Founding Voices: Project Your Principles to Attract Your Community

Project Your Principles to Attract Your Community

It’s hard to overstate the benefit of having a community that complements your product. But communities are living, breathing things, and while you can guide and shape them, you can’t dictate the specifics of what they care about, or how members interact with one another.

“You cannot fake a community. Conversations will happen in the community that may be unexpected or different from what you think is your brand, but authenticity is what keeps a community strong. We’ve always focused on nurturing authentic expression and conversation on our platform, most recently by introducing a new live selling product, Posh Shows, that lets anyone go live on Poshmark to make sales, express themselves, and support others in our community.”


Co-founder & CEO, Poshmark

Creating a community that’s both authentic and aligned with your values starts with you. Before you have a forum or a subreddit, the fundamental building blocks of your community are the 1:1 exchanges between you and your users – how you help them troubleshoot problems, respond to feature requests, or handle complaints.
These interactions are opportunities for you to model the qualities you want to see in your community. And while not everybody will resonate with your principles, those who do will carry them forward and build a deeper affinity with your brand.
“Creating a community that’s true to your values means leading by example,” says Navin Chaddha, longtime partner to Manish and Poshmark. “In the early days of Poshmark, Manish personally responded to almost every customer service email. I’d like to think that’s a big part of why their community is so kind, supportive and deeply human. You might not need to go to those same lengths, but it’s that spirit that’s important.”

Navin Chaddha

Managing Partner

Enterprise, Consumer, Semiconductors

Founding Voices: Keep Your Composure, Keep the Team on Track

Originally part of our Founding Voices newsletter series. Read more insights here.

Keep Your Composure, Keep the Team on Track

Setbacks and adversity are unavoidable during the company building journey. It’s also natural for your confidence to waver after a series of tough outs. But you need to stay centered and relentlessly look for silver linings. Not just for yourself, but for your team.

“Early startups are founded on energy, meaning there’s going to be a lot of downs, a lot of bad news, and a lot of rough spots. If as a leader, you’re not bringing a mindset of abundance, you’re not getting everybody up, you’re not making everyone believe, you’re not re-centering everyone on the vision, the startup fails and it falls apart. As a founder you have to make people believe in something that doesn’t exist and yet it could change the world.”

Co-founder and CEO, Outreach


Your team is here because you sold them on the vision. But while your people can be as scrappy and as gritty and as tough as they come, there are going to be days where it’ll be hard for them to see the forest for the trees.

In moments of apprehension, your team will naturally look to you to light the way and remind them of the big picture. For that reason you must project optimism and clarity of purpose, especially when there’s turbulence ahead.

“Building a company is really hard,” says Rajeev Batra. “You’re fooling yourself if you think otherwise. But if you have to commiserate, do it with your mentors, or your peers. Because in the trenches, with your team, you need to be steadfast. If the sky is falling but you keep your cool, people pick up on that, and it’ll help them to power through.”

Navin Chaddha



Founding Voices: Talk Early and Often

Talk Early and Often

As a founder, you are your product’s chief advocate, but the natural consequence of this relationship is confirmation bias. This in turn makes it difficult to get an objective sense for where your product really stands. In this situation, one of the best things you can do is pressure test your offering with prospective customers.


“I started asking folks if they would pay $25K for it and most said ‘no.’ I kept asking until someone said ‘yes.’ Once the first customer said ‘yes,’ that’s when I knew we were ready to raise money.”

Co-founder and CEO, Cube

If you’ve identified your target customer, it is never too early to start talking to them. Initiating dialogue sooner rather than later builds deeper relationships, which in turn create more valuable conversations.

Ask candidly about the strengths and weaknesses of your product, and use that information to refine it. Compliments are nice, but they’re also free, so don’t be afraid to push customers and dig a little deeper on where things need work. When they’re ready to reach for their wallets, you’ll know you have something genuinely cohesive and compelling.

“Customer feedback fills in your blind spots,” says Rajeev Batra, who led Mayfield’s investment in Cube. “You know all your product’s highlights because you wrote the pitch, but it’s much harder to look at something you’ve worked hard on and point out its weak spots. You need honest user feedback for that, so start the conversation early, and build from there.”

