MTL NewTech
12 min readAug 15, 2019


by Meena Masilamani

Mickael Kanfi, COO at Inerjys Ventures, hosted and moderated the very first MARKETING A START-UP PRE & POST FUNDING talk and panel discussion last Wednesday, August 7th at the Espace cdpq to a sold out crowd.

If you missed the talks, not to worry, here’s a summary of the main points from each of the speakers.

Starting off the talk was the captivating, Lauren Jane Heller, Director of Communications at Real Ventures. Lauren’s talk titled “How to make your message tasty” — was about harnessing the power of story-telling to inspire and increase customer engagement. The first step, is to capture as many eyeballs as possible through creative story telling, so that you can effectively spread the word about your product and startup.

Lauren began her career as a creative writer, a well honed skill set that proved essential when she transitioned to a career in marketing. She recounted the countless pitches she’s heard from founders over the years and the pitches that don’t have a spark are often those that don’t have a compelling story. “Founders tend to focus on facts, but people remember stories.”

So how can start-up’s and founders narrate their story or product that fascinates and ultimately resonates with customers? According to Lauren, you need to adopt a “success framework” that ensures your message is clear and crisp, including:

  • “simple: short and sweet, clear language” (the Grandmother test — you should be able to easily explain your technology and product so that even your grandmother can understand).
  • “Unexpected: Open a curiosity gap so that your potential customers want to learn more.” A great example is Blendtech, a blender company that produces a relatively mundane and boring product, you guessed it — a blender, and through their creative YouTube ad have generated strong interest. As this video, https://youtu.be/KWqw5SpITg8 illustrates: they were able to reel in audiences by demonstrating that their blender is so powerful that it can even blend an iPhone. Although, the video is cheesy, it went viral.
  • “Concrete: Analogies and clear, jargon-free language.”
  • “Credible: Give context to stats, testable credentials.” Don’t just plainly state stats, you need to ensure that you provide the context behind it and why it’s significant to the customer.
  • “Emotional: Appeal to self-interest, benefits, belonging.” Human behaviour is such that people often share things that prompt an emotional response with their family, friends and network. Stuff that they find funny, exciting, and even things that anger them. These emotions drives them to action.
  • “Stories: Vehicles to carry ideas and make passive listeners active.”

In Lauren’s vast experience, the optimal way to delivering your message is through word-of-mouth. In fact, “word-of-mouth is 10x more powerful than traditional marketing.” Once again, this directly relates to human behaviour, people tend to believe a referral and review from someone they trust more than a stranger or ads.

So, how can you effectively use word-of-mouth?

  1. “Create scarcity or exclusivity → social currency.” You can achieve this through various means, like limited time offers, providing a offering that’s only accessible to a small group of people, keeping the product a ‘secret’ whereby only a select group know about it and can access it. For example: In 2004, when Facebook was born, it was a website that people could use connect to each other online, the catch — but only Harvard students could use it. Although, Facebook wasn’t the first social network, but by restricting access to only Harvard students, they made it exclusive and thereby more desirable by increasing its perceived value and demand.
  2. “Use triggers to remind customers of your product at the right moment.” Finding something, either an emotional trigger or image that you can link to your product to contextualize. For example, when you think of the brand corona, your mind automatically thinks of the beach. When we think peanut better, we naturally associate it with jelly.
  3. “Use emotion to drive action: Active emotions = excitement, humour, inspiration, anger, anxiety.”
  4. “Use social proof to encourage action.” Social-proof is the idea that customers make their buying decisions based on what others have to say.
  5. “Create practical value.” Think about how sharing your message can provide useful information to others.
  6. “Build great stories that take facts along for the ride.”

Lauren’s advice is that you don’t need to do all 6, instead, you can start with 2 and do them really well!

The big-picture: through the art and science of telling enticing, gripping and intriguing stories, by appealing to peoples emotions you can showcase to potential customers the benefit of using your product. This gives you the leverage to transform your customers and supporters into advocates and ambassadors of your services, allowing you to “capture the interest of influencers and journalists to grow your brand.”

The 2nd talk: Branding Strategy

The talk focused on how start-ups and founders can improve their branding to attract high quality candidates. This highly animated talk was given by the charming, Marc Gagnier, Executive Vice President of Brand Strategy at Ogilvy — a marketing and advertising firm that helps start-ups and companies to enhance their brands.

