It’s been 100 days since my partner and I decided our side project, Hirely, was worth our undivided time and attention with real potential to become a great company. And what an incredible journey it has been. While it truly has been the happiest days of my life, it wasn’t without days that stretched out to sleepless nights of self-doubt and relentless questioning.
100 days is a short period in the grand timeline of building a company, but perhaps the toughest lessons are learned and the most bitter pills are swallowed during the earliest days. It’s the fastest moving days, where every minute counts and each day seems shorter than the last. It’s also the days where the most important relationships are forged — first partners, first employees, first mentors and advisors and first investors — people that can take your company to great heights.
Here are the seven most important lessons we learned during our first 100 days.
- Be where your clients are.
There were weeks where we spent every evening at a startup networking event. I used to get terrible FOMO — what if we meet our next investor at tonight’s event? Networking is exhausting, especially after a long day of fighting fires. Instead, we started going to places and events where our clients were, which translated into real business. Getting to know future users and clients helped open up the feedback loop early. And we found time spent meeting early adopters was a lot more exciting than giving your auto-pilot pitch to every person you meet at yet another startup event.
2. Everyone wants a say, but take advice for what it is — an advice.
We’ve been very lucky to have a lot of people show genuine interest even at such an early stage. The other side of that equation is that seemingly every person we meet wants to give an opinion on all aspects of our business. As first-time entrepreneurs, we held onto every advice and sweated over every word even if they were misaligned to our objectives. Only when we started to tune into our own intuition and took advice with a grain of salt, we were able to re-focus on our milestones. Take advice for what it is. Thank them for the advice, quickly internalize it, and move on.
3. Fundraising is like dating.
We started receiving reverse inquiries from angel investors and VCs within weeks into the ideation phase — a lot earlier than we thought. The experience was reminiscent of my dating days. Yes, I’m looking. No, nothing too serious at the moment. Yes, there are other suitors. But the chemistry is strongest with you. Oh, the games of teeter-tottering between a fine line of keeping cool and wanting to close the round asap! Sure, it’s stressful, but it’s a great learning experience that cannot be taught in a classroom. Remember, you’re going into a serious relationship, not a summer fling. Look for a partner that shares your vision, buys into you, a partner who will help bring your business to the next level by bringing more than just a cheque.
4. Surround yourself with positivity.
Beneath the glamour of being your own boss lies the loneliness of working for yourself. To overcome this, we proactively surround ourselves with people with passion, drive and optimism. One of the best perks of being in the startup world is bonding with incredibly talented entrepreneurs who are passionate about making a change. Cut out all negative energy from your life whether it comes in the form of people, atmosphere or from within — it’s hard enough without it.
5. You’re not the target market.
During the validation phase, I fell into the trap of thinking everyone is like me. I often gravitated towards what I like, which features I would spend money on and how much. Time and time again, I learned that this was a very dangerous mistake when building a scalable product or service. Now, we gather focus groups where we ask open-ended questions to our real target market. Move away from what you know. Build, break and re-build — as many times as you need to.
6. Carve your niche and focus.
Hirely started out as a marketplace for all local services. We had this great big vision of having every local service from plumbing to yoga sessions to beauty needs all in one platform. For various reasons, we carved out the verticals to focus on one — events. It helped us tremendously in refining our overall value-add to our end-users and paying customers. Think BIG, but start small.
7. Stay nimble.
During this short period, we shifted verticals, rethought monetization models and refined go-to-market strategies amongst many other moving parts. The changes that were the most time-consuming and expensive were the ones that we took too long to implement. Accept that your business will take more than a few unexpected turns. Stay as nimble as a ninja.
As we prepare for our launch in November, there is much to look forward to. The ‘highs’ will be sweeter and the ‘lows’ will certainly be a lot rougher. But I wonder if the days that lie ahead will be as dear to us as our first 100 days.
Hirely is a one-of-a-kind service to search for reliable local event service professionals online without compromising on time and money. Hirely offers local service providers who have limited reach, few resources or a shoestring marketing budget a unique platform to get more customers. Similarly, users can avoid the hassle and frustration of searching for the right people for a party and discover convenient, affordable services in just a few clicks.