4 Roles to Fill When Launching a Startup

Behind every startup is a great team. In the early days of a startup, there’s often  one person performing multiple roles. In the beginning, a one-person team is the most cost-effective way to do things. However, as the business grows, there will be an increase in tasks and a need for a team. 

In the beginning of launching a startup, it’s important to establish a team of people who are willing to put in the time to succeed. The founding team of a startup is the foundation for its. It determines the path and the outcome the startup will take. It requires building a strong team that’s able to manage critical areas of your business to make it a success. One of the main challenges of developing a strong team is figuring out the most critical roles to fill first.  

Here’s four places to start:

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)- The Dreamer aka the Boss

The Chief Executive Officer is usually the founder, leader and the face of the startup. The CEO is a primary role and is responsible for upholding the mission of the startup. They’re passionate about the mission and are the boss of everyone and responsible for everything. Most importantly, they hire and build the senior team and make all the final calls.

Chief Product Officer (CPO)- The Visionary aka the Product Guru

The Chief Product Officer knows the ins and outs of the products and can recognize problems and offer solutions. Similar to the CEO, the CPO has to understand the mission and goals of the startup. The product officer is not only responsible for utilizing various technologies to build a product or service—but they’re also responsible for finding ways to use technology and information to create a successful business model.

Chief Financial Officer (CFO)-The Monkey Maker 

The Chief Financial Officer handles the money. The person has an integral role on the founding team because they access the growth and profitability of the startup, which is key to getting investors. The person in this role creates budgets and financing strategies. They create systems that monitor your company’s financial health.

Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)- The Architect 

The Chief Marketing Officer oversees the marketing and sales strategy. The CMO will be an expert in your industry and will help position your product, discern it from your competitors, enlist distributors, and make customers crave what you’re selling. In today’s business world, marketing is a part of every business, making a CMO a critical role to fill when launching a startup.

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

In today’s entrepreneurial world, to go from “idea” to “execution,” a startup needs a team to make it all happen. Filling these critical roles will help build a team to help you reach your goals. In the end, you have to have a strong team launch your startup into success.


This FinTech Company is Launching A New WeChat Money Transfer Service

African fintech company SimbaPay and Family Bank Limited— a leading bank in Kenya— have teamed up to launch an instant money transfer service from Kenya to China through WeChat. 

The companies report that small Kenyan businesses already use WeChat to communicate with their suppliers in China—Kenya’s largest trading partner. The partnership will help boost trade between the two countries as the new service is designed to help vendors overcome barriers in sending money to suppliers overseas.

SimbaPay co-founder Sagini Onyancha told Techcrunch a little more about the market his company is trying to get into.

“Kenya imports about $4 billion goods from China. That’s the total market that we’re getting into. We’re looking at a single digit market share of the transactional volume around that.”

SimbaPay and Family Bank project over 7 million customers and businesses in Kenya will be able to perform money transfers to WeChat Pay through Family Bank’s PesaPap mobile banking application and USSD service.

Users only need a mobile phone number to make a money transfer via SimbaPay service. Funds are instantly delivered to WeChat Pay recipients in Chinese Yuan. Through the app, senders can review the transaction and exchange rate before completing the payment.

“This is a huge milestone for us and our customers,” said Family Bank Chief Operations Officer, Godfrey Kamau in a press release. “We are glad to extend, more so to our SME customers, a solution that offers an instant, reliable, traceable and affordable channel to send money to their suppliers and business partners in China.”

SimbaPay also supports money transfer to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ghana, Nigeria, Madagascar, Niger, and India. The London-based fintech company launched in 2015 to aid digital money transfers across Africa.

The startup participated in Barclays Accelerator (powered by Techstars) in 2016.

This Technologist Just Launched a Co-working Space in Seattle

A new innovation hub and co-working space has opened its doors in downtown Seattle. The Union, named after black student unions on HBCU campuses, is a space designed to facilitate events and workshops focused on science, technology, entrepreneurship, arts, and media (STEAM).

“The Union Seattle is changing the way we engage with underserved communities,” said founder Arif Gürsel, who currently serves as director of product at Heroku. “We are excited to introduce the launch of our home base to execute and drive our organization’s future growth.”

The former Microsoft engineer founded the space after seeing the need for a culturally relevant co-working space offering empowering programming with events including focused on software engineering, data science, 3D animation, design, and more.

“The desire to empower a future generation of learners, technologist and entrepreneurs drove the establishment of The Union,” said Gürsel.

The Union will operate as a co-working space during the day and transform into an event space at night where educational workshops will take place. The space also has a recording studio to serve content creators and media producers.


