Yesterday was tremendous…and horrible. Tremendous for getting to see Nashville, Chattanooga, and Birmingham, and horrible for feeling like I was in a constant battle trying to continuously re-explain Lean Startup 101 with people that claimed they read the book and fully agreed with it’s basic philosophy.
Day two was…much of the same. It started by coming to understand that Abby wouldn’t be able to continue with this business after we ended the Startup Bus. She said she was a full-time student, and had an internship, and would maybe be able to put in eight hours a week.
If you recall, I asked everyone before we even started if they were interested in actually starting a company. She shrugged it off and said, “Yeah, sorry about that.”
I told her that I need her to be honest with me going forward, because, again, I left my job and home behind to find people that are ready to start a company. If she isn’t it, she needed to say that back when I asked the first time. It was really frustrating, but I expected people to lie, or not be honest on this trip. She just happened to be the first one.
We stayed the night in Birmingham, but still didn’t come to a solid conclusion on specific roles for our team members, a mission statement, or even how the product should function. Honestly, my expectation is that they are being honest when they say they don’t feel like they have a role. But it’s weird because I have told them that I know exactly what I need for my company…they just don’t want anyone to be designated a manager or a CEO. It’s…strange. They all want personal autonomy, but admit that we need clear direction.
I’m not sure I understand why they won’t let me run this, because they clearly need guidance, and I am telling them everything about this company from the way it functions, revenue models, projected early adopters, target audience, expected criticism from the public, judges, investors, and etc.
Abby has come up with colors and a logo. Dulce has…I’m not sure what she has done, because she should have been coming up with the a target audience, who they are, what they do, and how to market to them…but it’s day two and she hasn’t done anything yet except complain about salary and that she knows business. I beg to differ (internally).
Joon and I are on the same page. We decided to just build the app and website as we would want, because we need to have something to show to people today. I drew a simple wireframe for the app, and got feedback from Joon. He liked the MVP, then Joon got to work. I built a simple wireframe for the website, and got to work on that. This isn’t perfect (ideally everyone would have a solidified role and we would all be in agreement with one person making sure everyone was on task), but we don’t really have a team, we have a collection of individuals and the two with the least experience continue to refuse to get guidance from those of us with more experience.
Some teams are already contacting businesses with a prototype…we have barely come up with a name.
This morning we connected with the New Orleans bus. To be clear, one bus started in New Orleans and will arrive back in New Orleans, and one bus (my bus) left from St. Louis. The St. Louis bus and the New Orleans bus both met in Birmingham; we joined their bus considering we only had eight busprenuers, and three mentors/event organizers.
I got to meet a gentleman named Joe who was building a product called Rumi. He was very direct, honest, and funny as can be. He and I got along great from the get go.
When we got to Memphis, Tennessee we arrived at Start Co – a startup incubator. For lunch, they provided us some tasty Tennessee BBQ that was just delicious.
My team still had internal debates about our vision. Abby and Dulce wanted a free app that provided free travel for people. I informed them that it’s definitely a cool idea, but starting a charity is a major effort that I am just not ready for, I left my job and home behind so I’m not in a position to start a charity as I need a means to survive myself.
They continued to argue about our business philosophies, but claimed they didn’t see what the differences were…which was confusing to me, and still is. So, I re-explained that we have two different companies being pitched: 1) Abby and Dulce are pitching a travel charity app and 2) Joon and I are pitching a travel app with an emphasis on connecting travelers before their trip or connecting people to jobs in different cities to build resources and our intent is to make money off of their travel expenses and a premium version of our app.
Abby and Dulce think the differences are small, and I had to explain that a charity and a for profit business are very big differences, and when we ask for commitment from our users or our investors, we need to pitch our product different. They got frustrated, and Dulce continued to stress that this is a hackathon. Even after pitching our product and being asked about our revenue model, she still insists that this is not a startup, we are just at a hackathon…I really don’t know what else to tell her at this point.
Abby was growing increasingly frustrated with me, and I was trying to iron out our differences amicably, but they revolve around her not feeling like she has a role while simultaneously taking on more roles (for example, she came up with colors that she likes thanks to adobe color wheel that I showed her, and she created a logo, and she is piecing together the presentation, and refuses to let anyone else pitch). So, her role is pretty clear right now, she is creating the presentation and practicing pitching the product. The logo and colors are done; their fine; we can always change them later.
They are making this much more difficult than it needs to be, but that is due to their inexperience.
At Start Co, all of the startup bus members sat across from a Start Co member in desk chairs (pictured above). The rules were clear.
- The Startup Bus member would pitch their product in 60 seconds to the Start Co member
- The StartCo member would provide 30 seconds of feedback
- The StartCo member would pitch their product in 60 seconds to the StartupBus member
- The Startup Bus member would provide 30 seconds of feedback
- Then, we would rotate one chair to the right.
Basically it was speed pitching, kind of like speed dating.
Then, we I gained a lot of experience pitching my product fast. This was spectacular. The best feedback I got was, “I heard of your product two times already from Joon and Abby. After hearing it from you, I clearly understood your company and your vision now that you explained it. As a side note, I’d totally use that version of your app.”
I sat there like…
I pitched my product at least 20 times…it was amazing. Each time I gained more confidence, and each time I got such positive feedback: everyone said they would use it.
I was on top of the world, and I came back to my teammates refreshed, and eager to share. A few of them felt electric too.
Finally, I thought I had them on my side; they finally got it: this is more than a hackathon, it’s a startup accelerator + hackathon. So, I suggested we perform our pitch to each other so we can see if we are all on the same page since we haven’t been so far.
The group agrees.
Abby is pitching her version…and 10 or so seconds in Dulce interrupts her in disagreement.
Dulce wanted to butt in to explain her feedback first. She doesn’t give anyone a chance to respond, and just keeps talking…when I tried to explain that Abby was in the middle of pitching her version of the product, Dulce ignores me and just speaks louder.
So, the feedback Dulce received revolved around:
- Who is your target audience, what are you trying to accomplish; what is this?
- What is your mission
- What is your revenue model
So, I explain to her that a charity is going to be very difficult to pitch to entreprenuers. She disagreed she had a charity, which was still confusing considering she was pitching a free app and free travel, with no source of revenue.
I continued to express to her that I didn’t receive the same feedback she did; the others in the group agreed that they received different feedback, except Abby. Abby said she received similar responses.
Dulce disagreed; she insisted that Joon, Florent, and I couldn’t have received different feedback (I was getting fed up with her at this point). She argued that I was too busy trying to be the leader to know what the product was. I informed her that her statement is partially correct: I was trying to direct my team so they wouldn’t have these uncomfortable experiences because this is not just a hackathon, we are supposed to start a company in three days on a bus, just like what was advertised.
She disagreed…somehow. So, I told her I don’t know how much longer I can work with someone that is intentionally sabotaging things, and walked away because it was at this time I realized that there wasn’t any point trying to have a rational conversation with her; I was wasting my time.
We left Memphis not much further ahead as a team than where we were when we got here, but I grew tremendously individually by getting the feedback I needed for my company. I will build on the various criticisms and positive feedback I received.
Oh, and I forgot to mention, a team liked me enough that they asked me to move to Shanghai with them for the Winter.
I’m going to give that some serious consideration.