The Startup Metric that Really Matters

We have a big week ahead of us at SteadfastBeta. We have 3 major deals we’re hoping to close, we’ve been selected for an intro to a great startup accelerator, and we just found out we’ll be heading down to Launch festival in San Francisco for free, courtesy of our awesome friends at the DMZ.

Even with all of this good news, the stress of building this company doesn’t go away. Even when it feels like we’re at a tipping point, the constant barrage of little fires to be extinguished reminds us that complacency is toxic.

That said, this good news has given us an opportunity to reflect on what’s been a very long and hard year, and how we managed to make it this far.

Startup investor and Y-Combinator co-founder Paul Graham wrote an article recommending startups ask themselves whether they are default alive or default dead. It boils down to this: if there was no more investment dollars available to you, would your company be able to survive?

If you could work at any startup, dead or alive…

Graham’s piece is a great read, and a great way to look at your startup’s core financial metrics.

But before you have enough traction for those financial metrics to be meaningful, what can you measure as an indicator of how well your startup is doing? What metric can we look back on and say: “that was the growing number kept us moving forward”?

I think for early stage startups (and certainly for us) the metric to measure is the number of people who really care about your startup. The more people care about your startup (for any reason), the more likely you are to survey and become a company that’s default alive.

If a startup is started and nobody cares, does it make a sound?

Unlike conventional businesses, startups don’t compete with other companies. We compete with nothingness, with the status quo, with apathy, and startups die because not enough people care about them.

Today we’re lucky to have real users and real customers that believe in what we’re building. Like us, they believe that better products and user experiences are created when tech teams and their users work together. And they believe that Steadfast is the right team to build the platform to make that collaboration happen.

But it wasn’t always this way.

My first cold call… a.k.a. phone calls before people care about your startup

Without your early help, we would be dead already

I’m a pretty lucky guy. I’ve got supportive friends and family, a smart-as-hell co-founder and amazing girlfriend (who btw has put up with extraordinary amounts of my startup bullshit). These people:

  • Became our first users
  • Gave us lots of harsh feedback (especially when I attempted to design anything)
  • Encouraged us
  • Provided shelter
  • Gave us food when we were hungry
  • Gave us beer when we struggled through a tough day

From the very beginning, we had a small number of people who really cared about our succcess. They helped us learn fast, fix mistakes, and continue to build our vision.

Very slowly, the number of people who cared grew past our group of friends and family to new users and customers. I’m not sure if we would have been able to make it this far without the tremendous encouragement we’ve had.

Bet you wish you had friends this great.

If every startup had the support we had when we started, I think we’d see a lot more ‘disruptions’ happening all over.

So on behalf of the Steadfast team, I’d like to say thank you to all of you who helped us get here today. It truly wouldn’t have been possible without you.

And for those of you working on startups today, focus on growing the number of people who care about you. Growth in that number will give you the momentum to overcome the immense challenges ahead and tip over to being a startup that’s default alive.

Working on a startup? Looking for smart people to to test your idea or chat with? Get in touch at

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