When you think of the strongest startup communities in the U.S., Detroit is probably not at the top of the list.

detroit startup weekBut here’s the thing: Detroit just hosted the largest inaugural Startup Week event ever. With more than 3,100 registrants, the event beat out Denver, Portland and Los Angeles in attendance.

“Our city is unlike any other, with both ingenuity and a welcoming spirit, brilliance and grit and opportunities abound,” said Startup Week organizer Kyle Bazzy. “Detroit Startup Week was designed to glue together those opportunities, celebrate what’s already working and lay the groundwork for what’s to come.”

One of the more than 100 events during Detroit Startup Week was a panel on “Everything You Need to Know About Growth in Startups,” featuring LevelEleven’s founder and CEO, Bob Marsh. The panel also featured:

Here are the best pieces of advice for startup growth that they all shared:

25 Startup Growth Hacks From Detroit

On getting your business off the ground…

  1. “The initial way that I’ve seen businesses get traction is not behind a desk, it’s going out and meeting customers.” – Jeff Carter, Co-Founder of Hyde Park Angels
  1. “Early on in the company, the more that you can directly, physically touch your customer, the better it is longer term as you iterate your product.” – Jeff Carter, Co-Founder of Hyde Park Angels
  1. “You don’t need to know everything, and don’t pretend you do. That is totally disingenuous and false and wrong. And you’re not building a relationship on trust if you just have an answer for everything.” – Joe Malcoun, CEO at Nutshell

On marketing growth …

  1. “I think that’s the truest thing you can do as a business: If you satisfy your customers, your customers will love your business so much that they will bring you customers. And that’s the best kind of marketing that you can possibly have.” – Jeff Carter, Co-Founder of Hyde Park Angels
  1. “[Marketing] is different when you have product market fit, than before you have product market fit, cause after product market fit you know your customer. You know what you’re going to go after. But before, you’re in the dark searching for that niche.” Jeff Carter, Co-Founder of Hyde Park Angels

On product/market fit…

  1. “Fail fast with stuff. If something’s not working, don’t be afraid to go, ‘You know what? This isn’t working, and we’re going to pivot to try something else.’ ” – Jeff Carter, Co-Founder of Hyde Park Angels
  1. “For me it’s not whether or not you listen to customers – it’s how. A big lesson I learned early on is that you can’t listen to individual customers. You have to listen to your customers in aggregate.” – Joe Malcoun, CEO at Nutshell
  1. “The feedback that we got — the success of our customers — kind of informed us who we should go after.” – Jeff Epstein, Founder & CEO of Ambassador
  1. “If someone’s willing to give you money, and a certain feature is threatening – that’s a really clear, objective sign that you should have that feature. But, it has to be within reason. If it’s our single biggest customer, we’ll probably figure out how to get it done, even if it’s a one-off for them. But by and large, that would be really rare.” – Bob Marsh, Founder & CEO of LevelEleven
  1. “If the question Henry Ford had asked not ‘What do you want?’ but rather ‘What do you want to do?’ Then the answer wouldn’t have been ‘a faster horse.’ It would have been ‘move more quickly,’ ” – Joe Malcoun, CEO at Nutshell

On investors and venture capital …

  1. “One thing I think is misunderstood amongst people who start companies: They expect to raise money when they have an idea, and I think that’s — for 99% of people — not going to happen.” – Jeff Epstein, Founder & CEO of Ambassador
  1. “The key to raising money is having customers, and to do that, you have to sacrifice. If you’re not investing yourself in the business first, it’s going to be really hard for someone else to invest.” – Jeff Epstein, Founder & CEO of Ambassador
  2. “Ideas are cheap. You want to see some execution, from the investor perspective.” – Jeff Carter, Co-Founder of Hyde Park Angels
  1. “My advice would be: Don’t go for sex appeal [when seeking investors]. My investors are incredibly unsexy. They would say so themselves.” – Joe Malcoun, CEO at Nutshell
  2. “Get to know [potential investors]. I always joke that if i don’t know what they would order from the bar, I’m not ready to ask them for money.” – Joe Malcoun, CEO at Nutshell
  1. “You’ve to go find [investors] who are going to have your back. That you know really well, get along with — because they’re your boss.” – Bob Marsh, Founder & CEO of LevelEleven
  1. “You want [investors] who, when something goes sideways (because it will go sideways) will be there to help you get through it.” – Bob Marsh, Founder & CEO of LevelEleven
  1. “Venture capital is the most expensive capital you could possible raise.” – Jeff Carter, Co-Founder of Hyde Park Angels
  1. “My main investor spends easily 20 hours a week in my business. He is there once or twice a week in the office working alongside me.” – Joe Malcoun, CEO at Nutshell

On hiring …

  1. “If you build a great product and take care of your customers, they’ll bring you more customers. I think it’s the same for employees. The best source [of new hires] for us has always been our own employees.” – Bob Marsh, Founder & CEO of LevelEleven
  1. “At first you’re hiring generalists, and to me, it’s almost all culture. Is this person hungry? Are they going to wear 10 hats for us? And then it becomes much trickier as you become much more specialized.” – Jeff Epstein, Founder & CEO of Ambassador
  1. “There isn’t enough tech talent in general, which means you just have to fish in the pools where there are people. For Chicago, that’s high frequency trading firms.” – Jeff Carter, Co-Founder ofHyde Park Angels

On growing yourself as an entrepreneur…

  1. “It actually is so important to carve some time out to get your brain in a better spot. Have the mindset of being open minded and humble. You never know what you may learn along the way. It’s a constant quest for knowledge that you may ignore, or you may use somehow.” – Bob Marsh, Founder & CEO of LevelEleven
  1. “Get away from your business and do something you love — whatever it is. Doesn’t matter. Just lock up a little bit of time…you’ll find that you’ll be fresher when you come back, but as you’re doing things that you love to do, you’ll be able to integrate certain things from that back into your business, and it’ll make your business better.” – Jeff Carter, Co-Founder of Hyde Park Angels
  1. “It’s really important that you find something that is totally selfless and outside your regular daily schedule.” – Joe Malcoun, CEO at Nutshell

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25 Startup Growth Hacks (Straight From Detroit)
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25 Startup Growth Hacks (Straight From Detroit)
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One of the more than 100 events during Detroit Startup Week was a panel on “Everything You Need to Know About Growth in Startups,” featuring LevelEleven’s founder and CEO, Bob Marsh.
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Level Eleven
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