Strategic Planning: Positioning Your Startup for the Long Run w/ Glenn McMahon


Most startup founders share a potent passion and an infectious enthusiasm for whatever their project is about. It’s that drive that propels them and their business forward.

But at a certain point, running a business requires more than simply passion and love. It requires strategic planning and business development—and that’s when today’s guest usually enters the picture.

Glenn McMahon, Managing Director at Portage Point Partners, joins the show to share how he helps founders scale their business and prepare for early funding rounds.

We discuss:

-The benefits of having a “thought partner”

-The importance of evolving and expanding your offering

-Being patient and selective when choosing investment partners

-Why you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help

This discussion with Glenn McMahon was taken from our show Startup Success. Reach out to Glenn at or on LinkedIn at or visit

If you want to hear more episodes like this one, check us out on Apple Podcasts.

If you don’t use Apple Podcasts, you can find every episode here.

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Startup Success in your favorite podcast player.

Welcome to start up success, thepodcast for startup founders and investors here you'll find stories ofsuccess from others in the trenches as they work to scale some of the fastestgrowing startups in the world stories that will help you in your own journeystart up. Success starts now welcome to start up success today. I'mvery pleased to have Glen Mac man with us. Glen is a managing director atportage point partners, and I can't wait to get into that with Glen, butbefore we go there, Glen's going to take us through some of his work withstartups. It's fascinating a great lesson, and I know that you all willenjoy listening to it. So thanks for joining us today, clan. Thank you, Kate.I'm excited to be here. Yeah, we're excited to have you so I know you'vedone a lot of really interesting work with startups and I'd love for you toshare kind of how you help start ups that maybe give us an example or towith whatever details you can provide because, as we know being a start up,it's very difficult. So I think this would be great for our audience. Well, absolutely, and thank you so muchfor the opportunity. You know I'd love startups, because the founders arealways so passionate about their project and it's really refreshing toyou know be part of that energy early in my career, I had the the greatopportunity to be involved with some really exciting line, so you knowgenerally what I help them do. Is I s trage, planning, strategic thinking.You know by the time I'm involved with this cartop they've usually been up andrunning for a little bit so I've you know. Usually they have aconcept they've gone to market. They actually are driving some revenue andthey get to a point where they need some howl from you know. Somebody likemyself with experience actually running to business, so I would say strategic planning andBusiness Development are probably the two biggest ways I get involved with itwith startups. I've also done quite a bit of help with them when they reach apoint where they're looking for capital or they're looking for investors, andso I've done. You know quite a bit of that and certainly happy to share someexamples with you on both of those okay. I like how you frame this, because it'sone of the things that we see with Barkland to start at founders areincredibly passionate, they're, so knowledgeable about you, know theproduct or service they're, bringing they're so invested, but you'reabsolutely right and that you know we've seen this running a businessrequires more than just that passion or that love, and so there's so mucharound strategic planning that we see as great importance as well. So thatreally struck me that that's one of the areas that you work on, because that isso critical. Can you delve into that a little bit o sure? I you know, I thinkthe like you said most of them are very passionate and oftentimes as stars.They have a great idea that you know they're starting up because they'resolving a problem or addressing a need in the market. So that's number one. So this traces planning part reallycomes in is how can I help him scale that or how can I help them? Get thatto more customers or clients, or you know, if it's a B to be business, howcan I help them, get it to market? You know to other businesses, so it'sreally sitting down with them and understanding from their. You know whattheir vision is. You know what product it is that they're offering and thenyou know building now really. You know a very fundamental strategy on how totake it from point a to point B- and you know I have to give credit to a lotof startups, because I think that they...

