It has been 2 years since I quit my job to embark on exciting journey of my own venture. It has been one heck of a journey. Look at these numbers to get an idea on the amount of change in this two years,
|March 2010||March 2012|
|Number of customers||100||390|
|Number of employees (excluding me)||0||4|
(excluding advertising, INR payments, consulting fees)
|Customers from||22 countries||35 countries|
|Average sale value||$27.35||$76.32|
|Best selling product|
|PM Templates (83 units)||PM Templates (228 units)|
|Best selling product|
|PM Templates ($2565)||Excel School ($12,132)|
|Most frequent first name of customer||Mark (4 times)||Michael (8 times)|
|Total visitors to our site||371k||1,353k|
|Number of customers buying multiple quantities||12 in all months of 2010||21 in all months of 2011|
|Refunds by year||$42 in 2010||$858 in 2011|
|Total RSS / Newsletter subscribers||~ 9,000||~ 40,000|
So how did we survive the initial years? In this post, I will summarize the ideas that worked for us.
Just like the first 2 years of a kid (often first 31 years of a kid) the key to survival is in making mistakes. I do not mean dumb, repetitive mistakes. But the kind of mistakes that you make when you explore, when you learn, when you try, when you assume. Make more of those. These mistakes helped me learn new things about my business,
- Mistake of doing everything myself helped me realize that I should get help and partner with more to be successful & happy.
- Mistake of saying yes for everything made me realize the value of NO and simplicity.
- Mistake of focusing on irrelevant things helped me see the importance of our goal – to make our users awesome
- Mistake of doing too many things helped me realize the importance of focus.
There is a saying in India, “if you do not ask, even your Mother will not feed you.” Many startups focus on asking wrong people & ask for wrong things in their infancy. This leads to a lot of stress, discouragement & financial hardship in the early years.
I am glad I have,
- Asked my readers to become customers & pay me for my products
- Asked for help thru oDesk & similar channels & hired people
- Asked leaders in my niche to collaborate & recommend my products
- Asked my readers & customers for regular feedback
- Asked my website visitors to join my newsletter, every single time they visit us.
- Asked the most prolific commenters on my site to join us as guest authors & help us
Almost all of us have ideas as grand as next iPad, Avatar movie or ikea store. But less than 1% of us have the guts to do anything about it. Startup founders are no exception. During the initial stages of a startup, the founders have grand vision & unlimited ambition. Often, this leads to planning paralysis. Founders spend months planning, designing & mocking up things that it delays the actual purpose of the company – to sell something & make money.
Although it has been only 2 years since I started my company, I have been selling products for more than 3 years now. But even after quitting my job, I did not loose focus on the core purpose of our company – to make our users awesome & make money.
No matter how much you ask, how many mistakes you make, how much you do, it all can go for waste if you do not measure. During the first few months of your startup,
- Define what you want to do [our goals for 2012]
- Define your values & philosophies
- List down a bunch of metrics that help you know how well you are doing against above 2
- Track them monthly
- See where you are going wrong and find ways to improve
We need not be obsessive about this measurement nor too detailed. Most of the measurement is automatic thanks to tools like Google analytics, Bank statements, time trackers & email analysis applications. So use them and make a rudimentary report every month. If nothing, just write down the metrics on a white board and hang it near your workspace. Update it regularly and you will have a clear sense of where you are heading and where you are failing.
A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains
– Dutch proverb
We, startup founders tend to be impatient & anxious. We want the change, fast paced action and movement. May be that is why we did not fit in to the corporate environment and choose our own path. But this very nature can kill our startup in early years. It is very important to give our startup the time it takes to settle down & grow. Never expect immediate results or quick fixes in early years. Instead focus on laying strong foundation, good values, good processes & building teams that work well.
- Do not expect your new store design, web site layout to be effective overnight.
- Do not expect your product to make a million dollars in first week.
- Do not pressurize your employees to perform from day 1.
All this does not mean, we should set our goals very low. Instead, we need to be realistic and give time for our startup to grow. Just like you do not expect your kid to walk on first day after birth, do not expect your startup to fly from first year.
Related: Follow your passion, but manage poop too.
How did your startup survive the initial years?
Is your startup more than a few years old? How did you survive the infant years? Please share your success story using comments. I am eager to learn from your experience & ideas.
Wishing our startups many more years of success & growth.