Day 100 at HayStack ABI: lessons learned

It’s been about 100 days since I really started to try to get HayStack ABI off the ground. I started playing around with the idea and doing some initial market convos back in February but I count the start of HayStack as the day that our CTO, Steve, jumped on board. That was when I really committed- knowing I had a brilliant leader bought into the idea was the proof I needed to double down and get to work.

For those of you who don’t know (a number that is pretty close to 100%), HayStack ABI is an artificial business intelligence platform. We’re trying to automate the weekly reporting process by highlighting abnormal (good or bad) performances on any major KPI you want us to look at it. So traffic was up 20% last week- so what? HayStack helps you put your performance in context so you can react more rapidly and smartly.

So it’s been 100 days. This is supposed to be a major milestone. Seems pretty arbitrary to me but figured I should probably pick my head up and reflect a bit on the path to now and the maybe make some assumptions about where we’re going.

How we got here

  1. Coffee and beer. Our team is entirely remote. So on those rare occasions we can be in the same place, we try to meet- even if it’s just to chat over coffee and/or beer. Working remotely honestly isn’t as hard as I’d thought it would be but you have to put in facetime when you can. Because it’s not just about the work. It’s about building something cool with great people…
  2. It’s about the people — this is said a lot but I really never bought into it until I started this work. Obviously it’s about the people you choose to work with. It’s about knowing that when you’re running into a problem you, personally, have no idea how to solve, you have a team willing and able to tackle it head on. But it’s also about choosing when not to work with people. I know that we can solve a lot of the problems we encounter by throwing more bodies at the problem. But I know that’s a rabbit hole that will prevent us from scaling and so it’s a constant conversation on whether we hire or get smarter and double down on the product
  3. I should’ve spent less time selling and more time talking through the product — in the first few weeks after launching our initial product build, I poured myself into gathering sales leads, reaching out, trying to set up conversations, and really trying to sell our product. And I don’t regret spending that time. But I realized, after a few weeks of selling, that what I needed more was co-development partners that were less interested in just buying a product and more interested in working with us to build something amazing. A very special type of client but it’s worth focusing your conversations on those clients (initially) rather than just trying to sell to everyone.

4. It’s about the people (seriously)- I had to jump back to this one. Outside of the sales and internal side of people, I’ve been astounded by the sheer amount of support I’ve gotten from people in general. As I was starting out, I read a tweet that said something along the lines of “No one will believe in you and that’s ok.” I disagree- that’s not ok. We wouldn’t be here without an incredible support network of thought partners and people willing to make connections, help with hiring, and generally being interested in helping us wherever possible. That being said- if you’re going through the same journey, pay it forward. At HayStack, we’re here to make people’s lives easier so if that’s with the product, great, but if that’s with one of us giving you a hand, even better.

5. Tactically, surveys are pretty awesome — ok so this one is probably a bit nuanced. I would not do a formulaic survey with a purchased list nor would I do it super early on. But after some initial client conversations, we reached a bit of a wall on where to focus and realized we could survey some close contacts to A) gain product knowledge B) qualify new, valuable leads and C) generate some white paper materials. End the end, we got some great information, nurtured some unexpected leads, and learned some pretty neat things about the problems people are struggling with.

Looking ahead

HayStack has evolved from designing an algorithm for understanding anomalies to a platform for finance and strategy professionals to do their work faster and smarter. Every day we’re fascinated by all the amazing work going on in predictive and inferential analytics and excited by the possibility of incorporating cutting edge statistics in an easy to use cloud package.

As we continue to build, our biggest challenge will be making sure that we’re developing a sleek platform that turns finance professionals into easy experts and helps executives understand and run their business like never before. So, as I look at what’s needed, it’s more of the same. It’s the people we hire and the clients we work with that will drive us forward (and maybe a few more surveys). It’s been amazing to see what our team could build in just 100 days and excited to see how well we can react to all the demands of a tough analytics industry.