This is a guest post by my friend and classmate Rachel Wolan. I worked alongside Rachel in helping run the Berkeley Digital Media Conference, >play. Rachel is the founder & CEO of YadaZing – product maven, ex-Facebook and ex-SAY Media. She shares her thoughts in her blog and tweets at @rachelwolan.
I am the founder of YadaZing.com, a media platform for English language instructors (producers) and students (consumers). We maniacally focus on the question, “who do we create value for and why?”
In every platform business, you need to solve the Chicken/Egg problem AND make sure that producers produce. On our platform, we are focusing on the underserved but small segment, English instructors. We give them tools to engage and interact with English students, the overserved but enormous segment.
We are making a bet that our early adopters will be part of the 1% (of the 90/9/1 rule) who will create great content; this is our gateway to the 99% who consume the great content.
This is a guest post by Hubert, Palan, a good friend and classmate from Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley. Hubert (twitter: @hpalan) is the founder and CEO of ProductBoard.com, a platform for strategic product design and management headquartered in San Francisco, California. Prior to ProductBoard, Hubert was the Vice President of Product Management at GoodData, where he managed GoodData’s disruptive platform business, built the whole front-end product management team from the ground up and established and embodied modern principles of user experience designs.
An additional note – I see Hubert as the model for taking risks. He decided to launch a startup not because it was the only option available to him but when he was succeeding in his career and had multiple choices at his disposal.
Let me tell you a short story. My wife, Jenna, and I went for a run early one morning in the Oakland hills. We had an idea where we wanted to go, but we didn’t have a map so we didn’t know how to get there. As we ran we asked several dog-walkers for directions along the way. Since it was after a rainy night, and I was running in very thin-soled running shoes, we asked if their recommended path would be muddy or not. As it turns out, different people have conflicting opinions about both the directions and the quality of the road. Eventually after a few wrong turns we found the right path, but of course contrary to what people said, it was pretty muddy.
Why am I telling you this? I recently quit my job at GoodData and started working on my own startup. Our morning run got me thinking about the challenges you have as a founder building a startup, or a new product. You have an idea of where you want to arrive – your dream target audience with a great need, that your perfect solution will satisfy.
You need to create a product roadmap that would navigate your team. Not only do you not have a map, you don’t even know if there are any roads out there. Muddy or otherwise.
So you head out and start asking for advice. You talk to advisors, investors and one potential customer after another trying to discover the roads and choose the best and shortest one. Advisors and investors give you conflicting advice about the best way, because even though they are great runners, they never ran quite the same route. Various potential customers suggest different features they would want, though they are not really sure if they even need them. They are like the dog-walkers, who are not sure about the route either, but since you ask, they make up an answer.
So you run in circles and take many wrong turns. You hope for smooth paths, and they turn out to be muddy. Hopefully though, you end up finding the right way and reaching your goal.
My friend and mentor Arthur J. Collingsworth always said: “Persistence, persistence, persistence.” So no matter if you are running in some hills, building a startup or working on a new product, persevere and keep on running.