIP code.  

In the spirit of appreciation for cutting edge tech, we’d like to share some of our B2B Technology practice’s thought leadership. Check out “The Battle of Brand vs. Product” for original insights on the tech industry. And if you attend SVB’s startup series, look around the room – there’s bound to be one of us in it.   

Sarah is a seasoned content and communications strategist with deep experience in the healthcare industry. At Allison+Partners, she serves as the Health Practice’s “Storyteller-in-Chief,” counseling clients on the most effective narratives and messages for their businesses, as well as advising on the appropriate channels to leverage for maximum impact. Prior to joining the agency, Sarah worked at Revive, a Nashville-based healthcare agency that sits within the Weber/IPG ecosystem. Before joining the agency world, she worked as an in-house content marketer primarily in health tech. 



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