...often have a good idea of what it isgoing to take from a strategic stand point but they're pretty striped. Youknow they're, usually no fig teams and they need a thought partner or athought leader that can help them think through you know, test ideas, bounceideas off, and so the the stratutegical very fundamentally, as I would say, alot partner. You know we're doing this. We've had this kind of success, we'regetting this kind of moment. How can we capitalize all that? How can we grow?How can we expanded to a cusper, a larger customer base? I like how youframe that as a thought partner, because I can see when you're so meshedin it it's nice to have that outside perspective. That can bring a lot ofdifferent experiences to talk it through with you. I think that's key,you know what it is and having somebody that's not coming in from a with afinancial interest is really helpful, so you know I can be brutally honestwith them and that's also the thing that I loved about working withstartups. You know from a strategic stand point is you know, I'm justgiving them an unbiased opinion. They can take it, they can listen to it.They can tell me to go, take a hike. So it's usually you know it's very openand that's what I like it. It's not over coded you're, not worried aboutoffending them. You know that they're usually very curious and they they wantto learn. So it's hurt of the best of all worlds, as were you know, you'renot working with somebody. That's been joying something for twenty years anddoesn't want to learn a new trick right right or do want your help, whichsometimes to the case yeah, but for me I learn a ton from them and that that'sthe thing that's been most exciting for me at tornops. Is You know it's acontinual learning process for me and I've gotten into areas? You know lifesoftware. I know we'll talk about that. A little bit that I knew nothing aboutbefore. I started working with startups and now that's really a passion project.For me, I love the software space. Really. Okay. Can we delve into thatnow, because software, as we know, is continuing to Sky Rock at every VC? Italk to is hungry for opportunities there. You know it's it's theconsumption there is at an all time high. So how did your passion developand what are some of the projects? You've worked on well yeah. So two ofthe software projects you now both be did be, which I was you know incrediblyproud to be part of it and continue to maintain relationships with what iscalled Castle Ca. A stle and it's actually the platform for rental. So it's really the owner fathers ChristineHunt, singer incredibly brilliant woman she's had you know a number ofsuccesses, but she stared a castle and a really aninintelligible. You know. First, she launched a bran to test out to see ifthe concept work, the rental platform actually work and and then she took itto market. So you know I got involved with Christie, rulin businessdevelopment once she had already tested it and she had proven that the backheadfunctionality worked and she had already raised the capital and they hadmade the investments in the the operating structure obviously build thethe software she was ready to scale. So I got involved with her at that point.So you know that was a different type of experience because, like I saidearlier in the conversation, the company was still very early stage. Itwas a start up, but she already gone to market a test to the concept. I likethat she did that because so many times it goes the other way and then theycan't deliver right, and so it all blows up. So that must have been reallyfun to work on Bis Dev, with a proven concept that you knew was reliable. Soshe she started. A friend called Guenepin was for all sized women and itwas a barket plays for Apparel Kayu. It...

...was a rental market place and in orderto do the do that, they had to build out all the you know the software, butit was also a reverse logistics because they had to have the warehouse theykind of have the imagery they had had the cleaning facilities. So once sheproved that she could do it for her own Viri, then she was able to take it tomarket and offer to other brands, and today there are a lot of brands thatyou know you would know and recognize said or on the rental platform. So shedoes the back and functionality she skins her software with the brands,proprietary imagery creative to the consumer is thinking that they'reinteracting directly with the brand right also back in function from thethe technology to the actual logistics is being handled by castle. It's a rulybrilliant. I do okay, that is brilliant and so smart, because that's the mostdifficult component right as I o her model. Is it really leverages thebrand knows how to market their brain right to the product? Yes, but theyoften don't know how to build the technology. The platforms for you knowyou know the Batin of functionality. Nor do are they very good at operationsand Legia Right. So it's a Turkey solution that she provides to brandsand it's a subscription model to the consumer and the way that she gets paidis it's a revenue share on this subscription. So it's a really clean,easy. It's literally a White Club service for a brand. They can sign upto it in a number of weeks being up and running as a rental platform wow,that's so impressive, because you should always focus on what you're goodat right and what you know and that's what these brands can do. Yeah does. Itdoesn't become a destruction. It's also not a huge investment, and a lot ofthese brands were directed consumer brands to be honest with you and theydidn't have the wherewithal to. You know, invest in do this as a start up,so you know yeah, I own the invetorate dy I can plug it in. I know to myINFARCTI: we can run it. I get revenue from the subscriptions and part of therevenue pays for the service. So it's really small, that's very smart and nowonder that that's become such an area of interest for you, because that's aperfect example of how software can be so make such a big impact right thatthe consumer isn't even seeing. But you see it yes and we, so you know we'reChristing t e. The point where she got was: Okay: Now that we have it, we'vetested it. I don't. She did not have the relationships in the market to goout and start selling it and didn't have the organizational sturt gin thatshe has since built her own business development and sales organization. Butshe wanted to lever M leverage, my expertise, my industry experience. Youknow twenty plus years. I make introductions to these brands becauseoftentimes, you know with alter respect a tech. STARNA company will go in andthey'll meet a retail or or brand and they're speaking different languagesright right so because I understood her proposition the value proposition andwas so excited about it. You know what I would call on a retailer or a brandand say look I'm working with Christine and her team on this. These are theadded benefits I mean we were speaking the same life. You could speak thislanguage, so you, you know, picked their interest. You have the experience.They knew from your background that you know you know the industry and all ofthat, and then you have this partner. I can see we're together. Your team wasfantastic and then we got the C Mo. Were the CEO excited and thenChristine's technical team met up with their technical team and they reallycarry through the project, so that was that was a big success and reallysomething of passionate about, but I think most exciting for me is that shecontinues to evolve the model and that's another thing that I think is socritical for startups. Is You know you...

