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5 lessons learned from the startup trenches

  • Blog
  • 24 de Janeiro de 2013
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This a sum up of a few lessons learned while trying to run Cloudretail into a profitable startup and sustainable business. Most of the topics listed here are indeed well known and aren’t new at all, most of it has been discussed by Eric Ries, Steve Blank and other gurus of the startup environment, but still it’s worth mentioning them here.

1) MONEY

Startups need money, maybe not as much as they needed in the dot-com bubble era, but they need some money. More important than having it in your startup, is knowing your money or in other words, knowing where your money is going to (cloud computing bills, operational costs with employees, or that air conditioning turned on for a whole weekend). It’s also important to know where your money is not going to, because the money you don’t spend is the money you get to keep, and probably use in some rainy day, or to hire that kick-ass product designer or marketing person that your startup will need someday, maybe run that crazy experiment to validate a hypothesis.

As basic as it seems, knowing your cash flow and having it clearly in your hands gives you the sense of urgency that’s needed when running a startup. I am not saying that you need lots of money to get a startup running, but money is so important because you need money for your…

2) TEAM

which is the second most important thing your startup will need. Forget about the idea, or even the methodology that you are going to stick when iterating through your process, but probably the second most important aspect of your startup is its team. I am beginning to convince myself that if you can tweak a team of hard-core multi-disciplinary team into a lean mean machine of build – measure – learn this could be way more valuable than betting all your stakes at one idea.

Think about it: ideas are abstract things that need to be made concrete, methodologies is how you go through this process of making something concrete, but who executes the process probably will matter the most. In other words: it’s not the what, and probably not even the how, but its the who that’s
important. And your team needs to get used as quick as possible with the…

3) FUNNEL

Funnel’s, if you are in a startup, get used to this word. Get intimate with it. Did you know that funnel spelled backwards means lennuf? That’s how intimate you have to be with your funnel. And you have to get used to funnels because you will have lots of funnel’s throughout your startup lifetime. You will have your “overall-business-kick-ass-funnel”, you will have your Google ad words funnel, you probably had your unbounce funnel.


(SaaS Metrics – A Guide to Measuring and Improving What Matters)

What you have to have in mind is simple: you need to measure things, and after that you have to visualize how the people, customers, users trigger those metrics as they walk down your funnel. Your funnels represents your goals and your business is getting people to achieve the goals that you expect them to. Get used to your funnel, because it is through it that you will see where you can apply changes that will affect your business the most. And the more you change things around, the more you will need a…

4) Continuous Deployment strategy


(https://www.ashmaurya.com/2009/12/achieving-flow-in-a-lean-startup/)

As soon as you have an hypothesis that you built, you want to have a smooth process of releasing it to your customers. When you are early on your validation canvas, maybe continuous integration / deployment is not that important, but the moment that you start getting real about building something you will need this streamline, Henry Ford-ish way of getting your builds into the measuring phase. This engineering treat ideally should be hard wired into your team DNA, along with some XP practices, but even if its not, getting things into production in a fashionable and ordered manner is important once you start actually building something, you will be glad you did this effort early on, once things started getting serious, instead of afterwards when its just too messy for you to get things along, and you know that things will change, because thats what startups are all about…

5) Changes

Things will change, you are already trying to change how things work since you are in a startup, a startup is a privileged environment in which information gets throw in your way in huge amounts. Get used to it. You will have to learn how to talk to journalists, you will have to learn how to do micro-management and macro-management or no-management at all, you will have to be both the spokesman, the engineer, the lay-off guy, the friendly co-worker, the kill-a-bug-in-production-over-weekend-guy and still be able to attend a VC meeting the next Monday morning, the sooner you realize this context-switching, always changing mutant you’ll have to become, the less stress you will have to carry
around.

Keep in mind that with all this tips and lessons learned, you are in the game to make something different in a complex / chaotic / rough environment, remember to share your lessons learned in order to instill them as wisdom in your head and try to enjoy the process.

Follow Victor Lima on Twitter: @vctrlima