I joined the Escape School Startup Tribe about a month ago now with the desire to be part of a community that helps, shares and supports each other through this mad, complex and often un-nerving journey. Last week I spoke about the brilliance of others and how it was paralysing me with fear. But thoughts change at lightening speed on this startup rollercoaster and so this morning my attention turns to honesty and optimism.
Big Hitters & Small Startups
Last week I arranged for my co-founder and I to visit 3 agencies and brief them on the build and design of our platform (MVP). And despite choosing some pretty serious hitters in design/build/strategy world, I felt quietly confident about the meeting. We were after all, a potential client. Yet if I’m being brutally honest with myself, there was some nervousness and apprehension. What would they think of our idea? Would they be willing to help take us to the next level? I was quietly desperate for them to love us. And whilst we’d been clear with them in advance on being a startup without huge budgets like their other clients (Airbnb for example), at least we were clear on our business model – the what, the how and the why. Well, so I thought.
Clarity + Essence = Potency
Over the course of an hour spent with the first agency, we were beginning to feel overwhelmed, confused and frankly a little exposed. The agency team were fresh from their Airbnb re-brand (which is why I chose them – lofty I know when you’ve got a small budget) and wanted to know what was the ‘essence’ of our brand, what was our raison d’etre and what markets would we be targeting this message to. They proudly told us that Airbnb’s essence was ‘sharing’. Their whole reason for being is to ‘share’ and not perhaps as you’d have thought – to sell people’s spare rooms. As much as it traumatised me, I really liked this notion and it stuck with me. It depressed me, because I didn’t know the answer, but I liked it. What was our essence? That simple thing seemed so hard to clarify. We consoled ourselves with the fact that we didn’t have a $10m budget to find this out, like Airbnb did, but it was nevertheless frustrating. It sounded so simple, but we didn’t know the answer and I felt a failure. Our problem was this; when your audience could be pretty much anyone in the adult population, it’s actually quite hard to narrow it down to a target.
Despite a few weeks earlier going along to the brilliant @davidhieatt ‘s ‘How to Build a Brand with Very Little Money’ workshop (http://www.thedolectures.com/workshops/david-hieatts-do-workshop ) I clearly still hadn’t done enough work to get our little startup to brand status. So I went back and watched Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with the Why’ again (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPYeCltXpxw) . And again. I’ve watched it so many bloody times now. But it’s one thing to watch it and it’s another to be able to apply it effectively to your own business.
Why are the simplest things always hardest? They always say that’s why Apple is such a success. They make simple look easy. Yet it’s at this point of utter confusion and fog that you have to dig deeper, because the results will be so much more rewarding. Dig deeper and be really honest with yourself. Take a look in the virtual mirror of your startup and ask yourself if it and you, have got what it takes. If you think you have, then push on through. Even if you don’t, push on through this barricade. Because when you get through it, it’s undoubtedly the point of biggest breakthrough. And so that’s what we’re doing. We were confused, we were bruised and we’d taken 10 steps back during and after those agency meetings. But we pushed on. And it’s at this important juncture in our short history that we need to be most nimble and react with speed, enthusiasm and optimism. And we’re winning. The lack of clarity on purpose and audience is melting to reveal excitement and optimism for our future.