Agony of a First Time Founder
What being a first-time founder taught me:
I started my first company straight out of college. I had little experience in how professional things work. We know what we were going to build. It was derived from a problem I faced. The idea was something we were working on since college and we were damn sure it would work. For it had no code, fintech, automation, etc buzz words associated with it.
The first 2-3months went into building pitch decks. We reached out to a lot of investors, mostly incubator programs, angel investors etc. We were lucky to be selected by an incubator program and also raised angel funds. We were still at an idea stage till then. Post funding, we hired a resource and directly started the development of the product. This is where we faltered. We didn't do any user interviews, no competitive analysis and did not get a designer on board. Our backend was extremely strong but many user-facing assets were not "that great".
After a development of 7-8 months, we released the first version of our web app. We did PR and we thought bang, we would make a lot of money. All this while, the fundamental building blocks of project management, QA, UX etc were missing. It's not that we didn't do any search, it's just that we did not come across any resources for first-time founders like us that would help in understanding a product lifecycle journey. There were tools like JIRA and Notion Trello, and there were chatbots, but there was no guide or tool to do competitive analysis, interviews, research, user profiling or even calculation of TAM, SAM, or SOM.
Our first launch was received with mixed numbers. The concept was good, people said, the execution wasn't good, the numbers said. We got traffic but we didn't get conversions. Having a confused outset about what is happening, we slowly understood that design is important, but by then, we were quite out of money and instead of putting all our energy into one thing, we added more services that we're built on top of our product, thinking our product was quite complex and we could do well if we added a simpler service. Here, the challenge of sales came in. None of us had any idea about sales. We tried along for the next six months but things were going nowhere. Investors backed out, founders split and in the end was a Frankenstein monster of a product. It was not bad, the product shaped decently well after spending another 1 year on it, but it was something that was in the middle like you get a B+ on your assignment. You haven't failed but you are also not getting into MIT with a B+.
Slowly when sense prevailed, after making every mistake of a founder, we build something good but we're out of money. Then were we got acquired.
In hindsight, the following things could have been better:
Product Research, User Interviews, a proper product mentor
Validation of idea, prototype
Design, Importance of UX based on Target Audience
Proper product management
Understanding when to keep on working and when to pivot
If you are a startup founder, validate your idea with the industry, then do everything else.