In the beginning, there was product market fit?
Starting a company is hard. I started Rigging, a talent incubator for Minorities, on the premise that I wanted to spend every hour, every day, every week, doing something that gave me joy and energy. That doesn’t mean there aren’t tasks that frustrate the crap out of me (anyone who has played around with Squarespace and figured out how to copy and paste various templates, get at me!!), but I when I get a chance to connect with bright, eager, open individuals who are looking to learn the soft skills to move up in their career, I’m energized to continue on the sometimes lonely, yet rewarding, journey.
I’m starting this Founder’s blog as an effort to 1) keep people in the loop that have asked as well as shown support 2) hold myself accountable to document and reflect on how much beauty is in the pain and hopefully 3) create some entertainment value for the reading audience (anyone who has grimaced at reading old journal entries understands this one):). Yes, I’m Gimleting this company. I’m going to try to write 1 blog per work, more if I feel inspired, but I pledge to be as open and honest as I can, in hopes that others will reach out who are on a similar journey or want to chime in.
This past week, I’ve been focused on translating all of my Enterprise SaaS experience to starting a company (oof…) — Rule 1: establish product market fit. I’ve spoken to over 30 individuals who are either Director or below in their career and looking to achieve certain professional goals or more senior leaders (CMOs, VPs, CEOs) who have come along this journey and are gracious and self aware enough to reflect on their own journey and their ‘aha’ moments. Product Market fit has been a lot harder than I thought.
Most everyone agrees that there is a problem: minorities often aren’t exposed to the soft skills and nuances that are required to navigate corporate America — understanding the power dynamics, the opportunities, and the landmines - and it’s holding them back. On top of that, there is no vehicle to deliver this cultural literacy to them unless you are lucky enough to have intense mentor-ship, possibly an executive coach, or are super observant, self aware, and go through trial and error.
That’s good, at least we agree on the problem. Then the roads diverge on solution: to create a Services company or Product company? Every Silicon Valley textbook, VC, or ‘founder book’ will tell you to product- ize to scale, but I’m in the human business, how do you scale when you first need to find the group of people that love you? Obviously plenty of companies like Etsy, have established a revenue model after establishing a core community. Maybe my wavering on this subject is a reflection of my internal turmoil and ego— to follow the Silicon Valley model of ‘growth at all costs’ and be a shepherd of a large flock or be a shepherd of few sheep that are more intimately connected.
The next (and probably the most important question) is — how do I find these people? Starting Product Marketing Masters was relatively easy, there was clear product market fit — people that were either trying to get into Product Marketing or move up in their career. What Rigging is looking to solve is so much broader, and as we know, if you are trying to be everything to everyone, you are effectively, nothing to no one.
So, this is the task that’s heavy on my mind and heart over the next couple of weeks. I’m hoping that by building community (in the Bay Area first) through the SF Bay Area Personal and Career Growth group Meetup, hosting our first event on Dec 4, Career Advice to My Younger Self event, I can attract a core group of folks, who may tell 1 or 2 more people.
Community also means providing a rallying cry that’s memorable, concise, and repeatable (look at that good product marketing coming to play!). Obama had ‘Change,’ women had ‘Me Too’ and ‘Lean In’ — how do I strike an equally authentic, yet action oriented tone? This is something I’m also grappling with. How to create something that’s broad enough to appeal to immigrants and minorities, yet concrete enough that they feel like there’s clear outcomes?
So, I’m doing something that I’m not always best at, I’m seeking your help! Send ideas, comment, claps, boos, or as my good friend Hally says, be a seagull — poop on my blog and run away :). All are welcome!