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On Tuesday night, Bear Analytics’ CEO and Co-founder, Joe Colangelo (@joecolangelo), moderated a fireside chat between two leaders of the DC startup scene. Hosted by Tech in Motion DC, the event featured Adam Zuckerman (@AdamZ), founder of the Fosterly start-up community, and Dan Berger (@danberger), CEO of hospitality software company Social Tables.

During a candid discussion, the speakers covered anything and everything startup, including how to shape a company’s culture, how to unplug as a founder (you don’t!) and even how to break up with a co-founder if things just are not working.

Here’s 4 top takeaways from their discussion:

1. Culture is Key

There are no employees at Social Tables, instead everyone is a “team member.” This team mentality permeates every aspect of the business. When discussing efforts to define a start-up’s culture and mission, Dan encouraged start-up companies to envision “how the magazine cover would look after the company takes over the world”— an exercise his Social Tables team has performed together.

2. Co-Founder Relationships are Like Marriage

As the panel fielded an audience question on finding the right co-founder, all three speakers stressed the importance of open communication and immediately establishing clear expectations. Adam emphasized that whoever the co-founder is, “communication between the two is key,” since co-founders are essentially married. This assertion was backed up by the fact that everyone on stage admitted they spend more time with their teams and co-founders than with their significant others.

3. Data Should Be In The Driver’s Seat

The panelists also discussed how data is emphasized within their companies. Adam and Dan noted that true data-based decision making goes far beyond collecting vanity metrics, which may sound impressive to rattle off but give little indication of the company’s true performance or potential. Adam encouraged companies to dig down into metrics and data to monitor the indicators or issues a potential investor would most likely bring up. Joe added that at the end of the day, data either confirms or contradicts gut instincts, leading to more informed decision-making either way.

4. Raising Money Is Not A Cakewalk

Adam pointed out that while many start-up companies aspire to become the next Facebook, few end up as “unicorns” valued at over $1 billion. Dan urged companies to work toward creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to show potential investors, but admitted that raising money is more political than many people think. He also offered up the sage advice to “always ask for more money than you need” to ensure the company has the funds for R&D and can continue to innovate.

All in all, we had a great time at the event and look forward to continuing to learn from our peers on the DC tech scene!

Want to hear more about area startups and technology companies? Take a look at the Tech In Motion DC Meetup group to hear about their upcoming events in the area.