How to Build a Recession-Proof Startup with Tara Sharp


The tech world is in the midst of massive upheaval. In recent weeks, thousands of employees have been laid off at Silicon Valley giants like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Meta, and Salesforce.

Among them was Tara Sharp, a three-time startup founder and recently laid off Google employee who was tasked with overseeing marketing and growth on Google’s Google Fi, Google One, and X-Subscriptions products. Tara was one of 12,000 employees laid off in January as the economic downturn has forced many tech companies to restructure.

But despite the setback, Tara isn’t worried. During her career, she’s helped create four billion-dollar brands that have achieved unicorn status and she understands what it takes to weather uncertain economic times. 

“It is leadership and resilience that enabled those businesses to hockey stick,” Tara says. “I have a very unconventional leadership style that has really helped our startups scale quickly.”

At a webinar for Founders Network on March 30, Tara shared insights on building a recession-proof startup. She also shared tips on scaling startups in complex economic times and the role of marketing in startup growth. 

To learn more about building a recession-proof startup, check out our video from the event, and see if you qualify for membership to join Founders Network.

Understanding Customers

In an economic downturn, with consumers tightening their belts, the most resilient products are those consumers can’t live without. However, in order to truly build a recession-proof startup, founders must not only create invaluable products, but also learn how to market them effectively.

“It’s not just about understanding what’s missing in the marketplace and uniquely filling that gap,” Tara says. “You have to have an amazing product, but you also have to really understand your customers.

“For example, I can make a water bottle that filters water and does all these fancy things. But if I don’t market that to you in a way that’s compelling or interesting to you, then you’re never going to purchase it. If I just focus on the specs of the water bottle, that’s not very interesting. If I instead talk to you about how these water bottles actually are filtering out chemical components and making your life healthier, that’s going to be actually really compelling to you.” 

Investing in Marketing

Despite the vital role of marketing in startup growth, many founders fail to invest in this area. According to a recent report, only half of startups have a dedicated marketing team. And for 15 percent of startups, the founder is the sole marketer.

“Twenty years ago, Silicon Valley was a product first environment with a few notable exceptions. Twenty years ago you could make an excellent product and it sold itself,” Tara says. “Today you have to invest in marketing. A great product doesn’t sell itself.”

Breaking it Down

Marketing done wrong can also hinder a startup’s growth. Throughout her career, Tara has seen this first hand in her work with tech startups. One of the companies she worked with had an amazing product, but no market share. The problem? Their website was overly technical with too much jargon that made their offerings difficult to understand. 

“I think it’s really important for engineers to spend time with people who are not engineers to help them figure out how to communicate what it is that they’re doing in a very human way,” Tara says. “It’s about speaking to people on a very human level. That’s been my secret sauce. I’ve worked with all these tech companies and I’ve stripped away all the tech to make sure we spoke in human.” 

In her webinar, Tara also covered:

  • Marketing tips for technical founders
  • Practical strategies and tools for navigating complex economic times
  • How to build a resilient team
  • How to build products that succeed in any marketplace 

 To learn more about marketing and how to build a recession-proof startup, check out our video from the event, and see if you qualify for membership to join Founders Network.

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