The Austin community is flush with entrepreneurs, looking to disrupt and revolutionize with new products and services. I sat down with Kristina Kennedy, VP and Partner at Kickstand Communications, to talk with her about her new role at Techstars as mentor for some of these aspiring individuals.
Molly Brooke: So, in layman's terms, can you tell me what exactly is Techstars?
Kristina Kennedy: Sure, Techstars is a global ecosystem that empowers entrepreneurs to bring new technologies to market wherever they build their business.
MB: Why were you excited to be a mentor?
KK: I am joining Techstars Austin as one of only about a dozen women. As a female tech executive in Austin and also a working mother, it's a personal priority of mine to actively support women in tech. I strongly believe it will take women working for change to actually create change. For me, my work with Techstars is part of my effort to be active in our community and support young women who are building careers in technology now. Probably the single biggest thing I can attribute my career success to is having great mentors. I can list the names: Nancy Moss, Scott Griffith, Sarah Dekin, Dan Smith, and my always supportive MBA classmates. Without this list of people, I would not have gotten the opportunities that I did, known how to take advantage of them, or how to pick up the pieces when I failed. So it's exciting to be on the other side of the table now. Whether a young professional, an executive, or entrepreneur, you need to surround yourself with people who are committed to not only supporting you, but challenging you as well.
MB: What is your background in the startup space?
KK: My background is almost all in high growth consumer technology. After starting my career at a PR firm, RF|Binder Partners, I went on to run corporate communications at Zipcar. From there, I went to Gazelle, and led various aspects of brand strategy and acquisition marketing, while we grew the company more than 3,000%. After that, I joined Abine, an online privacy software company as head of marketing, where we brought the company's first products to market and led a lot of what today is called "growth hacker tactics" to acquire the first 2.5M users. While in Boston, I spent much of my free time working with MIT, MassChallenge, and MITX organizations. Since moving to Austin, I started Kickstand with partner, Molly Wilson, and now use my experience to help dozens of consumer tech companies get to market and grow.
MB: How do you think you can help aspiring entrepreneurs?
KK: Entrepreneurs typically don't need help being entrepreneurs. But even the highest levels of ambition and vision doesn't leave you without gaps. I'm fortunate to have been at startups from an incredibly early stage through scale so I look forward to bringing that experience to this year's class as well as strategic and tactical marketing expertise. In coming from the east coast to Austin, I also bring a different perspective and experience as well as access to a network outside of our great and weird Austin community.
MB: What advice do you have for young startups?
KK: I have a couple of things that have really stuck in my head lately. The first is to remember that companies are built by people so get help, the best you can find. The second is to make time for brand. There's a big trend to focus 100% of marketing energy on customer acquisition, but market outcomes really don't support this. Companies that build meaningful brands, relationships with customers, achieve share of voice in the market, those are the ones that we see winning out over competitors when it comes to valuations.
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