Posts Tagged ‘Teams’

Coroner’s Report

December 16th, 2010

Post-Mortem (noun): a discussion of an event after it has occurred.

This is where hindsight becomes conventional wisdom. Before writing this I looked for a few examples of other Start-up Post-Mortems to see if there was a particular pattern or commonality in the termination of new ventures. Our friends over at ChubbyBrain did a great job of compiling a list of 25 startup failures in which the founders reflected back on the decisions and regrets. Good read.

So here’s my attempt at a few lessons learned.

Spec before you jump

Back when I decided to take a jump from working for someone else to just myself I had been working on it for a few months with my partners. The concept had been kicked around, we created a logo, got a domain name with accompanying YouTube, Facebook and Twitter accounts. We had server space ready and available. We just needed to get our website up and going.

Little did I or my partners realize how much that would take to complete. Some of that had to do with our team being semi virtual and the rest had to do with my limited experience of development. I had been spoiled working at a company in which a small, talented team could dedicate their full attention to a quick turnaround.

Now my partner was talented but only part-time and until we sat in the same room with a whiteboard and talked through the use cases he didn’t know what was in my brain other than the occasional gibberish I’d communicate on our weekly team conference call.

So I left a paying gig thinking he’d be able to do it all within a relatively short-time. Come to find out the total estimated cost using a developer shop in Latin America would be about $20k and a few months. I should have waited a few months longer to be able to partially finance the majority of the development.

 Test your biggest assumptions first

The other problem was that we were going off assumptions of what the customer might want and that people would behave a certain way. As we started to work with our customers we were much like someone who was learning to drive a stick shift, stopping and going and stopping again. Redesigning or reprioritizing what needed to be done and shifting our business model to something that required more resources and expertise we didn’t have readily available.

Is your team investable?

We were a trio of co-founders. I pitched an idea to a couple of friends who were willing to jump on the crazy train with me. Thanks guys! However, only 1 out of the 3 (not me) had expertise or experience in what we were about to do. I had chosen them because I trusted them and they were willing. I had looked at their skill set and imagined that we each could fulfill certain roles. I told myself that commitment and trust were more important. I still believe that but I also came to recognize during a pitching event that our team didn’t instill confidence in the investing community. Too bad that is one of the main things they look for in start-ups. What I should have done is find an idea in which our experience or passions did natural fit instead of forcing an idea that required different skill sets than we possessed.

Equity early w/vesting on the side sprinkled with milestones

I botched this one big-time. We waited awhile to create the paperwork that officially designated who got what equity but began with a handshake 3-way split. I wanted partners that were as committed as I was and was tired of corporate compensation handing out slivers of equity for people that give their lives to the company. My partners were wise and expressed concern regarding how much they were getting for what they weren’t putting in. I insisted it was okay and that we’re in this together.

It wasn’t okay. Expectations weren’t met, life priorities shifted, and I dragged my feet to talk about it because I didn’t want it to be about money or that an altruistic approach couldn’t work. My friends were gracious enough to patiently let me bungle through it. They even were helping me by offering to take less and ultimately signing over their equity claim when we parted ways.

When the first partner left we were in the process of putting the paperwork together and decided to utilize vesting to minimize the impact that could happen if one of us had a change of heart or didn’t deliver on what was expected. It made it much easier when he decided to move on. His departure brought me to my last and perhaps biggest lesson.

You can’t do it alone

Even if you’re a sole owner you still rely on others to help you get set-up and run your business. Finding the right logistics partner took much longer and was much more important to our business viability than I previously had supposed.

As my partners left I found the concept testing at a critical point. If it didn’t work then what was the point of finding someone. I should have continued recruiting; it is always easier to make the right decision when you have someone else to keep you in check or encourage you. I’d also failed to create an advisory board that we could go to for counsel and resources. So the majority of my recruiting efforts were limited to my own network of individuals that didn’t necessarily overlap with what I needed.

Well there it is. My own startup post-mortem. A couple of major mistakes, quite a few lessons learned, some debt and one great life-changing experience. Man that was fun!


May 17th, 2010

The title brings to mind some sort of Hallmark card for a major life transition (graduation, marriage, etc.). So I hope that is the case for me as well. Early this morning The Foundry had its first of many Monday morning meetings. The meeting is comprised of a representative from each of the participating companies and is present to both ask and offer resources from the group.

Any time a new group meets it is always interesting to watch the group dynamics begin to form. I think many were expecting the director to take the lead but he refrained from doing so. Quite a few sat silent for most of the meeting while a handful of others spoke up sharing their needs. I don’t know if it was the morning factor or the uncertainty of expectations but the format definitely favors the aggressive.

Major themes included legal, website development, and people. The people issue was something that was continually brought up like an echo that kept bouncing of a canyon wall. So it was proposed that over the next few weeks if anyone came across people interested in working for a start-up they were to refer them to the Gangplank meeting on Wednesday night around 6pm to meet the different teams and find out what they needed. So if you’re interested come on down!

In a previous post I listed out the different teams that were a part of the Boom Startup program (which also started today-with the pairing of the teams with their mentors and expectation setting) so to be fair and to begin to be bias here is a list (names and sites may change in the future-I’ll try to keep it updated) of the different Foundry teams with a brief and probably inaccurate summary of what they’re all about. (hokie pokie everyone!) My apologies for anything or one left out.

  1. Meta Restaurant-Nutritionally balanced fast food
  2. ColdSpoon-Spoon used for cooling food and measuring temp.
  3. Early Stage Legal-Documentation creation for entrepreneurs
  4. EngineerInc-GIS Planning System
  5. Patriotic Reflections-Internet retailer of high quality flag displays
  6. Artesian Systems-Fashionable and easily maintainable water storage systems
  7. RedFlower-Authentic Auga Frescas
  8. Dash & Cooper-Custom suit experience at a non-traditional price
  9. iPadGame Controller-Universal controller
  10. A Priori-Specialty foods wholesaler (by the way he has some great deals on fancy chocolate)
  11. Novobi-IT consulting and creation services w/team in Vietnam
  12. CupAd-Putting the brand in their hand (fun tagline) Ads on coffee cups provide free to coffee shops
  13. Seam Machine-Machine that replaces a 3-man roof restoration team
  14. Salt Lake Mobile Detail-Mobile auto detailing
  15. for social media marketing
  16. Btree Media– Media Design and Marketing Company
  17. Reminiscent Pictures-Creating digital memories
  18. Life Sciences- Commercializing life sciences innovations
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