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Office Hours: I built the marketing teams from scratch at Asana, Carta, and Astro (acq’d by Slack). I’ve since co-founded a VC fund, MKT1 Capital, and write the MKT1 newsletter. I’m Emily Kramer. AMA!Featured

Hi everyone!

I’m Emily Kramer, co-founder at MKT1 where we help founders and marketers build and scale their marketing functions. Until recently, I was a marketing leader at a number of startups.

I’ve invested in 50+ companies, including 15 from our new-ish VC fund, MKT1 Capital, which I run with my co-founder Kathleen. MKT1 Capital is an early-stage B2B fund with over 60 marketers as investors in the fund.

I started working with Kathleen 3 years ago when we started MKT1, which initially focused on advising, consulting, and marketing recruiting. Now we are full-time focused on fund, content, community and courses.

I’ve taught over 200 startup marketers & founders through my courses on Maven and talked to over 1,000 founders in the past 3 years (we recently counted). We now have over 25,000 newsletter subscribers (growing 8x this year!).

Going back to my marketing leader days…while leading Asana's marketing team for 4 years, I launched their first paid product for teams in 2013 and their rebrand in 2015. I was the 35th-ish employee there.

Then at Astro, I launched the company and its first product, which won Product Hunt's mobile app of the year in 2017; Astro was acquired by Slack a year later.

At Carta, I built marketing team at series C. I’m most proud of the work I did developing their gender equity gap data studies and Table Stakes initiative in 2019, which was covered in 50+ top tier publications.

I’m now an advocate for fair compensation practices, have shared my own story publicly relating to challenges I’ve faced as a (queer) woman startup leader. I’m also on the board of non-profit Empower Work.

During my down time, I spend time with my 2 dogs (I had 3 until very recently when I lost my 13 year old terrier mix) and my partner Megan. I see a lot of live music (been to over 600 shows in my lifetime) and am about to start splitting my time between Oakland, CA and Lake Winnipesaukee, NH—so there’s a lot more boating in my near future. I also am a very amateur woodworker--I like building and making things no matter what the medium.

Ask me anything about building a marketing team, marketing more generally, the impact of AI on marketing, growing your career, investing, going from operator to investor, building a personal brand, startup compensation, or anything else that seems relevant.

