What I learned in 2017 as a start-up

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What I learned in 2017 as a start-up

Andrew Joyce explains how his app Found Careers went from obscurity to fame in three short years.

There’s a critical time in any start-up’s lifecycle. It’s the point that you become ‘A Thing’.

This might sound strange, but for everyone inside the business (especially those who’ve been there since the beginning), it’s very clear when you get to this point.

We. (Found Careers) were fortunate enough to become “A Thing” in 2017. And when you get to this point, it starts to feel very different to those early days, when you’re ‘Not Yet A Thing’.

As a ‘Not Yet A Thing’, everything feels slightly surreal, and a bit like everyone is working on a big school project. While you believe in the dream, no one outside the core team really cares what you’re doing. If you stopped doing it, the world wouldn’t miss it.

At this point if you try to tell your parents, friends or former work mates what you’re doing, they’ll typically mumble something like “oh wow, sounds exciting”, while kindly dismissing your plans for solving all the world’s problems.

There’s a critical time in any start-up’s lifecycle. It’s the point that you become ‘A Thing’

But once you’re ‘A Thing’, stuff changes. All of a sudden there are people using your product on a daily basis. They’ll start to tell you how your ‘Thing’ has helped them, and if something goes wrong they’ll complain (usually immediately, and loudly).

People you know start hearing about your business from someone other than you (that feels good!), and you start having people come to YOU wanting to use your product, rather than the other way around. You also start to get investors knocking on your door, rather than having to do all the work yourself.

So how do you get to this point? Here are three key things that we learnt in 2017 that are sure to help any other budding entrepreneurs.

Firstly, you need a plan – and it needs to be a good one. One that you’re willing to stick to for a long time, even if it doesn’t work at first. I often get people asking me what it takes to “build an app”, to which the answer is easy, “find someone who has an idea, and someone who knows how to code.”

The question of “how do I start a business that will grow into something bigger” is much harder. In 2018 the market for apps is incredibly competitive, and building and launching something without a plan of what to do next will get you nowhere, literally nowhere. When we first launched the Found app and before we started marketing it, we had zero downloads – I mean zero. “Build it and they will come” is not a strategy, and every customer or user you win into your new start-up will be hard-fought.

Next, understand that to get to the point where you’re ‘A Thing’ the old saying is true – it’s ‘1% inspiration, 99% perspiration’. Found is now almost three years old and it has taken all that time to start to get traction in a meaningful way. While this feels slow when you’re living it, it’s often easy to underestimate how long something has been around. After all, if Facebook was a person they’d be in high school (16 years old), while Google would likely be married and having kids (30 years old).

Finally, you need to define what success looks like to you – and celebrate it when you get there. Unlike in more traditional jobs, you don’t have a boss who’ll sit you down every so often and tell you what you’re doing right or wrong, and suggest where you need to improve. You’ll often go through periods where it will feel like everything is going wrong all at once (with no end in sight). When this happens it’s tough on everyone, so this means that when things are going well, you need to appreciate and celebrate it. After all, it’s moments like these that make the whole start-up journey (rollercoaster) worthwhile.

For my co-founder and I, it’s taken a long time to really understand these three points – and really it’s only now that we’re “looking back” on the last three years that it’s become clear.

So, if you’re thinking of taking the plunge and starting your own business, make sure you’ve got a plan, you’re patient and understand that it will take some time, and you know what success looks like.

If you can do this, there’s every chance the ‘Next Big Thing’ could be yours!

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