Takeaways, every start-up, should focus on the “core” essentials of the company and branch out from there. Here are seventeen questions that Marc believes every company should ask themselves in building a strong brand strategy:

  1. Who are you? A summary in 2 sentences.
  2. What do you do? Your raison d’être( reason for being) in 12 words or less. Studies have found that Gold fish now have greater concentration than humans, so you need to be able to succinctly and clearly convey your start-up to potential investors, clients, users, etc in a few words.
  3. What is your vision? A sketch that represents your future.
  4. What wave are you riding? A list of trends that will propel you. (For example, what’s feeding that business. Eg. Aging business — baby boomers retiring. Eg. Climate change). Track the trends, swimming with the current then against the current.
  5. Who shares your brand landscape? Your brand’s objective: rank, geography and timeline. Identify the brand landscape and competition.
  6. What is your point of uniqueness? A simple statement of uniqueness. Most important. Offering something nobody else is.
  7. What should you add or subtract? Decide which offers are to keep, sacrifice or add. Eg. Bombardier added sail boat that went against the core so didn’t go off.
  8. Who loves you? Diagram the ecosystem of our brand. And how I can use them to amplify the voice.
  9. Who are your enemies? What you are not in no uncertain times.
  10. What do you call yourselves? Choose a name (different, short, easy and appropriate).
  11. How do you explain yourselves? A convincing statement. Summarizes what you do nice and simply. For example, the marines, their statement is : “The few, the proud, the marines”. It encapsulates everything about the marines in 3 words.
  12. How do you spread the word? Trace the customer’s journey from non-awareness to awareness. I’ve never heard fo you to I’ve heard of you without anything else. If you’re b2b, don’t worry about quantity, you want to focus on quality. B2C is a quantity game.
  13. How do people engage with you? Map your value proposition against those of your competitors. How do you want people to remember about you and hammer it in.
  14. What do your customers experience? Map the customer journey from awareness to full enrolment.
  15. How do you earn customer loyalty? What is your loyalty strategy / program?
  16. How do you extend your success? Choose between a house of brands and a branded house. Add extensions that reinforce the brand’s meaning. Eg. BMW
  17. How do we protect our brand?

3rd Talk: The Evolution of your Marketing Hires

Caren Carrasco, is the Senior Partner at Benjamin David Group, she and her team regularly help founders and start-ups in recruiting and hiring that crucial first marketing hire to lead the start-up’s marketing efforts.

She shared with us here her process and what she sees most start-up founders journeys to hiring. As the picture illustrates, there tends to be four types of marketing hires that ideally should happen in the following order:

Initially, more often than not the solo founder, who’s bootstrapped will be doing everything: marketing, sales, operations, branding, technology and business development etc.

Caren recommends the two instances when start-up’s should think about hiring a marketer is: 1) if they have funding or 2) if the start-up is generating recurring revenue.

If a start-up is just launching, this is the bootstrapped phase, the important thing to focus on is getting traction and funding. This is when the founder employs their marketing 101 tactics: they’re using all the freebies they can find, from wordpress websites.

Once a start-up has some initial revenue, this is when they often hire a generalist. This individual will take care of “mvm”, minimum valuable marketing. “They are trusted, organized, they may be a marketer or not, know what to do, not necessarily how, leverage social networks” to the start-up’s advantage.

Caren’s rule for determining when you’re start-up is ready to hire a marketer is:

  1. For B2B, should have 5–10% of revenue
  2. For B2C 10–20% of revenue

The difference is due to the fact that B2B start-up’s have a bigger sales team so their marketing spend is different.

Once the start-up is doing well, progress is being made, this is when a specialist comes in handy. For B2B start-up’s, the specialist will be mainly targeting business development and sales, so they need a good knowledge of how to write and market tech content. B2C start-up’s on the other hand, the specialist needs to be proficient in Facebook, AdWords, paid media to find the right marketing recipie to bring clientele.

As the team is expanding, the next hire is what’s referred to as the Squad. This individual is the “marketing/strategy lead (not to be mistaken with the current generalist). This person is specialist that’s focused on acquisition and engagement and needs to have an ROI mentality.” For example, this is the person who if you give them $1, can you give you back $2 and if they can do this then can they scale it, if you give them 1M can you get back 2M?

Note: Caren recommends that for developing your Branding strategy while in Startup mode, the best is not the hire a team member, but to rather outsource it externally.

In summary, it’s you that sets the pace for hitting your start-up’s marketing goals. It’s good to take risks and do a “wide set of experimenting” to see what marketing strategies work best for your start-up. And to think about both “wide focus” and “deep focus” when brainstorming your marketing strategy.

4th talk, titled “Legal Considerations for your Marketing”

The talk was given by the multi-talented, Alan Sarhan, Counsel at DLA Piper. DLA Piper is a global law firm with lawyers located in 40 countries, that help clients with their legal needs around the world.

