Startup life is hard and draining. I know it, but that’s not enough to overlook when founders make bad decisions. As a someone who tries out new services and supports the ones that provide a real utility, when I start to use a service, it is disenchanting (heck, discouraging) when startups decide to suddenly cancel my account and move onto big clients. Let’s rewind for a bit: to get to a point where the startup can move past individual users to corporate clients, it has garnered the individual users’ social media power to help it to grow along the way. Yet, after signing a few corporate accounts, deciding to kick away their old faithfuls is a bit of an amateur move. I’m not saying that companies should not pivot business models or think about monetization. Those are real issues. But there is a clear line in the sand between keeping your current users who had used their social media power to get where you are and keeping them around on their accounts, and just shunning them for bigger fish.
In finance, we got a term for that and it isn’t pretty. I suggest that it is not only bad conscientious move, but, in the long run, a short-sighted business move. In startups, things can turn so quickly. How do you know your new (enterprise focused) model is going to scale and to what point will it plateau? Assuming that you do succeed in enterprise and remain independent, at the end of that road, do you go back to the consumer market to expand further? Why destroy amicable ties with your old faithful users when it is so often shown that good, conscientious businesses can outperform those without the same support and well-wishing from the community.
I think a song from J. Lo. says it all:
I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the block.
Use to have a little, now I have a lot.
No matter where I go, I know where I came from.
Try to keep your old faithfuls and hold them tight.
Folks, this is my first post on the blog. I want to say something useful. I had just been through the Startup Weekend NYC. Even though the experience is exhilarating and exhausting, I felt that I grew this weekend by leaps and bounds.
For starters, I spoke in front of a room filled of spectators and got the startup idea out there. Even though there were tons of talented speakers, it was first time for me for an audience of that size. I made it good.
The eight-one ideas were pitched on Friday quickly dwindled down to 20. We, the Park.IT team, recruited seven people. Then we were off!
Friday ended with a quick regroup. We started Saturday morning with an energy-filled team brainstorm. It was possibly the best time throughout the entire competition. We found quite a few competitors out there but most were facing the same problem we had. Not enough users and thus for a crowd sourced app, not enough information for seekers to find parking.
The designers did an amazing job and really surprised me on how adorable the logo turned out to be. Here’s the logo:
I just love the attention-grabbing red pin tucked as if it is right on top of a map. A few more hours in to the evening, the lead developer was ready to pull all-nighters in order to roll out a working version of the app to the market and to integrate the APIs we’ve been given in time for the demo.
Doing a round in the General Assembly, several people told us that there are close competitors in the marketplace and that no one in NYC drives. Is that really true? We dived into the mountains of data. Few things stuck out. We saw that 1.6 million people drive in and out of the city daily. They’ve got to park somewhere. We found that ZipCar had a problem finding parking for their community-wide shared cars. Community shared cars need readily available, easy-to-find community shared parking spots. Sure, that sounds like a fit.
Moreover, we popped out of the building and stopped people on the street, in their cars, and in public garages and asked about what they thought of an app like ours. (I sort of enjoyed talking to strangers.) They liked the idea and they even asked us for our site! It seemed that there would be users if we could get over the information hurdle of their finding out about the app.
We regrouped after our outdoor blitz and huddled down again to make the presentation and the app beautiful. It was earplugs in, heads down, voices low…we worked till we were forced out of General Assembly.
Our lead developer didn’t sleep Saturday night. Another teammate, even though was rusty on coding, figured out how to use a parking API throughout the night. I tried to form partnerships to show traction and found out that around 3 am that I’ve received replies from other startups. Startup CEOs and CTOs basically don’t sleep and will answer emails in all hours. They had given us access to their APIs. Score for Park.It Labs!
Sunday morning, the fatigue was catching up and making focusing harder. I tried to concentrate on the presentation and writing down what was important. After that, I started coaching a teammate on the presentation speech and delivery. The day flew by like the blink of eye and, before long, it was an hour before presentation.
The app was up and running but the query was not yet returning results for our demo. The speech was coming together but still rusty. Another teammate was complaining about there being something wrong with the pitch and I was frustrated by the interruption. I think the stress was getting to us…
Then I reminded myself why I was here. I wanted to experience it all – the fatigue, the emotions, the laughters, and even the meltdowns. We kept at it on the presentation, and got the Android app working correctly.
At 4 pm, the demo started. Other teams had interesting apps but ours was every bit as good. We had an app in the Android store and two partnerships in the works (as you can guess, I’m biased). Then, as quickly as when it started, it was over. We were back to normal life rather than a group of people rely on each other (who are just strangers really) a few hours before.
My personal key takeaways from Startup Weekend:
1. To build a company, no one can do it all by themselves. No one can be freakingly amazing at all the things that company needs to grow and flourish, including tech, design, market, biz dev, sales, etc.
2. Find the best team you can and treat your people well. Show them appreciation and give them applause.
3. If everything seems like it’s falling apart, hold yourself together. There was definitely a moment there that I felt that. But pulling yourself together is like the top thing you have to master at a startup.
4. Not everyone is made for startups. It takes a level of scrappiness and a willingness to do anything that needs to be done.
5. When you are going through fire and hell, look to the teammate next to you. If you can stand shoulder to shoulder together in the worst times, you guys are in it for the ride. If not, it’s okay too. But definitely, look to the mate next to you to see if they are sticking around.
6. Don’t be afraid to reach out to important people, including CEOs and CTOs. The best people are willing to help.
7. Doubters can doubt but you just do your thing.
8. Be thankful for everything. I have a great team and they rock!
Moreover, I identified a few personal weaknesses and I am going to fix those so I can get on it.
Please check us out at: http://www.parkitlabs.com
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