Creating a successful startup is no walk in the park. An estimate of 90% of new startups fail and the hit of the COVID-19 crisis is not helping with those statistics. The global pandemic is having an unprecedented economic impact on businesses across all sectors, leaving many startup founders and business owners in extremely difficult situations.
At least ten brands have turned to a new Miami based business called Navigate for guidance and support. Navigate, aptly named, is a new startup community that helps founders grow their companies and get them ready for funding through hands-on business planning, advisory, and marketing support. “It’s a personal trainer for your startup”, said Co-Founder Pedro Sostre. Members work with a dedicated advisor that helps them set goals, pushes them and holds them accountable.
Some brands included in the debut launch with Navigate
A Good Idea is Nothing Without Excellent Execution
Miami is no stranger to startup support programs, some sticking around and some disappearing as quickly as they appeared. What makes Navigate different is not what it is, but who it is being done by. Going back at least 10 years, event after after event in Miami that focused on “the future of the Miami startup scene” have stressed the importance of founders who have been successful sticking around and reinvesting in the community. That time has come.
After years of supporting startups through mentorship, advisory, and driving over $100 million dollars in revenue for startups globally, Pedro Sostre came to the realization that the start-up ecosystem in Miami needed a different support structure for its founders. So he partnered with his respected friend and digital marketing expert, Andres Vallejo to launch Navigate.
The startup world is an extremely risky and competitive place to be in, which is why you shouldn’t be in it alone. With the support of the proper mentor, founders can be guided to focus and invest their time wisely, increasing their chances of success. According to a Forbes article on insightful statistics on startups, mentored startups grow three times faster and raise seven times more money.
“A personal trainer will help you accomplish your goals more quickly and efficiently. In addition, they will push you to go harder and with more intensity than you might push if you were doing it by yourself. That’s what we do here.”-Pedro
I had the opportunity to interview Pedro to find out more about him, the idea behind Navigate, and what it offers. In his interview, he also shares insights on essential tools for startup success, the importance of founder communities, some advice for businesses during these tough times, and more.
You recently launched Navigate. On your website, it says that Navigate helps innovative founders navigate the startup world and get their early-stage companies ready for funding through hands-on business planning, advisory, and marketing support. How did the idea behind the launch of Navigate come to you and how did you get started?
I’ve been supporting startups through mentorship and advisory for about five years. I was inspired when I saw how vibrant and supportive the startup ecosystem is in New York and the Bay Area and I wanted to bring some of that energy to Miami and other communities that don’t have that same support structure for early stage founders.
I am the CEO and I lead product at Navigate. Also, at this stage, I am the primary advisor for all the founders we work with. I meet with at least 15-20 founders per week to create go-to-market strategies, conduct brand, marketing, and website audits, talk through financial forecasts, and more.
Our mission if to help early-stage founders launch, grow & get funding ready. We do that through education, hands-on business planning, advisory, and marketing support.
Carefully planning out your startup – from the branding to the marketing to the financial forecasts is essential because creating a successful startup is incredibly difficult. 90% of startups fail and hoping that you are going to be the exception is not a good strategy. We work with our founders to create a month by month plan that details what tasks they should be working on, how much they should be spending on marketing, when they need to hire, what their KPIs and targets are, and more.
Often, we run benchmarking campaigns to validate the Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) and other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are critical to their financial model and business plan. We also do marketing audits if they have an external agency in place to provide an extra set of eyes on audiences and creatives. Also, we help with conversion rate optimization so they are getting the most out of each visitor that gets to their site.
Navigate is like a personal trainer for your startup. You work with a dedicated advisor that helps you set goals, pushes you, and holds you accountable. Because you work with the same advisor, rather than getting connected to lots of different mentors, so you have someone who knows your business. This allows for much deeper dives each time to talk because you’re not reintroducing your startup every time you connect.
Additionally, we are not cohort or time based so companies can stay with us for as long (or as little) as they want. Working closely together over the long term really builds strong connections and communities which makes the startup experience a lot more enjoyable and often, more successful.
I met Andres many years ago. He was building a subscription box company and I was connected to him as a mentor through a program called Mentor Day.
Originally, I had the idea to hire Andres for this new company – I did not even have the name picked out yet – but I knew the concept and I knew I wanted to work with him. He loved the idea so much that he asked if he could invest in the company and become a founding partner. Coincidentally, our Navigate office is in the same location that we first met as mentor/mentee many years ago!
