Neil Patel

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Starting a business is a journey filled with twists and turns, challenges, and triumphs. In a recent podcast episode featuring Elizabeth Zalman, we delve into her fascinating journey, from her early years to her experiences as a founder and advisor. 

Elizabeth’s story is a testament to the resilience and determination required to build a successful startup. In this blog post, we’ll explore key takeaways from her podcast conversation and gain insights into the world of entrepreneurship.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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Embrace Change and Explore New Horizons

Elizabeth’s journey began with a childhood spent in various places, including Boston, where she developed an appreciation for fields and reservoirs. Her early exposure to different environments taught her the value of adaptability and embracing change. 

As entrepreneurs, it’s crucial to be open to new experiences and environments, as they can lead to unexpected opportunities.

Elizabeth’s path to entrepreneurship took a unique turn when she attended a math and science charter school, earning a year of college credit by the time she graduated. This early exposure to advanced education laid the foundation for her career in technology. 

It highlights the importance of seizing educational opportunities and nurturing a passion for learning, which can be valuable in any entrepreneurial journey.

Entrepreneurship Requires Resourcefulness

When faced with the challenge of needing income but unable to secure a work visa, Elizabeth turned to entrepreneurship. She started a consignment business on eBay, demonstrating resourcefulness by identifying undervalued items and reselling them at a profit.

This entrepreneurial spirit and ability to create opportunities out of challenges are essential qualities for founders. Elizabeth’s journey included a pivotal role at a tech company where she wore multiple hats, including account management, SQL development, and product management. 

This diverse experience allowed her to gain insights into different aspects of the business and develop a deep understanding of the industry. Founders should leverage their experiences to broaden their skill sets and knowledge.

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The Thrill of Entrepreneurship

Starting a company from scratch can be both exhilarating and challenging. Elizabeth likened it to a drug, emphasizing the power of creation and the drive to succeed. 

The excitement of building something from nothing is a driving force for many entrepreneurs. It’s a journey filled with highs and lows, but the passion for creating can be incredibly rewarding.

Elizabeth’s first startup ventured into selling ads based on consumer profiles. This adaptability and willingness to pivot are crucial aspects of entrepreneurship. As market conditions change, founders must be ready to adjust their business models to stay relevant and meet customer needs.

Elizabeth’s journey wasn’t without its challenges, including difficulty securing institutional funding. However, she and her co-founder persisted, relying on revenue from early customers to sustain their business. 

They also relied on money from friends and family to get through the initial years. Timing and persistence played a significant role in their eventual success.

Remote Work as an Advantage

Deciding to be a remote-first company early on, Elizabeth’s startup benefited from a diverse talent pool and cost-effective hiring. 

This decision allowed them to scale efficiently and adapt seamlessly to the remote work culture that became prevalent during the pandemic. Elizabeth’s perspective on the founder’s role in sales is insightful. 

She believes that founders should play a pivotal role in the sales process, especially in the early stages. They understand the product and vision best, and their involvement can be critical in securing initial customers.

Building Strong Relationships with Investors

Elizabeth co-authored with investor Jerry Neumann the book, “Founder vs. Investor,” which sheds light on the dynamics between founders and investors. While there can be tensions, building strong relationships with investors is essential. 

Founders should maintain open communication and be empowered to make informed decisions. In fundraising, founders should remember that they hold power. Take your time, seek clarity, and don’t hesitate to walk away from deals that don’t align with your vision. It’s crucial to approach fundraising with confidence and assertiveness.

From fundraising paranoia to boardroom coups, Zalman and Neumann train their voices on the gulf between what founders and investors promise to do and what they end up actually doing. Ultimately, the book tells the brutal truth from the founder and investor perspective, pulling back the curtain on the world of high-growth venture-backed startups.

These lessons came in handy when Elizabeth was fundraising for her next startup, strongDM. They successfully raised $80M over 8 rounds from investors like Bloomberg Beta and Data Collective. Later, True Ventures and Sequoia also entered the fray, supporting their series A round. 

Storytelling is everything, which is something that Elizabeth Zalmna was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.

Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

Empowerment in Fundraising

Elizabeth Zalman’s entrepreneurial journey is a testament to the power of resilience, adaptability, and determination. Her experiences offer valuable lessons for aspiring founders and established entrepreneurs alike. 

Whether you’re just starting your entrepreneurial journey or navigating the challenges of scaling a startup, these key takeaways can guide you on your path to success. Embrace change, learn from experiences, and stay true to your vision, and you’ll be better equipped to tackle the ever-evolving world of entrepreneurship.

Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:

  • Early experiences in Boston and her unconventional path through education highlighting the importance of embracing opportunities that may not align with the norm.
  • Starting a consignment business on eBay as a means to support herself in Canada showcases the resourcefulness and determination required for entrepreneurial success.
  • Describing the process of building something from nothing in a startup is likened to a powerful drug, emphasizing the intoxicating nature of entrepreneurship.
  • A journey showcasing the need to adapt and pivot in the face of challenges, ultimately leading to the successful development of her startup, strongDM.
  • Liz’s belief in founders being pivotal in the sales process underscores the unique ability of founders to birth and sell their vision.
  • The book, co-authored by Liz, highlights the need for greater understanding and empathy between founders and investors to navigate the complexities of building a company.
  • Advice to founders emphasizes their agency in conversations with investors, reinforcing the importance of confidence and assertiveness.


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Neil Patel

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

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