This weeks post comes from Perth local Scott Glew @scottglew who cofounded http://fastvue.co/ along with www.morningstartup.com and is now selling his wares in Silicon Valley. This is his story and a few of his learnings.
Feel free to connect with Scott via the usual methods at the bottom of this article. Enjoy!
It’s the 26th of January, Australia Day 2012. Instead of doing the usual Australia Day thing of gathering around a BBQ with some beer and some mates, I was on a plane with my wife and two kids heading for California to give Fastvue, the startup I co-founded 9 months earlier, the best chance of success. We would have been really excited, had we not recently received the news that our seed funding had been ‘tied up’.
This was easily the most stressful time in my life. We were in a new country, with no credit rating, no health cover (don’t get me started on that), everything we owned was on a boat in the middle of the pacific, and we were burning through our savings (and a loaner from a very supportive family member) with relocation costs that we thought were all covered. We needed to find a house, a school, a car, get social security numbers, drivers licenses and roughly a thousand other things.
But it was also the most focussed and productive time as well. Before getting on the plane, we had just finished our first product, a real-time reporting/analytics application for corporate networks. I scheduled an email announcement to be sent to our existing leads for almost exactly the same time we landed in LAX. Now that I was in the same time-zone as most of our customers, our activity levels started snowballing and we started taking our first real orders. No one was backing up a truck load of cash on our doorstep, but it was just enough to prove that people were willing to pay good money in order to use our product, and that really got the ball rolling.
There’s more to the story that I’m intensionally leaving out (a blog post for another day), but the fact is we managed to limp through those first months using proceeds from sales, and with help from a few awesome people. We’ve now been here just under six months and we haven’t looked back. After having a cushy ‘pay check’ job for the past 10 years, it certainly takes some getting used to. But we keep exceeding our expectations with Fastvue, and aside from all the stress and sleepless nights, it is immensely rewarding to see something you’ve created start turning into a thriving business.
A few things I’ve learnt / learning / think are important:
1. Be sure of your market and have confidence in your business model
I’m a big believer in the old-fashioned model of developing a product that people are willing to pay money for. Have a plan, a time frame and execute it.
2. Take the plunge
If you’re not doing it full time, you can’t spend every waking moment refining and testing your strategy. It’s often the little things that count. Small tweaks that make a huge difference. If you’re sure about number 1, then this is less scary.
3. Focus on your UX
There are probably only two or three main things people want to achieve with your product, and 100 other things that ‘might be cool’. Don’t let the 100 complicate those two or three things. No one likes jumping through hoops to do what they need to do. Remove hoops. Good UX flows into everything else. Selling and supporting a product that people genuinely love to use makes everything so much easier.
4. Know your metrics
Always know your key metrics such as customer acquisition cost and funnel conversions, or whatever is important for you to track progress. Drink the Eric Ries cool aid but don’t go nuts and bog down development. There’s heaps of free (or close to free) tools to measure most key metrics. If the metrics aren’t heading the right way, the worst thing you can do is nothing.
5. Focus on your scene
Forget about the ‘Startup Scene’. Your scene is the only one that matters. Instead of watching Robert Scoble interviews, go talk to your customers, get involved in their communities, produce useful content for them, and dominate your niche.