Lately I’ve been talking to a lot of Startup Entrepreneurs. I absolutely love it. I get to meet some really interesting, passionate,(and broke) people working on exciting ideas.
However, there is one pet peeve I’ve started to develop lately: it is talking to Entrepreneurs that are trying to pivot and customer develop way into a problem/solution/business.
Life is too fucking short for you to just be following the motions of Entrepreneurship in hopes of finding product market fit and making a million dollars. In fact, you will not succeed. And even if you happen to make a million dollars by doing this, you still won’t succeed because you won’t feel fulfilled.
I think startups should start by first finding their “movement” and then follow that up with finding their “business model.”
This means that you have to start from within and figure out that one thing in this world you want to fix or change. And you have to stick to it. And you have to work toward building a movement that will change it. It may take you 3 to 4 different startups to finally getting around to changing that one thing, but atleast you’ll stand for something.
Search for your movement. Don’t search for any ole’ business model. That’s for MBAs.
Everytime someone signs up for a paid plan in Tout (http://www.toutapp.com), my iPhone makes a “CHA-CHING” noise — the sound of a cash register.
I had to hack this solution together using a Gmail filter and the Notifire app but I absolutely love it. The more people I share this hack with — the more interesting and compelling I find this idea.
I think every Startup Founder should be “optimizing for the Cha-Ching” — they should find that ONE key metric for their business (mine happens to be money in the bank) and get notified every time it happens. It’s pretty powerful.
It serves to be your barometer of progress, your instant feedback loop, and a great reason to scream “DRINKS ON ME” as the Cha-Ching sound goes off on a random night when you’re getting drinks with friends because you just put some money in the bank.
I left the confines of Silicon Valley this weekend and spent time in Cleveland for a family wedding. I love weekends like this because not only does it let me see people I deeply love all in one place, it also let’s me interact with a lot of really smart yet normal people and get a pulse on the real world.
Oddly, throughout the whole weekend, the one name that kept coming up over and over in random conversations was RIM. While iPhones and Androids are quite popular amongst our family, there is still a strong contingent of people that still love and hold on dearly to their Blackberries. And, as I continued to update people on how things at Tout are going as we try to become the future of Business Email, the conversation inevitably lead to “So… You’re thinking hard about email… What do you think will happen to RIM?”
I shared some basic predictions without really thinking hard about it. In my mind, I had just written off RIM ever since I upgraded to the IPhone4 about a year ago (yes, I held on for pretty long).
BUT… that all changed on our ride back to NYC. My Dad, a serialentrepreneur, a generally quiet guy, and a hardcore Blackberry user,calmly said “You should make RIM an offer they cannot refuse.”
"If you’re the future of business email, then they are the dinosaurholding on for dear life. You should make them an offer they cantrefuse.”
I was kind of stumped. Generally, I pride myself in being able to take a step back and catch on to macro trends like this. But, I completely missed RIM.
We had stopped for a coffee break, but I couldn’t really focus. His simple statement got me thinking. How could RIM survive?
An iced coffee, and a few tweets later, it came to me. It started to synthesize in my head….
I could see RIMs strengths and how it could survive…if it so played it’s cards right.
Here’s how RIM can still survive:
My Dad loves his Blackberry. It has the shittiest web browser, terrible apps, but an absolutely fantastic email experience (still).
RIM is not going to win in the mobile OS game. RIM is not going to win in the mobile hardware game either.
However, RIM still has a wealth of experience in building email software. It has the BIS Server installed in hundreds of thousands (millions maybe?) of enterprises giving them secured access to email. It still has a loyal base of Blackberry email users and even users that switched to iPhone or Android that still look back at their Blackberry email days fondly.
RIM can potentially survive if they choose to build the most badass mobile email client on the iPhone and Android.
If RIM transforms into strictly a software company that builds a better mobile email client, then they can survive.
Otherwise. They will die.
Will they do it? I don’t know. But… The world does need a better email experience and a better email client — and we are working on it at Tout.
RIM may or may not choose to survive — but don’t worry — one way or another, we are going to make Email fun and awesome again with Tout.
I thought today was an interesting day. After weeks of doing the juggling act of pitching investors, pitching potential customers, negotiating deal terms, filling out paperwork, dealing with people that are still trying to get that “little bit extra” — you close your round and you get funded.
Its that magical moment right? Its what you’d been waiting for right? The press starts writing about you, the Congratulations come flying in. You’ve made it. Right? Wrong.
We made our funding announcement yesterday. Here’s a rough list of what I did today:
Answered 52 customer service emails
Debugged sync issues, identity verification issues and looked into performance issues
Closed the loop on the last few wire transfers
Talked to Derek about our priorities for the week, updated Pivotal, prioritized my own task list so that he isn’t blocked on anything
Went through Apple’s enrollment process, made sure the right things were signed, accounts were updated, team was invited, etc.
Coordinated with our contract iPhone developer and made sure he’s got his list of priorities for the week
Made plans and booked tickets and hotel for our NYC Community Manager to come out here for a few days and get acquainted
Created a Tout group of family members and close friends that I’ve been neglecting since I moved to California and updated them on my life and told them to write back
Created a Tout group of investors and updated them on the funding round and the company in general
Posted job listings for our Designer and Front End Engineer positions
Responded to my huge (and growing) backlog of emails — mostly having to do with business development
Grabbed dinner with my wife (who is now living in NY but is visiting for a couple of days) to celebrate our 4 years together. Ironically, our first date was at a restaurant right across from the 500 Startups office
Troubleshooted and thought through some bugs/changes with Derek
Answered some more customer service emails
Looked at our backlog and felt the pain again of how we need to make some more key hires so started to reach out to people in my personal network about the open positions
And on and on and on it went…
What’s the point? The point is that the day after you get funded is like any other day that you are running your business. Getting funded is not some magical event where all your worries go away. It is not some big party to pop the champagne over. Its the time where you buckle down even more so that you can make it rain.
The day after you get funded, you still have to deal with the real fundamentals of your business. You still have to build your actual business, and you have to actually plan and execute so that you can actually deliver all those things you promised your Investors when you took their money.
And that folks, is what a day after you get funded looks like.
In a number of different conversations this week with Advisors and Investors, I heard the same advice dispensed to me. I think Paul Singh phrased it best: “You better not be hiding in TextMate this summer.”
As I build out my team for ToutApp, it is important that I elevate to CEO and let the people I hire do what they do best. This means that while for nearly a year I was the sole Hustler, Hacker and Designer for Tout, my role is now changing.
As I thought through this, it made me start to wonder. What does this even mean? What makes a good CEO? How do I stop coding while still ensure that Derek and anyone else we hire in Engineering continues to build a solid foundation for our application? And most importantly, if I’m not coding — then what exactly am I doing?
Surprisingly, I wasn’t the only one asking these questions. In fact, someone else at one of our last Batch meeting asked the same question. There wasn’t an easy answer, but we followed the “Rule of 3” — we pulled together all these “transitioning CEOs” and we sat down and talked through the things that we needed help with.
I’m not sure what all the answers are, but this is yet another turning point in this amazing journey we call Entrepreneurship.