These Covid-Era Restaurant Trends Will Stick Around

From cookbooks to at-home meal kits to open-air pop-ups and food festivals, these are the most innovative concepts to emerge during the covid era.

Illustration: Nicole Album

Here in San Francisco, one of the most famous dining destinations in the world, we’ve seen more than 100 beloved restaurants close up shop during the pandemic. Walking around the city and seeing the vacant storefronts is a punch to the gut, even if it’s not a huge surprise. High costs, labor shortages, and razor-thin profits made it nearly impossible to operate a restaurant here even before Covid. Then it got worse.

No industry was spared from the effects of Covid-19, but restaurants were undoubtedly one of the hardest hit. The numbers prove the stark reality: food service industry sales fell by $240 billion in 2020 from a projected $899 billion, and more than 110,000 eating and drinking establishments closed last year nationwide (that doesn’t include what’s shuttered in 2021), according to the National Restaurant Association.

The restaurants that have managed to survive have had to pivot — the overused word used to describe what owners and chefs have had to go through. We saw incredible resilience and creativity among food business owners during Covid-19; they experimented with creative to-go packaging, at-home meal kits, alternative methods for ordering and delivery, forming a deeper connection with communities, and new business models from product lines to merch.

One silver lining: the restaurant sector was forced to rethink everything and get innovative. Now, with vaccines rolled out and the country re-open, most in the industry agree things can’t go just back to “normal.” The status quo from the Before Times wasn’t working well, either. In the post-Covid era, most food businesses will need to continue being creative, especially when it comes to diversifying their income streams, to not only survive but to make their companies genuinely enticing places for employees to work. 

So, as we look ahead, what are the pandemic restaurant innovations that will actually stick around? Here are eight trends restaurants will need to embrace to stay relevant and well-funded in the coming years. 

  1. Custom product lines create accessible ways to spice up the industry

The days of earning revenue solely from the four walls of a restaurant are over. Expect chefs and owners to keep innovating in e-commerce to diversify their income streams. A prime example: David Chang, the owner of Momofuku restaurants — and the rebel of the industry.

Chang shot up to celebrity chef status not only because of the success of his restaurants and the iconic modern Asian comfort food they serve, but by being, well, everywhere. From a Netflix show to his own podcast to magazine covers to grocery stores to his new memoirEat a Peach, Chang is an outspoken voice that often calls out what needs to change. He’s advocated for more government relief for restaurants during the pandemic, but also for owners to think creatively to get beyond old models. 

Chang has told publications like Fortune that his goal has long been to have 50% of Momofuku revenue come from outside of his restaurants. And then he turbocharged that objective during the pandemic. In the Momofuku lab, his team is constantly researching and developing products, then launching experimental Momofuku-branded product lines to consumers. That’s included a Ssam sauce for Kraft Heinz, meal kits on Goldbelly, and various sauces and spics on Peachy Keen, an online shop with pantry items. He also offers online cooking classes and merch on the Peachy Keen site. 

Chefs across the country became more David Chang-like this year to stay in business. Goldbelly, which offers restaurant specific meal kits and packaged foods, nearly doubled its restaurant and customer count during the pandemic. 

  1. Collaborations bring fresh ideas and new opportunities to local favorites

Experimenting in e-commerce often leads to interesting collaborations across the industry. One of the coolest collabs we saw during the pandemic was The Haus Restaurant Project, which launched nine new aperitifs created and inspired by chefs, with 100% of profits going to the restaurants directly.

Chang was responsible for one of the lines, creating an aperitif infused with notes of white peach, tart plum, salted cherry blossoms, osmanthus, and bright citrus, in order to honor and reflect Momofuku. Other lines included Brandon Jew from Mister Jiu’s (a smokey sipping aperitif inspired by his restaurant's signature roast duck dish); Seattle-based chef Edouardo Jordan (infused with juniper, elderflower and orange); and North Carolina-based chef Ashley Christensen (notes of grapefruit, Tellicherry pepper, honey and thyme.)

  1. Every restaurant is a media company

In an era when actual print book sales aren’t that great, cookbook sales haven’t just stayed steady, they’ve grown. Everyone from chefs to home cooks to celebrities to bakers and restaurants is launching a cookbook these days. Traditionally, it’s been a lengthy, several-year process, but new ways have popped up that allow for people to be more timely and responsive in turning a cookbook are more quickly. 

