23 THINGS I’VE LEARNED FROM 2 YEARS IN A GROWTH STAGE STARTUP

October 7, 2014 By Archives, Entrepreneurship, Featured, Tech

IT’S A LOT

A quick background. Two years ago I was fresh off a year abroad in Shanghai, China and I was looking for a new gig back in Chicago. Long story short, I landed with SpotHero. A very, right place right time, move on my part. Knowing nothing about startup/web marketing at the time, I learned on my feet as quickly as I could. Fast forward two years and here we are. 23 of the top takeaways from two years in a growth stage startup. (in no particular order)

Move fast & learn fast: Like I said, I didn’t have much startup experience or web marketing knowledge when I first started, but I learned as fast as I could so I could keep up with the growth of the company.

Do things that don’t scale: If you are a sucker for startup articles on the web, i’m sure you’ve seen one or two talking about this idea. Here is a good one from Paul Grahm

Build an amazing product: The first question you need to ask yourself when starting a startup is “will people use this?”. If the answer is yes, then build the best one out there.

Spend more time with your customers: You need to learn how to make the best product out there, and your customers will tell you how. Listen to their feedback and learn from it.

Retention, retention, retention: Depending on the product, you need customers to come back and buy again. Creating a “sticky” product that people like will make your life much easier when asking for more cash from your VC buddies.

Customer support goes a long way: People love giving second chances to people they like. One way to become likable is by having amazing customer support. If there is a problem, genuinely listen, care, and take care of the problem. People love talking about good experience, but love even more talking about terrible ones. Eliminate those terrible ones.

Why don’t people like it? Spend more time with them, as opposed to people who do like it: Why doesn’t Uber give current customer promo codes? Because they already have you hooked. Talk to people who don’t use your product, as opposed to people who already do. If you can win people over who are not fans, you’ll see success.

Understand your KPI’s. Don’t get carried away with vanity metrics: Decide what Key Performance Indicators you care about, and care about them. Do not get carried away with a giant stat sheet that doesn’t tell the actual story. Good article on vanity metics from TechCrunch.

There is no such thing as going viral.

Get it done & execute: The favorite word at SpotHero = DONE.

Google it: You don’t know how to do something? Oh, well I bet someone out there does, and they wrote a blog post about it. Google it.

Everything is marketing: Your customer support, your sales team, your co-foudners, your customers who refer other users, everything is marketing! So maybe I am a little biased because I work in our marketing department, but it’s true.

How the hell do you scale that? If you have dreams of being the next Uber, Airbnb, or PayPal, you better start asking yourself this question. Having success in one market is just the beginning…how do you become successful in 100+ markets or 100+ million users?

Wear a lot of hats: If you want to jump on with a startup in the early stages, be ready to wear multiple hats. If you are a web marketer, you cannot just do PPC, or social, or search. You have to do it all, and be really good at it.

Be okay with rapid change: Things are going to change. It’s inevitable in a startup. People will come and go, the business model might change, and you have to be okay with it.

You need to poke the box: From Seth Godin, the marketing maven himself. Just read the book on this one, it’s a quick read.

Build an amazingly talented team: An idea is maybe 5%, the other 95% is execution. You need to build an amazing team that can execute. Spend time finding the right people. It will pay off.

Play to win: Business is the ultimate game. You have to play to win. Mark Cuban says it best.

Elon Musk is absurdly smart and equally inspiring: For real. I caught on during my startup schooling (googling things about startups/marketing) and cannot get enough. Every time there is a new interview or article, i’m on it. His newest interview about life on Mars.

Development always takes longer than expected: You wish you can get that feature up and pushed over the weekend, but realistically…it’s gonna take longer. It always does.

Fundraising is like dating: You don’t just jump in bed with the first person you meet. It’s a two way street. You’ve gotta eye them from across the room, and they do the same, then you know you have a connection then it works. Don’t just go after the prettiest girl in class, you gotta find the girl you can bring home to momma.

It’s fun: Working long hours with some of your best friends, it’s like working on a huge class project that never stops. I’ve met some great friends, and know that there will be many more in the years to come.

Startups are extremely difficult: Coming up with an idea is the easy part. Executing the idea is the extremely difficult. Building, hiring, scaling, designing, developing, training, on-boarding, LTV vs CAC, retention rates, strategy, fundraising, equity distribution, mission, values, company culture, salaries, the list literally goes on and on. If you are thinking of starting a business (which I highly recommend) make sure you know what you are getting yourself into and that you are 100% ready and committed to winning.