Lessons Since Launch
Aside from some random pieces that I’ve written about life as an entrepreneur, in general, you all haven’t heard from me in regards to how Bandwagon has been doing. After officially launching on September 1st, things REALLY kicked into high gear! Between balancing operating BANDWAGON AND participating in Founder Institute, I simply didn’t have time to write about all the stuff that I was learning….BUT now that graduation is here, I wanted to take a second to put my thoughts to paper — er, screen — so that you all can continue on with the journey.
Be careful what you wish for. — Before launch, we knew we wanted users. LOTS and LOTS of USERS! We focused on user generating activities like social media engagement and even a campus ambassador program. We spent our Saturdays handing out koozies and cups in exchange for emails and sign-ups. We set out to get users and that we did! Hundreds of users are signed up to our platform and that traction helped us secure our first outside investment commitment (more on this in future post). However, the more that I think about our focus on user acquisition, the more that I think that we were tracking a vanity metric. In the end, the ability to gain users is important but we must find a way to be more efficient about it. Having a B2C strategy is a very capital intensive game, in this industry, so it is important that we shift our focus to become more of a B2B company (with that second “B” actually being “schools and athletic departments). We wished for users and got them, but from what I’ve learned, we should’ve wished for something else.
Learn, if you must. Try, if you can. — I’ve never been shy about sharing my traditional mindset when it came to life, education, and career. Entrepreneurship was never in my DNA…until it was. In the Spring of 2014, as I completed my last semester of my MBA program at Clemson University, I started to think about creating my own company. Without any “formal” (air quotes) education in entrepreneurship, I sought out every bit of information I could find — this led me to the Founder Institute. Enrolling into the Founder Institute this summer was one of the best things that I could’ve done for BANDWAGON…but it was grueling. The time commitment — unlike most speed limits — is NOT a suggestion. I found myself spending many late nights completing homework assignments in order to make the deadline. The lessons learned were valuable, as the structure of the program encouraged us to go deep in several different (and important) aspects of creating a successful startup. I’m a HUGE advocate of learning all that you can but at the end of the day, the best form of learning is TRYING for yourself. The curriculum for the Founder Institute was solid because it encouraged Founders to put themselves out there, in ways that were comfortable but necessary.
Traction is traction. — Of all the lessons that I learned, this one is probably one of the most important. Creating a viable business is difficult and I know that I can’t say that we have created that today. However, what I can say is that we have been able to create traction that has proven some of our hypotheses (right or wrong) so that we can learn, adapt, and adjust. In less than 2 months, we’ve gained hundreds of users, made thousands of dollars, and have had doors opened everywhere from Eastern Washington to Notre Dame. Though our successes have been relatively small, we are using these small victories to build off of. Without traction, we may still be in the “ideation” phase but as we graduate Founder Institute on October 19th, we leave as one of the top ventures with the support of our cohort, directors, and mentors.
I’ve obviously learned a lot more than this but some lessons are just meant to be shared over coffee (read: bourbon). If you ever want to chat, ask questions, offer insight, or just share your own story, I’m just an email or tweet away! Follow me on Twitter or drop me a line via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The value of connecting with others isn’t something that I learned since launch but it is a lesson that I’ve carried with me through life and along my entrepreneurial journey. So let’s #bandtogether and CONNECT!
Originally published at makingthebandwagon.com.