We’ve seen community cookbooks take off during the pandemic from home chefs around the country. Take the Cangianos family in Staten Island, which started a Facebook group to share recipes, eventually growing so big that they decided to publish them in a cookbook. The mother-two daughter trio entitled the book the “Quarantine Kitchen,” made sales through Etsy and partnered with a small printing press in Kansas, with proceeds going to charity. 

Somekind Press, a groundbreaking and community-focused micro-publisher, is taking this concept a step further, disrupting the traditional cookbook publishing industry’s model by “shifting who gets the money,” writes Paula Forbes in Food & Wine. The model of the company—which started as a way to help food businesses make money during the pandemic—is to only print once a book receives at least 100 preorders. This means people don't have to pay a fee upfront to get started, allowing more small restaurants, bakeries and others to get a cookbook out, rather than just famous chefs. "It is about supporting your local venue,” cofounder Simon Davis told Food & Wine

4. At-home meal kits turn your home kitchen into an Instagrammable experience

2020 was the year of take out. If you’re anything like me, you may have gotten bored of your go-to dishes and wanted to try new ways to keep meals interesting. That led to a lot of people buying meal kits from restaurants, ie curated boxes of ingredients that allowed you to cook restaurant-like meals in your own kitchen. 

One of the smartest ideas in this market was the Omsom kits, founded by two sisters Vanessa and Kim Pham. The duo, whose parents came to America as Vietnamese refugees, saw an opportunity to help restaurants by exposing more people to the power of cooking flavorful Asian food at home. The idea: source spices and sauces from chefs that people can use as a “starter” base of flavor for a meal — just add the starter to your choice of protein and veggies, and voila, a restaurant-quality Asian meal in less than 30 minutes. One of the best starters we’ve seen comes from Duki Hong, the former exec chef of NYC eatery Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong and author of the Koreatown: A Cookbook

Restaurants across the country also got into the meal kit game, including on Goldbelly and through their own sites, including Chicago's The Publican’s Pub Chicken meal kit, Chef Michael Solomonov's Abe Fisher restaurant’s in Philadelphia that “celebrate the flavors of the Jewish diaspora,” and flavorful Arab food at Reem’s in San Francisco. 

5. Touch-free payments and safer in-person solutions

During the pandemic, a lot of food entrepreneurs moved off of Venmo, Square and other legacy payment methods to a new tool that launched in 2020: Cashdrop. Founded by Ruben Flores-Martinez, who has shared his story about the challenges of being an immigrant from Mexico in the tech community, the platform allows businesses to create a customized online shop in a matter of minutes. In the case of restaurants, they can “drop” menu items whenever they want, change them easily, and make the layout / images look appealing.

Cashdrop has soared in popularity because it allowed businesses to sell items via completely contactless payment. Consumers simply click on a link, order, and settle up via Apple Pay. The major difference — and reason why so many restaurants love Cashdrop — is that it doesn’t charge businesses a commission or fee. Instead, it shifts the burden and charges consumers a 5% fee, which makes it different than Square or Cashapp. The tool has been huge for farmers markets vendors, food trucks, and pop-ups, but is also now used at a ton of traditional restaurants, breweries, wineries, etc. 

Print menus and in-person ordering will come back to some degree, but this style of mobile ordering will continue at many food businesses given its speed and convenience. 

6. New business models that help build healthier habits

The traditional restaurant business model of getting “butts in seats” didn’t work out this past year, so companies started experimenting. Take the model of two-hour delivery on Fast AF, which delivers food products in less than two hours to your doorstep. So far, the company operates in San Francisco, Miami, New York City, and Los Angeles. 

Then there’s Club Feast, which offers pre-scheduled restaurant delivery for less than 40% from competitors. That means, with no membership fee, you can browse local restaurants and then select a plan signing up for a set number of meals from that restaurant throughout the week. Consumers save money on the discounted bundles, and restaurants lock in loyal customers. Win, win. We’ll likely see more of this experimentation in the future, especially for people who want healthier, more consistent eating habits ie: organic, vegan, plant-based on the reg.

7. Neighborhoods make a comeback: block parties, outdoor food festivals, and meals made with love by your neighbor

Shop local has taken on a new meaning during Covid. A lot of us, seeing how much local businesses were suffering, turned more attention toward giving our hard-earned dollars to small, independent shops. We saw thousands of Kickstarters keep restaurants and their workers afloat. 

Restaurants have realized, even more so, the importance of fostering community and gaining loyal customers. An example of a cool community-based event we’ve seen take place is the Family Style Food Festival, which was launched by streetwear company The Hundreds in 2019 to celebrate the intersection of food and streetwear. Restaurants that took part collaborated with the brand on looks to wear to the event, and people showed up in their best streetwear attire. In 2020 - the year of canceled festivals - this one still went on, but as a drive-in show. People were able to order food via Doordash to be delivered to their car while watching movies, comedy, and live music. 

