My Journey As A Venture-backed Startup Founder: the juggle is real, pt. 3
It was the summer of 2014, and it had already proven to be a year of some major life changes — some good and some heartbreaking. Yet with all the uncertainties and dark clouds common to the entrepreneurial journey, we were surviving. But who wants to just survive, right?
With a baby on the way, I could already see what was on the horizon. I was going to have increase my personal output if I planned to grow my marketing firm.
Then, in the midst of ideating to solve one problem that I happened upon a solution for a totally unrelated issue. And let me tell you, this was huge!
The problem had always been there. I just never saw the solution so clearly as I had in that moment. So I did what any smart serial entrepreneur would do…
I began doing due diligence on the elements surrounding the idea, the user needs, possible competitors and technical requirements, so I could convince my wife that I’m not insane to want to birth a new business while running another that’s merely surviving, and preparing for our first child — of which we had no idea what to expect.
I’ve heard it said it takes a healthy amount of optimism, mixed with a little bit of audacity, a handful of compassion and a stupid amount of insanity to become a real entrepreneur. If that’s the case, then my insanity levels definitely earned me the rights to be called an entrepreneur that day.
Then I found out I wasn’t crazy after all
But my fears of being thought a crazy man were all for naught. My wife took a short look at the problem, and an equally short look at my solution, then looked at me and said, ”You’d better do this!”
So I immediately began working through the idea, gathering statistical data that would prove whether or not there was a viable market for the product idea, and gathering user feedback over the next year.
One friend in particular gave me the most invaluable piece of feedback early on in the product journey. I walked him through the idea and how the product would work. I shared with him certain use cases that proved that there was a need. Then, I sat back to wait for his response of excitement and anticipation for it’s creation. But such a response never came.
Instead, without missing a beat between my sentence and his own, he quickly injected, “I would never use that!”
Had this product already existed, he would’ve been considered a super user. This was right up his alley. He had the perfect skill-set to capitalize on a product like this. But you would never use this? What tha!?
I was immediately dejected. He’s one of my more high-profile friends, so of course I wanted him to think highly of me.
I was so close to quitting in that moment. Then I remembered how fired up my wife, my support system and confidant, was from the start.
There was just no way I was going to lose like this. So I emotionally turned myself back around to face him. I dug my heels into the ground. Then, I ask the one question that has to become first nature to anyone who’s creating anything of value. “Why not?”
It took borrowing from some old Sales 101 techniques (e.g. Getting Past Objections) in order to figure out to which horse my product idea really needed to hitch its wagon.
My friend’s followup response was everything. I was thinking in single dimensions. What he needed was something multidimensional.
He shared with me the limitations and deterrents that would keep him from using such a product, with little concern for my feelings. Every entrepreneur should be so lucky to have such friends who care too much to see them chase empty jet streams.
So I pivoted…but not too hard
The idea, in its inception, wasn’t too far off. It was just missing that “it” factor. But now with a defined key differentiator it was time to start designing the experience and to get a clickable prototype.
I could hardly contain my enthusiasm for this new project. At the same time I was dealing with parting with the remaining biz dev associates in my firm. The end was officially upon my little fledgling of a business.
It’s likely I may have spent many of nights in tears feeling like a failure. But my entrepreneurial mind wasn’t having it. As long as there were synapses still firing in my brain I would never be without a creative idea of how to fill a need for something I’d previously observed.
That’s the way entrepreneurs are built. We’re always dreaming up the world everyone else wants to live in.
But It was back to Corporate America for me
Until I became a responsible husband and father, I use to think an entrepreneur who was working a corporate job was just a scared dreamer who didn’t have what it takes to create something meaningful. But the truth is, people have to eat!
Any pride I had in being a business owner was now waining, and my foray back into the corporate environment was now in full effect. But that didn’t make me any less an entrepreneur. In fact, it helped me hone certain skills for when I return to the marketplace as a creator of something valuable.
It may have been easier to value myself by what I do, but that’s too circumstantial and unstable. So I chose, instead, to value myself by imagined possibilities. My wife, kids, friends and of course myself have vast imaginations concerning how far we believe I can go.
An entrepreneur’s community means everything to their journey. And mine was about to get a lot bigger and smarter. [read more in part 4…]
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