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Lessons learned from a Founder with an app with 2.5 Million users & $120 Million in Venture Capi

Advice from David Ronick, Founder of WinWin

David Ronick is the Founder of WinWin, an app that gives you daily motivation to save money, and keep it saved for what’s important. The more you save, the more money you can win playing a daily game. David is also a Co-Founder of Stash, the fastest growing mobile investing app.

1. Think about the warm and fuzzies from the very start.

When you start a company, getting the right idea, team, resources and market conditions lined up at the same time is incredibly hard. And when you do manage to herd all those cats, it’s tempting to overlook seemingly warm and fuzzy concepts like culture and branding. At Stash, we grew so quickly right out of the gate that we didn’t have a lot of time to do deep dives into planning our culture or our brand. Those both came together once we nailed product/market fit, and now they are rock solid. But in retrospect we could have addressed them sooner, to minimize the risks of having the team grow beyond the culture you want, or communicating to customers in ways that don’t send a consistent message.

2. Apply lessons learned going forward.

At WinWin, I’m taking the time to create the brand and the culture up front. It’s even more important with WinWin, because we’re a mission-driven company. 138 million Americans are in financial distress, spending more than they earn, sweating the bills every month, and struggling to pay off debt. 45% of Americans couldn’t come up with $400 for an emergency expense. Everyone we hire must be passionate about that mission, and it must be built into the DNA of the brand. It has taken a little longer, but we believe it’s critical for setting the right foundation.

3. Entrepreneurs make the best angels.

In the earliest stages of a new venture, many entrepreneurs raise money from friends and family members - or just about anyone they can. Most have no other options. But if at all possible, I try to get successful entrepreneurs as my first investors - particularly entrepreneurs in businesses like yours. WinWin is a consumer app, in Fintech, with a subscription model and a gamification element. We’ve managed to bring on successful entrepreneurs with expertise in each of those areas. While it’s not always easy to get in front of them, once you do, they tend to grasp your concept more easily, so the pitch discussions end up being great learning experiences, and the probability of having them invest seems higher, at least anecdotally. But the real benefit is having a group of people supporting you with the ability to help with many of the challenges you face in growing the business. One of our investors founded a mobile bank, and when I needed to find a great co-founder with banking expertise, he made the intro in one day. Another investor who built a subscription tech business helped us fine-tune our KPIs and targets. This type of thing happens nearly every day, and it’s far more valuable than the checks they write.

4. Make sure you’re passionate about what your company does, and why.

It is important to be super passionate about what you are doing! You are going to be living and breathing this problem/solution for years. If it’s not an authentic passion, you’ll lose your mojo after a while. For example, that app for new parents isn’t quite as exciting once your kids are all grown up. The passion also makes it easier to attract investors, talent, press, and customers. Plus, all entrepreneurs go through tough times and doubt. Passion for the customer, the product, and your mission get you through those rough patches.

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