Aside from actual IRL events, other restaurants are gaining attention by forging thriving online communities. That’s the case for Slutty Vegan, an Atlanta-based restaurant that has taken off during the pandemic, has focused on bringing fun and delicious food to traditionally Black neighborhoods that have been underserved by vegan and high-end restaurants. The concept tis rooted in the idea that vegan food can be a party — via the name itself, its amazing Instagram presence, and the environment of the actual restaurants. 

8. Power shift to workers led by restaurants, not governments

Restaurants across the country are having a hard time hiring back employees after laying staff off during the pandemic. Some say that’s because of the ongoing unemployment benefits available, but the reality is likely much more complicated. With their razor-thin profit margins, restaurants have historically not be great working environments in terms of pay, benefits, and culture. Now that many have found other ways to make money from home - and others having moved from city centers - restaurants will need to incentivize people to work for them. 

It’s especially hard to find people to fill back of house positions — cooks, dishwashers, etc — since they make significantly less than servers, who receive tips. One strategy taking place here in San Francisco is doing away with the tipping model and going the more European route of having service charges included in the meal prices or automatically added to introduce more pay equity among staff. The iconic Zuni Cafe in SF recently made this switch, which would result in a pay increase for back of house staff but has received backlash from servers who say it will mean a pay cut. 

Others, including fast casual joints, are also realizing they need to raise their wages to find talent. A recent national story caught attention about Klavon's Ice Cream Parlor in Pittsburgh receiving "well over 1,000 applications" after raising the wage to $15 (the minimum wage in Pennsylvania is $7.25).

5 principles for effective remote work: how I spend my time as a solo capitalist

optimize for deep work, take fewer meetings, work your outbox, build for scale

There’s a great deal of curiosity surrounding the rise of solo capitalists and how we work behind the scenes. How do we spend our time? Who helps behind the scenes? What tools, workflows, and systems make the model possible? 

Solo capitalists are responsible for sourcing, winning, and supporting a portfolio of companies. We are held to the same standards as firms with teams that own each step of this process, which means how we spend our time directly impacts our ability to win allocations in today’s hyper-competitive fundraising climate. 

Building on the 3 ways to activate your army of investors, I wanted to share the guiding principles for how I work as a solo capitalist. I have a fully distributed team and work with specialized freelancers on design, community, talent operations, and editorial because our model requires sector specific experience and freelancers help us expand our network and collaborate with other companies in our category.

To increase our overall output and contribution to individual portfolio companies, I looked to my friend Mathilde Collin who openly shares her calendar and how she spends her time as the CEO of Front.    

You can read more about how she spends her time here

For some background, here’s the deck from Worklife Fund I and the strategy for Fund II. I’ve also included 10+ posts on the changing landscape of venture capital in the appendix if you’d like to go down the rabbit hole later. 

How I spend my time: optimized for deep work ie: market research and big rocks with portfolio companies vs. traditional sourcing such as networking.

A typical week:

The 5 principles for effective remote work:

  1. Optimize for deep work

  2. Align on big rocks

  3. Batch routine asks 

  4. Work your outbox 

  5. Build for scale 

1. Optimize for deep work

Why deep work?

Less context switching, weekly goals are clearly defined, and preparation for meeting new companies is baked into the model. 

Tangible outputs: Concrete projects with portfolio companies and proactive big rocks with companies that we’d like to back in the future.

Worklife investments in Hopin, Public, and Webflow were catalyzed by independent market research, proactive emails to founders, and specific tactics to earn an allocation and continue to follow-on with larger allocations in later rounds. 

In today’s environment, prioritizing your time effectively and allocating a significant amount of time to proactively deliver value ahead of an investment is critical to securing an allocation. 

On average, I meet founders at least 4 months before they go out to raise money. In most cases, we validate an idea together before they leave their current company. This requires whiteboarding, strategic customer introductions, and a more bespoke approach to recruiting the right people at the right time based on specific superpowers and tangible playbooks from their previous company. 

For every new investment I ask three questions: 

  1. Can Worklife immediately add value? This is how we earn an allocation.

  2. Will our community events impact the trajectory of the company? This is how we earn larger allocations over time.

  3. Does the founding team of each new investment have operating experience that adds value to the rest of the portfolio? This is how we build for scale.

