October 23, 2015
Joining the world of tech startups isn’t the easiest thing in the world. It’s kind of like leaving your hometown for the first time. You enter this exciting new terrain, but the culture shock punches you in the face. It seems like only yesterday that you started your first job with a tech startup, which means you probably remember going through all of the following experiences for the first time.
Dealing With Developers
You get into the office or shared work space for the first time. You have what you think is a finished product, until your customers endlessly tell you they really want x, y, and z added to it. You add x, y, and z, but somehow it’s never fast enough, and somehow it’s never just x, y, and z that customers want. Everyone blames the developers, and fusses at them to make more improvements to satisfy your (hopefully) growing customer base. Then you realize your product wouldn’t exist at all if it wasn’t for your developers. Plus they’re already doing all they can, and they’d be the most difficult personnel to replace. So you just embrace them with love and extra strong coffee while encouraging them to code more.
Finding the Right Target(s)
You start out thinking this one group is clearly your niche market. Then you have a mini-panic attack when there’s not as much traction as there obviously should be. So you pivot. You skip around to different markets that seem to make so much sense. Then you realize you can’t have a successful niche target until you know what in the world kind of company you are. You’re a SaaS product – that’s simple enough. But are you a customer service company? An engineering company? Sales? Marketing? What’s your priority? You realize you have to understand you’re own voice before you can talk to the right people in the right way. Then you realize that what you originally thought was your low hanging fruit really seems like a stupid mistake. But that’s okay, because now you’ve found your niche and you are rocking it.
Becoming An Expert in the Field
You show up on the first day thinking your product is the most awesome and “duh” thing ever. You’re exciting to start selling the megabits out of it. Then you realize it’s not as easy as you thought. It’s actually kind of difficult. Okay, really difficult. During this realization you notice a gaping whole in your marketing strategy (or lack thereof). So you go to your director and say, “Hey, this really needs to happen. If you don’t believe me, just trust me, let me work on this.” To which she says, “If that’s what you really think needs to happen, then make it happen.” So you journey out on this new endeavor, which includes an Everest-like learning curve. You spend five hours everyday for the next three months trying to learn everything you can about this particular topic, in addition to all the other duties you’re still responsible for. Then you attend a couple of seminars where the big boys are presenting, learn a lot, but realize that you’re now basically an expert in this field, and you could be the one giving some of these presentations. Well done, you.
You arrive as a naive little entrepreneur thinking it’s so cool to be part of the local startup scene, until you realize what it actually means. It means being constantly stressed whether you’ll still have a job in a month, wondering why the heck so-and-so keeps trying to do that thing that isn’t working, beating yourself in the head for making mistake after mistake, and questioning your whole existence. Eventually you grasp how the other team members function, which helps some, but it still doesn’t justify why the company’s going in one direction when it should clearly be going in another (because you obviously know better than anyone about this thing you’ve never done before). After shouts and arguments and actual blood, sweat, and tears, everyone is pretty much on the same page. But you’re still stressed over whether you’ll have a job next week, so you keep telling yourself you could easily find a job somewhere else if you needed to, even though you would absolutely hate having to be an employee.
Pitching to Investors
You enter through the gates of tech-startupium, and you just know that everyone else is going to share your passion about your great company, your billion-dollar idea, your great product, and that investors are going to throw money at you. How dumb you are! You spend the next several months looking for investors, going through conversation after conversation, pitch after pitch – figuring out how you should actually pitch! – and generally bootstrapping to get people on board. Time and time again you hear, “This is great, and you’re doing the right things, but no, we won’t give you any dinero.” Thinking you can make it on your own, you forgo the task of finding those stupid angels, and take on becoming-cash-flow-positive alone. You create a bunch of conversations with the right people to help you become financially sound, but you’re dealing with huge organizations who take forever to make decisions and implement new tactics. You realize it’s a bit difficult to become a revenue-producing business from scratch (go figure), and so you go back to searching for investors until you finally land your white whale – funding.
Do any of these experiences ring true to you? Share in comments!
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