The Figuring Out Product Part 1

I’m on the verge of losing everything.

This is the feeling has been haunting me for literally every other hour since I fanatically decided to build a full-stack startup, after showing no amazingly successful records in my previous entrepreneurial path. Well, we did ship both times. And the latest one got a meaningful exit, with a not very delicious check. But neither generated much buzz. We are marching farther every time we set out, but obviously a few more miles isn’t enough to say I hiked to the end of Bright Angel. People said you don’t really learn much from a failure, because there are too many causes. I think that really depends. You should pin down the fatal thing, by all means avoid it next time, and learn collateral issues to avoid or to gain in the meantime. It’s extremely exhausting. But I guess I’d rather survive it.

I’m building an e-commerce driven brand of home linens with a few interesting people. It’s called Flaneur. But this is faraway from saying we are off the ground considering I’m still in the middle of negotiating terms with factories on the other side of the world, who get used to working with bulk orders from departmental stores, meeting the “OK” standard. There are experienced factory managers over there looking at us saying they’ve been doing this for XX years and working with XX brands, nobody is as picky as us. Right at this moment I sense a sheer tricky untrustworthiness, both from our side and from their side. They were secretly thinking “Do these people know what they are talking about? They know nothing about dye and finish and sew!” The thing from us could be “At the end of the day will they be able to ship what we want inch by inch? Are they going to cheat us into something cheaper?” We will have to both live with this subtle but undismissble uncomfortable feeling for a while. There isthe culture thing, the language thing, the attitude thing, the living habit thing, etc. It’s harder than a relationship, because there is also the money thing.

We’ve already got hold of a factory, worldly renowned for its mill and great use of Supima cotton, to confirm our irritating small order and offer an acceptable quote. What’s left is just a bunch of details of zippers, elastic bands, color of sewing thread… Right, what is the promise of an enhanced bedroom experience?

There is an article on Entrepreneur this morning talking about figuring out the product before spending too much time on word of mouth and the whole branding package. I think it’s a little bit overstated, because paying visit to a factory and nailing down the terms takes a heck of time, no less difficult than making your brand go viral. A smarter way has to be well organize the calendar and manage to partner up with the factory and conduct an efficient market research at the same time.

Right, the full-stack startup takes a particular kind of founder, put by Chris Dixon, if I remember correctly. Let’s see if we can pull it off.