Considerations and tactics:

For founders and investors in the early stages of brand building for their company or firm, allocating an amble amount of time for deep work ensures time for publishing thought leadership and developing tangible case studies that speaks to the quality of your work. In the new era of building in public, openly sharing company strategy to support the broader ecosystem, the teams that do this well are the teams that allocate sufficient time and resources to make it a priority.

Form Capital does this well with comprehensive case studies on how they work with companies. See: Almanac, Souffle Club.

For founders and investors that have an established brand, you may find less deep work and more meetings is more effective because you’re able to close candidates and new investments based on your reputation.

To optimize for deep work, I take fewer meetings and learn from the sidelines

Take fewer meetings

As an angel or a new manager, it’s easy to fill your week with a lot of first time meetings or get caught on the hamster wheel of replying to every opportunity that comes inbound vs. thoughtful engaging with a handful of companies where you can immediately add value. 

The investors that move fast and with conviction are ones that come prepared.

I find blocking time before and after a meeting is an effective way to come prepared and deliver value after the first meeting: make customer intros, source new candidates in your network, and circulate notes with next steps. 

More meetings run the risk of a shallow discussion and without time blocked before and after each meeting, the follow-up emails and action items lose their effectiveness over time. Time kills deals, and I’ve seen first-hand that persistence pays off (even if it means building a relationship, proactively finding ways to add value and investing at the next round.)

Learn from the sidelines

As an angel investor, I analyzed hundreds of companies before ever writing my first check. This was partially due to my role at Zendesk working on product integrations, competition, and building Zendesk for Startups. I also found that refining my own mental models for how I wanted to work with companies made my pitch to founders more compelling over time.

If you’re new to investing, your operating experience and professional network can immediately add value however many investors continue to specialize or refine their value proposition so it’s specifically designed for the jobs to be done at the earliest stages.

I highly recommend reading the Idea Maze, the Great Mental Models Project, and how to evaluate founder-investor fit.  

While it’s tempting to start writing checks immediately, many venture firms encourage a new general partner to wait up to a year before writing their first check. 

Prior to starting the firm, I invested in a few emerging managers to learn alongside other investors before making the leap to full-time investor. I found this was one of the most effective ways to scale my time as an operator by learning alongside other investors with fewer 1:1 meetings with startups.

2. Align on big rocks 

An effective way to align on expectations before making an investment is to commit to “big rocks,” tangible ways that you will help the company succeed. 

I hear from founders that the smallest checks are the most helpful checks, aka “workhorses” on the cap table. But as a small check, it’s up to you to determine how you’d like to work with companies.

Some examples of Big Rocks:

  • Customer Intro Engine: shared document that tracks customer pipeline and roadblocks with specific actions for investors, founders, AEs, business development leads. I batch these introductions as routine asks (see #3).

  • Customer roundtable discussions: invite-only discussions to bring together companies and target customers in a format that’s educational and not transactional. We believe industry discussions are a more effective way to build a relationship than traditional sales pitches.

  • Learning circles: monthly learning circles for first hires including first DevRel, growth engineer, product designer, and head of people (80% of Worklife companies are remote-first and most are remote-only which requires a unique set of internal processes: employee onboarding, company culture & benefits, employee retention).

3. Batch routine asks: The jobs to be done for early stage companies are fairly repeatable and I find they are best completed in a single block of time.

  • Email introductions: warm intros are easy to execute, but the volume makes introductions a significant part of an investor’s week. I have multiple blocks each day to triage all texts, emails, and intro requests at once.

I use Texts.com to streamline all messaging and find the LinkedIn integration is a great way to send more proactive messages to source and close candidates for Worklife backed companies. I use OpenPhone for all work-related calls, so my assistant can help triage and track texts, voicemails, and adhoc calls.

  • Cold emails to candidates: we built an internal talent engine that leverages LinkedIn, Gem.com, Clearbit, the Org, and other off the shelve tools.

    But we find recruiting at the earliest stages is a bespoke process which requires context on the superpowers of individuals who have done zero to scale before.

  • Closing calls: offering time to meet with candidates who have passed early screens. On an average week, I spend up to 15-20% of my week on these calls.

Venture is by definition a very long-term game, so these calls create an early, direct touchpoint with every person who joins a Worklife backed company. Many new hires have said they plan to start a company in the future, so I’d like to be the first call when they’re ready to do so.

This has been an especially helpful strategy for meeting female candidates, planning long-term career goals, and introducing peers and mentors from the Worklife network. I shared more on this strategy in TechCrunch.

