Holy crap! 6 months – where did that go?
I think this deserves the main focus of this post so I won't dwell on last week much:
- Progress on all fronts:
- Next beta of engine is very close
- Pipeline is now behaving
- Feedback on reports is very positive – we are almost at the MVP now.
- Klout scores are being integrated to provide influence ratings for people.
- Investor meeting on Thursday was very positive, we jumped another hurdle, lets see if there are more to come!
So, six months… rather than give you a blow by blow, I'll just recap some of the headlines:
- Week 1: In which I quit PwC and launch BinaryPlex with Alex – building HiveMind.
- Week 4: Four weeks in, we went off on a tangent and almost launched Twendly – why we didn't.
- Week 9: We pull the plug on HiveMind and refocus on Twendly.
- Week 11: Booking Tickets to Chirp – a "long term" commitment, and off to Sydney to pitch Twendly
- Week 12: Reflections on Sydney, Dumb Dentists and irrational optimism (a beta "next week")
- Week 16: I cheat and decide that a text only version of the engine was the "beta next week" that I meant back in week 12
- Week 18: Twendly goes nuts – "The internet trends towards cocks".
- Week 19: I'm prematurely impressed by our pipeline and we sign Doris as our advisor
- Week 20: We shut Twendly down because we needed the servers.
- Week 21: Finally – that beta "next week" I mentioned in Week 12 comes out the door.
- Week 21.5: In which things start moving for us in San Francisco at Chirp
- Week 24: A reflection on all things San Francisco and the Three-T's
- Week 25: Features for the next Tribalytic Beta and I show I haven't learnt my lesson by saying it's due "next week"
It's interesting to reflect on this for me personally. I'd characterise it as really being periods of three – six weeks of a hard slog, then a period of real "energy" when we have something to show and take to people, followed by a refocus.
I'm not unhappy with where we are at, but to provide some real feedback, I think we should of been a lot more brutal in Weeks 4 – 9. The issues with HiveMind (our concerns about support and the type of company we'd need to build to operate it) were there from very early on. We could of killed it quicker. But it is what it is – that period of time also reflected a lot of discussion between Alex and I as we learnt what was important to each other and learnt more about working with each other.
Apart from that, I don't think we've made too many major mistakes. What we are doing takes time and we know that. We've got some great beta testers out there and we are getting closer all the time to our MVP (Minimum Viable Product) – the next beta release (this week, next week, whenever!) should let us leap that gap to some paying users.
I thought what would be good is to share my lessons that I think really reflect the six months, rather than a week by week. This is not so much about Tribalytic, but more about me personally and where I've come to. I'll title this:
Lessons from 6 months of reflections
- How is your personal network? My Personal Network was stuffed. I don't mean that to be insulting to anyone in my network (LinkedIn or otherwise) while I was at PwC. What I mean is that it was far to one dimensional and one sided. Successful entrepreneurs have great networks – I mentioned this in my Week 24 post about the 3T'S. Social Proof is critical, get out there and get meeting. A great network is diverse, includes lots of different people with different skills, connections and points of view. You need to tend it, work it, prune it (all those good gardening analogies) but without this network YOU WILL FAIL. It's a more critical investment than the technology. Most importantly, network where your customers are. Do go support and attend the various entrepreneurial communities that are around, but this is only one part of your network.
- Fellow entrepreneurs are your new work colleagues. You need to have connections into them on a regular basis. They keep you sane and they'll help you out of a hole, bouncing and reflecting ideas. Ideally they should be at different stages too – some whose business are further progressed than your own, others who are at a similar stage and perhaps even some who are earlier.
- Listening, Reading and Learning from others is good (do it), but nothing beats DOING. No one closed a deal by reading about how to pitch – they got out there and pitched (sure they made their pitch better, but there comes a point when you'll have to "go" and it should always be sooner than you think, you'll learn 10 times faster).
- It's never too early to talk to people about what you're doing. This comes with a warning that if you're very early, some people will spend a lot of time telling you why you're wrong. That said, the best supporter is one who was skeptical to begin with and was won over.
- Your elevator pitch is CRITICAL. If you're going to be networking all the time, make sure you get the "what do you do" out of the way as concisely and quickly as possible to get to the good conversation.
- Toughen up buttercup. Brutal feedback is, well, brutal, but it's a hell of a lot better than the more common passive No's (we'll get back to you, come back to us in a few weeks when…).
- Know exactly how much what you're doing is worth and what you'd give up to reach the next stage. YOU: "So yeah, we're looking for investment at the moment." UNEXPECTED POTENTIAL INVESTOR: "Really, it sounds interesting – what are you after?", YOU: "Ummmm".
- Have a roadmap and review it regularly. Never go a week without a conversation about next steps and how you're going to achieve them.
- If you're putting something off, ask yourself why – is it NOT important (ditch it or schedule it for another time if it has to be done) or is it scaring you (seek help and talk to someone about how to get it done, or just look to 6 and get on with it).
- When you've got to go, you've got to go. Nothing brought this home like what I thought was a social meeting with a new friend that turned into a call to his New York based lead investor – dragging the investor out of dinner with his family. Can you pitch what you're doing to an investor or potential customer in less than 3 minutes, without your slide deck, across a phone, when they are about to sit down to dinner with their family? We got a second round meeting so I'll put that down as a "Yes" for the moment.
I said when I left PwC that one reason was "I'm sick of thinking I can be an entrepreneur, I need to prove that I can do it". Six months on, I know that I've fulfilled that and more importantly that I DON'T want to give it up. Monetary success is important, but it's a small (nonexistent so far) part of what I feel I've really achieved in these last six months. I wouldn't trade them. Here's to six months more!
Now, back to our regularly scheduled program – reflections on last week.
- I love coding – far too much
- Meeting up with Sam in Ivanhoe and Kate in the City on Monday
- Sensational Friday meetings and catch ups.
- Blog post on Twitter users in Australia getting a bit of traction
- Investor pitch on Thursday
- Too much to do, too little time money and resources.
Goal this week
- New beta launched.