Product lessons from growing our startup to 8 million users without a single dime in outside funding

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“Version 1 sucks, but ship it anyway.”

I stared up at the bold words displayed on a large screen before an audience of hundreds. All of us were seated in our best suits, eager to hear the next speaker offer his wisdom.

This was 14 years ago when entrepreneurs from all walks of life would still gather to attend business conferences in person (not just via Zoom).

The presenter who stood several feet from us was giving an impassioned speech about the magic of constantly shipping products. “For one, you’re always learning,” he said, in a voice both confident and self-aware. …


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“Whatever you want to do, you can do it with Excel,” my colleague, Greg, motioned to me, over a round of burgers and fries.

At the time, I was still in the training phase of a new job working as a programmer in a large, NYC-based media company, and was still learning the ropes. Over the following weeks, Greg taught me all he knew about how to make a powerful spreadsheet. “You can use it for creating templates or to make a solid report, ” he said knowingly. “Trust me, man, it’ll make your life easier.”

I didn’t know much at the time, so needless to say, I followed his advice and began using Excel for basically everything. …


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The year was 2009 and Nokia ethnographer, Tricia Wang, began to see a new trend emerge after years of conducting observational fieldwork in China.

In her research, she discovered that low-income consumers were ready to pay for more expensive smartphones, and promptly reported her findings back to Nokia.

But instead of heeding her advice and beginning to produce affordable smartphones for low-income users, they did what many companies often do when faced with a similar situation: they looked at their measurable datasets.

And the data wasn’t buying it.

In writing about her experience for Ethnography Matters, Wang attempted to explain that Nokia’s “notion of demand was a fixed quantitative model that didn’t map to how demand worked as a cultural model in China.” …


When it comes to transforming your business, choose purpose over medium.

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In 2013, CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings sent an 11-page memo to his employees and investors with one core message: he wanted to make a change from simply distributing content digitally to becoming a top producer of original content capable of winning Oscars and Emmys.

The contents of the memo said the following:

“We don’t and can’t compete on breadth with Comcast, Sky, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Sony, or Google. For us to be hugely successful we have to be a focused passion brand.”

By broadening their vision, their focus changed; a decision that ended up tripling their profits.

The trouble with slow organizational transformation

Writing for Harvard Business Review, co-authors Scott D. Anthony, Alasdair Trotter, and Evan I. Schwartz, discovered a key lesson from looking at the top 20 business transformations of the last decade. They…


The work revolution has arrived. Tools you should know about.

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Originally published on JOTFORM.COM

Remote work is nothing new. Entrepreneurs with geographically distributed teams have been advocating for it for years. In fact, a 2017 study found that the average worker would accept 8% less pay for the option to #WFH — because employees too have long recognized the value of working remotely.

Still, no one imagined that so much of the workforce would be pushed to work remotely so suddenly.

“This is not how I envisioned the distributed work revolution taking hold,” wrote Matt Mullenweg, chief executive of Automattic, the software company that owns the WordPress blogging platform.

Anticipated or not, remote work is the reality for many of us — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As Jennifer Christie, Twitter’s head of human resources, told in BuzzFeed…


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Originally published on JOTFORM.COM

A man confides in his friend that he’s having trouble deciding whether to take a new job. The position would provide financial stability but he’d lose his current gig, which is pretty prestigious. Plus, he’d have to relocate with his family.

The man is renowned scientist and theologian Joseph Priestley, and his friend, Benjamin Franklin, offers the following advice: make a list of pros and cons. Franklin instructs him to review the lists and consider their respective weights. …


It’s no secret: storytelling is crucial. Visual reports can enhance, not detract from, your organization’s story.

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Originally published on JOTFORM.COM

These days, it seems like storytelling is the biggest buzzword in business. As of 2019, there were over two hundred TED Talks hashtagged #storytelling.

As Susan Credle, chief creative officer at a global advertising agency, writes for the Wall Street Journal:

“Great marketing isn’t about one ad, one piece of content, one moment in time. It is definitely about more than data and technology. It is about a relentless and lasting commitment to a brand’s story, and the elation of waking up every day with an opportunity to help write the next chapter.”

There’s no doubt, weaving an ongoing, compelling narrative can be a powerful strategy for a brand. But another tool that’s equally important is strong visuals — when we translate collected data into clear visual representations. In fact, well-designed visualizations will enhance, rather than detract from, great storytelling. …


Now more than ever, we need to rethink the annual performance review model.

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Originally published on JOTFORM.COM

In the world of sports, it’s easy to quantify success.

Quarterbacks get touchdowns.

Runners come in first.

Soccer players score goals.

Boxers deliver knockouts.

But for most of us, assessing whether we’re doing a good job at work isn’t so straightforward.

Perhaps that’s why performance reviews are so fraught — both for employees and employers.

According to a survey conducted by Mercer, only two percent of companies believe their performance management process delivers “exceptional value.” Less than three percent find their feedback practices to be excellent.

By any measure, these are terrible statistics.

Performance appraisals are meant to evaluate employees, of course. But done well, they can also achieve much more. Effective reviews provide employees with clear insight into how they can grow, but also how they’re valuable to the larger goals of the company. This, in turn, leads to higher employee engagement. When workers are engaged, they’re more likely to stay at their jobs. …


Because you and your team should embrace microlearning, here are some best practices.

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Originally published on JOTFORM.COM

Learning is on the uptick. Consider Coursera: the online educational platform added 10 million new users from mid-March to mid-May, which is seven times the rate of new sign-ups last year. edX and Udacity, two smaller educational websites, have likewise expanded their users exponentially.

With professionals spending more time at home and unfortunately, some abruptly losing their jobs, the Covid-19 pandemic has only intensified the demand for new skill acquisition and training. Enter microlearning: an increasingly popular pedagogical style in which short, high-quality bursts are paired with interactive tasks that reinforce each lesson.

Gone are the days of tedious educational seminars. Instead, today’s workforce wants an approach that fits their schedules and actual habits of consuming information, which is part of the reason that online platforms like Coursera have been so successful. …


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Originally published on JOTFORM.COM

The pandemic has been tremendously challenging for business owners. Without customers, some have been forced to fold. Others have managed to pivot in order to meet new and evolving demands.

A whiskey distillery started making hand sanitizer. A man from the UK invented a hands-free door handle. Big tech companies have collaborated to develop Covid-19 contact tracing technology.

While some of these innovative solutions succeed in meeting our most immediate needs, the pandemic has highlighted the necessity for forward-looking thinking and continued creation. As serial entrepreneur Marc Andreessen recently argued: it’s time to start building.

“Part of the problem is clearly foresight, a failure of imagination,” Andreessen writes. “But the other part of the problem is what we didn’t *do* in advance, and what we’re failing to do now. And that is a failure of action, and specifically our widespread inability to *build*.” …

About

Aytekin Tank

Founder at www.JotForm.com || (contact: AytekinTank@JotForm.com)

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