The best way to guarantee that you can raise a Series A is to create repeatable growth for your startup. Growth defines startups. Growth is the only real signal that your company has product market fit. At the earliest stages of your company, you might get growth by being lucky. But once you have your first taste of growth, it needs to become the product of a system. If you understand that system and control it, you’ll be able to raise the capital you need to build a company large enough to knock the planet slightly out of orbit.
Some founders know how to build repeatable growth because they’ve seen it up close. Most founders that find it do so through trial and error. That takes too long and risks too much. So we’re going to fix it.
Shortcut Labs is a post-seed accelerator program built to shorten the path from accidental growth to repeatable growth for founders who want to take the guesswork out of building a Series A ready company.
This is going to be a bit different than any other program we’ve seen. We’re focusing entirely on companies that have crossed their first chasm - companies with the early glimmers of product market fit. These companies are producing growth each month, but they can’t explain how they’ll do it the next month. During the batch, we’ll work with you to:
- Define the metrics that demonstrate repeatable growth.
- Design and build the growth engine you need to hit those metrics.
- Use that growth to build the narrative and investor pipeline necessary for an A.
Batches will be small, just a few companies at a time. We’re going to spend our time together on practical lessons for building growth engines and on measuring ourselves against aggressive goals. Each lesson will be taught by a someone great who recently built that type of growth engine. We’ll also bring in the investors who evaluate those engines so you can hear how they evaluate what they see. We’ll leave the aspirational war stories to the podcasters.
Shortcut Labs is run by Aaron Harris and Fareed Mosavat. Aaron is an expert on fundraising. He’s helped hundreds of companies raise their series As and Bs while building the Series A Program at YC (where he also funded 20+ unicorns including Deel, Scale, OpenSea, Rappi, Lattice, Ironclad and others) and at Magid & Co. Fareed is an expert on growth. He’s led growth teams during the foundational scaling stages at Slack, Instacart, and Zynga, and teaching growth programs at Reforge. We’ve both built companies in the past and are still building new things from scratch.
In-Person Kickoff in San Francisco
The first week will be in person in San Francisco. We’ll have dinner together to get to know each other. The next day, we’ll do a two hour lesson. We’ll follow that up by hanging out.
For the five weeks after that, we’ll meet remotely. Each week will feature a different guest lecturer.
By the end of the first six weeks, you’ll have a full growth plan. This will include your hypotheses of what will work, what “good” is, and how to test against that plan while evolving where necessary.
In the 11 months that follow, we’ll check in regularly as a cohort and provide targeted advice and feedback on how to get better. We will do a combination of group sessions and 1:1 time for deeper dives on specific topics around growth and fundraising.
Our goal is that, within 12 months of your first day, you’ll be able to raise an A at industry leading terms from one of the best investors in the world.
The program is designed for consumer companies that have a feel for where their growth should come from, but want to get to that place faster. We’re starting with a single type of company because each category of company needs a different set of tools in a different mix. We want our founders to be amongst peers experiencing similar problems that have similar solutions.
Good applicants will have some early signs of product-market fit: organic growth, some users who can’t live without your product, and solid retention in your early cohorts.
Great applicants will also have some evidence of network effects or other durable moats that can help the company grow and differentiate over time.
- You have a product in-market and real users. The more you can back up your application with real data, the better. You are already “off the ground” and ready to start really scaling growth. We are not for companies that have no users or customers. You need to have some real usage and an understanding of growth, even if it’s all duct tape and favors.
- You are pursuing a venture scale opportunity and plan to raise a Series A in the next 12 months.
- You have enough capital and the team to pursue a growth strategy with 12 months of runway.
- You, the founder / CEO are ready to put in the work and are available to meet in-person on October 18, 2023 in San Francisco, and weekly on zoom for the following five weeks from 9-11am PT on Wednesdays.
- Consumer is a broad term. If your primary user/customer is a human and not an company, we’re interested.
- Each cohort is built around a single type of company, but more cohorts will follow. We’re starting with consumer companies, and will run future cohorts for B2B, enterprise, etc. Stay tuned
This covers our costs. We charge cash in order to fund Shortcut.
Programs that don’t charge cash need to raise money from LPs to fund operations. Once a program has LPs, the LPs are the customers. That leads to all kinds of odd behavior over time. We want you to be our customer so that we never get out of alignment.
Owning equity further aligns our incentives with yours. This is where the real upside is.
Apply here by September 25, 2023.
We will make initial decisions by October 2, 2023 and schedule interviews with select teams over the next week.
Final decisions will be made by October 6, 2023.
- Fundraising has gotten harder. It’s harder still for consumer companies than for most other types of company.
- Consumer companies only become huge when they understand their growth engines, but they too often rely on hail mary strategies when they’re young. We’d like to fix that.
- When consumer works, it’s just about the biggest bet there is. We like big bets.
- We think that we’re at the dawn of a new consumer age.
The 1st part of the program will start the second week of October and run until Thanksgiving. The schedule looks like this:
The Kickoff is a full day schedule in San Francisco. Over the course of the day, you will meet the Shortcut team, the other companies in the batch, and some of our speakers. We’ll spend 1:1 time with each company to dive deep on the state of your business, the challenges you face, and to start identifying where we want to focus over the coming weeks.
- Kickoff Dinner (Evening, October 18)
- Startup Math: What it takes to raise a great Series A
- P/M fit is not enough - many companies fail here, even with strong early usage
- Examples of recent successful Series A’s + what those companies looked like before and after (data on market, etc)
- Fundamentals of Repeatable Growth
- Growth is your #1 problem - identifying and scaling core channels
- From product + market hypothesis to channel + monetization
- 1:1 Company Deep Dives
- Current metrics
- Current signs of PMF
- Wrap-up Dinner
October 25, 2023
November 1, 2023
SEO and Content
November 8, 2023
Social and Viral Growth
November 15, 2023
Gap Week (Thanksgiving)
November 29, 2023
Growth Plan Review and Workshops
Each sprint week has three core components:
- Group presentations and discussion on a key growth lever, led by an expert from the Shortcut network who has recently solved these problems for their own company.
- Some homework - assignments are meant to help you turn best practices into specific tools that you can use to build your growth engine. It isn’t enough to hear about how someone else did something well, we want you to confident that you know how to do it for your company. Taken together, the assignments will form the growth plan you’ll use for the next year (or decade…).
- Cohort check-ins - we’ll follow up on last week’s action items and figure out where we can help each other.
In the later weeks, we will also start building out your fundraising strategy - what you need to do, which investors you need to know, and how to know when it’s time to raise.
The first six weeks are not the program - they are the kickoff to a year-long process where we will continue to build and support your growth and fundraising work.
We will schedule a combination of group sessions and 1:1 advisory sessions with each company at mutually agreed times over the course of the next year.