July 28, 2020

Making the Pivot: The Unusual Founder Workshop Series

John Vrionis
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Making the Pivot: The Unusual Founder Workshop SeriesMaking the Pivot: The Unusual Founder Workshop Series
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Editor's note: 

By: John Vrionis and Andy Johns

When we launched the immersive hands-on learning program Unusual Academy in 2018, our goal was simple: to provide unprecedented guidance to equip seed-stage founders with the tactics and network to level up as leaders and win big. Our mission has remained consistent as we’ve evolved the program, but the world has changed quite a bit in light of COVID-19 both for us and for early stage entrepreneurs. Unusual Academy was created with the belief that we learn in life by doing, and both the model and curriculum have been developed to deliver an interactive and personalized learning experience with tailored feedback to help entrepreneurs move the needle. We’ve done the work to alter the experience for a virtual setting and incorporated the reality that early stage founders are operating in a remote work world and need to adjust their tactics.

We are pleased to announce our virtual Unusual Founder Workshop Series, which will focus on three key areas for founders building enterprise software companies—finding product market fit, telling your empathetic story, and early sales outreach and design partner management—as well as three areas for founders building consumer technology startups—finding product market fit, growth, and positioning. Applications are now open and will be accepted until August 30.  

Unusual Founder Workshop Series

The goal of our Founder Workshops Series is to provide a concentrated version of our intensive Academy program, so founders can “sharpen the saw” and learn the skills they will need on their journey. The cohort will intentionally be kept small with ~10 companies for each track, to make sure each company receives hands-on attention from the Master Practitioners. We welcome founders just starting out to entrepreneurs 1-3 years in their journey to apply, and are particularly interested in working with founders eager to hone their craft and learn the secrets of the masters when it comes to building early traction and momentum. In particular, we are excited about business ideas in the following areas: developer tools, open source projects, enterprise security, leveraging machine learning to build intelligent applications, social applications, fintech, and marketplaces. Most importantly, we want high energy, curious, and competitive founders to apply who believe they can learn from others.   

Each workshop will cover a specific topic and involve an interactive exercise so founders can receive personalized feedback and troubleshoot their own startup challenges. The series will take place over the course of seven weeks beginning in mid-October. By participating, founders can expect to learn the following:


  1. Finding Product Market Fit
    In the Finding Product Market Fit workshop, Unusual co-founders, John Vrionis and Jyoti Bansal, will help entrepreneurs plan each tactical step from initial insight to product market fit. Leveraging their experiences at AppDynamics, Mulesoft, Harness, Traceable, and other successful companies, founders will design their own custom action plans to narrow the scope of the initial product, define the beachhead market segment, and first ideal customer profile.  
  2. Telling Your Empathetic Story
    Every successful founder learns to tell a strong story in order to recruit investors, employees, and customers. In this workshop, founders will learn how to tell a story that wins from Unusual’s Operating Partner, Scott Schwarzhoff, who has over 20 years experience bringing to life companies’ “True North” stories, such as Okta, Citrix, and Microsoft. 
  3. Early Sales
    As an early stage startup, time is everything and wasting time selling to the wrong people can mean the end of your company. In this workshop, founders will learn how to discover real opportunities in your pipeline and covert early customers into lifelong advocates from Unusual’s Director of Sales GTM, Liam Mulcahy, who was one of MongoDB’s top sales reps in North America prior to joining Unusual.


  1. Finding Product Market Fit
    Finding Product Market Fit as a Consumer startup can be especially challenging, with many startups jumping to pursue growth from the start. Unusual Partner and Co-Founder of Nextdoor Sarah Leary, will break down how to prove a value hypothesis first that will lead to building something truly unique.
  2. Growth Loops
    Today’s startups often fall into the optimization trap where they think future growth will largely come from optimizing their existing product. In this session, founders will learn how to find the right balance between optimization and innovation from Unusual Partner Andy Johns, who has over 15 years of experience helping consumer startups grow, such as Facebook, Twitter, Quora, and Wealthfront, as well as founder of Reforge Brian Balfour.
  3. Positioning to Win
    In this workshop, founders will learn how to lead a positioning process from Unusual Academy Master Practitioner and YouTube, Twitter, and Wealthfront alum, Josh Grau, to not only create alignment at the top, but also to help guide better decisions about the types of people to hire, what initiatives to prioritize, and where to allocate budget.

Both tracks will also learn how to manage difficult conversations with human capital expert, Karina Sobieski, and how to hire for strong cultures with Wharton professor Adam Grant.

Making the Pivot

We preach to founders the importance of relentless iteration and leveraging experiments and data to find product market fit. In a COVID-19 era, founders are being forced to adapt and alter conventional approaches to early-stage company building. At Unusual, we are inspired to evolve our own content and programs to best assist founders in a constantly changing world. Applicants who have been accepted to our Founders Workshop Series will be notified by late September. Thank you for rolling with the punches and we look forward to receiving your applications!

Interested in applying to participate in the Unusual Founder Workshop Series? Early-stage enterprise and consumer founders, apply by August 30:

For questions about eligibility, see our FAQ section here. For all other questions, please reach out to rae@unusual.vc.

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