Startup Founders Must Understand Customer Behavior, Patel Says at Startup Grind Newark

Photo: Sweta Patel Photo Credit: Patel via LinkedIn
Sweta Patel | Patel via LinkedIn

“Founders that are product driven believe that if they build something, everybody will come,” said startup growth advisor Sweta Patel. “But it doesn’t work that way anymore.”

Patel has advised over 200 startups in Silicon Valley and is the founder of She has worked with ground floor startups all the way to international big fortune companies and wants founders to realize that marketing is pivotal for success.

“A lot of startups focus on their products and not what the customer thinks, feels,” she said. “I always advocate founders to become marketers and understand the customer’s behavior to address it. That is what’s really going to drive growth for the company.”

At a StartUp Grind fireside chat at =SPACE in Newark earlier this year, Patel shared advice for founders to achieve growth:

  1. Have a product market fit

“One of the hardest and important stages for early startups is to understand product market fit because things can go wrong if they don’t,” said Patel. Many startups fail because they don’t first consider if customers actually want to buy what they’re selling. “When I start working with startups, I make sure they have a product market fit. If they don’t, I’m hired to help promote a product to the wrong audience.”

  1. Without innovation, your company will die

“For any company, innovation is important. If you’re not innovating, you basically are going to die.” Patel realized early as startup founder that innovation meant competitive advantage. “I didn’t see us innovating within the next six months and with all these companies coming in, we didn’t have a chance. I decided to reinvent [the company] and make it even better.”

  1. Marketing and sales should work together

“A lead to a marketing person is someone who fills out a form, whereas to sales it is a demo. When somebody fills out a form and opt into something, sales rush them to a call and the person is like, ‘I haven’t even gone through the white paper yet, why are you calling me? ’It’s important to get sales to work with marketing because I always see issues come up in the middle of the funnel.”

  1. Mentors can help you grow your business, but they don’t have to be a famous

 “Sometimes, we have the ambition but don’t have the know-how and that’s the extra step we need to get to the next level. Let [mentors] come to you because those are the mentors that you’re going to have in your life. They don’t have to be crazy successful. The mentor shouldn’t be judged because you never know what anybody has to bring to your table. Someone who’s successful today may not be successful tomorrow.”

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