Don’t bother to show up at a startup interview unless you have one of these

Before you interview with a startup you need to do a bunch of preparation to make sure you’ll knock the ball out of the park. I wrote this 12 point checklist for startup interview prep a while back that should help you do exactly that.

There’s one part of that 12 point checklist that’s the most important – your 30 day plan.

Startups succeed when the team has the mandate and the makeup to ask for forgiveness rather than ask for permission. The 30 day plan (including target goals) shows that you are that kind of person. It makes it easy for the startup hiring manager to think: “Sounds like she knows her stuff and wouldn’t require a lot of hand holding.” Without a plan in hand, you risk that same hiring manager thinking “She will need a lot of guidance, and I don’t have the time to provide it.” Remember, startups are generally awful at interviewing candidates. This means you need to go deeper than you would at a ‘regular’ interview.

A 30 day plan should be fine for most entry level / early career roles. If you’re interviewing for mid level or senior roles then you should expand the plan to include 90 day activities and milestones.

Remember that the point of the plan is not to get it “right” but to show the hiring company that you’ve thought a lot about their business. Plus, it helps set the goal posts for your role early on even if you don’t end up getting agreement on your whole plan.

Here’s an example of a plan I put together when interviewing for a startup job (I was interviewing to be the first business hire). I hope it helps you put together your own!

90 day plan/goals for AcmeCo
Set up and execute 50 total Customer Discovery meetings (consisting of product demo + hypothesis testing with potential customers via short slide deck) with net new potential customers across 4 verticals (auto dealers being 1). Use the data from these discussions to determine if best fit / highest potential for product (or a subset of the product) is auto dealers or a different vertical. Supplement Customer Discovery meetings with additional research on said verticals (related to competition, market dynamics, pricing, pain points, etc). 
Secure 10 organizations to beta test (unpaid) the solution. These 10 could come from the aforementioned 50 or leveraging your existing contacts that may be engaged with you but not yet using the software.
(Starting on Day 30) Drive fundraising process. Develop pitch deck, product demo script, and financial model supporting the raise. Develop and manage investor target list and pipeline. Manage all due diligence follow ups. Secure and execute 40 intro fundraising meetings total in months 2 and 3.
Update website including team bios, email address capture for potential customers and potential hires (important to start building leads ASAP), basic web analytics, and basic lead nurturing/drip campaign for potential customers. Goal: 500 subscribers who’ve opted in to our email list.
Set up CRM system (I’m pretty familiar with Salesforce, so I’d lean towards using that) and populate with existing leads (i.e. folks you have already been speaking to about the product)
Implement weekly metrics review process. Basically this would mean compiling the key business metrics on a weekly basis (at the outset we’d be tracking the metrics related to the goals above + anything else we think is important inc. product dev metrics and goals) and you and I reviewing them to be super clear about how we’re doing, where we are doing well, and where we are struggling. Most Amazon teams use a process like this and I think it can be really powerful. Also, we can leverage these same metrics during the fundraising process as well as with investors post-funding.


John Gannon
I have over 15 years of experience working in the trenches at successful startups, high growth companies, and VC firms. During that time, I've managed, interviewed, and coached hundreds of people -- and I've worked in almost every business functional role, including marketing, product management, and business development.
John Gannon
John Gannon
John Gannon

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