Relationships are key to succeeding in business. Before our company even had a product, we acquired our first customers just by selling our ideas alone. But what happens after you gain your first few followers? If you don’t act fast, your believers will go away, so we wanted to get to $10,000 monthly recurring revenue as fast as possible.
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The $10k is not a goal in itself. It’s just money; a means to an end. The real challenge was to prove our first believers we are worthy of their initial trust. If we can confirm their belief, we can also expand our customer base.
Here are a few lessons we learned going from four believers to $10,000 in MRR.
Hire a designer on day one
If your job isn’t design-based, find someone who can give you that advantage. Great design maximizes the impact of technical innovation. Your product could function well, but if it isn’t easy to use, it won’t retain fans.
Having a designer on board gives us the ability to work out features without writing a single line of code. While developers are programming Feature One, our designer can work on Feature Two with our customers. Only when Feature Two is completely validated by users, developers will start programming. It’s efficient without too much back and forth.
Search for your non-technical cofounder
What appeared to be one of my biggest weaknesses turned out to be a huge strength. Because I’m not technical, we had a huge focus on sales and customer success from day one.
It’s important to find cofounders who can give you different expertise and perspectives in order to make your product as well-rounded as possible.
Customers are awesome
Well sure, this is a given. Good days or bad, if you have customers involved in your business, everything will get better.
Always value feedback from these customers 1,000 times more than feedback from peers or prospects. Product feedback from peers are almost always worthless. Best case scenario, they know as much about your target audience as you do. No one knows your market better than the people using it.
Take a step back
At the beginning of Darwin, it was all about execution. The more we grow, the more we needed to take the time and reflect about where we’re going, and plan accordingly.
Whether that means taking a break, working from a different location, or contribute to a different project entirely, you can benefit from taking your eyes off project for a second to get a fresher look each time you come back.
Allow me to let you in on a secret: I am the dumbest person working at Darwin. But when I get smart people to talk to each other, magic happens. So my main job is to connect people and allow the collaborations to conjure productivity.
Whether that means conversations between you and your team, or your company and its customers, you must constantly keep the communication going in order to obtain all possible perspectives.
Your company is a funnel
Us startup people are no corporate bozos, and our biggest strength is agility. But don’t be too eager to drink the startup Kool-Aid. You’ll need some kind of process if your aim is to build a high-growth – but sustainable – business.
Every part of your business should be about “Get, Keep, and Grow” customers. From sales to development, and customer support to marketing, we plot the activities along these three goals.
Funny thing about process is that it won’t work for your company unless everyone believes it will. Build your own process, and empower your employees so they work to attain that goal too.
What’s up next?
Looking back, our $200k angel funding truly brought us to a point where we have a minimum sellable product, and an enthusiastic user base buying, using, and recommending the product.
Darwin is growing pretty fast, and it’s time for us to take this first validation to the next level. Right now, we have four full time staff and a clear view on the people we need to scale our growth.
This is not a checklist for success, but a general guideline from our experience. Just like any of us, I’m vulnerable to the narrative fallacy, and above anything you should build your own checklist as well.