This is a post in a series where I discuss my failures in the first year of being an entrepreneur. Today the most important lesson: never ever stop selling…
Other posts in this series:
- First Year Failures of an Entrepreneur: #2 Be Careful What You Build For
- First Year Failures of an Entrepreneur: #3 Getting Your Story Straight
We started Treeveo in the 2nd half of 2013. I personally designed the first version of Treeveo and coded a prototype during my IESE MBA. At the turn of the year 2013/2014 we got our first investment round. I can remember the feeling of logging in to our bank account and seeing this money, feeling like we could change the world and had all the time. But of course this was a lie.
After the investment, we started to re-build the system from scratch. We hired a professional designer to re-design our interface. Besides we re-built the core of Treeveo from the ground up. We started the process of switching from what coders call “Spagetti Code” made by yours truly, to a real robust core. We started implementing CodeIgnitor and a whole bunch of other amazing stuff.
The most exciting was designing the new user experience of Treeveo. We were deciding which functionality to keep and move to the new version and where to put it. At the same time I was still doing some sales but not a lot. We thought that changing the core and the user interface would take max 3 months.
So I thought that it would be silly to keep selling the “old” version of the product knowing that a new version was in the makes. I imagined the following: I would go to a potential client and would say something like: “We are launching a new version in 3 months” and I thought they would then respond with: “…then come back in 3 months”. This feeling and the false security of cash in the bank made me think I could wait for the new product to be finished while helping develop some of its features.
The 3 months turned into many more…
This means that for a number of months we didn’t work on our sales pipeline enough. For a B2B startup like ours this of course is a big mistake. We should always have been selling. We were able to achieve sales with the earlier version and we should have kept selling. Having a new version to show is actually a great excuse to get back in touch with potential clients. A B2B company with a 6 to 9 month sales cycle should always be selling. A start-up should figure out its business model as soon as possible. It should try to discover who is willing to pay for its products and services. This (and users) is the best and only way to show to everyone that the company you are building works works: investors, potential employees and most importantly… to yourself.
So when you do a start-up… never, ever, ever stop selling,
p.s. For those among you that say a startup sometimes needs to focus on users, just replace the “never stop selling” with “never stop acquiring users”. In the end it all comes down to traction. Survival requires money. Either directly through sales or investment. The latter also requires traction (user acquisition).