Here’s What I Learned From My Startup That I Wish I Knew before I Started
I co-founded Kinza (https://kinza.life/) a little over five months ago. In few words — Kinza is a platform that brings like-minded individuals together in intimate gatherings. Meeting new people in a small-group, low-key setting sparks conversations and ignites new connections — what can be better?
Kinza is my “first one,” my first startup that is. In my mind, I thought it was a great idea so should be easy enough: build an easy to use app (“just like Airbnb has!”) and run some Facebook ads — what can be easier? I even thought I could keep working full time as a management consultant for Deloitte. Boy was I wrong! Everything I thought I knew about starting a business went out the window. Here is what I have learned so far during my first five months as an entrepreneur.
1) Do not build anything!
I know everyone says it… But seriously — just do not! Do not spend thousands or even hundreds of dollars to build out a website or an app. Most likely the problem you are trying to solve can already be solved using existing tools (unless you are building a hyperloop or treating cancer). They may not be the best solution or the most convenient ones, but leverage them nevertheless. Use them to find the right product market fit.
But guess what? We still spent tons of money to have a prototype developed and it failed. We had so many options for our MVP — Eventbrite, Facebook, Meetups etc, but we thought we were smarter. We have now developed our platform on Shopify which is cheap, scalable and so much easier to manage at this stage of the startup.
Only if I had listened to the wisdom out there. It would have saved me a lot of nerves and money. This brings me to my second point.
2) Save money (as you will need it later)
It is important to get stuff done yourself. Marketing agencies (sorry guys!) charge 10k or more for a “starter package” which includes a basic web-site, business cards, logos etc.With the various tools out there, you can do most of it (if not all) yourself! We used Shopify to build a beautiful web-site without doing any coding. Furthermore, sites like <https://www.freelogoservices.com/> let you design you logo, business cards and other collateral quickly and without breaking your bank to get you going in less than a day!
As we grow and learn, we change. We have changed our branding, our messaging a few times. But since we did the initial work ourselves, the cost of that change is low and we still have a good amount of runway left to keep going.
However, there are times when you reach the limit of your skills and creativity. For instance, we needed our marketing video made and some blog articles written. Reached out to university students! — they are passionate, creative and talented. My advice: leverage them for getting quality work done for a fraction of the price — and no need to sell your kidney anymore! As a side note — don’t be cheap and pay your interns — you are not Elon Musk that they should work for free for you!
3) Tune out the noise.
Over the past few months, we have attended numerous entrepreneurship events in Toronto. The gig economy has attracted lots of people who want to “mentor” you and want to help “accelerate” your startup. However, after engaging with some of them, I found their value questionable.
Some of these people are neither investors nor ever had a startup of their own. Many have worked in large corporations all their lives and are too risk averse to start a company of their own. Yet, they give you a ton of advice that at best will be a hit or miss. We got advice like patent your idea, as if Kinza is ever going to patentable. Had we listened, we would have wasted time and money. It is essential to drown out the noise.
However, saying that, learn to listen to important stuff. Find a team of competent individuals that you can trust and count on to get things done and empower them to be successful. Listen to them! Find good mentors that have experience to guide you with but also the wisdom to let you try and fail quickly so you can learn. This has never been my strength, but I am forcing myself to. Letting go and trusting others is never easy but if you surround yourself with the right mix of people, the journey becomes that much easier.