tl;dr this is the startup post-mortem analysis of KonnectR. It is mostly a narrative and it is a bit long, you are warned! If you want to jump to hard facts, aka figures, they are at the end.
How I started KonnectR
In 2014 I wanted to start something new: a lot of ideas were in my mind but before jumping head first, I made a list of criteria:
- No market place, because it is usually about making some administrative process digital and complexifies the business development
- No cold start, a criterion KonnectR did not fullfil
- No big investment
- No direct cold sales, as this is extremely time consuming
- Low entry barrier
- Positive impact on society
- Technologically challenging, though I did skip that one for KonnectR
- In the world trends
- No niche market, for I got burned working on that
I had low resources (time and money) of a solo founder, and so tried to keep things as simple as I could.
The intimate pitch
While traveling for business in the Valley, there were evenings when Meetup.com was empty, when considering hanging myself seemed like decent leisure time compared to watching the motel room walls. If you exclude meetup and want to meet people, the only thing that remains is dating. It inspired a tag line for KonnectR:
meeting, not mating
we later thought it was a bit too much.
- You press a button to say that you want to meet.
- We select a group of people around you, find a cool meeting spot on TripAdvisor and suggest a meeting to all of you within a few minutes.
- You only see the time, place and blurred profile pictures of the others.
- the meeting happens if enough people accept.
Very similar concepts are Google’s Who’s Down and Yep (which now redirects to pure.dating), but on KonnectR in its MVP version you don’t get to pick an activity, because it is about meeting new people. You also do not only meet your friends because it is about getting out of your motel room. Building a rip-off did not interest me, and those were the things giving me hope of building something new. Peter Thiel advices to aim for something ten times better than your competition: I hoped that those differentiations would help you meet new people ten times faster by removing barriers to meeting.
The few critical elements I considered before starting: place, solo founder and cold start.
Luxembourg is not the best place in the world to start a project, but I will not expand here as I may detail my thoughts about mainland Europe and startups in a future article.
I was starting alone, and being an expat does not help. I knew all those people with a “no solo founder” rule. I could very well predict what the challenges would be: motivation, lack of critics and slow pace. I will come back to that.
Like most social based product, KonnectR had this cold start problem: the chicken and its eggs, of that you need people to make it useful and you need usefulness to get people on board. I did spare myself the promise to cope with that creating a “buzz through a crazy viral campaign on social platforms”, I was not blindfolded and knew ahead that customer acquisition is hard.
The brief history
Start Up Week-end
KonnectR had been living in my mind for a few weeks when I decided to pitch it at a startup week-end. Other people joined me in a team of 6 and we had about 40 very productive and enthusiastic hours.
Our output was:
- A clarified vision of the product
- A first marketing proposal
- A branding (the website was mostly unchanged)
No team emerged as most of them were about to leave the Great Duchy soon.
The interesting concept of full stack founder
I truly considered labeling myself “full stack founder @ KonnectR” on LinkedIn, but I was not sure it would help in making the whole story more compelling. Still that was more or less what I did, it was not really about being a solo founder: it was about being a solo founder, being versatile and minimizing expenses.
While some people are convinced that you will fail because of it, if you want to try solo founding, here are three key problems that you will need to address:
- Lack of critics
- Slow pace
Motivation is the thing we all think about and never really mention. You need to convince almost everybody and exposing a lack of motivation is exposing a flaw. Some friends and advisors may hear about it, tough smile and a short “it’s hard to be 100% every day”. Next topic please!
My experience is that it is easier to commit to do something for someone else than for myself. This is why a good advice is to talk about the plan to a lot of people, you will feel commited. I started some newsletters for partners and close friends, and while I did not do it often enough, this was good practice.
I also got a better grasp on things by doing planning and follow-up, not just a bit but a lot: I was managing a team composed of myself alone. One of the artifacts of this was a short term meeting every week. It was a ritual to think about what were the goals now. Anything not linked to one short term goal went to the trash. It was also the opportunity to check items on the to-do list. When you feel down you just look to the previous to-do lists and see that stuff probably moves faster than what you feel.