Talent falls into three categories: 

Sourcing: creating a bespoke list of candidates in your network

Closing: offering time to meet with candidates who have passed early screens

On these calls, I share why I’m excited about the company (market size, value of equity, quality of team) and walk through specific questions related to the offer letter.

Pave’s compensation data lab is a helpful resource for evaluating salary, equity, and benefits against other venture-backed startups.

Success: introducing mentors, peers, and helpful operators in the ecosystem to set every new hire up for long-term success 

4. Work your outbox

I’ve previously shared with my friend Hiten Shah why I created outbox days.”

While at Zendesk, I planned one day per month where I focus solely on proactively sending emails to continue to invest in relationships I’ve built over time and continuous expand to people that I’d love to meet and have learned from along the way (many of my closest friends started out as internet friends 😊):

1. Check-in with an old boss or colleague

2. Cold email someone that I’d love to meet ie: someone working in a similar role or someone I follow on Twitter who I’ve never met

3. Schedule Lunchclub meetings to expand my network and meet like-minded people

In the same way we spend 4 months or more with operators before they leave to start a company, many of the executives that have joined Worklife-backed companies have been friends of the firm who host Worklife community events, speak at SaaS School, or meet companies informally while they’re evaluating what’s next.

As an investor, my network is now a critical component of the overall success of the firm so I block time each week to proactively engage with operators in my extended network.

I continue to look for creative ways to work with new people that I meet:

5. Build for scale 

While venture has historically taken a high-touch and more bespoke approach to working with companies, in many ways it was similar to an enterprise sales process with steak dinners, extravagant gifting, and strategies that require a lot of face time.

Today, we see more operators and founders raising their own funds and using the same tools and workflows that a startup would use to scale their time and automate routine tasks.

As a firm, we designed all of our touch points around repeatability, relevancy, and responsibility.

A few systems we’ve implemented:

  • Individuals asks are turned into group conversations

  • Leverage the operating experience of founders in the portfolio

    ex: Equals founder Bobby Pinero was the first Finance hire at Intercom. He built and led the finance and analytics function for 7 years and scaled from $1M to $200M.

  • Executive round tables: bring together executives to discuss a timely topic

    Our monthly roundtables cover topics related to remote work, return to office, company culture and values, and create opportunities for Worklife founders to engage with leaders from other companies like Cameo, Reddit, 100 Thieves, MSCHF, and more.

  • Everything we build, we share (as templates)

  • Annual meeting is a large-scale event for portfolio company to close new customers, vs. a closed-door conversation with our investors

    You can find all of the panel discussions and workshops on our YouTube channel.

As always, I’d love to hear from you. If you’re thinking about time management and systems for working asynchronously, I’d love to learn from you 😊.

Some helpful thoughts on venture and the rise of solo capitalists

The first Industrial Revolution from home

You can start your dream job from your kitchen table

When Lucy Larcom left her rural hometown for Lowell, she found work as a "doffer," replacing empty bobbins, at a textile mill. On evenings and weekends, she began writing poems and honing her craft as a self-taught writer. After ten years of working in mills and writing on the side, Larcom’s work began to appear in Harpers and The Atlantic. She earned the respect of top academics, became friends with the greats of her time like John Whittier, and created a new movement for self-taught creators and entrepreneurs. 

“Some of their wages went to help parents with mortgage payments or brothers with school fees, but most ‘mill girls’ worked to accomplish personal goals.” 

For centuries, each Industrial Revolution sees new technologies and new economic opportunities for anyone who is ready to roll up their sleeves — where we live, how we make money, and ultimately our contribution to mainstream culture happens at the intersection of work and life.

In the first Industrial Revolution, Lucy and her contemporaries had to leave home to find prosperity. Although Lucy was able to find time to hone her craft, many were relegated to a lifetime of factory work. Although it’s been over 185 years since Lucy left her farm behind, not much has changed. 

When many think of the Industrial Revolution, they think of Lucy Larcom in a textile mill. But our pre-COVID world was part of another Industrial Revolution, a fourth one, when workers commuted long distances to an office. Although remote work was gaining in popularity before the pandemic, the majority of workers were still traveling to an office and spending a large percentage of their day in meetings.

Prior to the COVID-19 lockdowns, 93% of workers in the U.S. were visiting an office each day meanwhile studies uncovered that 99% of workers had a strong desire to work from home some of the time for the rest of their career. In the 1980s and 1990s, we saw the rise of corporate culture: office parks, cubicles, and a culture where meetings and long hours at the office became the social norm for workers who aspired to climb the corporate ladder.

