The Best Thing I’ve Ever Done for my Startup Has Been to Quit Coding
In tech startups, acquiring as many developers as you can is an art form. When my cofounders and I started Rumgr, we hit the keyboards running and built a beautiful consumer iPhone app that scaled well, had back-end systems for monitoring user activity, email reporting software, and built an elastic search layer between MongoDB and our API. This thing had all the potential in the world to “disrupt the Craigslist monopoly on local buying and selling.” Except for users…
Being “Zappos Mafia” kids and leveraging our Tony Hsieh and Downtown Project connections worked really well at getting local and national news coverage. As we came to find out though, media and a fancy set of seed investors isn’t a great way to acquire customers. Every week that our user base didn’t grow by 5-7 percent we immediately thought, “This is a product problem, let’s tweak our app!” You can guess how that turned out.
Finally we really started asking ourselves, “Why don’t more people use Rumgr?” Well, we had around 5,000 email addresses of signed up users so I started emailing them to ask them questions. That turned into meeting up with people at coffee shops. That turned into understanding why people were even looking for an app like ours in the first place. That turned into looking for more people and channels to reach people who had these burning issues. After reaching out and talking, talking, talking, I was too tired to code anything. That’s when I realized that talking to people was helping us make progress. Not coding. My team and I have a whole new understanding of our customers and their pains. That’s when I told my co-founder and our amazing employee that I was going to stop coding altogether and that their work-loads just got a little heavier.
Being a “business guy” never appealed to me until it was do or die time. So commit whatever changes you have in git right now and “get out of the building.” Here’s to you “Non-technical Business Folks.” My hat is off to you.
I Love How Ugly Quibb.com Is
First off, If Sandi Macpherson or anybody else who has worked on Quibb reads this, don’t be offended by the title of this post. I mean it with the best of intentions, and love the service.
What is Quibb
If you haven’t seen Quibb.com yet, you should definitely check it out. I was invited by a friend about 2 months ago, and have loved using the service ever since. The site, and now mobile app, is similar to Bufferapp.com, but focuses more on the people who are sharing the articles rather than the analytics of how many clicks, RTs, and favorites your shares are getting. Quibb has really put a huge focus on curating their community and reaching a lot of influential people in the industry to share articles. For example, if I share an article to Quibb and see that Sandi Macpherson (Founder of Quibb), Andrew Chen (Growth Hacking Blogger), and Hiten Shah (Founder of KISSmetrics) have all checked out my article, that will get me pumped to keep using Quibb.
Ugly you say?
Yes, it’s not a pretty site. The links are blue. There aren’t a lot of fancy rounded corners, and drop shadows. Pretty much everything is white, or a shade of grey with some icons sprinkled in. It looks like a quick twitter bootstrap installation with some basic CSS styles for the layout. That’s about it. The app is even simpler. With minimal functionality and hardly any design.
That is also the greatest thing about Quibb. It’s not beautiful. With all of that lack of graphical design, the service still works, and works really well. In the end that’s all I really care about. To me, all this can only mean one thing. Sandi and her team are getting to market quick. Skipping some of the details, and focusing really hard on the community, getting the best content from around the web, and making sure Quibb users are engaged. She’s doing that very well in my opinion.
So while Quibb could be prettier, the service is awesome and I’m excited to keep using it and seeing how it evolves over time.
Why you should NOT cold-email Steve Ballmer
Recently, Elizabeth Yin of LaunchBit wrote an article called “Why You Should Cold-Email Steve Ballmer.” In the article she says to aim high in a corporation to as a way to reach the decision makers that can then delegate down to lower level employees for action.
Traditionally this is how enterprise sales have worked, but I think there is a new trend of “bottom up” sales that has proven to be a very effective and arguably better way to do enterprise sales.
The Yammer Example
Probably the biggest example of a bottoms up approach to enterprise software has been Yammer. They took the approach of being very valuable to employees by solving their problems on a small scale, and making it easy to invite their coworkers to start using the service. When they would reach enough people in a company, only then would they go to a VP or C-level person and say, “All your employees are already using our product. Let’s just make it official. $$$” Working your way into an organization like this is how you become a $1.2 billion company in 4 years.
Tech companies are riddled with software development tools that started from the bottom up. Think about Github, Pivotal Tracker, and Basecamp. While working at Zappos, the call came down from the top that we needed to start tracking our time with this tool called AtTask. After using the tool one time, we started rioting, picketing, and boycotting against the tool because it was horrendous, unusable, and honestly made us scared for our jobs.
Maybe You Don’t Need the Whole Enterprise
Recently I’ve been looking for “ins” at some very large corporations at the very bottom of the food chain. Not because I want to work my way up through the corporate hierarchy, but because I the business model I’m pursuing doesn’t rely on closing the “big deal.” Corporations are a wealth of knowledge and traffic, so I’m interested in the folks on the front lines.
So instead of thinking about how you can close the big deal, try thinking how you can change your value proposition to close smaller deals that can grow into big money makers.
March 27, 2013 at 12:04pm
Is Your Startup Community Screwed When the Poster Child Leaves?
Today, one of the first Vegas Tech Fund startups Romotive, announced that they would be leaving Las Vegas for Silicon Valley. This is huge news for our fledgling Vegas Tech community. But is it bad news? I don’t think so.
At, first my mind went straight to, “Oh noes! Romotive is implying that you can’t grow past a certain size here in our community.” After reading Frank Gruber from Techcocktail’s point of view, though, I completely changed my attitude.
Yes, it sucks that they’ll be leaving our community. Keller, Phu, Peter, Jen and other Romoites are good friends of mine. Now they’ll live far away and I won’t be able to hang out with them eating, drinking, and playing ping pong during community dinners. What is awesome about this change though, is that they’re an awesome company. They’re going to be around for a long time. They’re going to change the world, and they started all of that right here in downtown Las Vegas.
Romotive came here with a Kickstarter win, and a couple of robots. In less than 2 years they left with 20 people, millions of dollars, and connections to pretty much any resources they’ll need.
Tech communities are very much like company growth networks. If your community can be really valuable to small startups and help them get to around 20 people quickly, and then move on, that’s a good thing. That’s very attractive to other small startups. So we’ll just have to own that for a while, be the “accelerator city” that Frank talked about. As we get a flow of startups coming in, exploding, and moving out, Vegas will start to be more valuable past the 20 person mark and it’ll get to critical mass.
I wish Romotive the best of luck changing the world!
An Introduction is in Order
I moved to Las Vegas in 2008 to work for Zappos.com. To be honest, I thought I would be aiming for San Francisco where “all the cool tech companies” were. Then I found this little island in the desert.
That island got really small when I discovered that Zappos was pretty much it when it came to technology, culture, and passionate people here in Vegas. Or so I thought…
For me, what started out as two cool bars that only locals went to, has turned into what I like to think of as a revolution. I personally feel like my small contribution to this revolution is in helping to build the tech startup community here.
What follows this post are articles, quotes, and personal experiences I’ve had or stumbled across.