Mentor Monday

Megan Groves of Federated Media

Welcome to Mentor Monday, a series that lets us inside the minds of some of the people giving their time and know-how to help the companies here at Highway1. Today’s mentor is Megan Groves, Director of Analytics and Insights at Federated Media.

THE BASICS

Who are you? What’s your origin story?
I’m originally from Seattle and have spent about a third of my life in other countries. I’m obsessed with language, communications, and what motivates people.

I founded two of my own companies in the health and wellness space, one which was acquired, and then did freelance consulting for several years in the tech space, including creating product and marketing strategies integral to the acquisitions of four different startups.

What are you working on right now?
I’m currently Director of Analytics & Insights at Federated Media, a company founded by John Battelle that facilitates influencer-driven content marketing for brands. My main project right now is defining the product strategy for a dashboard that tracks and measures the impact of a brand’s media and marketing efforts and shows the blogger or social media influencer how well their content performs.

I’m also an advisor at Bombsheller, a manufacture-on-demand leggings company with a mass-customization bent. There my focus has been mostly on operations strategy.

 

THE MENTORING EXPERIENCE

What’s the thing (or things) that people ask you about the most?
Focusing on branding and marketing, most startups ask me either: “Should I do a Kickstarter campaign? What’s the best way to do so?” or: “What should we be doing on social media?”

What are the things you wish people would ask you?
“We’ve been working really hard on our product but haven’t thought much about how to brand and market what we do. We have an initial idea on how to position ourselves — what are your thoughts on this? What are the core aspects of our brand and market entry strategy that we need to define before we launch? And how can we keep customers coming back?”

What’s your favorite thing about mentoring?
Seeing a face light up with ideas and excitement, watching feverish note-taking, getting a follow-up email full of hard questions, and later seeing those sparks infused into the way a startup approaches the market. Then: watching the startup grow over time and knowing I helped influence its success.

Why do it at all? There are a bunch of things you could be doing — what drives you to do this?
There’s a belief that mentoring is a one-sided activity, or that a mentor is doing a startup this great service. I find it’s actually an exchange. There’s something inherently rewarding in problem-solving and helping people push through obstacles. It feels good when those obstacles are things you’ve also faced at some point and can bring some perspective to.

And it’s also valuable to be exposed to a problem you’ve never seen, or to think about the same problem in the context of a startup with different needs. It keeps me learning and growing, too.

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ON OTHER MENTORS

What do you think makes a good mentor?
Asking smart questions, being a good listener, and being accessible. Also, having a strong opinion but not believing it’s always the right opinion.

A mentor’s job is like that of a good investor/advisor — it’s not to tell people the right way to do something, but to share from experience (either what they’ve gone through in their own projects or what they’ve seen working with startups over time) and ask the right questions that help a startup surface the answers for themselves.

Did you have a mentor? What was that like?
I’ve always had mentors — business coaches, therapists, surrogate big sisters, professors with whom I exchanged emails about academic topics, and my own startup mentors.

Today my mentor is a New York-based VC I met while doing business school who basically gives me feedback on ideas and gives me some ass-kicking when I’m about to make a stupid decision.

Is there someone out there in the industry you think would be good at it, or that you wish would do it?
I think the best mentors for current Highway1 startups are those who previously completed the Highway1 program. They have a perspective that no one else can provide.

ABOUT THE INDUSTRY

What’s one tip you’d give to hardware startups right now?
Set up a focus group of 20 people and study how they use your prototypes. You’ll get a lot richer feedback on testing product-market fit than through a Kickstarter campaign.

What’s one thing you think they have to look out for in the future?
Supply chain irregularities. At some point in the future there’ll be an issue, whether it’s a price spike in a material, a massive delay from a manufacturer, a change in an international law, or a new tax on an import. Or a part you ordered a bajillion of that came out wrong.

If you’ve built a strong brand and are able to communicate well with your customers, you can more easily navigate and resolve these problems.

What do you think of the hardware renaissance?
It’s an exciting time. In addition to redefining the products we use today, there’s an opportunity to improve our supply chains and explore new materials. A true hardware renaissance should also show an upgrade in how we use resources and be just as sustainable for tomorrow’s planet as tomorrow’s market.

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