Danika Laszuk of Betaworks - thematic investment and in residence program for startups
Updated: Nov 4, 2020
Article written by Jessica Li
On consumer psychology, building conviction, and marketing strategy with Danika Laszuk of Betaworks
I spoke with @DanikaLaszuk, general manager of Betaworks Camp, a thematic investment and in residence program for startups building in frontier technologies. Prior to Betaworks, Danika was VP of marketing at Jawbone and spent almost a decade at Apple where she led product marketing for numerous generations of the iPod and the launch of the first iPhone. Prior to Apple, Danika was at HP where she managed the launch of its first consumer laptop.Danika shared her advice and insights on understanding consumer psychology, supporting startups in the 0 to 1 phase, building up conviction as a first check in investor, marketing strategy, and career growth.
Aim for 25% to 75% comfort in any role. When you first begin a new role, you will likely be at a 25% comfort level. Over time, as you ramp up, you will become increasingly comfortable with the work. When you reach the 75% comfort level, you may not be learning and growing significantly, and it may be time to switch to a new role (within or outside of the company). For some positions, where the business and/or role are constantly changing, you may never reach the 75% level. Danika is always attracted to pursuing projects outside of her initial wheelhouse to constantly challenge herself, and she has used this framework to make key choices throughout her career.
Stay close to the consumer. Consumer psychology and behavior are constantly evolving, and as an early stage investor in consumer touching products, Danika focuses on staying close to the end consumer of the startups she invests in. She does focus groups, ethnographic research (visiting people in their homes, meeting them where they are, visiting shops, and truly following people’s natural lives) to really get a rich sense of how people approach the world. She is a researcher at heart and loves having conversations with people in and perhaps especially outside of tech to gather diverse perspectives to calibrate her own understanding of the world. Through her kids and their friends, she has also been able to gain a deeper understanding of Gen Z. She also closely follows Taylor Lorenz’s work on internet culture and uses that as a framework for understanding online behavior.
Stay curious and dig into the why. From her career in marketing, Danika built upon her innate curiosity to continuously strive to learn more about the end consumer’s lives and needs. Instead of being satisfied with surface level trends, she always dug into the “why” to continue to double click on insights until she arrived at a true nugget of wisdom. She was also quite resourceful in connecting with people knowledgeable about each space to gather a greater arsenal of qualitative and quantitative data points.
Focus on the differentiated insight. When speaking with companies, Danika focuses on how well the founders truly know their users and whether they can clearly articulate this unique understanding and insight.She looks for founders who are not only able to ideate but also, perhaps more importantly, are able to execute and get things done. In the micro and macro ideation, she looks for founders who have meaningful conviction but remain open minded and mentally plastic to evolve with feedback and the needs of the company.She also looks for scrappy founders who can hack things together and ship products quickly. The first product will rarely ever be the final product (and most founders will always look back on their first iteration with some embarrassment), but it is crucial to move quickly and gather user insight.
Help founders prioritize. Founders put themselves under a large amount of pressure to fight every fire and achieve every hourly, daily, and weekly goal. As an investor in the earliest stages, Danika notes that one of her largest value adds is helping founders strategically focus their energy and time and help them see that it is okay to not do everything they wanted to every week. She guides them in defining the core focus area for the week, whether it is shipping the beta product to testers or understanding user feedback, and what the actionable next step is.
Be open to making mistakes. Put yourself out there, keep doing what makes you uncomfortable, be willing to ask questions, and get over the fear of embarrassing yourself. In the short term, you may feel some level of discomfort, but in the long term, your skills and learnings will compound.
About the Author
Jessica Li - Harvard Grad | Head of Content @ Elpha (YC S19) & Harvard in Tech | Marketing @ ZAGENO | https://linktr.ee/jessicali
Article also published on Elpha