Every month I had a more strategic meeting with myself, where I tried to decide for the next steps, where were the biggest uncertainties for the project, how could I reduce the most risks within one month. This was giving a rough roadmap for the month.
The biggest problem with motivation is that you feel you need it at every moment of every decision: you are struggling against too many degrees of freedom to keep your brain focused on a single item. I did my best to strike a balance between thinking and acting by allowing blocked time for both of those.
Lack of critics is probably the deadliest thing for most but it was not for me. I was not a prophet knowing everything about my market or what people want, I was an explorer with a goal: making socialization easier. Though what is the next best way to explore? What is the best way to present such and such thing in a user interface?
I tried the Tinder of cofounding, FounderDating, looking for advisors. I do not really believe in cofounding at first sight, but good interactions can come from anywhere. I ended up having regular discussions with smart people, one I met on FounderDating, Brandon Donnelly. And I managed to get two advisors on board, Abby Beck on UX, I met also through FounderDating. And Alexandre Agular on Software Engineering, my former business partner. It always felt like I was missing some marketing-focused input.
I do not remember if this thought came from Paul Graham or Peter Thiel, but I think it is a good thing to just avoid random people feedback: people that are not of the industry, not from your market, not in the culture, not in their domain of expertise. Keep your attention and questions in a context where they will be more useful.
I got involved in a German & Luxembourgish startup program, and was introduced to a mentor from PwC: Gilles Vanderweyen. This also helped to tinker ideas: I am not thinking that entrepreneurship experience from being a partner in an industry leader is bringing experiencearound startups. Though it means that you have a well-functioning thinking and may know where to look up to find weakness in a story.
Slow pace is a strong problem, under a common look one man does less than two people. But this is a double-edged sword: management is hard even with two people, and it is sometimes worse with founders. High level of emotional involvement combined with no clear ownership / hierarchy can give you the best combination to have a strong bias for discussion, hours of meetings. Too much manpower available and it feels like you do not have to spend it wisely anymore.
Being alone and knowing that getting overworked is the best way to get crazy and lost both focus and target, I kept in mind that focus and decision making was the main target. Aside of the previously described “one-man meetings”, I also did my best to avoid the expansion of “gaz tasks”: things like logo design or marketing document layout that take as much room in your agenda as you allow them to. They do matter, but you also need to mark them done at some point.
The most annoying and common trait I keep seeing in startups is this very need of adding features over features as if it was the only and ultimate solution to customer / user acquisition. It feels much more comfortable to say “let us add this and that before releasing, it will work” for month and month rather than actually testing anything. We consider The Lean Startup like the sicilian mafia considers the Bible, it seems like a very important thing, but well … later. I did try my best to do one thing at a time, and test against the market and metrics as much as I could.
During its lifespan KonnectR has been kept very simple. People kept giving product ideas about what to add, and I have to admit that keeping focus is done at the price of often feeling badly stubborn. This focus enables you to move fast, explore one thing, release, think, and roll again. Most of my iterations were more about pure marketing than actual product features, the biggest problem was not to maximize engagement but to raise awareness or get partners. Because with no people on board, there is no engagement to maximize.
Understanding the market
The first full days I spent on KonnectR, were spent on the streets asking people about how they were meeting new people, taking careful notes about where I met them and what was there profile. Unsurprisingly people were more open to the problem around stations and airports, and not caring very much in front of a supermarket.
When thinking of the Lean Startup approach, one usually thinks about crazy ways to validate assumptions. Here, the key assumption was that people would be open to meet people they have never seen nor chat with. My luxembourgish phone number previously belonged to someone else and so, every couple months I am receiving unintended messages. So I tried to reply, start a short conversation and just being like “let’s have a coffee”, not knowing, nor revealing anything. That one did not work.
Later I used this ephemeral, anonymous social network, Whisper. There I suggested some random meeting, it took a couple tries, but one happened where I met a young man, just curious of who he would meet.
