Kevin Legere

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What I learned in the first 4 weeks of a startup

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Things move quickly

I’ve always heard that things move quickly in a startup, but I’d never experienced it first hand. I thought that I knew what it was like to work in a fast moving startup…but I was wrong. When you have no meetings, no customers and no distractions, it’s just productive work. I’ll be honest, somedays I get stuck and make very little progress, but usually when this happens the next day will be a breakthrough. So I guess it all balances out in the end. I now understand why people become addicted to being entrepreneurs. These have been the fastest 4 weeks of my career, but also the most rewarding. We already have a working prototype and are getting ready to launch a landing page to start generating interest. I’m not sure if this trend will continue, ask me in a year 😅. I know that distractions and meetings will come, but hopefully it comes with a few customers as well, which will be just as exciting.

Getting feedback can bring new ideas

I’ve been reaching out to a lot of different people for feedback. Getting feedback can help you sharpen your ideas, but it can also lead you in a new direction. I had become so in love with what would make us better than the competition, that I forgot to focus on what made us different. One of my mentors was quick to point this out when I first took him through our pitch. We talked about some ideas to introduce social features into the app and he said that we should pull them forward on our roadmap. He convinced us that they would help drive traffic and differentiate us in the market. Now instead of being just another marketplace app we could focus on being a ’social marketplace’. This helped us refine our story and ended up impacting our approach to some other features. As we started to work on this concept more, we realized that these social features could also form the basis of our trust system. This new direction is just the beginning and I can’t wait to see where it ultimately leads us. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas early and often because you never know where it will lead.

Focus is key to making progress

The learning has not stopped from day 1. Also, my to-do list keeps piling up. Banks, lawyers, domains, logos, designs…the list doesn’t seem to end. Every new thing that needs to be done is an opportunity to learn something new, but also an opportunity to distract you from what's important. Thankfully I thrive under these conditions. When the pile of work is too high it helps me focus. Solve the most immediate need and leave everything else for another day. This has allowed us to progress much more quickly than we originally estimated. When has this EVER HAPPENED in software development? Never in my career. The key ingredient has been to go deep on the core aspects and leave the rest for later.

When we started coding, we decided to focus on users and listings first. Everything else could wait. Users and listings are the core of our application and we knew if went deep and got those right everything else would fall into place. This allowed us to focus and move fast. Now, in our fifth week we are adding the final pieces to complete our first prototype, well ahead of our original schedule.

Know your limits

When you have a company with 2 employees you need to wear a lot of different hats. This means that you will be doing a lot of work that is outside your comfort zone. Some of that work will need with a little help from Google, Youtube or other resources, however some of that work might not be worth the time investment. This is when you need to be honest with yourself and know your strengths, know where you can get by and know where you need outside help. I know my strength is in Product. I know that I can get by as a UX designer, just don’t tell any of my UX design friends that 🤫. I also know that I cannot be trusted with visual design (well I probably can…but it wouldn’t be any good). Knowing my limitations made it an easy decision to outsource our logo design. My friend and colleague Lauren Bates from Railtown referred me to 99 Designs and it worked out really great. We literally got more than 99 design ideas from a variety of designers. Now we are getting close to deciding our first logo and I could not be happier with the result. To save money we are trying to cover as many angles as we can ourselves, but it’s also important to know when it’s better to go outside your startup for help.

More to come...

I’ve learned a lot in 4 weeks on the job, more than I could write in this post. In a few weeks I’ll be introducing Skwirl to the world. Things are starting to fall into place and I’m excited to take the next step forward in our journey 🚀