In the 2000s to 2010s, corporate culture took a more relaxed approach by introducing a casual dress code, free lunches, and more “culture” events such as extravagant team happy hours, improv classes, and private events with celebrity performers (à la Beyoncé’spay me in equity’ moment where she negotiated $6 million in equity to perform for Uber employees in Las Vegas).

At its peak, cool office culture saw young talented workers flocking to cities like San Francisco where landlords converted garages into $5,000+ per month rentals for tech workers eager to break into the industry.

According to Bloomberg, extreme commutes (defined as longer than 1.5 hours per day) rose by nearly 95% during the 1990s. Angela Barber, a legal secretary working in Hagerstown, Md., left her house at 5:15 am to embark on a two hour commute every day. She told the Washington Post that she couldn’t afford to move or leave her job. This environment gave birth to cultural touchstones such as Office Space and The Office, which poke fun at long commutes, pointless meetings, and forced fun.

As COVID-19 sent many workers home to a world of Zoom calls, family responsibilities, and home office spaces, a new Industrial Revolution is beginning to take place, one that’s happening at home.

The next wave of entrepreneurs will form and build their ideas from kitchen tables and home offices with spouses, family members or find co-founders entirely virtually. It’s hard to imagine that workers will ever resign themselves to “extreme commuting” again. Instead, we’re entering a new era where individuals have more power than institutions: the corporate era is over and anyone can start the business of their dreams.

The next decade will see new types of builders: couples who join forces, founders with an eye for good design, creative hackers who find distribution by building what's clever and niche, but not obvious for large companies. 

Sisters Vanessa and Kim Pham launched their dream business Omsom during the pandemic, proud loud Asian meal kits for people stuck at home.

The New American Dream is anything but a traditional 9-5 sandwiched between two commutes in a car or on a wifi-enabled shuttle to a corporate office park. Instead, we want a life where we can express ourselves creatively and build something with purpose and meaning. In the wake of COVID, this dream has only accelerated. 

My vision for Worklife began when I discovered the New American Dream in early 2019. Creative expression, online influence and extreme optionality ie: remote work, calendar flexibility and the ability to start your own business from anywhere was changing how Americans define success.

The end of offices

COVID has sent so many of us home from typical office arrangements, and many have realized how much these environments stifle our potential and limit our contribution to society.

For many of us, the end of offices has highlighted something far more existential.

The more time we spend in the same asynchronous docs and meeting for the sake of meeting, the more we hate our jobs and will choose more creative and meaningful work. Remote workers spent 157 more hours in unnecessary meetings compared to last year. And, missing these meetings isn’t often an option, as meeting culture creates a fear of being left out and face time becomes a proxy for personal contribution to your company.

As workers increasingly recognize the benefits of working from home and the downsides of working for a corporation, many will opt to start location-independent businesses of their own. After all, for years we’ve molded our lives around physical locations: where we work, where we get our haircut, where we send our children to daycare. These places not only require substantial capital, but also confine people to a single space.

For example, Toby and Mags — a quirky couple that go by the name Elevated Weirdo started a popular vintage store prior to COVID. Although the shop was created with vintage fairs and physical popups in mind, the couple realized they could make a bigger splash if they launched a high energy show with global reach on Popshop Live, which today attracts stars and fashion influencers like Paris Hilton.

Technology is rapidly changing how individuals start the business of their dreams from anywhere. Cashdrop, Popshop, and Webflow coupled with Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube have given local small business owners access to customers globally, helping to lower operating costs by removing the need for physical real estate.

We’re all wired to create

While the creator economy is a popular theme bubbling up in tech circles, it’s not new.

As humans, we’ve always been wired to create. Just like Lucy Larcom felt the need to write poetry, there have always been creatives looking to share their art with the world. 

The difference today? Creators not only have platforms that allow them to reach people on a massive, global scale, but they also have a host of technological tools to tap into to make their business dreams a reality.

Cashdrop has removed the need for a site entirely, as small businesses like food trucks and farmer’s markets can be built entirely from your phone. Full-blown startups, creative agencies and creative projects start on Webflow– the community of 100,000+ professional designers openly share their work so anyone can build a beautiful experience on top of their original designs. 

As I was digging into the future of small business with Worklife-backed company Cashdrop, I realized almost all Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or Thumbtack posts could be stand-alone creative small businesses. Many creatives are selling an array of goods with no room to style the post or curate the experience.

For example, anyone selling plants could easily build The Sill, a premium site for buying potted plants in NYC with a no-code website on Webflow and live 1:1 courses on Superpeer.

