Six months ago today, my Co-Founder – Felix – and I registered our business at Companies House. Six months on, and I can honestly say it has been the most tremendous learning curve I have ever had.
I have now been to enough start-up events and talks to understand that the generic advice business owners tend to feed you is actually more confusing than helpful. So I’m aware that my lessons may well not apply to everyone’s business. My Co-Founder keeps jokingly referring to the convenience a time-machine would provide, to rewind six months and be six months the wiser when we started, so I genuinely think the insight I will provide will be helpful to any young budding entrepreneurs tepidly standing on the precipice of the unknown, pondering the literal million dollar question “should I do it?”
The answer is, yes, you should do it.
Lesson No. 1: Go with the flow, give the customers what they want
When we first discussed the idea in August, we visualized a platform where you could crowdsource decisions like “should I buy that pair of shoes” to help inform your useful life choices. Anybody who has used Waggle-It will understand, whilst this is a potential use, it’s not how people tend to use the product.
We made good moves in the production stage – making the app location-based and anonymous helped people tap into local communities and fuel their curiosity. They could understand what people around them think without fear of exposing their identity. However, we have quickly realized that locality is only one community division that people want to tap into. We are now set to address this by allowing people to create hives in the next version, due for release shortly.
The advice to take here is that your vision will change. Learn to listen to your customers and adapt accordingly. There’s no point stubbornly peddling something that you think people would like – that has seen the death of many of our competitors.
Lesson No. 2: Learn to deal with the setbacks
I sit here writing this almost 7 weeks after releasing the product, and we’re 5,500 downloads down and we’re now gaining almost 50 totally organically every day. If you’d told me this in January, I would have been delighted.
However, there have been some pretty tough moments. One recurring theme is that a small minority in secondary schools and universities have used the app to anonymously target one another. My partner and I have both had long nights in front of the computer checking questions that come through and whether they have been designed to hurt others. I personally remember one night where I was at my lowest point, sitting in my bed at 1am having to delete almost every question that came through. Seeing your creative product taken out of its intended usage and being used to hurt other people is pretty terrible. However, negative interactions are few and positive interactions are many and, again, we are going to address this issue in the update.
Learn to accept that people will give negative feedback, people won’t use or understand your product and why you have created it. The best advice I can give to this is remember, most businesses started with the same problems. Snapchat, Facebook and Yik Yak are prime examples. It’s about how you address them, which we have done. Having a good person to speak to about this stuff is crucial, which leads me to my final point…
Lesson No. 3: Pick a Co-Founder you can trust
Felix, my co-founder, has been a friend of mine for approaching 10 years. We discussed ideas whilst travelling. Since day one, we have had a chemistry that I believe is impossible to create from scratch in any normal working environment.
We argue every single day, at times our arguments get relatively personal – something we never did as friends. This is far from a bad thing, though. Because of our inherent understanding of each other’s traits, we can move from heated debate to having a laugh in 5 minutes. We hold nothing against each other, and are constantly looking forward as a result.
I have heard of several examples of fights in start-up offices between co-founders that are really terrifying! I was once told at one of these start-up events I demeaned at the start of this piece that the best trait co-founders can have is contrasting expertise. That is absolute rubbish for young entrepreneurs. Of course, it’s preferable, but we are learning on the job everyday. That’s the advantage of being young; you can become an expert at anything.
Work with someone you can understand on a personal level over anything else, then look for contrasting expertise and business acumen. I wouldn’t trade my beloved Felix for any other person – it’s a romance to last the years!