Start Up Stories

Start-up Lessons

Posted in Uncategorized by Devon on November 17, 2008

Hi, I’m Devon Kinkead from the U.S. and I am about 5 months into my second start-up business. I sold my first company, a high-tech manufacturing company, and I thought I’d share my reflections on this second start-up in the hopes that some other entrepreneurs or investors might benefit or help me refine my thinking.

I have started an online discount bill-pay service called Micronotes.  Here are a few reflections on my notes from work week 25, 2008 — the week after I started the company. 

I started the company on 16 June 2008 with one intern , a brilliant student and friend of the family, in a one-room office on the 13thfloor of One Broadway in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Though the office is small, it is a palace compared to the $100/month laboratory I rented in an old soap factory where I started my first company. My father and I used to joke about who started in the most humble surroundings but after he visited my filthy laboratory and found that his shoes stuck, almost permanently, to the floor which was covered with about a century of unvented soap lubricant condensate, he conceded victory.   

I see from my report that I was researching credit scores my first week because I was trying to understand the impact of credit scores on small businesses, our target market at that time.   In fact, I built math models to estimate the cost of a 100-point drop (one late payment) in credit scores which I estimated to be $38-$3600 per year; that’s a pretty big number! 

I see that I spent some time working with a friend and former marketing and PR colleague on building a company name and brand.  We thought naming the product would take 4-6 weeks; it actually took 4-5 months! 

I wrote my first 2-page summary of the business and sent it to a couple of potential investors.  At that time, we were very much focused on finding a banking partner to help us execute the transactions needed to discount customer bills.  As it turns out, none of the large banks were interested in partnering with a start_up. 

I also see that I drafted a user-interface specification to share with the growing list of people that I was inviting to participate in the business. 

Lessons Learned:

  1. Don’t work alone!  Find an intelligent person to work with, experienced or not, you’ll need the help and someone to talk to, nurture, and bounce ideas off of – 
  2. Do Understand that your goal is to fail fast – not succeed quickly!  Standing here, looking back 5 months, I see that I didn’t know what I didn’t know and you won’t either so just move, explore, and stay focused on the value proposition and celebrate fast intelligent explorations down tubes with no cheese.
  3. Do “Plan, Do, Check” – the whole process of publicly committing to a measurable list of goals, every week, and holding yourself accountable to report results to those goals ensures that you execute your plan and check your results before taking next steps.
  4. Do Court the customers, not the existing market players!  This is the second start-up where I have struggled to actually do business with the bigger existing market players right off the bat.  Having run a business unit in a multinational company for a couple of years, I know that these guys are typically just too busy to deal with risky start-ups.
  5. Do invite people to come learn about the company – they may well be your future partners!
  6. Everything will take much longer than expected – be prepared!

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