Thanks so much for joining us @emilykramer!Elphas – please ask @emilykramer your questions before Friday, June 2nd. @emilykramer may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Emily, thank you so much for spending time with us here! I am a fellow ex operator turned into seed investor. I am currently at Moxxie (we're seed investor investing out of our second fund, check us out maybe we can do deals together: moxxie.vc :) ) and a Partner at the MBA Fund (we are a pre-seed fund, putting $40-$50K cheque in companies: thembafund.com)! Congrats on launching MKT1 Capital! What spaces are you most excited about and currently watching? And what do you look for in founders?
I know Katie at Moxxie --we've shared some deals in the past, but haven't co-invested yet, lets o it. Martech is a small part of our portfolio, but seeing a ton there right now due to changes in no-code and AI and its fun to see the rapid changes as someone whose spent so long in this space. I like a lot of "boring" businesses replacing outdated manual processes, with a strong wedge-in, for people outside of tech right now--we just invested in a warehouse scheduling product for instance called Conduit. Of course we are seeing lots of AI stuff, and just trying to see who has real differentiation and can build a real moat, as things get commoditized quickly.
What are the 3 most important channels you recommend that every early-stage pre-PMF startup experiment with right away? (e.g. SEO/content, paid ads, etc).
Highly depends on your audience, market, product; GTM motion; and "marketing advantages" (https://newsletter.mkt1.co/p/find-and-accelerate-your-marketing). But on the channel side, SEO and paid search usually plays some role, but the extent varies dramatically. Developing a plan for creating great content (not just blog posts!) that drive organic traffic by distributing through communities, at your own events, on social, through partners, through SEO (whatever makes the most sense based on the content and your audience) is always necessary. Find your lane on content and content distribution by testing/and baby-stepping before making any major investments.
Hi Emily, congratulations on all your growth and success. I find your story really inspiring and its also lit a lightbulb for me 💡 I have an advisory firm focused on sustainability finance in africa and I’ve always wondered if I can turn it into a fund one day. Thanks to your story I now know that I can :)
100% especially if you've built up credibility with founders and have a great track record of picking companies to work with. Starting funds is very hard, but possible! Like most things, it can be a grind!
How do you set boundaries with people wanting to pitch you every single time and prioritising companies you want to dive deeper into?
I try to give clear feedback on why something isn't a fit (but also a few things I like) and politely decline
@emilykramer — we’re using one of your templates to redesign our site currently (thank you!). So much of running marketing means ushering in change (whether it’s messaging, branding, packaging, etc.). This requires strong trust and buy-in from the founders to be effective. When operating, what are the qualities/characteristics of founders that make great partners to marketing teams? Do you have any tips on fostering a strong relationship with founders? Things you avoid? Thanks again!!
Great question and happy to hear the template is helping you!1. They have to want to win on GTM and believe in marketing. Seems ridiculous that people don't believe in marketing, but its true. So make sure they care about it. I analyze this based on if they take notes, ask great follow up questions, and can point to what companies they want to emulate and why in the interview process (we look for the same stuff when investing)2. Make sure your idea of what marketing is matches their defintion. Some founders think its all PR, some think its all events, other think its paid. Make sure their expectations match what you think the best strategy will be.3. Sometimes they really won't understand marketing, so there's a lot of education involved. I like explaining marketing in layman's terms to founders (my fuel / engine analogy works well for this): https://newsletter.mkt1.co/p/fuel-engine 4. Great goal setting and communication about progress on these goals. https://newsletter.mkt1.co/p/goals
Hi Emily, Thanks so much for sharing your experience at Carta. I had a similar experience at a small startup about a year ago, which ended with me being let go. At the time I was too shocked to do anything, and signed the the separation agreement. Since then, I've seen this startup continue to hire, and let go, and traumatize other marginalized persons in the same way I was. I regret signing the severance forms and waving my rights. Any advice on what, if anything, I can do?
I was a GC for 17 years. Happy to send you a list of lawyers I've put together for people recently DM me here if you want it. Note that I agree with @emilykramer that litigation can be very tough, but by raising your voice, you can start to pave a path for others.
Sorry you had a similar experience--it's all too common. I'm definitely not a lawyer, so can't advise on the legal pieces.I will say... Taking action in the way that I did required a massive amount of time (and money TBH). I felt I needed to do something and it didn't feel like an option not to, but it wasn't a decision to make lightly. It's so hard to see bad actors continue to have success. I try to balance doing things to change the industry and knowing when I need to move on. It's a hard balance to strike. Lawyers (now or in the future) will typically chat with you about the viability of your claims in a free consult. That's always a good way to know what your options are (ideally before you sign anything). On that note, spread the word to friends to sleep on it or sleep on it for a few nights before signing certain docs.
@emilykramer I would greatly appreciate some advice on advancing my career. Unfortunately, I experienced a layoff from my Head of Sales role in December. Throughout my career, I have frequently encountered the challenge of being replaced by white males, which has left me feeling uncertain about the best way to move forward. This discouragement is something entirely new to me, and despite revising my resume multiple times, I consistently make it to the final rounds of interviews only to be passed over for someone else. I truly miss the stability of my previous income and the vibrant lifestyle of the Bay Area.Your story resonates with me, particularly your connection to live music and life in Oakland. I, on the other hand, originally hail from Austin, Texas. I have a deep longing to contribute to a startup once again. Lately, I have been attempting to transition into series C companies, given the instability of pre-seeds. Regrettably, I find myself at a loss as to what I might be doing wrong. In my most recent role, I was the sole sales and marketing representative for a noteworthy product that was eventually acquired by Unity 3D. I decided to leave that position due to being replaced by an older white male who engaged in sexual harassment.Thank you in advance for any guidance you can provide.