Ultimately, we’re in a unique era on the dawn of the first Industrial Revolution at home and the new tools fo these creative entrepreneurs can get a beautifully branded business off the ground in minutes. We’re seeing an array of opportunities for any creator who is ready to build the business of their dreams. The best part? They don’t have to leave their apartment.

What are some trends we’ll see in the new Industrial Revolution from home?

You can start your dream job from your kitchen table.

In the fifth Industrial Revolution, home will gain a new meaning. It will no longer be a respite from the office after a long day of meetings.

With the rise of no-code tools, you can start a business from anywhere and anyone can be a tech founder.

Our home matters more and so do our neighborhoods.

When we work from home, we reconnect with our neighborhood. We get to know our, support local businesses, and invest our time and money locally.

This isn’t the first time people have paid special attention to their homes.

After WWII, the war’s technology made mass production possible and households flocked to buy appliances ranging from refrigerators to electric mixers. People were not only rapidly building and buying homes, they were buying new in-home technologies.

The same thing is happening today with so many working from home on account of COVID. Many are considering buying new homes, moving to a new location, completing a renovation, or simply figuring out the best way to create a functional office space.

Small businesses will build local and sell global.

I’m fascinated by how hourly work is more creative than ever, especially during the pandemic. The hair stylists and tattoo artists who traditionally offered services in their local area have expanded to selling online courses, branded merchandise, and in-home services.

We will choose creativity over corporate culture.  

At Worklife, we surveyed tech workers and found that 43% of people were pursuing a side hustle or other money-making project not tied to their regular job. Seventy-one percent were working to develop new skills or interests on evenings or weekends. 

In a changing world, our ideas about how to live and work are being thrown into question. Workers are no longer convinced that they need to stifle their creativity to be successful. COVID has sent many home, inspiring workers to take matters into their own hands.

3 ways to activate your army of investors

set expectations, default to overshare, everyone on sales

In previous essays, I've shared how to structure your first round with operators and super angels to establish credibility in the ecosystem and build alongside the best founders and experienced operators who deliver a high check size to helpful ratio (CS:H ratio). More often than not, the smallest checks will be the most engaged and helpful as angels and few funds proactively seek ways to add value in new and differentiated ways.

As we enter another year with an unprecedented amount of capital in the ecosystem, the startups that effectively activate their army of investors will create an engaged community of early believers and build a defensible moat around the business.

An unspoken truth in tech today is the startup that raises the most amount of money at the highest valuation from the best firm is crowned the category leader.

A startup is an experiment until it has been validated by the ecosystem. Activating your army of investors is a tangible strategy to acquire more customers, source and close candidates, and hit significant company milestones ahead of the next financing round.

In this essay, we’ll explore three ways to activate your army of investors:

  • Set expectations for investment

  • Default to overshare

  • Everyone on sales

Set expectations for investment

The founder-investor relationship is a powerful virtuous loop

The more you engage your investors, the more involved they become and the more value they deliver in the shortest amount of time.

To build a strong bench, start by setting expectations for all investors.

Passion for the product is table stakes.

Investors need to understand how your product works before they can make relevant customer introductions, recruit executives from their network, and anticipate potential business risks and roadblocks in the future.

Some examples of effective expectations:

  • We expect every investor to be a passionate user of the product

  • We expect every investor to generate new leads & refer their friends/followers

  • We expect at least 1 monthly call to get your feedback on company strategy

  • We expect founder angels to champion our product inside your company

  • We expect operators to introduce and help us close candidates

Determine your standard operating procedures.

Even the most helpful and experienced investors benefit from a standard set of operating procedures to ensure founders and the extended team feel adequately supported and investors feel sufficiently helpful.

Some examples of standard operating procedures:

  • We plan to send explicit asks to all of our investors on a weekly basis that require a single action: forward email, loop someone else in, a single sentence response

  • We want to collaborate with all investors in real-time and have a WhatsApp, Signal, or Telegram group to chat live and share updates on a frequent basis

  • We send investor updates monthly and ask for a response within 24-48 hours

  • We plan to ship substantial product updates quarterly and ask for your help upvoting on Product Hunt, Hacker News and sharing on your social channels

  • We ask all investors to play a role in our company culture and ask for you to speak at our company all-hands and welcome new members to the team

For each ask, be explicit and reduce friction for investors.

Transform CEO Nick Handel arms investors with 3 key resources in every update:

  1. The ICP: “ideal customer profile” to activate your investor network and ensure introductions are relevant for the current phase of company growth.

