Ann Miura-Ko’s framework for building a startup

As an early-stage investor, Floodgate’s Ann Miura-Ko looks for two breakthroughs in order to invest in a startup: The first happens in the value-seeking stage of a startup’s journey and the second occurs in its growth-seeking phase.

“There are really two stages to building a company,” Miura-Ko said at the TechCrunch Early Stage virtual event earlier this week. “One is what we call value-seeking mode, and this is where you’re really trying to figure out what the company actually looks like, including what’s the product? Who are you selling to? How do you price it? All of these things are still being discovered in the value-seeking mode.”

After founders have answered those questions, they can move into growth-seeking mode, she said. That’s the point when startups are trying to attract as many customers as possible.

Throughout these two distinct stages, Miura-Ko says she looks for the two breakthroughs: the inflection insight and product-market fit.

Inflection insights

The idea of an inflection insight, Miura-Ko said, is a relatively new framework Floodgate is exploring. Often times, she said founders need to ride some massive, exponential curves that allow their businesses to grow sustainably and scale.

These inflections have two parts to it: cause and impact. The causes are generally either technological (cloud, 5G), regulatory (GDPR, AV regulation) or societal (belief or behavior shifts). On the impact side, products and distribution may become cheaper or faster, while also presenting new use cases or customers, she said.

“Or even more interesting, you have something that was impossible that now is possible,” she said. “And that is an exponential impact that you could ride on.”

But simply finding that inflection insight doesn’t mean you should create a business. What founders must do next is determine if the insight is right and nonconsensus.

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