I'm sorry you experienced that layoff--sounds like a tough pill to swallow. It's a tough time out there to get hired in ll roles, especially GTM. ITs harder at growth stage, later stage, and public companies b/c they are just not hiring and laying people off. Early stage companies that have just raised Seed or Series A actually might be your best bet right now. A little more stable than pre-seed, with fresh money in the bank
Hi Emily! Thanks so much for giving your time to this community. All of the previous questions asked are fantastic. I'm also wondering about your experience teaching on Maven. What are the pros/cons for you? Would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you!
I love teaching on Maven. That said, it's a lot of work to build out a course. I spend a lot of time on the curriculum, and I have a headstart due to all my newsletters (newsletter.mkt1.co) and diagrams from them. Even on cohort 4 of my main course, I'm still making lots of tweaks. Getting students can be a challenge, but I have a clear niche and strong distribution, so that part has been pretty straightforward (share in a newsletter and on Linkedin). I think it really just depends on your existing audience and how you will make the content!
Advice for first time female leaders?
Trust your gut. If you get a bad feeling about a leader or company, it's usually right.Make sure you are paid fairly. Negotiate as a man would! Find other women that can be a support system. I've had some amazing women leaders take me under their wing and support me through many of my trials and tribulations as a queer woman in tech and its made such a difference. And on the flip side, be this person to peers and people earlier in their career.
Hello Emily, thanks a lot for hosting the AMA! I am a founder myself and I enjoy reading about your experiences. I would love to know, when you are working with founders and marketers, what are some of the non-obvious mistakes people make in marketing?
Top mistakes I see:1. All activity, no impact - Doing random acts of marketing that don't ladder up to your overall story or your positioning, don't make sense for your audience, market, or GTM motion; and don't lean into your marketing advantages (https://newsletter.mkt1.co/p/find-and-accelerate-your-marketing)2. You create great content (what I call "fuel") and have no distribution engine. Or you only have a distribution engine and don't have fuel that adds value to your specific audience.3. Wrong growth levers for your GTM motion, funnel, audience etc. Or you try to pick too many and do to much at once, and don't properly test and scale.4. Content that no one wants to consume5. Follow someone else's playbook6. Keep doing the same mix of activites--this will get you linear growth at best7. Hiring the wrong mix of marketers.
Thanks a lot for the pointers! 'All activity, no impact' is such a common mistake for startups of all sizes. I wonder if it's also due to the experimental nature of digital marketing.
Hi Emily, so excited to see you here! I'm curious to know your POV on how marketing teams can best create systems to take advantage of the growing freelance workforce. As a former agency leader, brand-side manager, and freelance producer myself, I've seen a huge shift in the best creative/marketing talent going freelance, and brands increasing their use of freelancers to improve flexibility in this ~unpredictable economy~. I've also witnessed brands having a hard time wrangling freelancers based on unpredictable availability, budgets, and generally clunky communication from negotiating contracts through to briefing in talent once the contract has been approved. Knowing you've set up really successful teams in the past, I'd love to hear what worked/didn't work for you as you brought freelance talent into the fold. I'm a 2x founder currently working to launch a new platform that helps brands build, manage, and measure dynamic freelance teams to improve speed, flexibility, and diversity across marketing orgs. I'm in "all ears" mode right now as we plan our GTM strategy and hope to hear your thoughts here!
I wrote a lot about this here: https://newsletter.mkt1.co/p/agenciesHere are the mistakes I see when hiring contractors/freelancers/agencies:-No one internally to manage the contractors/agencies. To properly manage agencies and contractors, you need: Someone to project manage, an editor or someone to check for quality, someone who understands marketing analytics to review results and optimizations-Hiring contractors/agencies before you know what you need and/or have a basic marketing foundation in place-Hiring an A-list agency and getting the C-Team.-Picking an agency with the wrong experience for your startup. Right for your friend’s startup, doesn’t mean right for your stage and business model.-Wrong scope: Letting the agency do things they aren’t great at. Focus the agency on what they are best at.-Not following early-stage marketing hiring guidance: Hire marketing generalists in-house, hire agencies as specialists-Hiring agencies for the foundational or strategic stuff that’s better done in-house.-Not hiring agencies for the specialized project stuff where there are advantages to using an agency that works with multiple clients.
Hi @emilykramer! I'm working with a company that would love to submit a pitch deck to your VC. How can we do that?
We have an inbound form here: http://mkt1.co/founderformWhat's your company?
Hi @emilykramer. I'm working with a company called BossMakeHer (www.bossmakeher.com), a Platform for Women Executives on the Job Search journey. We'd also love to talk to you about Marketing for a Startup in this area!
Hey @emilykramer What’s your thoughts and ideas around how to launch a startup in todays market? Ideally, I’m most curious, how you’d go about distribution and finding PMF of a tech startup today when social media is at a weird place filled with so much noise. Thank you. And I’m a big fan. Love your newsletter.
Hey @lizelle always happy to see your name. Much like you need to find a gap in the market, build a product, and differentiate to build a product/company, you need to find a gap in content (or what I call "fuel") on the marketing side and differentiate. Basic content is a commodity. Find a lane you can win in (even if its start to small), make value add stuff, and your audience will help you spread it. In short, treat content like another product for your company.
Thank you!
@emilykramer What would you look for in the first marketing hire at a start up?
Here's what we tell startups to look for: https://newsletter.mkt1.co/p/how-to-hire-your-first-marketerWe tell founders to hire π-shaped marketers. Like a t-shaped marketer, has breadth across marketing and is expert at 1 functional area of marketing (product marketing, content, or growth), but we also recommend they are proficient in another of these 3 areas too (hence the π-shape).We also think you should be the right mix of scrappy an strategic, have worked at a company with the same GTM motion before, and have startup experience (not just big company experience). and in 2023, I'd add is great with no-code and generative AI tools--and recognizes how content is rapidly changing.
Thanks, Emily! This is super helpful!