Anyone can work out on their own. Jogging, pushups, running – it’s not that complicated to figure out how to do the exercises and eat healthier. But top athletes, and people who are serious about achieving some health goals almost always have personal trainers help them to do it. Why? A personal trainer will help you accomplish your goals more quickly and efficiently. In addition, they will push you to go harder and with more intensity than you might push if you were doing it by yourself. That’s what we do here.
Nowadays, anyone can create a product, launch a website, and create some boosted posts on Facebook, but is that really going to get your startup to where it needs to be? Some estimates say that 100 million startups are created every year – don’t you want to know that you’re doing everything you can to beat the odds and achieve the success you’ve been dreaming about?
“The best founders are very deliberate about what they work on week to week. They have a plan and each step builds on the accomplishments of the last step so they know exactly where they are trying to go and what they need to work on next.”-Pedro
Our community membership is for founders who don’t need, or maybe aren’t ready for the 1 on 1 support that we provide at the other levels. Maybe they haven’t launched their business yet or their budget just doesn’t allow for it, but they still want to be connected to other founders and they want to get the education and learning from our monthly workshops on marketing strategy, pay-per-click marketing, customer lifecycle management, and more.
Advisory is our core product. This is where we create a sprint schedule for their startup and work directly with founders on a weekly or bi-weekly bases to help them complete their financial forecasts, go to market strategy, brand audits, etc.
The incubator is a complete package a startup can get their website, initial marketing campaigns, and just about everything they need (other than the product) to be in market, get validation, and raise capital.
Startup life is hard. Also, if you don’t already have a huge personal network, finding investors, service providers, and partnerships can be really difficult. A solid founder community can provide emotional support to make the journey more enjoyable and business connections to give you the best shot at success.
Failing to plan properly is a common mistake. There is a tendency to approach things too organically and sort of ‘float’ along. Founders work very hard, but not with a specific plan and goals in place. Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and then at some point you realize it’s been two years and you haven’t achieved what you expected. The best founders are very deliberate about what they work on week to week. They have a plan and each step builds on the accomplishments of the last step so they know exactly where they are trying to go and what they need to work on next.
Investing 100% in product and assuming that the sales and success will come naturally if you have a great product is one big mistake. Marketing is a critical part of building your business and smart founders give it at least as much thought as the product itself.
According to most investors, the two most important factors are the founding team and the market. If you have a strong founding team, they will make the right choices when it comes to product, growth and pivots. If you have a big, growing market, it becomes possible to scale. The idea or product is often secondary to those two.
This is counter to what many founders think. They think the idea or product is the key to their success. In reality, a very small number of companies (less than 5%) ever reach significant revenue with their original idea. Great founders will know that and they commit to solving a problem for a market, rather than commit to a specific product.
We piloted the program with a few founders before officially launching and we kept hearing a common phrase. “It’s so great having someone that can help us navigate the startup world.” After hearing that a few times, we realized there was some weight and power behind it, and the name Navigate stuck.
You’re a serial entrepreneur who has achieved a lot in life; can you share three of your proudest accomplishments?
‘Proudest’ accomplishments is a big question – I’ll list a few thinks that come to mind, but I’m sure I’ll miss some big ones.
1. I have 4 really amazing children. Obviously we’re talking about business accomplishments and not personal things, but being able to have my own company and arrange my schedule so I could spend time with them and help raise 4 of the most spectacular people I’ve ever known is something I’m very proud of.
2. Writing Web Analytics for Dummies for Wiley Publishing was a big deal for me. At the time, I can’t say I had written very much and my background was not in anything technical (I went to Art college) so being asked to write this and then actually completing it on time and being able to see it on sale at stores like Barnes & Noble was really exciting for me. Plus, when I met Hiten Shah for the first time (founder of KISSmetrics, Crazy Egg, and FYI) and he mentioned that he read my book, it was such a cool moment for me.
3. Selling my last company, Black Helmet. I had started lots of businesses and had some small private exits, but building a company and going through the process of getting offers to buy the company and then accepting an offer and doing the due diligence required to sell to a public company was such a great learning experience.
Tumultuous times often create opportunities for success. First word of advice is survive. Figure out what you need to do to survive in this environment. Lots of companies will not make it so just being able to get through it will give you an edge in the future. Next, make sure you’re positioned to thrive in the future reality. There will be long term effects of this pandemic, how can your company gain an edge from the changes here now or coming in the near future.
Also, remember to consider others. While you’re working hard to ensure your continued success, help others around you when you can. We go farther when we can succeed together. Try to get out of your silo and find ways to connect and be a resource to other people.
“Tumultuous times often create opportunities for success.”
Seeing a company take off and succeed. Whether that means getting into an accelerator, raise a round of capital, or start generating those first sales. Being able to be a part of that founder’s journey is priceless.