5 mistakes I made launching a startup
Failure: talked about, feared, uncomfortable, unwelcome, obnoxious, displeasing. We all hate it. The goal of this blog post is to show you why you shouldn’t fear failure.
Yes, failing sucks: your energies get drained, your motivation levels hit new lows and everything is grey, rainy and sad. However, I honestly believe that failure (or having failed) can work in your favor and help you see, think and feel clearer across your paths and journeys.
GetSocial wasn’t born GetSocial. GetSocial was born Wishareit. Wishareit was an online platform that helped people to find, recommend, give and receive the perfect gifts with their friends and family. Wishareit failed; I failed.
Here are the 5 mistakes I made while launching this startup:
1. You are not your users: You found a pain in a particular market. Frequently, you also feel that pain. Feeling a pain is one thing, but building a product around your pain and how you would like it to be solved is a different thing. The first is going to help you understand a certain problem and probably guide you to a first draft of solution. The latter is going to blur your customer and product development vision and cycles.
2. Validate your business model early (!): And I mean seriously early. Before building a product and before writing that first line of code. At all times during your journey, you should have a clear answer of, “Why am I doing this?” and “Who am I building this for?” As mentioned above, while learning from your possible customers, ask them, “Would you pay for a solution like this? How much?” Start gathering, crunching and analysing the data. Are people willing to pay for your product/service? No? How is your plan going to comprise such premise?
3. Early hiring may kill your company: You launched your startup two or three months ago, and feedback from “people you know” or “what you’ve been hearing about us” is more than great. Metrics are starting to stack up and you now feel it’s the time to accelerate the business. This is a great tactic should you be sure of (1) who your paying customer really is, (2) who/where your market really is and (3) what your business model really is—and boy, those are three really hard certainties to make/have when you’re two or three months old. At Wishareit, we hired too many people too soon and it cost us months of runway that we could have saved with a leaner strategy. With just a few thousand users and without having the business model validated, we reached a team of seven people. Error.
4. People are really hard to manage: This is one of the most important learnings I can take from the Wishareit experience. At the end of the day, the future and success of your product, company or vision is directly linked to the future and success of those who work with you. And if it’s hard to get everyone on board on the least amount of time, it’s even harder to get everyone on the same page, with the same ‘higher purpose’ in mind. People have different goals, different interests, different personalities and different ways of leading with different issues. Managing all of that while maintaining a healthy and productive culture is a hell of a job, but it pays off in the future.
5. Customers are your investors: Bear with me—in a perfect world, investors will help you accelerate your business, not create it. A paying customer, someone who is genuinely interested in trading money for your product or service, is your best investor: he or she will give you feedback on product, insights on pricing and most of what you need from several stakeholders, in a centralized way. If you’re launching a startup, invest most of your time getting to know this ‘customer,’ getting to know his needs, his frustrations, his expectations, and make sure that in everything you do, that your higher purpose is to provide the highest value to that customer and profit with that. Simple formula, great outcome.
Wrapping up, failure is not the end; failure is a bridge. Failure helps you and your peers learn and improve. Without failure, GetSocial wouldn’t exist and dozens of customers wouldn’t be able to connect with their users in a more social and collaborative way.
These are simple lessons that I believe you can rely on and that might help you in pursuing your vision. Should you have any comments or question, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter: @joaoromaolx.
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João Romão, co-founder GetSocial