Kenyan Startup Twiga Foods Raises $10M

Twiga Foods—a Kenyan-based startup connecting farmers to vendors—just raised $10 million in funding led by International Finance Corporation and TLcom, an Africa focused venture capital firm.

The B2B platform leverages mobile technology to match suppliers with the larger produce market in Kenya streamlining the process of vendors ordering fresh produce from farmers across the country.

“The TLcom and IFC investment will enable us to reach more farmers, improve efficiency in service delivery and increase access to high-quality products and foodstuffs for vendors,” said CEO Grant Brooke in a press release. “We will continue in our mission to provide affordable, quality, and safe food to Kenya’s urban consumers, and reliable markets for farmers across the country.”

The e-commerce startup was founded in Nairobi in 2014 and currently has a network of 13,000 farmers and 6,000 vendors, according to the company.

Twiga has been able to reduce food prices and waste through their app-based system. Users can also use the app to coordinate the exchange of products and receive payments within 24-hours.

“Twiga is proving that smart use of technology and innovative business models can vastly improve large and inefficient African markets such as the agricultural supply chain,” said Maurizio Caio from TLcom. “With capital and business building support coming from this set of investors Twiga is positioning for massive value generation, demonstrating the increasing maturity of the Africa venture capital space.”

The supply chain startup raised $10.3 million in their Series A funding round last year led by Wamda Capital and includes Omidyar Network, DOB Equity, Uqalo, 1776, Blue Haven Initiative, AlphaMundi, and AHL Venture Partners.

Culture Genesis Launches Quiz Show To Target Urban Audiences

Startup founders Cedric Rogers and Shaun Newsum are “remixing” technology for the culture with Culture Genesis, a digital gaming studio creating new content targeting urban and multicultural audiences.

The company unveiled their first product to come out of the production studio, a quiz show called TriviaMob available for download in the Apple app store.

TriviaMob players can compete either individually or in a group to win $10,000 in cash during a weekly show airing every Sunday. The game is centered around players answering 10 questions about art, music, science, and history in 10 seconds.

“We’re building software for an urban, multicultural audience that continues to lead and influence culture — not just in the U.S. but around the world,” said Rogers, in a statement to TechCrunch. “We see this influence growing in Hollywood but it’s not happening fast enough in Silicon Valley. We want to accelerate this shift.”

Rogers, a former Apple executive and Newsum, a former software developer, launched TriviaMob in response to the widely successful HQ Trivia. Although it was a popular quiz show, they felt as if it didn’t speak to their target demographic, according to TechCrunch.

“I think HQ was a prime example of our thesis. HQ from a multicultural perspective — that didn’t appeal to our audience,” Newsum said. “Part of what we’re doing with Cultural Genesis is bringing that urban understanding.”

The Los Angeles-based startup— founded earlier this year—has a total funding amount of $400,000 backed by Betaworks and Mucker Capital.

Meet the Founder Revolutionizing Freelance Work

Cameron Sadler is an expert on freelancers and wants to help mold the future of work.

The founder is on a mission to help people learn a new craft and hone their freelancer skills through the Y-Combinator backed startup NewCraft. The platform is designed to help freelancers access opportunities with top companies and learn the skills needed to be successful in their role.

NewCraft—the internet’s learning management system—evolved as a space for freelancers to learn how to freelance their work, collaborate on projects, and search for contract workers. Sadler and his team developed two iterations of the product before landing on the current version of the platform.

The founder first toyed around with the idea of freelancers subcontracting work to other freelancers and also built a product delivering instant payouts to freelancers. Both products served thousands of users while ensuring customers learned how to become master freelancers.

“Over the last two years, I’ve seen just about every freelance work scenario,” Sadler said in a June 2018 YouTube interview. “I’m pulling all the data from our first two products and pushing them into our new product to generate more content and more freelance work scenarios.”

Sadler is a Texas native with a background in IT project management. He previously founded a startup called GF-17, Inc.–a co-working space for freelancers–and taught technology at a high school. He founded the company in 2017, according to Crunchbase, then launched the product in beta a few months ago.

The platform now facilitates helping companies search for talent through artificial intelligence on-boarding and helping freelancers seamlessly earn contracts through the skills-based training content.

“Our vision here is that everyone should have the opportunity to learn through work simulation,” said Sadler. “What that looks like is someone graduates high school or someone leaves college early, they can essentially enter a work simulator and see exactly what it’s like to work at a company like Airbnb and Dropbox.”

NewCraft participated in the Y-Combinator accelerator program where the startup received $120,000 in seed funding this year.

Cameron Sadler will be participating in the AfroTech Cup Pitch Competition. Check out the live stream starting at 2 o’clock to see him and other founders pitch their ideas.


