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Kevin Siskar

Managing Director, Founder Institute NY

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 20, 2016

Discussion

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Kevin Siskar@thesiskar · Managing Director, Founder Institute NY
What's up world, I am Kevin Siskar (@TheSiskar on Twitter). I am the Managing Director of the Founder Institute New York and host of the Ambition Today podcast ( http://www.siskar.co/ambitiontoday ) Ask me about the time in college I sent the worst e-mail of my life to one of the top VC's in the country, when I worked for @Jason, how I pitched Arianna Huffington, my degree in Cognitive Neuroscience, my time as an actual King, or anything else on your mind! Thanks for being here!
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Zoltan Szalas@thezoltan · Co-Founder @ Croissant
Hi Kevin! What kind of startup trends are you guys seeing at Founder Institute? Also, as an expert, what makes the best founders in your opinion?
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Kevin Siskar@thesiskar · Managing Director, Founder Institute NY
@thezoltan The best founder's in my opinion set a very high long term vision, prioritize their milestones in a way that always moves the needle always toward the long term vision, and they don't let short term obstacles stop them when they get in the way. They are notorious problem solvers with a deep passion for what they are doing.
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Vicente DyReyes@dyreyes · Founder, mepNYC.co
Hey Kevin - thanks for doing a live Q&A! Curious - what do you see as the biggest startup culture differences between founding companies in SF and NYC?
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Kevin Siskar@thesiskar · Managing Director, Founder Institute NY
@dyreyes Great question as I think there are advantages to both cities! While Silicon Valley is currently a bigger startup ecosystem, New York City's tech ecosystem is growing TWICE as fast. 🙌 🗽 In 2014, New York had 117,000 workers employed on the tech scene, a 71% increase on a decade earlier. Venture Capital is also on the rise in NY. To give you some comparison, at the same time, San Francisco and Silicon Valley's tech workforce stood at a little shy of 300,000, a figure that hasn't moved much in a decade and a half. There are also natural advantages that are inherent to the density of the New York and the surrounding Tri-State area which totals around 22 million people. Customers are everywhere across multiple industries, you just have to walk outside.
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Kevin Siskar@thesiskar · Managing Director, Founder Institute NY
This was a ton of fun! Thank you everyone for joining and asking questions! Thank you @ProductHunt for having me! If you want to keep up with everything I am up to going forward, you can subscribe to updates on my website and find where I am around the web from there as well! + Website & Blog: http://www.siskar.co + Ambition Today Podcast is in the iTunes Store for iOS ( http://apple.co/1NRRPzL ), on Google Play Music ( http://goo.gl/LmmciJ ), or on Stitcher for Android ( http://bit.ly/1Rn01dy ). Thanks again everyone!! 🙌 - Kevin
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Elena Tolstokoraya@elena_tolstokoraya
Hi Kevin, tell me please how successfully pitch cool people to wright about your project? Thanks a lot!
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
Ok I'll ask... how did you pitch Arianna Huffington? What is the story there? And gotta know about your time as a King?! (did you buy a title online?)
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Kevin Siskar@thesiskar · Managing Director, Founder Institute NY
@bentossell Haha, thanks for biting. So a few years ago I was cofounding a side-business in the political space and my cofounder at the time (prematurely I admit) thought the company should be sold to Huffington Post for all the data we were creating in the political space. Fast forward a few weeks and Arianna was doing a book signing in NYC. So we got some tickets for the team, got in line, and one after another pitched Arianna on the business. After a round or two of this we got her email and we followed up that night. Got e-mail back from her a week later! 😉
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@thesiskar haha nice! positive or negative response?