...have an idea? It's good! You go tomarket, you have some success, but you know in order to grow it and skill it.You have to be open to continuing to expand. You know what your offer is andthey have now gone to. You know it started at a subcrit on model. You hadto sign up for a monthly fee, you could rent x number of units and as thatmarket became more and more crowded with other people offering a rentonproposition. They have now gone to a trying to buy where you can actuallyconvince his doing this. I don't want to sign up for a monthly subscription.I don't want twelve pieces, but I want to go into events, and I want to youknow, get that jacket, but I don't want to own it. I just want to borrow it sothey're now doing it, it's called a borrow and it's you know I'm getting anevolution of where rental is going, and I give so much credit to Christine andher team for realizing that you know this idea that they had ten years agothat they took to market that was successful, is going to continue togrow and evolve in change. They haven't lost their original vision, theyhaven't lost their their idea or their concept, but they're evolving as amarket vals, and I think that's the success of a start up. That's a greatexample because we really saw that accelerate with ovid right. A lot ofthese startups had to change, and you have to be willing to do that andthat's one of the themes. I hear a lot on this podcast and you because I thinkone of the things that will talk about is you know what is my advice and myadvice is to stick with your vision because you're going to meet investors,you know, particularly when you start bringing other people's moneys. It isand ways that you should do your business that crazy stories whereinvestors were telling parens a school or they should think pareos. You know.No. That is not what they do so you have to. You know you have to be opento evolve and be dynamic and you have to you know pivot. But if you have agreat idea, you have to build on that great idea. You can't be distracted byother people's. You know ideas. Well I like that. You said that, because yousaid something earlier that one of the reasons why it's helpful to work withyou is you don't have you didn't make an investment in the company right? Youcan speak the honest, brutal truth right, you don't, and so I think thatkind of lends itself to what you were just saying right. You can be honestand tell them stick to your vision. Don't go off. You know yeah. I likethat but Jack, a los for told me that one of their investors had told thatthey should start doing pareos. I didn't use very blight languagetelestes. They didn't need my advice on that. That I oh Gosh, I love that so B to b is kindof you you're focused on. What do you do to be deceased? To I do OAYI wouldtake a holier more be I be now the BC when Tom Brown, who I'm sure a lot ofyour you know, listeners will knows, was starting his business tom and Iwork together for years, and he had this genius idea and he was sopassionate about his brand. I you know helped him, you know, and a lot of thiswork is pro bono. You know, because we were good friends and you know how thebuild he had the idea he had the vision, it was not lie, but really just how didoval build his business. So that was an example of the bat. Is The you knowover the years. You know what he was ready for the next cage of investor.You know we would talk, and I would you know, review proposals or give thempoint of view on proposals to introduce them to other investors, and you know I was so pleased to see thesuccess that he's had over the years. You know is an a made, a big investmentin his company, but that was the third investor. You know the third round, soFRA and another fun one was tomorrow Mellon after she Jimmy Chew. Shestarted on her on brand Cole Morella and I was in in a room. I actually have an innera management role there for her helping...

