Last Friday, I attended Hustle Con 2017. Billed as…

A one-day startup event where the world’s most successful non-technical founders

  • Tell their origin stories
  • Teach the practical tactics they used to start and grow their startup
  • Share behind the scenes insights on their wins and losses

The speakers were so good, I have lots to report, so I’m going to break it up into 2 posts, here’s the first 5 Take Aways.

1. Passion trumps experience.

 Kara Goldin, the founder of HINT Beverage Company, talked about the challenges of starting a new category and teaching people to think differently. “To get distribution, I hired people from the large soda companies, but those were our worst employees. Our best people were passionate about solving the problem — sugar in beverages.” Referring to a Coke executive advising her to add sugar to HINT to please consumers Kara said, “I realized he believed his own BS.” Kara Goldin


2. Never stop hustling.

Although a controversial personality and quintessential Hipster, Casey Neistat is a great speaker. Casey just sold his media company to CNN for $25, so it was ironic that he focused on the Hustle. “I never understood the hustle until I found something worth hustling for,” referring to his goal to maintain a D+average in high school, then dropping out at 15. “I was broke, living in a trailer with my pregnant girlfriend.” He described the next few years as “arrested development…it’s humbling to share a bathroom in the hallway with addicts, undocumented immigrants, and people just out of jail.” Then, he decided to get his hustle on. The work was hard, he still struggled to make ends meet, but those were the most formative years of his life — the hardships made him who he is today — a multimillionaire. “The beauty of the hustle is it will never let you down. If you dedicate your whole life to something, you’ll either achieve it or have died trying.” Casey Neistat

3. Know thyself.

Miguel McKelvey, Cofounder of We Work, was a sharp contrast to Casey — soft spoken, nerdy and humble. His message was about knowing yourself is key to building a great company. “Never stop learning and growing.” He talked about how he and co-founder are so different, but acknowledging each other’s’ strengths and weaknesses allow them to work as a team. “We’re giving context for creating our best selves, nurturing a culture of self-actualization.” And best of all, “WeWork is opening in Oakland!” WeWork

4. The fish stinks from the head.

Next up were Tim Chang and Rishi Garg — partners at Mayfield Partners talking about “founder psychology,” as a metric for success more important that KPIs. (These guys had some great quotes, but unfortunately, I didn’t indicate who said what, so I’ll use “they” as a pronoun–apologies to Mayfield!) They said, “Founder attributes are what we think about most. All the good and bad things about your personality are reflected in the company culture.” They talked about the importance of grit, self-awareness, authenticity, vulnerability and how one treats co-founders. They cited the importance of balance, the mind-body connection, and overall health — topics typically thought of as “woo woo,” in Tim Chang’s words. “It starts with you, how you maintain your fitness, body, mind, emotions, spirit, energy, diet and sleep.” They mentioned a few popular ways to cultivate wellness like Nootropics, fasting, meditation and the newest Silicon Valley life hack, LSD Micro dosing. I was pleasantly surprised to hear them talk about mental health — the benefits of coaching, therapy and knowing your True North as “force multipliers.” “Startups are a fire drill every day…you have to be ready to respond intentionally.”

5. Story and context matter.

Admittedly, as a former PR gal, Jen Rubio’s message was my favorite. In only 15 months, Away built a new travel brand by reinventing luggage. Jen’s pearls of wisdom were specific, creative and measurable. Here are a few of my faves. 1) Do a ton of research. “We sat in people’s homes and watched them pack. The luggage experience sucked.” 2) A brand is more than the product. “Our product wasn’t ready for the holidays so we created an eBook on travel, sold it for $250, included coupons for the bag, it was featured in more than 100 gift guides and we sold thousands of units before it launched.” 3) Create storytelling opportunities. “You can only write about a suitcase once, so we created stories. We hired 3 Brooklyn-based artists and for 1month offered monograms by artists — it was so popular, we kept it as a permanent feature. 4) Collaboration spans verticals. “People want to engage with companies that have a loyal, engaged audience.On Father’s Day, we partnered with Harry’s to give a free shave kit with purchase — it’s exciting for consumers. Now, we’re creating Despicable Me 3 suitcases from an inbound query.” 5) Big budget not required. “At SXSW and Coachella, instead of throwing a party, we had a bicycle charging station. By offering utility, people gave us a moment to tell our story.” 6) Cultivate community. “We actively cultivate a community that loves to travel and will capture and share pictures of luggage in amazing places. 99% of our Instagram feed is user generated.” 

If you were at the conference, let me know what you took away. If not, we’ll see you at the next one.

Marissa Verson Harrison is a strategic marketer, growth expert and brand builder. At Lean Startup Strategies, we help companies achieve their business objectives in record time. Whether you’re a startup company testing product market fit or a public company developing a new product, we find ways to put a $1 into marketing and get $5 out.