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Aligning Stakeholders for Product Teams

It is a common phenomenon that people working in high-paying and successful professions leave their jobs to build something impactful, something bigger than themselves that can change the world, even if only a bit. For these hardworking and talented people, it’s their shot at fulfillment.

When they do it, the product they create is an extension of themselves, and brings them immense joy and satisfaction when they see it helping people solve problems in their lives. That is why it is so important to find your ‘why’ when starting a startup, because starting a successful company is very hard and takes much longer and more effort than you initially thought it would.

Two people who are fairly successful in building these kinds of companies said it best: Elon Musk, “starting a company is like eating glass,” and Jensen Huang, when asked if he’d do it all over again, said “absolutely not, because it was so difficult.” I too believe that this path is best taken by people who are mission-driven rather than money-driven.

By no means am I saying that monetary reward should be taken out of the equation, nor can it be, otherwise no one would start a company. But it cannot be the sole driver behind your energy and focus because it would be too brittle.

This was only confirmed more after talking with Berit. Our guest, Berit Hoffman, has had quite a successful career. She worked in senior management positions at Google and many successful startups, but she left the employee path to found her own company, Korl, to build a product that would help product teams automate and streamline the process of aligning stakeholders for major product decisions.

We wanted to ask Berit about her ‘why’ and how one should navigate this path once he or she has decided to travel upon it.

Our Chat with Berit, Founder of Korl

Q. Why start a company, why leave a otherwise successful and safe path, working at google and other successful startups.

Berit: When I think about times in my career that have been the most rewarding, it’s when I’m working on tough problems with people I respect and enjoy being around. Starting a company was an opportunity to create that environment. I also knew that if I didn’t take the risk and try to build something from scratch, I was going to have regrets. So when the timing lined up with my cofounder, who I knew I wanted to work with again, we decided to go for it.

Q. When did you first thought of the idea for Korl, how much time it took you to actually start working on it.

Berit: I spent the first 6 months of Korl coming up with ideas and killing them. I did a ton of discovery calls with prospective customers and kept searching for a problem that was big, but also where I had a unique point of view on how to solve it. When I started coming across more and more product teams who were struggling with communicating and aligning stakeholders on their product direction, it was a problem that resonated deeply. And it was one I had worked hard to solve multiple times over in past roles, so I was able to move quickly in terms of conceptualizing a solution that could automate and improve these communications.

Q. Did you bootstrap the company out of your savings or raised money from investors and if not, do you plan to raise any money in the future?

Berit: We have bootstrapped Korl thus far. This was a decision my cofounder and I made when starting the company, mostly driven by the fact that we wanted to stay hyper focused on customers and getting a product to them (and we know fundraising takes time and mental energy).

Q. There are so many ups and downs, right? its an emotional rollercoaster. how do you manage your emotions as a founder, how do you keep it calm inside?

Berit: Two things I do to manage my emotions. First, I remind myself that the ups and downs are normal. This helps put things in perspective so that I don’t feel those ups and downs in such an extreme way – I view them as part of the journey. Second, I rely on the people around me for support. When things are challenging, I turn to my co-founder, my husband, and my friends for counsel.

Q. Startups are said to be all consuming, is that true and how has your personal life been affected by starting Korl.

Berit: It’s true in the sense that I am always thinking about something related to the company, at least in the back of my head if not at the forefront. However, I believe that to build a lasting company, you need to do it in a sustainable way. So I take breaks and make time to spend with family and friends. It just requires a bit more intentionality than it did before starting a company.

Q. What’s the objective for Berit, We know that of Korl, but what has Berit set out to achieve?

Berit: I want to be part of creating something that has an impact on people. That could be the team itself, or it could be the product we build. Hopefully it is both. I’d also love to play a role in creating space for more female entrepreneurs because there aren’t enough of us.

Q. What would be that One advice you’d give to other women looking to start their own startups and are unsure whether to take the leap?

Berit: If you are unsure whether to take the leap, that’s your biggest hurdle. You need to get to a place of conviction – whether the decision is to start a company or not. So to get there, I would suggest playing out different scenarios and thinking about whether you can live with them. Let’s say you don’t start the company now, and you never end up starting one. Can you live with that? Let’s say you do start the company, but it fails. Can you live with that? Thinking about extremes and how they would feel can help bring clarity about what path is best for you.

Q. When its all said and done, when you have achieved what you set out to achieve, what’s the ending scene of your movie, what is the happy ever after life you imagine for yourself.

Berit: In an ideal world, we’ve built Korl into a company that really shapes and improves how organizations share strategic information across functions and with customers. It’s a company I’m truly proud of, and we all had a lot of fun along the way. Then who knows… maybe it’s time to travel and spend time with family, or maybe it’s time to do it all over again.

We appreciate Berit for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions. Check out her startup

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