...her grow. That business also, that wasreally excited to excellent brand. I'm a fan- and I as to her so so that'sgreat, and so you just touched on something you mentioned. You do helpwith fund raising in terms of making introductions and things you probablythink of potential investors, maybe that the founder can't doesn't seeright as clearly like. You must have good ideas. Well, I know a lot ofpeople in the worked because I've taken a couple businesses to market. So youknow, I have foot networks with either fenly offices or private equity, a butinterestingly enough of the case of Tom. He had already found his originalinvestor was working with them and that's sort of a grown that I waslooking for additional capital and he just put that on my radar and it wasprobably a year or two later, a private equity company that I know that I was looking to big investmentsreached out to me and said we're looking in the fashion space- and Isaid you know so- it was just like the perfect opportunity that is sometimesyou know the stars align and you're there to kind of shepherd that you knowintroduction through which is really important and that's another bit ofadvice that I would give to startit is that you have to be in it for the longgame, an be patient, because I mean Tom's need for investment. was you know, hitting acritical point, but you know he had to wear with all to see through and waitedfor the right person to come along and the right investment partner. And sothat's another critical thing, you know there's a lot of pressures. You said inthat started the conversation for these startups and particularly when theystart to Gowan scale, but you have to be really selective and you have tomake sure that the decisions that you're doing, whether it's investor oryou know, markets or or smart than long term strategic. I like that. Youbrought that up, because you also used a word patient right. You know it takestime and you always hear about those stories where it was quick. But if youlook at a lot of these really successful businesses like the story,you just you know shared earlier. It's been a evolution, it's been a slow,very successful, but it took time with a lot of hard work. I mean yes, anyother insights. You want to share for startup founders that you've seen or Imean those are two really really. I think you know don't be free to ask forhealth. I mean that's another big one, that you know. I've learned as anexecutive as well, but I think it's important for startups to know to youknow, build a network. There are so many people that are willing to help sodon't be afraid to reach out to people, even if you don't know them whetherit's through mutual contact, whether it's through social media, make anintroduction. You know I pretty avid follower on social media of brands andin both the technology space and the apparel space, and I have no problemreaching out to you, know the startup owner founders and saying that I lovewhat you're doing. How can I help you, and so vice versa? I would encouragestart up. You know the owners and the founders to do the same. If you knowthere's an industry expert or somebody that they admire or respect, but maybedon't know, I would highly encourage ham to reach out to them. You know Ithink they'd be surprising how willing people are to hell. I have found thatin the startup ecosystem right that people are willing to help, they wantto help start up, succeed and experts like yourself, who have a lot ofincredible experience, who have done some really fantastic things want toapply that to start ups work with them on that it's exciting, I'm sure, foryou is exciting and not everything's a good fit. I mean I've had to say topeople like you know this is you know good for you, and you know I think,you're on to something it's just not my area. I don't think that it can help oradd value so etherit's, not like...

