Lessons Learned after a Startup Acquisition
|Really excited to post that EditMe, the startup I’ve been working on, has been been acquired. You can read all about it
on our blog. For this post, I wanted to write about five lessons I
think we’ve learned throughout this process. If you’re a superstar, or
have a success story, don’t bother reading – you’ll probably find this
This one’s for the dreamers, the wanna-be’s, the unheard-of entrepreneurs – toiling away in obscurity, driven by your vision & passion. I’m with you. I am you.
5. “Fuck the naysayers ’cause they don’t mean a thing”
There are no such things as “experts.” There are only those that have had success, emerging stars that haven’t succeed quite yet, and cynical d-bags that know they don’t have the brains or guts to succeed and want to drag you down to their level. Listen to those who’ve had success, and partner up or hire the emerging stars – but avoid those cynics at all costs, lest you find yourself actually believing them.
4. Invest in your core value – outsource the rest.
Free up your time by outsourcing as much as you can. At first, you’ll feel it’s a “waste of money” to outsource menial bookkeeping tasks that you could clearly do yourself. Or, you’ll wonder why paying for a 3rd party service to manage email delivery inside your social media app makes any sense when you could just build it yourself. But as the company or product achieves even the slightest bit of scale/momentum – you’ll be glad you’re spending your time on building your secret sauce, and not the ancillary services required to keep the operation afloat. At the end of the day, the value in your product or company is not about how well you’ve been able to send “password reminder” emails.
3. Automate yourself out of a job – then redefine your job.
Early on, start investing in ways to streamline the stuff that needs to be done, and automate as much as humanly possible. This will help conserve your most precious commodity (time). You can use Google Mail’s “Canned Responses” to automate the most common tech support replies. You can hack MailChimp’s Email Marketing Autoresponder capability to build a poor man’s artificial intelligence to communicate with customers. Use Amazon Mechanical Turk to outsource deactivating obsolete user accounts. Use a wiki to keep detailed notes on steps required to accomplish tasks that need to be done on an infrequent schedule so that you can quickly recall and get them done without having to waste time remembering how it gets done.
String together enough of these “automations” and you’ve got yourself a pseudo-employee – a collection of scripts, canned responses, templates, and rote memory that do some job function “good enough” so that you can free up your time to tackle new and more important challenges.
2. Mine customers for information – there’s gold there.
The most important exception to the “Cynics Rule” are those that pay you money. Remember those folks, the customers? They have every right to tell you how much you suck, or are just plain stupid. In fact, you want to setup a relationship between you and your early customers where this dialog is fostered, even expected of them. The importance of listening to customers is discussed in great detail, and much better than I can relate, by the Lean Startup guys like Eric Ries, Sean Ellis, Dave McClure, and others.
Short version of this story – do what ever it takes to get a candid, truthful dialog between you and your customers. That’s where the answers are to most all of the questions you’ll face early on. Questions like: is this product valuable? Where do I find people to buy this thing? How should I message it and market it? And, if you find yourself giving excuses about not wanting to talk to customers because “they don’t get it,” then slap yourself hard across the face – you’ve started to believe your own BS. You need the type of reality check that only listening to customers can provide.
1. Execute. Execute. Execute.
There’s no such thing as a silver bullet. You’ll need to release several features to address one user experience problem, or run a series of A/B landing pages to fix a broken user acquisition funnel. But know that every thing you ship that is meant to address a problem brings you one step closer to actually solving it. There is nothing to be gained by standing flat on your feet and hoping everything turns out for the best.