Selling a product without product
So I started KonnectR trying to focus on the most risky part, incoming plot twist: managing to get users on board. One of the ideas was to get partners on board: if KonnectR was able to make new connections between people it would be a great thing for other industries to enhance the experience of their customers.
In case you were wondering, with a good website, a few nice slides and professional attitude, having a product behind you does not change change much. It happened that it was more important to demonstrate a consistent vision than a product.
I am not saying that a showable product does not help, references are also definitely good friends. But most meetings do not require a product first hand: showable things are enough, and I did not feel that KonnectR got hold back by not being in production. My feeling is the following.
Not being in production and being in production with zero traction is perceived as the same thing.
It does not mean that this is about lying to the people in front of you, it is more about emphasizing what could be rather than being sorry for what is not. In that mindset I took the habit of saying “we” when mentioning the project, even though the operational team summed up to “me”.
Some people genuinely asked me how much we raised and how big was the team.
Some of the contacts here were uninterested, some led to more detailed discussions detailed after.
Building a first version
I iterated a lot on the website, the presented features, with some tests from people who did not know the project. The development really progressed step by step, high level pitch, design, implementation, refining. Along the way you make strange discoveries, like people not really able to understand that a button is a button because the buttons style was too light.
As usual when you plan a software project things are never as easy as you would have liked.
The features behind KonnectR are kind of simple, here are a few points that took more time than planned:
- Integrating with third parties, to source meeting spots (TripAdvisor) and to support user profiles (LinkedIn and Facebook). These were complicated mostly because of technical details. Those components were also always the ones breaking my automated tests because none of them provides anything suitable for integration testing as far as I know;
- Inner complexity of a service that was localized and required multiple users to use it simultaneously. Just manually running some tests was a problem: I ended up developing a small web interface where advisors, Apple’s App store testers, partners, friends and me, could “simulate” other people around us.
- Swift, I started developing with Swift 1.0. I had never felt that I was an expert using Objective C, so “relearning” iOS development using Swift felt like a good idea. To some extent it was, it was something that helped to keep my interest, the language exhibits some effort to bring something better to life. The bad sides of things was that it was inducing force-fed breaking changes every six months or less. I bitterly remember how one mistap on my iPhone triggering an iOS update, forcing me to update XCode to build for it, forcing me to update Mac OS, forcing me to update to a newer version of Swift, leaving all the project in need of one week development. This day I hated the world! The funniest thing being that you do not need to only fix your code, you also have to fix / fork whatever small library you are relying on that got broken along the way. That was a harsh post honey moon with Swift, my heart still hurts.
- Amazon Web Services, because even though Amazon Web Services is supposed to make one’s life easier, one’s life could still be even easier. The documentation was and still is a nightmare, testing changes takes a lifetime. Let us notice that I only had one breaking change in the AWS tools that broke my deployment programs.
At this point, it feels that I have been blaming technologies quite a bit, if I take a moment to think about things that I did not notice and mention here because they do work as expected:
- MySQL, much quicker to interact with than any hype databases around, because the tooling is much more important and the product is more mature. Moreover by its localized dimension I knew that I would never have to handle scalability problems on KonnectR.
- node.js & CoffeeScript, even though node.js is not as mature as other platforms, once you embrace its philosophy you can be productive quickly.
- PHP, that I only used for the website of KonnectR and implemented some A/B testing.
Bending the strategy
The standard B2C approach is to perhaps get a few beta users before rushing into marketing expense to acquire more users. At small scale, marketing is less feasible than direct sales. This is why we investigated partnerships to get users on board.
The sales / partnership mentioned before went a bit further along side the product development with two entities, Aéroports de Paris and Accor Group. Introductions / referrals helped for one, the other started with a cold contact that led nowhere and was finally followed up three months later, a few days before Christmas; that was cool gift.
My experience with major industry leaders is that it is nearly impossible to sell to them. I have recently witnessed someone actually closing a deal with one of them without early acquaintances or other “cheats”: it is possible, but hard.