  1. The customer sales deck: give investors everything they need to make an intro without drafting an email, downloading a deck, or doing anything beyond a forward or looping someone into the current email.

  1. A link to relevant 1st degree connections on LinkedIn: Increase the effectiveness of your talent outreach by activating your investor’s first degree connections with a single link. Investors love reconnecting with old colleagues and sharing portfolio highlights with potential candidates.

When Almanac CEO Adam Nathan raised his seed round he left an ample amount of room for super angels with distribution and paired angels with a writer to document their core workflows and turn angels into super contributors on the platform.

This not only activated angels, but incentivized early believers to refer their executive friends and writers in their network to seamlessly contribute in a way that removed friction and provided a tangible value-add to every person on the cap table.

Default to overshare

Working in Public, openly publishing company values, strategy docs and recent learnings to educate and learn from the broader ecosystem, is one of the most exciting trends to come out of 2020.

Recent research by Asana, involving 13,000 global workers, revealed remote workers spent more than 157 hours in unnecessary meetings compared with last year. 

The companies that built remote-first systems prior to COVID-19 have become the gold standard for default to overshare.

Their ability to effectively onboard new hires, reduce the amount of time spent in meetings, and introduce new standard operating procedures internally and externally is a highly effective tactic for activating investors and up-leveling the entire ecosystem. When a company works in public, we all benefit from their learnings.

Levels CEO Sam Corcos openly published the company’s secret master plan on the company blog and continues to champion a culture of working in public by sharing all company strategy docs with investors and early supporters.

Here’s my link to skip the Levels 85,000+ person waitlist 😎

While Linear CEO Karri Saarinen built his network and reputation as one of Silicon Valley’s most sought-after designers in the flashy offices of Coinbase and Airbnb, he credits his team’s overall productivity and recent $13m Series A led by Sequoia to fewer distractions and their consistent open changelog for anyone to track the team’s progress and actively contribute to the overall evolution of the product.

Default to overshare is not limited to company strategy, Flatfile CEO David Boskovic says one of the most effective ways to activate investors involves consistently sharing moments of unprompted customer love.

“We keep investors engaged by consistently sharing customer updates. Not branded customer stories on our website, but snippets of sales calls using Gong and other forms of unfiltered, unprompted feedback from our customers.”

Investors are more likely to roll up their sleeves and open up their network when you provide consistent market validation and positive feedback from real customers.

Everyone on Sales

While fundraising is notoriously tedious and stressful, it’s one of the few windows where your company has mindshare and a wide network of well-connected people who are incentivized to deliver as much value as possible in a short time frame.

I encourage companies to activate potential investors long before a fundraise and draft every email, ask, and necessary assets such as customer sales decks before kicking off a formal process. Fundraising moves fast, so preparation is key if you want to maximize the opportunity to accelerate your business throughout the process.

Some examples of everyone on sales:

  • Create a shared pipeline in Notion or Google Sheets to track investor intros, add notes on a per company basis, and include key points for investor backchannel including highlights from previous conversations

  • Draft emails for investors to send to the right point of contact at relevant portfolio companies

  • Involve SDRs, AEs, and Customer Success leads in the process. Founders are busy and sales reps are measured by their ability to close new customers. When in doubt, engage your internal army of closers to accelerate investor introductions

These are two examples of Hightouch.io engaging investors before an official product launch. The asks were split by company with tailored introductions to maximize the effectiveness of each intro request.

Always include what your company does and why your team is one to be taken seriously.

👋

As always, I’d love to hear from you and hope these examples provide tangible ways for your company to maximize your existing relationships with investors. I encourage you to engage with your community of early believers and even re-connect with investors who have previously passed.

The ecosystem is filled with helpful angels, plenty of new funds, and firms stacked with super connectors who are able and ready to help.

It’s up to you to get creative and make every connection count.

Arianna Huffington LIVE at Now, New, Next

The Great Global Burnout: an intimate conversation on how burnout has taken new form

We’re 4 days away from Now, New, Next and we have some surprises in store for you. We are thrilled to announce our keynote speaker, Arianna Huffington.

We’ve gathered a lineup of speakers and events spanning the worlds of business, VC, and culture to speak directly to the challenges and questions we face in a world that’s shifted drastically over the last several months—and we want you to be a part of the conversation. 

See our full slate of events here

Event Highlights

Additional Speaker Highlights

A Treat From Haus, a new low-alcohol apéritif 

Invest with friends. Claim your $50 stock 

gift with Public here

For families @ home together, try OK Play

Have you checked out the entire slate of events? RSVP for more events here. Let us know what you are most excited for! 

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