Dealing with legal issues, concerning how to set-up your start-up, how to incorporate, share holder agreements, employment agreements, NDA’s, etc. can be confusing, however, improperly doing it is even more risky and dangerous as it can become a liability or excruciatingly difficult to rectify later down the road. This is why Alan and his team works with founders to ensure that they’re building the right foundation for their start-up right from the get-go.

Key take-away points from Alan:

  • marketing should start with a sound structural foundation fo your business.
  • Directors of a start-up, you should carefully chose a team that has diversity — across industries, gender, ethnicities, the more successful you’ll be.
  • Joining a board comes with enormous responsibility and accountability and it should be taken seriously. Ensure that as a board director that you have adequate protections that have been committed on paper.
  • Shareholder/ Partnership Agreement is to ensure that your holding people accountable after all, you’re putting in a lot of sweat equity to get your start-up up and running. This agreement should include the following key aspects:
  • 1) management & control
  • 2) transferability of shares
  • 3) forced sale events: failure to fulfill obligations, wishes to leave, death and disability, bankruptcy, fraud, negligence
  • 4) financing
  • 5) dispute resolution
  • 6) Valuation

Employment (or Consulting Agreements):


  • duty of loyalty
  • Duty of confidentiality
  • Employer owns the work product
  • Reasonable notice to terminate

Independent Contractor:

  • works for competitors
  • No implied confidentiality
  • Owns work product
  • Notice to terminate

Alan stressed that we should pay careful attention to dishing out all that money on IP.

Patents can go anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000, so ensure that your product is actually eligible before investing.

Non Disclosure Agreements (NDA’s) set a certain expectation about what you can and can’t do with information. NDA’s are approximate in 2 main scenarios:

  1. “When sharing valuable secrets, highly confidential information (CI) and patentable information.”
  2. “M&A transactions, licensing agreements, consulting, advisory boards, outsourcing, employees”

Alan cautions founders not to demand that VC’s sign NDA’s. Practically speaking, you will scare away VC’s if you ask them to sign an NDA. However, what you can do, is to phase them with the info, in subsequent meetings by leaving the secret sauce until you’ve reeled them in and they’re interested in your start-up.

Equity is always more expensive then debt. Always think how you can keep your cap table clean.

Finally, according to Alan, additional considerations that founders should think about are:

  • act like you are selling from Day 1
  • Investigate government programs and incentives
  • Get insurance: commercial and directors and officers
  • Develop policies/procedures/codes and stay current
  • Practice good governance

If you’re a founder, looking to set-up your start-up, you can learn more about DLA piper accelerate. This a great resource to help. You navigate the myriad of legal things to consider for your start-up. https://www.dlapiperaccelerate.com

Final talk titled, “Winning and Scaling with Digital Marketing” was given by the charismatic, Victor Davoine, Managing Director of Mirum.

Victor has 6 golden rules and principles that will guarantee success in digital marketing. They are:

  1. Start with a brand, not a product. The story that goes with the brand is what matters. “You build a story with emotions around your product that’s really hard to replicate. Here’s a few examples of companies that have successfully done this: 1) BonLook — reinventing eyewear — cheap and easily accessible. 2) Flow alkaline spring water — wellness brand of water, don’t use plastic better for climate, accessible. 3) StackAdapt — offer ad service for programmatic networks — helping agencies thrive, built a model around this. 4) TouchBistro — buy restaurant owners for restaurant owners. We’ve been around restaurant business for 20 years and so we know what we do and how we’re helping people.”
  2. Know your audiences, and their journeys. what’s the income bracket, demographics. Go deeper, you’ll get sales data, start building a persona — which adds psychometric data. Talking to customers, doing survey, mapping how the client feels. Allows you to go deeper and understand the audience. It’s a growing document that’s always growing and evolving.
  3. Build a digital flywheel. Awareness > engagement > conversion > retention. Map your different “owned channels” and ensure that everything works hand in hand. You understand the market and your consumer. Take for example, Soul cycle — there motto is “we’re in it together, have big community of trainers, more than a workout, it’s an experience”. Social proof is important, they’ve asked their community of trainers to do engage with their brand and create posts of their workouts, thereby creating excitement. Soul Cyle also have physical stores — each touch point keeps you interested. Another example is, Foodora — created a website that’s super easy to order, do a lot of mobile ads — the people their targeting is on mobile, flywheel is to intercept people where they are in their journey.
  4. Get Creative. Is what’s going to differentiate you.
  5. Let the pros do it. Initially everyone does it but you need a specialist. Marketing is part art and part science. For example, you have heart problems go to heart specialist not a general practitioner, this analogy also applies to marketing.
  6. Embrace the startup mindset. Agile, test often, fail faster. Marketing — is about continual experimentation, try it, go fishing where your audience is. Get data and play with it and learn more.



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