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Kevin Siskar@thesiskar · Managing Director, Founder Institute NY
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Kevin Siskar@thesiskar · Managing Director, Founder Institute NY
@bentossell You can address me as "Your Highness"! 😂 Just kidding. As you can see I am having a lot of fun with this name! I can actually thank one of the most brilliant marketers there is; @CardsAgainstHumanity for that one! King Siskar 👑 all started last year when I paid $15 to Cards Against Humanity for their Holiday giveaway. For the final gift of the 2015 Holiday promotion Cards Against Humanity used a portion of the $15 from the 250,000 people that signed up to buy a Castle in Ireland. Yes, an actual Castle! Then they built a program around that Castle. Coronating it's customers one by one as actual Kings and Queens of this actual castle. They built a website to see at all time who sits a top the rocky throne of Sensible Castle. They enabled the ability for each King or Queen to make 3 decrees during their time as rightful ruler that would be entered in to the Kingdom's laws. And lastly each King and Queen will have their name etched within the castle walls so that generations to come can remember the great rulers who righteously spent their 3 minutes as King. So there you have it. You can now call me "King Siskar" whenever you want. I am having A LOT of fun with this with my friends and family. I love the history around Royalty ever since I lived in London. My younger brothers have jokingly threatened to steal the crown once or twice already. I actually think there is a startup lesson in here too though. I am spending a lot of energy talking about Cards Against Humanity here. It is all because of this awesome experience I have had with them over and over again. It could possible be the best and most fun $15 I have ever spent. The amount of creativity in this company is unreal. The result of that creative culture is extremely satisfied customers and organic virality. Getting back to fun of today, just remember: "Once a King, Always a King"!!!
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Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
What's the greatest thing you learned from @jason?
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Kevin Siskar@thesiskar · Managing Director, Founder Institute NY
@andrewett So I got to work with @jason before Inside was Inside.com. Originally the first newsletter Inside/Launch had at was the Launch Ticker and I joined the team from New York City while it was still a google doc. There wasn't even any tech behind it for the first few months. I then worked with @Jason and the Launch team while the initial tech was built out in order to formalize and create the content editorial platform it now uses. For a few months I would help write the news everyday that thousands of subscribers would read. My biggest takeaway from this experience is that if you have an idea or a concept you want to pursue then you need to just start! Be SCRAPPY as a founder! @Jason and the early Launch team built the list to thousands of people using Google docs before spending any money on tech. And now Inside has grown from that early start to an entire empire of newsletters across multiple spaces.
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Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
I, for one, would love to hear your email story 😏
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Kevin Siskar@thesiskar · Managing Director, Founder Institute NY
@andrewett So this e-mail story is sort of how it all got started. I majored in Cognitive Neuroscience in College and at the time had an idea for a brand new scientific research platform that would "revolutionize" how scientific discoveries got published. I mentioned this to a few family members. One of whom told me, and I quote, "I know a person that gives people money for their IDEAS". (You can see where this is going... 😂 haha). Naturally I got in touch and wrote probably the worst e-mail of my life! Picture just one mashed together paragraph full of run on sentences, typos, zero focus on a single subject, and then ending with asking for money to pursue my "idea". I am sure you can probably assume how this ended. No one gives people money for just an idea and I was e-mailing my first Venture Capitalist before I even knew what Venture Capital was. Naturally I got a very nice and pleasant email back saying thank you for reaching out but we only invest in actual products Let us know when you get something into the market. My insatiable curiosity was hooked. After this experience I became fascinated with the world of Startups and Venture Capital. I would read every book, magazine and blog post on VC/startups I could get my hands on. I loved that there was this existing pathway and entire support ecosystem for people to pursue something they were passionate about and turn it into a reality. That people could create something out of nothing!
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Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
At Founder institute do you come across any common problems or misconceptions first time founders have about starting their first venture?
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Kevin Siskar@thesiskar · Managing Director, Founder Institute NY
@ems_hodge The biggest misconception I see with first time founders is the belief that you need that "one more thing" in order to get started or grow fast. Don't wait around for that "technical co-founder" or "salesperson" you think you need. There are probably better ways to solve the actual problem in front of you. And the reality is often that once you solve these problems that "one more thing" you were waiting for actually comes to you as a result of your growth. So I would say that a ruthless focus on getting your product in the hands of customers is the best path forward. Traction solves all problems.
