Ada-Ryland.png

I help founders navigate the early-stage with clarity and effectiveness.

"Founders" are people who have already started, and I also help pre-founders, intrapreneurs, product managers, non-profit directors, and anyone with a new approach to something -- its new and exciting, but also risky and uncertain. There are tools and best practices to see if this new idea is worth working on. We can model the customer and their circumstances, design possible business models, identify and find early adopters, and hone in on "problem-solution fit." In addition, it is critical to craft the market strategy that "rings true" to give you a fighting chance both in the market and also if you need to raise investment.

All of this requires skills for listening, crafting, and testing -- and a healthy relationship with reality. I help people gain competency with tools such as Job-to-be-done (JTBD), business modeling (the Business Model Canvas, The Lean Canvas, and the Customer Factory system thinking model), market modeling (ask me about this) so that you will have clarity and confidence as you move forward.

Being effective in the early stage is not about having all of the answers -- it is about asking better questions. You can learn how to do this effectively and save a lot of time.

My fundamental premise is: The closer you get to reality, the more effective you can be.

Ada has guided 100+ early-stage entrepreneurs and founders and works with several startup incubators, pre-accelerators and accelerators as a trainer, consultant and resource.

 

How long have you been doing what you do and how did you get to be an early-stage founder coach?

I have been working with early-stage founders since 2014. To give more background, though, I started working with innovation and startup theory in 2003, when I was working in innovation at IBM Global Services. Before that, as an engineer, I worked in a "lean manufacturing" inspired facility, so the actual "lean" part of "lean startup" methodology goes back a long way for me. 

I became a founder coach when I realized that I loved the extreme uncertainty of the early-stage of starting a business. I became somewhat obsessed with studying lean startup methodology at the end of 2013. I began applying the tools immediately with new clients in 2014 and have worked with over 100 founders since then. 

What I am doing now goes beyond the scope of "lean startup" to be a more advanced early-stage methodology. It is something that is continuously being updated and improved. My current version works very well for beginners as well as people who are very well versed in "lean startup." 


Who are your clients exactly?

My clients are people who are starting a business that have an element of uncertainty.  It could be a small business or a high-growth startup, but in both cases, they need an approach to de-risk their new idea. Most of my clients are people who have done this before or are very experienced in something. They are looking for something more advanced and practical, that will help them make better decisions and save time. 

I have had many clients who were past the "early stage" in their startup journey, but still were not getting the results that they were expecting. This is common and often the result of skipping steps in the early stages. 

Once they review their business strategy with better tools, they can more easily decide if they 1- have something and should go full steam ahead, 2- should pivot, or 3- should decide to stop. 


What happens if you haven't yet worked with people in my field?

It may seem counterintuitive, but I find that it is better when I don't know too much about the field. My job is to bring you the tools and frameworks to improve your decision making -- so my focus is on a rigorous process that can help defuse the extreme uncertainty. From there, it is up to you to become a better CEO and navigate through a continuing journey of discovering what customers value -- I am here to support you improve your approach, not to be an expert in your field. 


How are you different from other "business coaches?"

I focus on the "person" – you -- not the "business." I am a founder coach, not a business coach. I help my clients think, plan, and experiment so that they are effective as founders and CEOs. My job is having you gain competency through tools, frameworks, and concepts so that you can make better decisions in the early-stage. 

My approach is an "engineering-based" approach to business. All engineers study theory and then apply it in the real world. For example, mechanical engineers study physics and mathematics and then use those concepts to design and build a system or a machine. 

I have taken the same approach to studying business theory and as a result, have selected and synthesized the most effective tools and concepts into one integrated, efficient system. 

Since most founders are not engineers, nor have the time to study business practices and concepts, this is tremendously helpful. People who work with me love the clarity and improved efficiency that they get when they put their ideas through a rigorous process and can finally see what's working and what pieces are missing.


How do you help founders become better leaders?

The thing I will say about this is that everything in business comes down to people. It helps to know how people think, what motivates them, and what can have someone choose well.  Some of the answers and approaches come from business theory, but there are a lot more in other fields like philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience. I study these as well and interweave these with the startup methodology. This extra layer, I have found, makes all of the difference.