In those partnership meetings we usually do not talk about “selling”, this avoids discussing with the procurement service. We talk about “partnerships”, which usually removes the idea that you would be aiming for money. This is a bad thing but you usually get in contact with people than are more open-minded, which, in my case was a good thing.
With both groups I met multiple times and got turn down after a few meetings: they “were looking for something else” / “had something different in mind” / “were switching to a more traditional / renowned provider”. This is perhaps the most frustrating thing in those discussions: you do not get enoug feedback on what was wrong. The answer always feels politically correct. These structures are usually wired to ditch many new ideas away, protecting themselves from risks, but some ideas / some projects do make their ways in, and the criteria are unclear.
Some would blame them for being here to “steal ideas”: I do not doubt that they often get inspiration from startups or look for some originality to include in the plans they will suggest, but I do not think that any of them genuinely plan on cloning any project. To be realistic, almost all industry giants are barely, if at all, satisfied with their agencies outside standardized needs and dare not ask anything of their internal technical services.
I still believe that KonnectR was making a lot of sense for both the aforementioned companies. Accor Group manages several hotel franchises in the world, their biggest threat is perhaps AirBnB and the likes, I thought that KonnectR could have been making their experience more human and less cold. Aéroports de Paris is trying to create more connections for their high-end segment, like their “Espace Business” initiative is showing. Same idea.
Begging for funding
Starting the project I applied to some major accelerators: YCombinator, Techstars & 500 Startups at many of their batches. So many hours spent recording, one to three minutes videos, over time I got better (or at least faster) at this exercise. I was always eagerly checking for the number of views and sometimes wondering if someone at the accelerator was actually watching them.
I harassed many people, and finally managed to exchange / talk to a few YCombinator alumni to get their input and feedback. I guess it pushed my pitching abilities a bit.
Those applications were interesting, but the binary answer does not help to move forward, they say “no”, my question is “why?”.
Being solo founder is the #1 reason for many people. I had a funny discussion with a potential investor, one of the handful I got on the phone: I used the word “statistical” to refer to the solo founder problem when it was discussed. I heard something like “it’s not statistical, it’s mechanical”, please note the number of feet and the rhyme, I was like “wow”.
It also felt that the topic reached a kind of faith-based irrationality, I respectfully stopped arguing on that and waited for the “you will fail” brainwashing at the end.
The project was also extremely risky and traction free … and as social app, outside of the USA: “best of luck!”.
Moving a bit forward I started explicitly mentioning to my network that I was looking for funding, and I started cold emailing.
Hey reader! Take a moment! Take a pen and paper: do not send cold emails to investors, that is an outsider thing. And while too many people are begging for money, outsiders are very unlikely to get access to it. Just look at how hard it is to get access to an email address, I have done crazy things to get them, whois, “firstname.lastname@example.org”, “email@example.com”, etc. I was testing email addresses in some email tester, or just trying another one when they bounced back. I looked for people inside the team when nobody was listed, or tried to write to the most famous guy linked to the fund. Anything was good: the best return I had was being surprised that the likeliness of startup rock star caring to reply was much more important than the one of a very minor fund principal. Just for fun, if you think trying to contact Google was hard, please try to contact someone at Google Ventures. Anybody, even a smart object like a coffee machine.
Investors do not want to hear from you, they want to hear about you.
Maybe PR helps, network will help for sure because both present you as an insider. The very few opened to hear about an unknown project are usually pretty explicit about it.
Another not-so-clever thing I did was postponing to the point of never contacting them a handful funds that do have some structured way of getting in touch and asking for funding quickly. If it is relevant, “now” is the best moment, it is not like I was going to have to put two investors in competition.
A few weeks ago, I was involved in a meeting. I got lectured about start up investment where “it is really important to carefully chose your investor and make the right choice between financing (loan) and fundraising”. If it is your first round, it is not like you will have to pick. Uber picks investors, you will probably be lucky to find one.