...everybody reach out who is going to beable to help you out, but I would highly encourage, don't be to befree toask for help. That's good, and I like that you will say you know. I alwaysthink it's a testament to somebody who will say no, that's not an interest ofmine or an area of expertise right and maybe point them in a differentdirection. Yes, yes, so tell us a little bit about portage point partner,so it's a grave firm who were an advisory and consulting from its aboutthirty people. So it's relatively small they found her of the company is a manby the name of Matthew Ray he started the company five years ago and he hadbeen very successful in private equity. But after now, starting his own privateequity, firm and and doing quite well. He had worked with a lot of advisingand consulting for himsen. To be honest with, he was not very happy with thetype of work that he was finding, so he wanted to disrupt the market. So againit was a start of business five years ago. They do a lot of work in air spaceand technology and automotive, so areas that I haven't had experience in andwhen I was looking to join a firm. You know I did research and I sort of pitchmyself to that is based on my experience and consumer and technology.You know if I join your platform, that sort of a whole other level ofexpertise, and he was really looking for that. He wanted to build out he'vealways deck its humor, but he really was interested in building out. Youknow stronger consumer practice, so I joined in January this year. It's beenabout nine months and off to a really good store. So how can listeners get intouch with you? What you know if they have cestona yeah? My email is the thebest way to do it in its g mcmann. So Mc Mahon at PPP, portage point partners,ll Com. So it's pretty easy and are you also on linked en? I am a link to andthat's probably the you, the easiest canseled in an dm all that okay, greatgreat anything else you want to add. I mean this has been so fun great example:Yeatts Right now that I'm hot on there s two in particular, there's one it'snot early stage, but it's called fabric and there they're a mite going afterthe mid Barkentine companies and it's a non monolithic, e commerce platformsolution. You know shop ify is great for Yes, I sort of the the but it's amonolithic platform and it doesn't have a lot of flexibility. so as yourbusiness grows, you know fifty a hundred two hundred million or moreshop of Hind desit really satisfy your need. O You're happy to do a lot ofwork around, and so I've been. You know talking with these guys. Just I wentout to them and let me how can I help you because I believe in what they aredoing and there it's an amazing team, I'm so impressed with him. So that's vdservice and then the VDC one is called midday snacks and it's a Canadiancompany. That's joined healthy protein based you snacked, and these guys arekilling it and they have such passion their holy stage. They were doing suchan Emaci job, so I would have your listeners check out. Both the fabric isthe e commerce. You know solution and then midday snacks is the the food the protein. You know healthy,alternative, just tacking right. I will check out both Yahka yeah they're,really, especially as we all try to move away from carves, because right,that's where you tend to go in a snack. So I like what a good idea see thatjust proves right there, these startup founders, they see the need right likewe started this conversation with that they're trying to fell and a lot ofthem. You know I love that their single category focused to me. You know theycan e Bob and grow and build a onto additional categories down the line,but yeah they're, usually solving a deed. You know when I talked to a lotof startups. They're, like you know,...'s so difficult, there's so muchcompetition, and you know- and I say well- go back into your study on Nikeon Apple on Hoover. Those were all startups at one point and you know theywent into a highly competitive market where nobody needed a differentcomputer or an alternative computer. Nobody needed something different thana taxi, so the criticise plant, but you know so, even if somebody you know, isdoing or offering a service that similar to water drink. You know whatis that different, an treater that make sure service of thing better or morecompelling it, and so much of it is technology German today. But there area lot of great examples of you know major companies today that were onestore ups. Also right now, that's a very good point and when we're realdisruptors and like you said technology is such a huge component of that yeah-and you mentioned roller- I mean the pedevil just you know really launchedso manyy opportunities, and I mean look at all the delivery services. I meanright and the you know these companies are growing very quickly becausethey're providing a really critical need so yeah. I would think that, butnot every company has to be a billion dollar company or a multibillion dollarcompany. I think that's important for startups to recognize to is you knowfor me that there's a lot of importance. I think in solving a need or passionand not you know, saying I have to be a ten billion dollar brand or a company.That's a good point. There's different levels of success. You know having acertain year, not your technology platform being purchased or maybe justone you know offering dead go somewhere, is success as well. That is a reallygood point. Yes, yes! Well, this has been great. It's been a lot of fun.Thank you so much for coming by and we'll have to have you again. You knowmaybe next year care more about some clients, I'm sure you'll be up to somereally exciting things so well. Thank you so much for the opportunity- and Ilove the space and I think what you guys are doing is cut an important,critical part, because you know these are research that you're providing aresource to start out that they otherwise would not have. So it's ait's a great support to the community. So thank you for saying that we werekind of similar in that way they can focus on their vision, their passion,just like you know the expertise that you bring so agreed. Thank you. Glenwill talk to you soon. You've been listening to start upsuccess to make sure you don't miss out on future episodes subscribe to theshow in your favorite podcast player. Like would you hear tap the number ofstars? You think the show deserves an apple podcast for more tools andresources for your own start up. SUCCESS CHECK OUT BERKELY ASSOCIATESCOM. Thank you so much for listening till next time.

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