How long is your runway?
Why runway is one of the most important things for a startup founder.
From a simple google search:
1. A strip of hard ground along which aircraft take off and land.
2. A raised aisle extending into the audience from a stage, esp. as used for fashion shows.
Let me suggest a third definition.
3. The amount of time a startup founder has to figure it out and make it happen before they have to give up and go find a job.
I was seeking advice from an experienced and cashed out entrepreneur the other day – perhaps pricing. He has a sales background and at his previous company he brought in $1 million in business before he took the plunge and quit his job along with his partners. They eventually figured out their business and delivery model and successfully delivered to their customer. He and his partners created for themselves a million dollar runway that gave them room to figure it out and make it happen.
My approach has been drastically different – we have built a product, a large database and a fabulous team – and in spite of single one client, for all intents and purposes we are pre-revenue. However I did start with a runway of my own. My runway is composed of personal savings and investments, for living expenses and funding the business, and programming, finance, and management experience that I am using to figure it out and make it happen.
Young entrepreneurs have the runway of youth and ambition, and a lack of bills and responsibility. Additionally they don’t know what they don’t know, so that makes them fearless and indomitable. That is all the runway they need to figure it out and make it happen.
My friend and I ended our conversation realizing that what we had in common was that we are both dead serious about doing this. We are not just dabbling around with starting up we are both trying to build companies and are willing to do it till we wrest some semblance of order out of the chaos that a company built from scratch can be.
This leads me to suggest a fourth definition:
4. The time a startup founder starts to spend a 100% of their time and attention on their company, in order to ensure that they do not run out of the same.
And this why, entrepreneurship and startups, in spite of surface challenges, are some of the most egalitarian pursuits out there.
As a woman you may have fewer men to relate to and learn from, or get a boost from just because they see themselves in you. But at the end of the day maybe you are more flexible and can find patterns or opportunities that men don’t.
If you are young, you have time on your side, and plenty of mentors who are older and wiser to look to, as well as very little to lose, but you will struggle with your inexperience in managing and in knowing what problems need solving.
If you are older, like me, you have experience on your side and real knowledge of problems that could do with an innovative solution, but you will struggle with an incredible fear of failure and have much more to lose on a real basis, not to mention a family whose future and well-being you put at risk.
But if you are a true entrepreneur you will learn to build from your strengths, and figure the rest of it out and make it happen. You only need a good runway.
(Originally posted at http://www.women2.com/how-long-is-your-runway/)
Interns to the rescue:
How and why startups should use this valuable resource
Conventional wisdom would say that we don’t have the time to train and manage a bunch of young ‘uns - we are trying to start and build a company!
Interns can make a HUGE difference to any startup. Here at SQBlueSky, a fledgling fin-tech startup based in Dallas, TX, we have a bunch of interns spending their summer with us. They have helped us establish our social media presence, develop content, do financial modeling and valuation, and create new marketing campaigns – nothing scares them.
Additionally, they contribute with their youth and excitement as only university students can.
Honestly - It has been a blast.
We quietly launched our first product in May of this year and within the first month we hit gold landing our first client, a local hedge fund in Dallas. We knew it was just the start of our long journey, and our first client knew – knows – we are a startup and sees its role as not just using our tool but also giving us feedback on the product to help us evolve it. So while we had a great start, we are still running a marathon.
This is where having a few smart, intelligent, quick learners on board to help out is worth every iota of time you spend with them.
What they bring to the table:
- The ability to work with no budget. Who knows more about how to be resourceful with little or no funding than students? David Li, an undergraduate at NYU, got us a great deal on a rechargeable battery just by knowing where to look for cheap goods. (Don’t underestimate the power of buying cheap as a startup!)
- An affinity for social media. Students live and socialize online. They all know how to “Like”, “Follow”, become “LinkedIn” and are serial “Tweeters”. It is an easy extension for them to create and manage a social media presence for a company.
- The curiosity bug. Interns are great at internet research. We are in the process of putting together an instructional video and between David, Yingxia Xie, an MS Finance student at UT Dallas, and Satvika Ananthanarayan, an undergraduate at UT Austin, they have been able to come up with a list of open source editing software, recommendations for music, and licensing costs in less than one hour.
- Inspiration – Satvika came up with the idea of having campus ambassadors, which makes a lot of sense for us because we plan to offer our tool to students for free and need advocates on the ground.
