This post is part of the Building It series where I share my journey building a startup, Amygda. Published weekly and as transparent as our customers, investors, and partners would have us be (read: legally allowed).
I realised not every week is a high week of building a startup.
I would've hoped the world gave me a few weeks of high before hitting me with reality. But it wouldn't be 2020 if things weren't crazy. Right?
Everyone who has been through this journey has always said "building a startup is hard" quickly followed by "why would anyone want to put themselves through it". This would be followed up by me, naively, saying something along the lines of, "but it's good hard, man".
There is no good-hard or bad-hard. It's either hard or it's not. Any sort of, "oh but it's a different kind of hard" is fallacy.
I guess that gives you an intro to week 2. It wasn't easy.
Nothing. And that is scary.
There weren't any big moves, the congratulatory messages have died down. And you realize this is it. This is now you trying to build a business and everyone around you couldn't care less :)
It's important to point that out.
If anything, this week has taught an important lesson. It isn't a sprint. It's a marathon.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking - that you can race through it. Trust me, you can't. And the others are thinking, yeah buddy, we told you so. To you, ... yeah, well, ok, you were right.
For all of my professional life (and personal, ask my wife) I have been told, you need to have patience. And now that I am building my own startup, I am coming to realise patience is with a capital P, followed by all the other letters capital as well.
On one task, I spent about 3 days. But that is important because it is preparing to talk to about 4 different prospects in the next 3 weeks. It is important.
And here's the thing, what is important is worth doing it right.
So, ok, no big deal. but definitely not as high as last week. Just a lot of heads-down trying to finish something week.
Well, we had the first rejection.
The good thing is that the Innovation Manager on the other side was very clear on why we wouldn't work with them. And also gave us insight into what we need to do differently to have the opportunity to work with them. It's always useful to take that feedback.
What you do with you is how you will manage to grow.
The bad thing about that was that it's a lead lost. As a founder, one of the things you are expected to do is talk to lots of leads and nurture them through a funnel.
It kinda makes sense if you are expecting prospects to drop off.
But what if you aren't expecting anyone to drop off?
Faizan, that's stupid, is what you are thinking. And I don't blame you. It's not conventional wisdom. However, accepting that is hard.
So now that I have lost one prospect, it's time to find another 5 who align with what we are trying to do. Again, as I mentioned last week, it's an approach I am taking. If I can help a prospect, I will.
Eh, I don't enjoy this section.
I don't know why I even put it in here in the first place. VCs are interesting, some have been a great bunch to talk to.
However, increasingly, every day I think about why I talk to investors, like really, why?
And here's the realisation I have come to, talking to investors. I talk to them for 2 reasons.
1. VCs have experience of founders and customers
Because they've seen way more businesses from scratch than I have. I assume VCs have seen and heard different founders and prospective customers. So they understand how to navigate this world much more efficiently.
That is super-valuable in building a startup that is anti-fragile and efficient. In the enterprise B2B space where Amygda's industrial platform operates in a complex environment, it is important to have the foundation strong. With automation where possible. It's unbelievable even with the best of intention how much manual work goes into building these.
2. I talk to VCs because we need funding for MVP
We are raising a small round and talking to VCs is important for us. Not always for this round, but also building the relationship for the future. That's one thing for founders - if you are building a startup, do build relationships, too. With everyone in your ecosystem.
But what we really need funding for is to deliver value to our clients.
When I think about this aspect, I really am torn because if we get one or two paying enterprise clients in the next 6 months, we then have revenue funding to spend against our development effort.
Good point, and it comes up again and again in discussions. The way I think about it is: right now enterprise clients are facing capital challenges. Cost is a huge issue in their business. And budgets are slashed.
In the worst-case scenario, if we are unable to get at least 1 paying client (our ticket size is 250K+ annually), then what's the backup?
That's why I speak to VCs for funding. It's a backup option for now.
Building a startup is weird and wonderful. As are many other things. You try to make things work and keep many things in motion. And make sure some make it to action.
Action > Motion
In all of this, I do have one benefit. Having advisers and personal mentors around me. One of the best advisers I have is Georgi Mitov. He is an ex-entrepreneur and shares his insight and advise that cuts through so much crap so simply.
If you are building a startup, make sure your advisers include folks who've done this before. They've seen it and know what are virtue signals and what are vital signals.
Something worth noting is this article by Gabriel de Vinzelles. Gabriel is a VC at Frst.vc.
You can read Gabriel's article, The Fat MVP Challenge. If you are building heavy software for enterprise clients, you must read this article.
He articulates the following point;
Enterprise clients (+1,000 employees) only buy “Fat MVPs” — an initial version of your product that will take years and millions to build. Fat MVPs are anti-lean: you have to burn a lot of money before getting users feedbacks, increasing your time to product-market-fit in an unhealthy way. Hopefully in the recent years many alternatives to the Fat MVP have emerged. We’ve gathered them in this post in the hopes of helping early-stage founders better design their go-to-market strategy.
Another one on reading material
I started reading a book that has been on my list for a while, Start with Why by Simon Sinek. It's been recommended reading by a number of folks, but most importantly by sales folks.
As a technical founder, it's insightful and interesting.
A quick note on a mistake I just made. I said I am a technical founder. Cut that crap.
Founders are the best in understanding their own business. Technical, non-technical, creative founders, commercial founders, and all other terms are labels that the ecosystem tries to box you with. Don't take those labels on.
You could build a startup. Or you could not. It has zero to do with these labels. You can look for founders with different skill-sets, but this whole idea that one is a technical co-founder and the other a business co-founder is not something you should entertain.
I attended these 2 webinars organized by Mountside Ventures. And they have made the recordings available for everyone to watch.
One of the webinars was on Engaging Investors - This was about how to pique investors’ interest and build successful relationships, including how to put yourself in the shoes of a VC. Recording here.
Another webinar topic was on Term Sheets. This touched on the essentials of a term sheet, how to negotiate, and getting deals over the line. Recording here.
Honestly, watch the two webinars if you are currently building or thinking about building a startup.
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