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Having an open line of communication is absolutely paramount in a lasting partnership
If you read through our popular Meet the VC series, which profiles hundreds of VCs, you’ll see that an overwhelming majority say the founder and his or her founding team are the biggest factors they consider when investing in a company.
Many want to find that soft skill that’s often not reflected in a resume. For instance, VCs always look for founders who are “resilient” “intuitive” and “courageous.” At the same time, they want to find teams that work well together and complement one another. Team dynamics can make or break a company.
In this new series, we’re profiling startup founding teams. We want to know why they chose to work together and why they work so well together.
Our first startup team profile is for myLAB Box. myLAB Box delivers STD screening solutions to your doorstep allowing you to keep private things private. Best of all, you can enjoy free physician consultations without setting a foot outside if you ever test positive. The founding team includes Lora Ivanova and Ursula Hessenflow.
They company was recently highlighted on VatorNews after raising $1.5 million in August.
Lora Ivanova is the co-founder and CEO of myLAB Box. Her track record of success encompasses high-impact marketing, technology, strategic planning, and customer acquisition channels for thought leading brands and innovators across industries. Lora holds a Business Management degree from University of West London.
Ursula Hessenflow is the co-founder and COO of myLAB Box. She is a seasoned entrepreneur who has played a founding role in several digital companies. She has worn every hat from head of operations, account management and client services, product management, marketing, finance, strategy, CEO and “Chief Visionary”. Ursula holds a B.S. degree in Business Administration from University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business.
VatorNews: How did your team come together?
Lora: It all began with a casual conversation between friends. Sharing dating horror stories and laughing about some of the challenges our friends had shared with online dating and in general life in a big city. Then we thought - there’s got to be a better way to do this! After spending most of my career in big e-commerce I was instantly intrigued by the possibility of finding a way to apply the same principles of ease, convenience and lower cost to something like healthcare and something as complex and stigmatized such as STD testing. I was excited to have a friend who shared my curiosity and soon after we decided to partner up in business and make it official.
Ursula: I had just exited an ad tech company having invested a lot of blood sweat and tears. While the company was successful, working with big entertainment and consumer brands left me wanting to invest the next leg of my journey into something that had the potential to make an enormous impact in the world. The growing world of online dating and the general lack of conversation about STDs that was resulting in epidemic level infection rates occurred like an important problem that we were both passionate to solve. When I came to Lora with the seed of this idea to do an at-home STD test, there was instant synergy and we both knew this was something we could put our collective talents to work building. And the rest is history!
VatorNews: What are the characteristics / qualities you look for in a founding partner?
Lora: For me the biggest and most important thing is integrity. Partnerships are tested by business and life challenges alike and knowing that you have someone by your side who is ethical, mindful, dedicated and honest is the only way that relationship can stay alive and persevere with the ups and downs. Skill wise, I think the most important thing is - are these skills that complement your own. Ursula and I are very different individuals, with different approaches, communication and working styles but we have managed to turn those differences in one of the core strengths of our partnership. It keeps us open to other perspectives and flexible to the ever changing landscape of running a business and its various demands. Lastly you need someone who has the same goals - is one partner looking for a get rich scheme and the other trying to build a lasting business? Is one partner wanting a lifestyle company vs a structured and fast paced corporation? Aligning on where you are going and how you envision getting there is crucial.
Ursula: While complementary skills, experience and vision is critical, I believe what is most important in any partnership is trust and synergy. Just like online dating, a prospective partner can look like they check all the right boxes, but if the synergy and trust isn’t there, it will be a much harder ride. I want to know that I can trust the other person to have my back, that we enjoy working together and that we are better in partnership than we are independently.
VatorNews: How do you make sure you don’t get on each other’s nerves?
Lora: Haha, sometimes there’s just no way around it but it’s not so much about avoiding that as much as it is about how we deal with it when it happens. We talk, we debate, we sometimes even argue but no matter what we keep things honest and open. We are both acutely aware of the damage resentment can cause in a partnership and it is important for us to nurture our friendship as well as our company.
Ursula: Ditto. We’ve had our moments with each other, that’s inevitable. Having an open line of communication is absolutely paramount in a lasting partnership. We know we can be straight with each other.
VatorNews: What are some lessons learned about working together?
Lora: I personally learned to let go of ego, my guard and trust. Our relationship has been tested with time and many challenges but we have always remained mindful of each other and our shared goals for the business. No matter how visionary or qualified no entrepreneur or executive can do it all alone. I’ve learned to appreciate and cherish the support our partnership gives me and be more collaborative.
Ursula: As Lora said earlier, we both have different approaches and styles of working together. I like to talk things out, Lora likes to get to the point and we’ve both learned to appreciate both styles and find a happy medium that produces a better result.
VatorNews: What’s your advice about teams and founding partners to entrepreneurs looking to start a company?
Lora: Don’t leave the tough conversations for later. This is especially important when you work with friends. We can often assume that friends would naturally make good business partners because we like each other and there’s established trust. However a business comes with many questions and challenges such as personal and professional expectations, fair workload distribution and compensation, even unspoken needs and wants. Making sure you are aligned on these is crucial for both the success of your company, your partnership and your friendship.
Ursula: Totally agree. Working through the details upfront is really important. Don’t assume that what you think is fair is what others think is fair. I would recommend that all founders work through a partnership agreement together that makes expectations 100% clear and establishes how you agree to deal with the unexpected.
If you are interested in being included in Startup Teams series, join Vator and email your interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you'd like to be included in our Today's Entrepreneur column, please send me your Vator profile.
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Joined Vator on
myLAB Box is the first and only nationwide, fully at-home, STD testing & treatment platform. Every year, millions of people suffer through embarrassing clinic waiting rooms, & awkward, high-stress doctor’s visits to get tested for STDs or skip testing altogether to avoid humiliation. myLAB Box gives people control of their own health, making it simple and easy to diagnose and treat common STDs from the comfort of home.
Joined Vator onCo-founder & CEO of myLAB Box, the first online service empowering users to test for infections at home nationwide. Track record of success in high-impact strategic planning and customer acquisition channels for thought-leading brands.
Joined Vator onSeasoned entrepreneur who has played a founding role in several digital companies. She has worn every hat from head of operations, account management and client services, product management, marketing, finance, strategy, CEO and “Chief Visionary”