- Hip. Just admit it: students ALWAYS know more about what is going on than you do, including the best restaurants, music and movies – Yingxia, who is of Chinese origin, loves Hindi movies and recommended “Three Idiots”, which I enjoyed a lot!
What they get:
- Meaningful work experience that will help with getting a “real” job when they graduate.
- The startup work experience – where you work in a small team and your work will be directly and immediately impactful to the company.
Finding the right person is key, though. The right person wants to work for a startup, has done some research about what startups are all about, likes ambiguity, can think for themselves, and finally, is really, really intelligent.
Good luck with your interns and reaping the immediate benefits. Remember a small startup can deal with a learning curve, but a startup will die without passion, sweat equity and a balance of book and street smarts!
Originally posted at http://www.women2.com/interns-to-the-rescue-at-startups/.
We moved our main website from insideredge.com to www.sqbluesky.com. And blogged about it here. One of the reasons we didn’t mention in our blog post is that the insideredge.com url was blocked at a number of financial institutions due to its history - it used to be a sports betting website. Nothing to do with us, but when you are a start up its another hurdle that you don’t want your potential customers to climb. Another startup lesson learned!
So, we are live…
When I last posted a month ago, I was feeling a little disappointed that we hadn’t launched our product yet. Well we finally did last week. We did it quietly without any fanfare, apart from telling our friends and suporters. Why?
1) No pressure. A quiet launch allows us to make mistakes and missteps without drawing attention to it. Easy peasy.
2) Infrastructure. We are still a startup. We don’t have a lot of support staff (you’re looking at it), and we don’t want to get customers and then piss them off. When we weren’t looking we got a couple of people sign up on our website, they quietly stayed on our system until we “found” them in our database a couple of days after they’d signed up. Guys if you read this, we love you and you will eternally have access to any products we develop (yes, you can call me out on this). But I guess my point is, we didn’t know they were there and we hadn’t welcomed them with open arms.
3) Product / Functionality. A product (especially software or web product) is like a painting, you are never quite done. You could always add a little more red here, a little more blue there. Launching was a psychological, as much as a technical, hurdle for us. Launching before we were “perfect” was therefore our big win, even if we were just winning over ourselves.
For all our effort what do we have out there? A product we are pretty proud of… we do one thing and we do it well. We have a huge database, that we have been building and continues to grow of SEC filings. And we make it easy for you to find the filings you need to do your investment research.
These filings are a pretty powerful source of information, and they are also a pretty BIG source of information. So in addition our design and UI / UX focus - we wanted a product that is easy on the eyes, easy to use, close to three-clicks to get to any data point you want - we also had to solve technical issues of speed and accuracy, which if you think about it still goes back to being an UX issue!
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
This train is not ready to leave the depot
I loved this picture when I first saw it on istockphoto.com for the colors and the starkness of the picture. Like all good pictures it had me wanting to know the back story behind how the photographer came to take this picture.
But it also made me think of the stage that my company is at. We have a basic alpha built that we have left open to the public as a test while we are building a more robust product that we plan to launch soon using a paid subscription model. We have a train load of data that we are sitting on, and a basic set of features that we plan to launch with. We’ve also had a lot of great conversations with potential customers and people that use the data we have. However we are not done with coding and testing the features we want in our first release, so we can’t really pull the train out of the station yet.
While I love reading the stories of “overnight successes”, I enjoy even more digging into the story behind the headlines and come away energized that a lot of real hard work - blood, sweat and tears actually went into creating those overnight success stories. My experience has been no different.
The ides of March have come…
The context of the quote was a little different (see wikipedia article), but to me it was a whisper date for a soft release of a new feature - it does not look like we will achieve that goal. We may not be the last company to miss a deadline, self-imposed though it may be, but of course as Plutarch reminded him “Ay Caesar, but not gone.” - the day is not done. And the game is not all played out yet.
There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, ‘Do trousers matter?’
The mood will pass, sir.
P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters
A short post on working out of your home office:
I love working from home. Working from home has its advantages - your office is right there, no commute time, and you can take calls in your PJs
- although, does anyone? just did a couple of days ago! I have replaced my corporate dress code with the entrepreneur’s dress code - jeans and a comfortable shirt, and more importantly merrills or sneakers versus high heels. At this stage of our company, this is what makes perfect sense. The rent is right.