The 2 Biggest Lessons Learned from My First Start-up
After my company was acquired a year ago by a large Fortune 150, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what made this different from my other ideas.
Before I started AppFog, I had tried dozens of terrible ideas that all failed miserably. I had bought a website that sold WordPress plugins. I had built a competitor to Flippa.com. I had created a wedding registry website. On the surface, these ideas all seemed good at the time. So what made AppFog different is a question I have asked myself a lot over the years.
I can sum up the difference with two simple points:
1. I had customers before I had written any code
The point in time I realized this was different was the morning after I had the idea for AppFog. That night, I had setup a landing page with 3 sentences (you can still find it on the wayback archive). I put the link on Hacker News and the next morning I had 800 people signed up for the service. Two weeks later the list had 2,000 people. By the time I had finished the MVP, I had 4,000 people waiting for it.
I didn’t have to beg people to check it out. I didn’t have to setup viral loops. I didn’t have to advertise. The idea solved a hair-on-fire problem. People were actively looking for a solution, and AppFog simply did what people needed. AppFog was a painkiller, not a vitamin.
2. I was my own ideal customer
Unlike the other ideas I had over the years, this time I knew how to get in front of my ideal customer. Because I was my own ideal customer. I just had to submit to the places I read everyday: Hacker News, Reddit, etc.
In contrast, I had never been a “part” of the WordPress plugin community. I had no idea where they hung out or where they got their news. I didn’t know where wedding vendors got their news. I was not my own ideal customer, so I was a fish out of water and because of that, I had no idea how to reach my audience.
Authors have the same problem as entrepreneurs with this some times. They often don’t know how to reach their audience and engage with them. A few weeks ago, I reviewed a startup fiction novel called Uncommon Stock by Eliot Peper and published by Brad Feld and FG Press.
This week, I had the honor of interviewing Eliot directly. Click here to watch the 49 min video podcast. We talked about that ways that writing a book is similar to starting a company as well as his writing process and much more.
If you would like to head an audio version instead of a video version, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. I hope you enjoy, please let me know if you think I should continue this video podcasting series and if you find it enjoyable.
About the Author
Lucas Carlson is a hands-on consultant, author and entrepreneur. He helps founders discover opportunities for growth, both for their companies and for themselves. He was the CEO and founder of AppFog, a popular startup acquired in 2013 after signing up over 100,000 developers and raising nearly $10M in venture funding from top angels and VCs.