The GroundWork Growth Methodology
The Startup Haven Accelerator leverages the GroundWork Growth Methodology to support founders at the crossroads of growth, i.e., a customer-ready product, in market or with early commercialization… but not yet at scale.
What’s next for companies at this stage is to chart a path to meaningful growth, i.e., the beginnings of scale — scaling users, scaling customers, scaling revenue, scaling team. But this phase of early growth is among the most challenging periods for any startup — and now the clock is ticking.
Prior to launching a commercial product and getting those first few customers and initial revenue, there is not much to measure. At this pre-product/pre-revenue stage, it’s all about the vision and the story. Most milestones are vague or hard to quantify and so “growth” metrics are not really a thing at this stage.
But at some point there are new customers to count, monthly revenue to track, engagement data to analyze — i.e., it’s now possible to measure a startups growth. Now founders held to a different standard. Vision and story are still important; but once there is a product to sell, growth metrics are how traction is measured.
For startups at this stage (e.g., a production-ready product, some very early elements of commercialization, but no meaningful growth), the failure rate is extraordinarily high. Even for startups with lots going for them — great product, great market, great team, and even great investors. All of these factors are necessary to build a great company; but none of them are sufficient.
What’s needed is execution. But few can articulate what that really means. There are certainly no magic bullets, but the GroundWork Growth Methodology is the most-reliable path to execution. In summary, founder should:
- have a solid understanding of the company’s right, next strategic milestone, quantified and within the scope of reach (typically four to six months out).
- have a rock solid defense of why that milestone is the right one and what that milestone unlocks.
- have a specific and quantifiable thesis for how you can reach your milestone — i.e., what, exactly, are you going to do to achieve that milestone?
- have a quantitative understanding of the assumptions underlying your thesis — i.e., what must be true in order for you to execute on your milestone… most especially with regard to the element of time?
- have a thoughtful, metrics-driven approach to validating your assumptions through advisors, research, math and experimentation.
- have the discipline to build a cogent growth story about how you can achieve your milestone that smart, experienced people will also believe you can execute on.
Done right, with guidance and accountability, this approach will set a north star for the company and the team and will lay the groundwork for growth.
But the startup world moves fast. It is sometimes said that planning anything in advance for a startup is a fools errand because plans are obsolete the minute they are forged. This is true enough… particularly because most startup growth plans lack cogency. For the GroundWork Growth Methodology, the cogency of the plan is fundamental.
Throughout the Startup Haven Accelerator program, founders are challenged to understand, explain, and defend the cogency of every element of their growth story: their milestones, their thesis and their underlying assumptions.
Significant uncertainty and risk are an inescapable fact of life for every venture-scale growth startup. This is especially true in the early stages, before product-market-fit is achieved, and no amount of cogency can guarantee success. But what we believe is that cogency is the best tool we have. And that’s good news because striving for cogency is within the reach of every single startup company and every single startup founder.
Every startup founder also has blind spots and not every element of risk and uncertainty is plainly obvious — even when you’re looking for them! Startups in the accelerator get help identifying, quantifying and validating the assumptions they already know about as well as flushing out assumptions that are hidden from view.