As you fellow startup-ies surely know, the first year in the startup life (just like every other year) is a pure rollercoaster. But I think that the first year of a startup journey just grabs you by surprise — you have absolutely no idea what’s coming towards you so you just do the best you can with every living cell in your body. Because who knows what those little efforts can lead up to in the future…
This is where I believe reflecting plays an important part. Do a lot, try as much out as you can but don’t forget to think about it afterward and find out what you can learn from it.
This is to get you into the Holiday spirit
Now that the holidays are around the corner, I tried to settle down a bit myself to take some time to reflect on the past year. What has happened? What did we do and what did we not do? And the most important part, what have we learned from those experiences?
The 10th of March marks the beginning of our crazy Yodel-journey. We launched our product on Product Hunt that day with all sorts of overwhelming feelings. I’ve written a blog post about it, check it out.
We reached #1 in Tech!
When now looking back, I can definitely say that this is a great way to introduce your product to a broader audience. Just be aware that the Product Hunt community is, to an extent, only great with trying out new things and giving constructive feedback. If you are expecting an audience with good retention for your product, Product Hunt will not do the trick (especially with a monthly fee-based SaaS product) as it gives you (as Mike would say) a ‘high signal to noise ratio’.
When we launched on PH, we only had an MVP ready. We wanted to see if our product is interesting to people out there — if we get good feedback, we will continue with Yodel. If there’s little reaction to it, then we leave it at that… As simple as that.
At the bottom line, PH is perfect for this approach. You can reach a big audience and see if it is interesting enough to give it a try.
Our next huge milestone was on May 18th: We have become part of the Seedcamp family!
This was by far the biggest achievement. I’m not mentioning ‘family’ out of anywhere. Seedcamp truly is an early-stage fund that helps you through the first rough months with tremendous help, feedback, and persistence to give you the necessary kick to get big.
Celebrating the Seedcamp Onboarding Week with Pizza and a nice view ;)
Now looking back I can say that Seedcamp was a big door opener for us. Having this well known British fund on our side helped us to start conversations with other Angels and investors. Also, the continuous ‘Seedcamp sessions’ were great to brainstorm which next steps we should take.
On that note, I also have to mention all the awesome startups that are also part of Seedcamp. We treat each other like a real family — support each other in any way possible. Thanks for being so awesome… you know who you are ;)
During the summer we got connected to a number of different business angels and finalized our pre-seed round during this time (note: get to know as many people as possible, you always meet twice in life ;) ).
Pitching at the Business Angel Summit (photo credit: Business Angel Summit)
It might sometimes be frustrating to meet with so many potential investors and then get rejections anyways. But every startup has to go through this process. Even Airbnb or Uber got rejected so often that they might have felt like an ugly duckling… And look where they are now! The important part is to get investors on board that you have a good feeling about — maybe they are an expert in your field, or maybe they just share the same vision with you. No matter what it is, you need to feel comfortable with it to be able to stay in a long-lasting partnership with them!
From what they’ve told me it was an intense two weeks of speed dating investors and potential partners. Why is the saying ‘time is money’ popping into my head? Anyways, this trip was an essential signal for us: Our customers, our partners and therefore also our main (future) investors are in the US. We need to be present there to keep growing fast enough. This means that we will be showing up more often (and partly move) in the US in the upcoming year.
The Seedcamp team + startups in the US
Our experience tells us that it is easy to get a meeting with e.g. Evernote, Twilio, or Slack if you get intros that vouch for you. So again, your network plays an essential role in these kinds of things. Even if you’re not the biggest socializer, you need to get out of your comfort zone and meet new people!
Our whole team has been working a lot in the last two months to build a stronger product — to get the right people to test Yodel and to get the right perspective on what we want to build: an intelligent phone system for small teams.
On the last point, I want to encourage you to reflect on your year as well. What were your major learnings? What surprised you? Or what incidence made the difference? I’m really eager to know what you learned from this insane year.
PS: Make sure to keep up with our story on our blog. This year was about building the foundation for what is to come next year: the best voice communication tool on the market and a lot of happy customers! :)
Happy Holidays & a Happy New Year! The Yodel Team