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Anthony Stylianou@anthony_stylianou · Social Media Manager, CatchApp
Hi Kevin. I'm curious to know what is the most exciting start up you have come across during the last week and why? Also, please elaborate a bit more on the worst email you have ever sent 😁
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Kevin Siskar@thesiskar · Managing Director, Founder Institute NY
@anthony_stylianou great question. One of the companies I am currently most excited about is here in NYC. They are called Mise En Place ( https://mepnyc.co ) and are working to bring families back around the dinner table! I think the team is solid and can't wait to see what they do next to innovate in the space.
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Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
Does a good idea in a small market interest you?
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Kevin Siskar@thesiskar · Managing Director, Founder Institute NY
@andrewett not usually, unless it can make a deep impact in that market for the greater social good. I have a soft spot for companies and founders that work to make the world a better place while building a great company!
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
If you had to swap lives with a tech CEO for a week, who would it be and why?
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Kevin Siskar@thesiskar · Managing Director, Founder Institute NY
@bentossell Would def be @ElonMusk. I am fascinated by all the frontiers he is pushing.
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Justin Sherratt@justin_sherratt
Hey Kevin thanks for doing this Q&A! You meet a lot of aspiring founders in your many roles, what 1 piece of advice would you give to them? Besides looking into FI of course? (Disclosure: I'm an FI Mentor)
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Kevin Siskar@thesiskar · Managing Director, Founder Institute NY
@justin_sherratt Thanks Justin! My one piece of advice would be to make sure you are always learning and taking the time to improve yourself as a founder. The moment you are no longer learning, you are no longer growing. And I know this other point might sounds contrary to the non-stop grind of startup life, but I think finding a work-life balance helps tremendously in order to keep your brain sharp and avoiding burnout. Making sure you set aside time to stay organized, mentality focused, and physically fit can do wonders for your productivity and reaching your goals over the long term!
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Jijo John@jijo_john · Startup Lover, Programmer
Hi kevin , How to find a VC for my startup ? and how to contact that person ?
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Kevin Siskar@thesiskar · Managing Director, Founder Institute NY
@jijo_john the best strategy is to build a relationship over time, and the best time to do so is when you don't actually need the money.
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Jijo John@jijo_john · Startup Lover, Programmer
@thesiskar thanks :) . how ?. how can i find the contact details of a vc ?. what's the best medium to connect a vc i mean through twitter or email ? :)
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Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Kevin, thanks for being here today. What's one piece of advice you've received during your career that's made the most impact on you?
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Inna Zade@inna_zade
Hey Kevin, I have a new startup just launched called buygiftsave.com its a brand new concept which encourages parents to save for their children's long term future. With our platform gift givers set one budget and it is split into a physical gift for the child and the balance goes directly into a savings account for the child. My question is what do you think is the best and fastest way of marketing for new startups
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Alexandre Dinkelmann@alexandre_dinkelmann · Co-founder at Onyo
Hi Kevin, I am lauching, in Brazil, a marketplace app, named Onyo, to connect millions of customers of food courts to fast casual restaurants, providing a better and faster experience. In your experience, are there seed investors based in the US who are willing to invest in cross-border deals? Thanks!
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Kevin Siskar@thesiskar · Managing Director, Founder Institute NY
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Stefan Klotzbuecher@stefan_klotzbuecher
Hi Kevin, thanks for the Q&A. What do you think about first time entrepreneurs being too ambitious without having the experience to execute? Ambitious meaning "I need serious funding of +$500k to get the product of the ground." Or would you suggest a first time project that is easier to chew? Thanks
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tom com@tomerota
Hey Kevin! I don't see any answers to the King and the worst email - so I have to ask - what were you the king of? Also, what was the strangest idea you have ever gotten pitched (or heard pitched)?
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Kevin Siskar@thesiskar · Managing Director, Founder Institute NY
@tomerota It's King Siskar! Haha and see my response to @ben 😉
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What are your thoughts on the bot space, have you seen many exciting bot startups being submitted to FI?