Meet the Founder Revolutionizing The Future of Work Through Y-Combinator-Backed Startup, NewCraft

Cameron Sadler wants to help mold the future of work through a carefully crafted learning experience that innovates the way we acquire new skills online.

The founder is on a mission to help people learn a new craft and hone their skills through the Y-Combinator backed startup NewCraft, a platform designed for anyone interested in discovering, sharing and building learning experiences.

NewCraft evolved as a space for people to learn how to freelance their work, collaborate on projects, and search for contract workers. Sadler and his team developed two iterations of the product before landing on the current version of the platform.

The founder first toyed around with the idea of freelancers subcontracting work to other freelancers and also built a product delivering instant payouts to freelancers. Both products served thousands of users while ensuring customers learned how to become master freelancers.

Now, the former computer information systems teacher is taking his education background and applying it to NewCraft to help people master new skills in hours and days instead of months and years.

“Once we did it for freelancers, we knew we could do it for everyone that is learning online,” said Sadler who officially launched NewCraft last month.

NewCraft—the internet’s learning management system—allows users to engage in two experiences: interactive missions and Super Smart flashcards.  Anyone can create an interactive mission that takes users through a “learn by doing” skill-building experience on the platform. Super Smart flashcards are designed to integrate into the users’ workflow through spaced repetition learning. The flashcards appear with new information and overtime learners build new skills.

“I’m a former teacher, this is my dream teaching tool,” said Sadler. “I found the traditional classroom setting to be pretty outdated and not great for the new workforce.”

Sadler is a Texas native with a background in IT project management. He previously founded a startup called GF-17, Inc.–a co-working space for freelancers–and taught technology at a high school.

“I wanted to create something that made education and work identical,” the founder said. “Something where someone felt like they weren’t going to a class, but are learning by doing.”

NewCraft participated in the Y-Combinator accelerator program where the startup received $120,000 in seed funding this year.

“Our mission is to change the way people learn and work online. Make it possible for everyone to discover learn and share learning experiences,” said Sadler.

NewCraft is set to launch publicly before the end of Q4.

Cameron Sadler will be participating in the AfroTech Cup Pitch Competition. Check out the live stream starting at 2 o’clock to see him and other founders pitch their ideas.


Bird Is Changing The Landscape Of Transportation — And The Face Of Engineering

Photo: Courtesy of Bird

Chances are you’ve seen Bird in your city. You might even have ridden one for fun on a beautiful day, or for a quick and inexpensive ride when you needed to get somewhere in a crunch. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like working at the startup transforming the way people get around, we spoke to Rodney Gainous Jr. and Alona King — software engineers at Bird— to get a deeper look inside.

Landing at Bird

Gainous moved to LA in January and noticed the high number of people riding scooters around town. After a friend finally convinced him to unlock a Bird, he realized how enjoyable the experience was. He further researched the company, reached out to Travis VanderZanden, CEO of Bird, who introduced him to Justin Balthrop, the CTO. Shortly after, Rodney was working on the iOS and Android apps as the youngest and one of the 10 first members of Bird’s engineering team.

Alona King began to see Bird as an affordable, accessible means of transportation that was going to completely change the way a large portion of our society moves after riding to the grocery store and back for $3.30. She immediately set up a visit to Bird’s electrified HQ through Gainous.

“Everyone I talked to was excited, humble and hungry,” King says, “Every engineer I talked to couldn’t stop talking about the incredible problems they solve day in and day out. Problems that no one had ever solved before. I decided right then and there that I wanted to join the team, and three weeks later I was the first woman to join software engineering at Bird.”

Growing at Bird

The ability to create solutions never stops, as Bird continues to innovate how people get around.

“Because of our growth, every day there are new challenges to face,” says Gainous, “What is a priority today may or may not be a priority tomorrow. I spend the majority of my time coding, typically working on new features.”With Bird growing so fast, the company is actively hiring in all areas. As Gainous describes, “Some days, my whole day is interviewing candidates because we have tons of positions to fill.”

Taking Bird international was King’s first responsibility. During King’s second week working, the CTO came to her to ask if she had what it took to take Bird to Paris. She jumped at the opportunity.

“During that time, a normal day for me was spent leading that project, coordinating necessary engineering work between teams and writing all the code necessary to take our app international,” she says, “A month later, thanks to that work, we were able to launch in Paris, and now Bird is operational in countries around the globe. Still, priorities change all the time.”

After taking Bird global, King led the rider team to implement Bird Delivery, a service announced in October that allows riders to have Birds delivered to their homes so they can have all-day access to it. It’s the next step for users who want to reduce their carbon footprint but need to take multiple trips throughout the day. In addition to Bird Delivery, Bird has also released Bird Zero, a new scooter that’s designed to have a longer-lasting battery, improved lighting and more. Continuing to innovate and push the mission forward is important to the team.