It does not really matter how happy I was with my vision of the project or my ability to defend it. The problem was not about surviving the investor meeting, it was about having the investor meeting. Writing this it feels pretty much like what every job seeker feels outside of the software industry: you can send every email you want, you never make it to the interview. Perhaps you can adjust your CV, but it has been proof-read dozen of times by people knowing their stuff, so what?
Out of all my contacts (between 80 and 100):
- I was really happy when I was receiving a “no”, that was one person less to follow up with (same comment applies for partners). Understand here that most people do not care to reply. Sometimes (often) following up was essential to initiate any contact.
- A few times, we got put in the normal pipeline were some intern / junior analyst was reviewing the business plan before an quick discussion at the investment board, never led anywhere.
- We got a few demands (about four) for additional information, usually market and competition related.
- I had four phone calls or physical meeting with investors, all four happened via introduction, one happened after someone explicitly turned me down but another introduction reopened the door.
- Almost nobody answers at the first contact, they wait at best for the second or third follow up. One thing that seemed to double the reply rate was to add something like “This is my last follow up on that, reply if this is of any interest for you”… It feels like shrinks would have their word to say about reverse psychology.
Local startup programs
This does not follow any chronological order, but I would like to write a few words about local startup programs with a very mainland european centric point of view. This feels like the right moment.
- Are usually aimed at total entrepreneurship newbies.
- More problematic: are often ran by total entrepreneurship newbies. Most public institution positions put some people here because they look remotely linked with economy or any advanced academic track. Maybe there is some underlying thinking “research means innovation, innovation means entrepreneurship”. It can work sometimes, it can also give a mix of sheer incompetence and total inexperience. The good news is: this trend is fading away with the time, and fostering entrepreneurship gets a bit of structure.
- Are often a loss of time, being publicly driven they often measure their success by “how many events they organized” times “number of people attending to those events”. The relevancy of those events is not a topic, any mix of buzzwords will do.
- Are often driven by another interestingly stupid metrics: “how many foreign companies do we drive in the country”. When an ecosystem does not have enough resources bringing more people feeding on those resources does not feel 100% alright.
- Are usually not able to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs and the industry or investors. Customer channels and funding being probably what startups most lack. This is still true when those programs are combined with subsidies aimed to seed fund projects, there is still a remaining problem for the later investment round.
Sorry for the lack positive around this. The biggest problem there is that I do not feel that we are doing things right. Nevertheless I have had a very satisfying contact with the Luxembourguish Technoport, which I would describe as less bullshit: and real attention to take action after the regular meetings we had, which mostly meant doing efficient introductions.
One of their introduction was with an event organizer, not a big name, MLG Event, which could have led nowhere.
One of the early ideas was to first promote the app at professional fairs and trade shows, people are usually there to network. There was usually a targeted industry, niche, which made any random meeting quite likely to yield value. We had an early contact which was supposed to work with us on that, but when it was canceled the day of the event, everything that was agreed upon went suddenly became fairy dust.
MLG is, among other activities, handling the organization of business events up to 800 visitors.
I pitched the same idea to them and their answer was “we are convinced that our industry is evolving”, followed by a more surprising part “that is ok for me, when can you start testing at one of our events?”. At that time the app was ready, so the answer was “now”. Total time spent: five minutes on the phone, twenty minutes in the meeting room and we had agreed that KonnectR would be used on their events the next month in Marseille. In less than thirty minutes, something was up and running with them. It can happen.
Test 1: The first attempt was about making the app visible to the people attending to the event, promote it at the breaks between the talks that were happening and having a booth. Total registered user through this: 0.
Test 2: So the afternoon I switched strategy to go and talk to people, interviewing them to know if they were eager to meet new people and introducing the app after. Most of them were curious enough to install it, and after a dozen interviews, five installs happened (being only available on iOS that was quite good), one meeting happened. The interviews were taking too much time, but direct pitching was working.
One month later we agreed to try again, this time in Strasbourg. The idea was to try two things:
- Test 3: Introducing the app to every incoming visitor.
