Startup Growth Requires Making Your Own Luck
Great things don’t just appear out of thin air. You have to nurture and cultivate them over time into what you envision as your dream company.
That, my friends, is the secret to startup success.
Yes, you have to build a solid product. You will need to attract great technical talent. You also need to have enough user engagement and financial capital so you don’t end up in Startup Death Valley. But even if you have all that in your favor, luck is still required if you want to succeed.
Luck gives you the breaks you desperately need to go from a no-name into household name.
Seconds has been given an amazing opportunity to drive payments for a nationwide holiday event. I will provide more detail as the event nears but suffice it to say this lucky opportunity is only possible because of what we have done over the past year.
It definitely didn’t appear out of thin air. Day by day over the past year we made it happen.
We launched the earliest version of Seconds about a year ago, under a different name and clearly aimed at a different customer segment. The product was buggy as hell and to be honest, a bit embarrassing. But that’s the point of an early release, isn’t it? It does you no good to have an idea without a product others can touch, taste and see. We knew we needed to get something into end-customers hands ASAP if we were going to receive any feedback – feedback that actually led to our next iteration. I consider it lucky we were able to have a team willing to quickly put out a buggy product and gain much needed feedback. In fact, we created that luck by committing to releasing immediately and listen to the feedback.
Not surprising, I like to write. Also not surprising, I like to write about Seconds and payments in general, on this blog as well as others more well known. For a number of reasons, I believe this is why we are in the position we are in now given we have only been around 12 months.
If you search Seconds, we come up fourth, above the fold, right below a Wikipedia entry for the time interval and a few links to a movie also titled Seconds. This is huge, as early feedback on the name was something akin to “great name, but how are you going to be found in Search? Pretty tough huh?” Well, that’s where writing comes in…. the more links to a website the more “relevant and valuable” it is in the search index algorithm. I have no idea how many links are pointing to Seconds but it’s quite a few, based on how many articles I have written as well as how many others have written about Seconds. This tactic also has helped Seconds gain media attention a lot earlier than other startups in the same situation. At least we had something written about us and our vision the media could go off of, even if it’s from the founding team.
Founders need to speak loudly about what they are doing. If you don’t, why should the media? Getting your word out and better positioning your product are a few ways to create your own luck.
Discovering product market fit is probably the most challenging task for an early stage startup. It’s one thing to sit at the white board and determine your products are meant for __(whatever)___ market; it’s a whole other ballgame once you get outside the office and try to grow a customer base in that market. Not so easy…
Seconds is a payments system, a mobile focused one at that. Amazingly, almost every industry and market vertical handles payments in one way or anther. This poses both a great opportunity and a large problem. The fact that our larger market is HUGE is quite the opportunity. The challenge is trying to serve everyone right out of the gate, which is pretty much impossible. So we spent the last 8 or 9 months spraying our message quite wide, gaining attention from a number of customer bases. Some turned out well. Some did not. But the incredible thing is we have continued to learn from each and every customer discovery conversation, resulting in refinement of our pitch, company positioning and – at times – the very essence of our product. Ultimately, this practice led to a few very promising markets ready and willing to run with Seconds.
We refused to be boxed too narrow in the beginning, and it has paid off tremendously. A year ago, we were a text ordering system for local restaurants, struggling to fit our solution to their non-obvious problems. This winter, possibly millions of people will be using Seconds to make donations to an important cause with a few quick swipes of their finger. Everyone wants their payment experience be easier and more enjoyable, especially when making a quick donation.
Are we lucky? I would say yes. Did we create this luck? You bet. You can’t sit on your butt and think the world will come to you. If you want the world, you need to go out and get it.