On the one-year anniversary of the startup, Bird celebrated by providing 10 million environmentally-friendly rides to riders in more than 100 cities. With a timely idea, a great product and the sense of freedom and accessibility that comes with the service, the team has set themselves up for an impressive growth trajectory, meaning more growth within in business and a cleaner environment.

Diversity at Bird

“As a black engineer, I can look to my left and right and see other black software engineers doing incredible work and that is a blessing to be a part of,” says King.

Even though many tech companies claim that black and brown engineers don’t exist, Bird sees and hires them.

“Bird has the most black engineers that I’ve ever worked with in 5 years,” says Gainous. “Compared to other companies, there is higher priority in improving the diversity of the engineering team.”

Gainous says that Bird is helping foster diversity and inclusion by listening to the concerns of minorities and actively working to address them. In addition to attending and recruiting at AfroTech this year, Bird has prioritized recruiting from HBCUs and participating in the annual Grace Hopper event to encourage women to join the team. In support to those recruitment efforts, the team must participate in mandatory safe & inclusive workspace training for all employees so that individuals can best work together in an understanding and comfortable environment.

Are you interested in joining the flock? Click here to learn more about Bird’s current openings.


This post is sponsored by Bird.

This New Bootcamp Is Helping Diverse Entrepreneurs With Business Technology

A new tech-focused organization created a program aimed at helping underrepresented entrepreneurs leverage the latest business technology to simplify their workflow and focus on growth.

The Cincinnati-based NITRO! Bootcamp is designed to “power up” small owned businesses through business technology training including cloud storage, creative services, project management, and accounting. The training—made possible with a $100,000 grant from J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Cintrifuse—is slated to take place during a one-day boot camp on February 23, 2019.

“Startups or small businesses are so focused on running their business that they’re not even using some of the best technology out there,” said Maurice Coffey, a Procter & Gamble Co. executive who’s helping with Cintrifuse initiatives to WCPO Cincinnati. “We want to make them more efficient and enable them to expand their business reach.”

Participants in the NITRO! Bootcamp, will get access to free tech-enabled products curated to help business owners save resources in their everyday practices. The program is prepared to train up to 25 entrepreneurs in February with a periodic follow-up to ensure participants retain training.

Business owners will also have access to networking and mentorship opportunities as well as free exclusive access to business software apps.

The program is for diverse business owners in the Cincinnati region who have three or more employees and an average annual sales of $100,000 up to $1 million in the last three years.

The program was created after Cintrifuse—a tech-focused organization—noticed entrepreneurs weren’t taking advantage of free business tech products and services, Eric Weissmann, vice president for communications, community and economic inclusion at Cintrifuse told WCPO Cincinnati.

While the program is orienting small businesses around tech services, the goal is not to help entrepreneurs build apps and become full-fledged tech companies.

Applications are due Monday, December 3, 2018.

Jay-Z, Will Smith, Kevin Durant Backed Insurtech Startup Raises $35 Million

Modern life insurance startup Ethos recently announced they’ve raised $35 million in a Series B round of funding.

The company’s method of providing online and mobile sales channels provided by the Lincoln, Neb.-based life insurance company, Assurity Life, seems to be working as this amount has significantly increased since their Series A round of $11.5 million.

The previous round came from Will Smith’s Smith Family Circle; Robert Downey Jr.’s Downey Ventures; Kevin Durant’s Durant Company; Arrive, a subsidiary of Jay Z’s Roc Nation; and leading Silicon Valley investment firm Sequoia Capital.

The new investment from Google Ventures (GV) and returning investors, Sequoia Capital and Arrive, was led by Accel Partners.

Accel’s Nate Niparko will join the Ethos board of directors and GV General Partner, Tyson Clark, will join as an advisor.

The non-commission-based insurance company prides itself on being a more equitable provider by offering term life insurance that only requires payment for a fixed period of time.

“They’ll often convince people they need permanent life insurance. And they’ll give you a bait and switch price that less than 10% of people qualify for,” said the chief executive officer, Peter Colis, in an interview with Crunchbase News.

Depending on the customer’s preferences and population data, Ethos can offer a life insurance policy and price in just about 10 minutes based on their information.

“We’re processing thousands of apps and customers,” said Colis.

Colis and his co-founder Lingke Wang also started a company which created a secondary marketplace for policyholders where they could cash out of their policies by putting them on the market for purchase.

Ethos managed to score a debt round from Silicon Valley Bank as well.