- Test 4: Having extra “goodies” to win in the afternoon. I had purchased half a dozen battery pack to give away to the first people having a meeting every two hours.
The event happened… a few days after the blood bath in Paris of november 2015. It was not cancelled. The morning was ok, pitching the app to every incoming visitor was not working, but the afternoon was empty ; dead empty.
The idea was to try again, a couple months after, in another city. But this event had been canceled. No more tests had been ran.
The end of this project
I have decided to stop in April, a few months have elapsed since.
Here are a few reasons.
Call it “tired” or “bored”, whatever you want: running a project is exhausting.
That is why despite its apparent lack of efficiency and childish looking, I would not be 100% judgmental of hype technical choices.
From the inside
Because it requires lot of context-switching, and I am not the same person when I am designing, producing slides, phoning or writing software. I can measure it by the way I express myself, the software engineer is much more concise and factual, the sales guy is more playful and the designer more elaborate. My Whatsapp can tell what I was doing.
It was hard to keep up with the existing, new iOS releases, broken APIs, updates on the business model hypothesis that cascade into another group of documents.
An example of that is that at some point an investor told me: “You know what, you are willing to help me to enjoy my time but your interface depresses me”. Check out konnectr.co. He was right, all this brown and the lonely background picture. I picked this background picture because I was willing to express the loneliness that one can often feel when traveling in the city. “If you want to feel lonely and abandoned, you need to be alone in the middle of a crowd”. That was the tag line of the problem I was willing to solve, I used it to base the branding of the solution when it should have done the opposite, to emphasize the problem solving.
Fixing this problem meant, aside finding another design, redoing all interfaces, reprinting everything (which was my biggest expense), rebranding all documents.
To the outside
Facing a “no” from the market: we reached around one hundred users, triggered only two real meetings. I do not believe that this means that the idea could not work, it just means that we were not able to prove that it was working. I stopped before being sure of this idea being wrong. This is perhaps my biggest frustration.
Facing a “no” from investors, as discussed above.
Facing a “no” from partners, the last partnership with MLG was a really strong counter argument against this. I just got it a bit late, some stuff would have had to be developed here.
Facing a “no” from potential cofounders. I tried involving people thrice on board.
Twice I have had the answer of “I do not feel it”, because the project was too technical and scaring away less technical people. Even though I was pointing out that there was no need to grasp all technical details, that I could handle this part of the problem. Also because the project was extremely risky, making money was a very far consideration and I was not hiding it.
Once, because the man I was speaking with, felt it was required to sign something granting him leadership on the project and half of the shares because “he was a business guy and had a network”, I would have had “not ready to be fulltime and not in the tech / software world”. Two things made things clear with him. My definition of a “your network” is not “people you have shaked hand with” but more “people you can ask a loan worth one month of their salary when you are short”. I had a product, marketing and sales content, a business plan, and I was clearly not going to trade half of it against thin air, even though on the long run reaching some equal or close to equal split was not something I excluded. He never replied, which in a sense is a form of reply.
Doing two things at the same time
During all my time working on KonnectR I had been approached by different teams, to join them and friends suggesting to do consulting in order to pay the bills. I have been saying “no” until a conjunction of interesting proposals and uninteresting fundraising crushed motivation made me say “yes”.
In a sense it was extremely good: it put me into more team work, gave fresh air to my mind, inspiration, new problems. I was having a part time position and was going back to KonnectR with a clearer view.
On the other hand, you can never do two things at the same time. And I am an old romantic attached to that old-school fantasy of keeping your word, and you can not really give your word to yourself. So in any time based pressure where I had some commitment toward KonnectR without anyone else involved; and something else I was taking a late time on KonnectR.
Things I just do not know
We are prone to over generalization, and over learning. It is extremely easy to predict the present from the past, though we are not learning or predicting but building narratives. The job of predicting the future from the present is always much harder. As one once said:
“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future”
As discussed above I am not able to tell whether there is a market for KonnectR. I can just say that I have tried to refute this hypothesis without being able to conclude. I know that I have not found the right way to address this market, which does not mean that there is not any. Many constraints made the whole thing quite complex.