 

In our first meeting, Ada quickly understood my business and had an amazing ability to ask insightful questions that helped me to get to the root of my challenge. Her approach of enabling self-discovery versus simply telling me the issue was appreciated. I’d highly recommend Ada.
— — BHAVNESH PATEL, CEO, VOLT480
I wish I worked with Ada months ago. She’s literally saved me hours and weeks by working with her.
— AYNE LOPEZ, VP PRODUCT, VERTIFY INC.
It’s not just me: every person I know who’s worked with Ada wishes they met her sooner because of the clarity working with her brings.
If you’re an early stage founder, or interested in increased results for your company’s product development, or a funder looking for better bets, RUN — don’t walk — to Ada.”
— LAURIE FELKER JONES, FOUNDER & CEO, JUICEBOX HERO

I’ve come to think of Ada’s founder’s coaching as a pre-flight checklist for entrepreneurs. Professional pilots fly thousands of hours a year, but every time they get in a plane, they go through a checklist to make sure they’ve nailed all the important details. Entrepreneurs should all be doing the same before launching a startup.
I’ve taken Ada’s six week course for founders and couldn’t be more impressed with the value she provides to early stage founders. Her insight and clarity are the result of a vast amount of experience honing down the most critical steps founders can take to increase the success rate of their startup.
The first day you work with Ada, you’ll immediately wish you had taken the steps to work with her sooner.
— ALEX WRIGHT
There are very few true idea-stage / early stage resources in Austin that are highly structured. Ada Ryland is master of this domain. It’s $595 for six sessions, and I just highly recommend it. That also comes with access to Impact Hub so you can cowork when you need it.
I don’t get paid for this. Ada doesn’t know I’m posting about it. I just care a lot about the onboarding of new entrepreneurs into the scene. There need to be more women and people of color particularly, and Ada is an ally in this cause. This is a safe and strong path in. If you’re trying to get it together, I encourage you contacting her to learn more.
— ROMAN GONZALEZ
I’m taking the current session of this class right now, and it’s been very valuable. I had an idea for awhile, but was lost on how to determine if it was worth moving forward. The facilitator, Ada Ryland has a very approachable teaching style and is very knowledgeable. It’s the kind of class that, the more you put into it, as far as doing the homework and communicating in the classes, the more you’ll get out of it. highly recommend!
— ALLY MABRY

I credit Ada for helping me gain clarity and confidence to move forward in my business at a very pivotal point. Ada has a way of calling out your blind spots while making you feel supported and heard. She provides depth of knowledge in addition to strategic theory that helps you see the bigger picture. Her support and genuine interest in your business makes her such a joy to work with. If you are in ideation stage, at a fork in the roads, or struggling to move forward / prioritize your workflows, I would highly recommend working with Ada to help review and map out your strategy and put the right foot forward.
— TARICA NAVARRO, FOUNDER AT KINN KOME
Great class. I’m getting a lot of value out of it. All of the lectures and homework really focus you on the viability of your idea. I’ve made some important breakthroughs. The instructor, Ada Ryland, is wonderful. Like the nicest most approachable MBA professor you could ask for. Highly recommend anything that Ada teaches.
— CHARLIE ROADMAN
On the tumultuous road to growing your startup, Ada is one of those people you will wish you’d met way sooner! As a gifted facilitator and innovation strategist, her unique framework leveraging Lean Start-Up methodology provided some much sought-after clarity and confidence to my next steps in validating our beachhead market. I consider Ada an invaluable resource to Austin’s startup community.
— ADRIANNA CANTU, CO-FOUNDER + CEO, REVEALIX INC

Ada has great skill in helping entrepreneurs gain clarity about the business they are in and make strategic plans to most effectively use their (finite) energy.
— BRANDI CLARK BURTON
This is an incredible class. Ada Ryland is a fantastic teacher who can help you get to the next level!
— BILL HENRY
I worked with Ada on learning the fundamentals of how to build a successful startup. Her frameworks and method of simplifying complicated ideas was very useful to me. I’d recommend Ada for anybody that is in the very early stage of a startup.
— JESSE OU, SR. MANAGER, PRODUCT SECURITY, SALESFORCE

Ada Ryland has a strange passion for and thus value as a very early stage business planning ninja/ strategist. If you’re an entrepreneur like me who tends to have a lot of ideas and future plans in your head, you probably need help building the fastest path to viable revenue. I work with Ada on mapping out the specific steps we can take to test the many assumptions involved in our business plan.
Ada is like a business model hacker, looking for any structural weak points in our business plan that maybe that thing that brings the rest of the plan tumbling down. She has done extensive training in and adeptly uses Ash Maurya’s lean business development methodology to help us set up very specific time-based experiments to test, prove and build out the early building block-like elements of our business plan.
This has brought three big benefits to our team: 1) clarity, 2) a greatly accelerated speed to our evolution and 3) confidence that we are building a solid foundation for everything we plan on doing in the future.”
— DAVE JOBE, FOUNDER AT MENTORTEX