Navin Chaddha



Founding Voices: Know When to Listen to Your Gut

Know When to Listen to Your Gut

If you want your venture to succeed, you need to surround yourself with good people. Half of that is building a stellar team, the other half is cultivating a circle of confidants who can offer guidance and perspective.

Some of your best advisers will be your investors; they’ve almost certainly “been-there-done-that,” and their mentorship will be deeply helpful on your journey. Nevertheless, you should seek their advice, not blindly follow it.

“A good adviser may give you amazing advice nine out of 10 times, but you need to be able to spot the one time when you need to stick to your own convictions.”

Co-founder & President, Lyft

Your partnership with your investor is founded on mutual trust; you believe in their experience, and they have faith in your thinking and ability, so be receptive to investor input, but don’t take it as gospel.

Ask questions, seek to understand the reasoning behind their advice, and know that there will be situations where you’ll need to push back. These moments are daunting, but healthy disagreement like this sharpens your strategic mind, and builds confidence in your judgment.

“As an investor, I’m a resource,” says Navin Chaddha, “but at the end of the day, the entrepreneurs are leading the company. So if something in you tells you to zig when everybody else says zag, it’s important to explore that instinct. You’ll either win, or you’ll learn.”

Navin Chaddha

Managing Partner

Enterprise, Consumer, Semiconductors

Founding Voices: Embrace Uncertainty to Find Your Own Path

Embrace Uncertainty to Find Your Own Path

Building a business means dealing with ambiguity. There’s a steady stream of difficult decisions at every stage of your journey, and while you can take inspiration from what other founders have done in the past, their circumstances were different, and the paths they took might not be right for you and your organization right now.


“There’s no Google Maps for starting a company. You have to think through the multiple ways you can get from where you are to where you want to be and decide which is the best path for you.”

Founder & CEO, Securiti

As a founder, each decision you make needs a “why” that maps to your situation and capabilities. Without this, it’s easy to get distracted, and burn valuable time and resources on moves that aren’t right for your company.

Finding this strategic clarity is difficult, and it’s tempting to look for a roadmap for growing your business, or study how other companies built themselves up. But success stories are case studies, not guidebooks. Analyze them for lessons, try to understand the principles behind decisive moments, but don’t fall into the trap of copying their moves.

“The way you succeed will be unique to your business, which means you can’t rely on precedent to get you there. Rehan’s a serial founder so he understands this better than most,” says Navin Chaddha, Mayfield MD and three-time partner to Rehan. “Be thoughtful, gut check absolutely everything, and if your thinking leads to different or unconventional approaches, don’t be afraid to embrace them.”

Navin Chaddha

Managing Partner

Enterprise, Consumer, Semiconductors

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Founding Voices: Through Thick and Thin

Through Thick and Thin

You’ve worked tirelessly to bring a great product to market. But the unfortunate reality is that excellence doesn’t protect you from circumstance. Eventually, every entrepreneur will encounter macro-level challenges that are far outside their control. In those moments, having a steadfast partner can make all the difference.


“Navin really, really, really—I don’t know how to emphasize this enough—cared about our employees. Looking back on 2020, it’s clear he was trying to do what was best for them all along the way.”

Co-founder & Former CEO, Nuvia

Good partners help you overcome obstacles. They offer strategic counsel, leverage their networks for leads, and guide you through difficult decisions. This is because, above all else, they are invested in your vision.

Ask potential partners about their experiences with similar companies and how they’ve navigated difficult times. Try to assess their principles, and their passion for not just the product, but the mission and ideas that undergird it. Answers here will help you understand if a given partnership is a good fit. While this is not a simple process, getting it right nets you a more enduring and resilient foundation upon which to build your company.

“We invest in people first, markets second,” says Navin Chaddha, Managing Director at Mayfield and longtime advisor to the Nuvia team. “Just because market conditions change doesn’t mean a good idea is suddenly bad. It’s a signal that you need to refocus, readjust and find a new opportunity to win.”

Navin Chaddha

Managing Partner

Enterprise, Consumer, Semiconductors

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