Hello. My name is Travis Truett. I work for retickr, and here is what’s going on right now…
We Are Spending a Lot of Money (Relatively of Course)
I just found out yesterday how much money we are spending. For those of you unfamiliar with the organizational structure of retickr, I should know at any given second how much money we are spending and how much money we have. I have broken one of the cardinal rules of business management and Warren Buffett should slap my face. It really is inexcusable.
Some advice to my start-up peers: Never forget that every penny matters and expenses add up quick. Your enemy is the relative comfort that funding can (and will) bring you. It is a false comfort that causes start-ups to fail and corporations to grow complacent. Every night before you go to bed write down how much money your company spent that day. Now think about how many kids that would feed. Now sleep peacefully knowing that you are not wasting any money on your cool idea. I am a hypocrite and I owe it to myself, my team, and my investors to treat our funds like they are coming out of my parents retirement fund.
We are currently spending $18,500 a month. Basically, we are spending my entire life-time earnings every four weeks. Combine every hour, of every job I have worked in the last ten years (I’m 25), and we spend that in thirty days. That hits home. What’s our monthly burn rate? My life’s work, no big deal…
We have had 3,836 people create a retickr account. We currently have an “active” user base of about 325 people. Our current user retention is about 8.4% which means that for every 100 people that have downloaded retickr, there are only eight adults and one small child still using it. This is low, this is bad, and this is depressing. There are ways of course to rationalize this low figure… our beta users tested an incomplete product, our server crashes might have turned people away… but these are all excuses.
We are not delivering what the majority of our target market is wanting.
It has been two months since our product launch and we are now analyzing user feedback and figuring out what has been working and what has not been working. One of the biggest complaints we have received is that retickr is confusing. I take full responsibility for this and we are striving to rework our design and provide a simpler, more intuitive experience.
Some advice to my start-up peers: Feature creep is your enemy. We all have awesome ideas for features and hopefully one day we will be able to integrate (some of) them into our respective products. However, your first 3, 6, 9, 12 months is not the time to do this. People forget that Google did “search” for years before focusing on anything else. I forget this on a daily basis. Unfortunately I think this is a lesson that first-time entrepreneurs just have to learn the hard way. I have literally made myself signs, post-it notes, and whiteboard reminders that all say the same thing, “Do one thing well.” Apparently it didn’t stick because here we are now with a complex, confusing product experience.
Our application has a lot of really cool, really powerful features but if we lose 90% of our user base in the first sixty seconds… they aren’t doing too much good. At least we like them and use them, right? A promise to our users: We have listened to your feedback and are going back to the drawing board to fix some things. Thank you for your patience and I am already excited about our new design. I think you all will really like it.
Slipping out of the Honeymoon Phase
We launched two months ago. The Honeymoon is over. The trough of sorrow sucks.
Waking up Scared
Ted Alling (Lamp Post Group Partner) pulled me into his office several months ago and told me that he still wakes up scared every morning. I remember nodding and telling him that I did as well. To be honest, I didn’t. I do now. The strange thing is now that it’s back; I realize how much I have missed it. I think this is where “entrepreneurs” earn their label as crazy people, because this is probably something that isn’t (and shouldn’t) be missed. Before recently, the last time that I felt scared was last January when I packed up my life in California and drove to Chattanooga with no money, one business lead, and no idea what I was going to do. I spent about ninety days waking up scared on Brian’s couch trying to figure out what I was going to do that day for retickr.
Guess what baby… I’m back, cold sweats and all. What can I do today that will help justify the eighty-hour work weeks that Adam and Josh have been putting in for the last six months? This is the fear zone that I hope doesn’t leave anytime soon. This is the mindset that I love.
Interestingly, while studying user experience design I have come across a graph that I think applies equally as well to entrepreneurs and also helps visualize this fear zone…
Some advice to my start-up peers: Find this “fear zone” and stay in it. Fair warning… people around you will not understand what is going on. At the very least, they will think something is wrong. More likely than not they will think nothing, because they will not see you, because you will be at the office…scared. If I had to take a wild guess I would say that start-up entrepreneurs probably lose more relationships than they gain during the first year.
Accept it, and move on.
Oh shit, this is real…
…is probably a good summary of this post. I feel like this week has served as another inflection point in the “retickr era” of my life. So far I think I have had two… my first being last winter when I took a leap of faith, surrendered my life insurance policy, and started retickr after years of watching business ideas come and go. The second is now, when things like burn rate and user retention are real things, real things that keep you up at night, real things that people hold you accountable for.
Some advice to my start-up peers: Stay hungry. Stop eating for a couple days and your thoughts will get a lot clearer and more rational, I promise. (haha)
Seriously though, ride the ups and downs and enjoy the fact that you are really living. That’s all you can ask for at the end of the day.
One last thing… Take comfort in the fact that the poor start-up founder and the rich corporate CEO both go home at the end of the day, eat dinner, watch TV, and go to bed. The CEO dreams of being a poor start-up founder again and the poor start-up founder dreams of becoming a corporate CEO.
The only difference of course is that the CEO dreams while sleeping in his magnetic floating bed…