Things that I would consider
Being small does not mean being unprofessional
And that is also very true about being solo founder.
I actually believe that the challenge of big teams is to be consistent and synchronized, both things are supposed to be much simpler to achieve being fewer. The speed at which we dealt with MLG is an example of this. That is why co-founders are never equals, there has to be CEO.
I am very doubtful about scale effects in software related businesses.
Do not incorporate
This is perhaps the paragon of “fail fast and fail cheap”.
I incorporated my first company in 2007 in France, we decided to stop it in late 2011. I was done with the paper work early 2014. I did other things in the mean time, but administrative things are the Cthulhu of productivity: they destroy every bits of this world by feeding on our time and crushing our motivation.
Some people seem to believe that the goal is to be listed somewhere as the CEO of something, you do not even need an economical activity for that.
Incorporating makes sense when it enables you to do something else: invoice, raise funds, sign a partnership, cover risks, hire someone… It is usually fast to do and must be delayed until you really need it.
Some “contests” require being an existing company to enter. I am not sure it is worth the trouble. We are here to win contests anyway.
- 20 000 lines of code, half split between back-end and iOS app, with some side things like the website and a small testing interface. Side note: never measure performance counting lines of code, this is just to give a proxy measure of what has been done.
3 500 € spent, on the following major items:
- 1 400 € Transport & travel , approximately split between the daily commute and the long distance travels. 30 € of AirBnB, friends & family have been super nice in hosting me during my trips.
- 1 100 € Print communication, mostly roll ups and a few flyers, with a small design fee. I owe also my friends here, especially the one that helped to adjust designs last minute on some hard rush.
- 400 € of AWS hosting, which could have gone way bigger without the free tier and testing credits.
- 400 € Ad Words advertising, to test how my landing page was performing.
About 3000 emails sent interacting and following up with:
- 300 third parties, leads, potential investors, mentors, advisors, journalists.
- 187 subscribers on konnectr.co
- 120 users, half split between Facebook and LinkedIn. Perhaps friends accounts for 10, partners for 20, leaving a count of 90 genuine users.
- 20 conservative man months spent on the project: Perhaps coding accounts for 6 man months, the rest shared evenly on design, marketing, finding partners, testing, fundraising (fundlooking would be more accurate). The project went from May 2014 to March 2016, the difference is mostly related to me teaching or helping on other projects.
- 6 revisions of the design.
- 4 different versions deployed (and about 20 intermediates ones)
- 4 professional events, two being present as a partner and networking tool on the event.
These are just vanity metrics in the sense that none of them actually measure the success of a project or whether my execution was correct. In any case, it is often reassuring to at least know that you have not been doing nothing.
I am teaching two weeks per year or so, entrepreneurship and data science. The considerations from many students about entrepreneurship, when they stop thinking about how hype it is, is how hard is it, after. In case you fail. Which is likely to happen.
On this two things: the first is that my feelings are completely biased by the fact that I have technical skills: startups forced me to be extremely versatile. The second is that being in the startup world gave me two things: very good introductions to people already there, the food chain being extremly short your network does not have hierarchical steps to climb and extremely good credentials about my ability to ship things.
Compared to my former fellow alumni, many have a better financial situations, almost none have the flexibility that I manage to obtain and I get to be involved in things covering the whole spectrum of a company: less specialized and siloed that what most big companies offer.
I would say it is worth trying, and I still have not decided to stop.
There is not much of a conclusion to draw about all this, no big lesson, no big thing that I want to emphasize. I value a lot this journey but I do not really know what to tell you about the destination I have reached.
Rereading this post, there are tons of other things to say; but it is already big enough.
The only exception is that I did not enough emphasis how important were all advisors, friends, family, partners and anyone supporting the development of all this. All the people around you, caring enough to make you feel that you are not alone.
If you are raging against style, syntax and grammar in this article, like me, just be thankful to the few proof readers who already made it a lot better.