Our “overnight success” took 1,000 days.
-Brian Chesky, Airbnb
With so much media coverage about startups from popular tech publications like TechCrunch to TV shows like HBO’s Silicon Valley, it may seem like running a startup is all about glamorous product launches, huge rounds of fundraising, and overnight successes.
In reality, running a startup isn’t glamorous at all, nor do overnight successes ever happen. Rather, startups are full of repetitive tasks that need to be done each day and small steps that need to be taken consistently over a number of years.
Execution of this everyday work leads to learning bit by bit until you figure things out. It’s early times at ribl, so we haven’t quite figured out exactly what our users want and what we need to do to grow, but we’re certainly being educated little by little everyday.
Here are some of the tasks that we grind through each day to keep making incremental progress.
Speak with customers
Talking with customers is really important to the progress of ribl. We tend to write a lot about this – of the 10 blog posts we’ve published, 7 of them mention customer development – so obviously it’s a big deal to us, especially this early in the process.
If you don’t build a product that your customers love, you’re not going to be successful. And the only way to find out what your customers want and need is to speak directly with them.
We do some sort of customer development everyday. If we’re not meeting or speaking with potential and current riblers, we’re trading emails with them to learn more about what they think about ribl, the value they get out of using the app, what kind of content they’re looking to consume and publish, and how we can improve their experience.
We also pore over data from these customer interviews to see if any trends and insights arise that may help improve the product.
Customers are the lifeblood of a company and their feedback is invaluable to us.
Create content on ribl
At this early stage, ribl is faced with the chicken and the egg problem that many social startups encounter.
In order to provide value to and attract users, we need a lot of content on our platform. But in order to have a lot of content on our platform, we need to have a lot of users creating this content.
So we do our part everyday to share the things that are happening where we are to get as much content on the platform as possible.
We’ll post any new restaurant openings we find, cool events that we discover, interesting news we read, crazy traffic that we’re stuck in, and any other information that may be helpful to riblers.
So when new riblers visit our app, there will be content for them to consume, and hopefully they’ll help out in creating content themselves. As we get more users, we’ll overcome the chicken and egg problem, but for now, we’ll do what we can to create as much content as possible.
Think of product improvements
As we use ribl everyday, we brainstorm and assess different and better ways to do things in the app. We always ask ourselves the following questions when using ribl:
- How easy is it for users to complete a task (publish a story, comment on another ribler’s story, etc.)?
- Is it easy for users to find the information they’re looking for?
- Is the navigation intuitive?
- What else can be done to improve the user experience?
We combine our experience with the app with data from customer interviews to suggest feature additions and user experience changes. We’ll then discuss these suggestions to determine what to build or change for future versions.
Develop and test product changes
Our engineers are doing a great job cranking out new features and bug fixes everyday based on the product improvements we discuss. They’re brainstorming efficient ways to develop new functionality and spending thousands of hours in front of their computers creating, testing, and debugging code.
And as the team builds these new features, we all test them to make sure that 1) they were built correctly with no bugs and 2) the feature comes out how we envisioned it and adds value to the product.
This whole process can be really repetitive, as we have to test every feature and interaction every time a new app version is created on both Androids and iPhones and fix anything that’s not right. But it’s absolutely necessary to do to ensure that the app is bug-free and user-friendly.
There are a bunch of little tasks that we check up on everyday to make sure that we’re telling our story and preparing for a big marketing push when the time is right.
We write blog posts once every week or two (thanks for reading!) to update you on our progress, and we write a little bit each day to keep up. Not only is blogging a great way to engage our audience, it’s helpful for us to document our learnings and evolution.
Social media is a big part of our marketing efforts as well. Not only do we engage on Twitter and Facebook as much as possible, we are also active on Reddit, especially the Washington DC subreddit, as those redditors would be perfect riblers as well. We’ll also share and discuss startup topics on sites like Quibb, Growthhackers, Hacker News, and many other community-oriented destinations.
We also do a lot of marketing planning. We have some milestones coming up (like launching the iPhone version; sign up here if you want to help us test!) so we’ll prepare for this by making sure our tester lists are accurate and emails are designed and written. We’ll also work on growth models and tactical plans to prepare for when we’re ready to make a big user acquisition push. And we’ll research events in the future that may be worth attending and presenting at.
There’s plenty to do everyday on the marketing front.
While product launches, fundraises, and company exits sound glamorous, the things that you have to do to achieve those milestones are certainly not.
Startups are a long, arduous grind and you have to continually execute repetitive tasks each and every day to make progress. Patience will be tested, but if we persevere and continue to learn from our customers, create content on the platform, think of ways to improve our product, implement and test these improvements, and tell our story, we’ll be successful.
It’s a step-by-step process full of little things that need to get done everyday for a long time in order to become that “overnight success.”
What are some of the little things that you need to do everyday to be successful in your startup or job? We’d love to hear more in the comments.
And please share this article if you enjoyed it!