The biggest lesson I have learned from the journey of Buy From Farm is,
1. get a co-founder/partner as early as you can,
2. never underestimate what your co-founder can contribute, even though you are thinking you are the sole one building the product.
I am a software developer. I can build stuff, especially native mobile apps. I had the Buy From Farm idea. I was excited and motivated. I worked nights and weekends to launch the product. I thought about having someone help me at the beginning. So I shared this idea in my friend circle. Friends chipped in their opinions. I continued building it until I saw the version .1 was ready.
Then I started to think how users would use this product, whether this product fits the way they’d like to use . etc.
It’s dangerous, isn’t it? I had gone a little far before I verified this idea. It might be a good idea,
might be just simply a bad idea. Even though it is a good idea, (and luckily, it is.), I still need to figure out how good it is. For example, is my town a good place for starting this idea?
I understand how to get a co-founder/partner deserves another topic. And it’s another kind of challeng. The challenge might be, no one is interested; Someone is interested but one doesn’t commit as he promised as time goes by. Someone is interested, committed but asks for more than we could/’d like to afford.
At an ideal beginning, a founding team consists of two types of person, the sale and the builder. The builder builds the product, and the sale sells the product. Before the product is launched, the sale is preparing for selling the product.
At least, I think it’s unfortunate for many of us that we couldn’t find a partner easily, especially, in the area of selling stuff. I mean, many of us, who studied the STEM program in China and US, could build products, but hard to find a partner to sell our products.
I have tried different ways. I presented the Buy From Farm project at Austin Co-founder Meetup in July 2014. There was one guy who was very interested. He also seemed a good fit for the ideal partner I was looking for. Unfortunately, he wasn’t really interested in this project as he promised. He literally didn’t
deliver anything after 4-week trail period.
I also tried Angellist.com. Received a few emails each week. And there were quite a few high profile candidates. It didn’t work out because most of them were not local. They promised they would do some research but never followed up.
The stories could go on and on. And it was a frustrating experience. Until Nov., 2014, I found a guy I thought I really should have him. He is local, is running a farmers’ market and is very much into this industry. But He asked more equity than what I ‘d like to give up. There was another reason: he is doing a few projects in the meanwhile. It’s hard for me to imagine he would just focus on this project.
From this experience, I have learned those
1.) Find a partner as early as you can. If you really couldn’t find someone who doesn’t take any compensation but equity, pay someone to be your partner, or just say it’s an employee. It takes time to build an online presence, not say a brand. Earlier you have an online presence, better for you to sell your product later.
2.) Don’t worry about the equity your potential partner would ask for, if you don’t have too much leverage. It’s extremely hard for one-man shop to build a business, even though nowadays building an app is so much easier than before. Investors don’t like investing in one-man shop. There are exceptions but it’s rare for one-man shop got funded. For sure, if you have leverage, saying your company is cash flow positive, or you have some money to pay the salary, it’s totally normal you don’t give up too much your equity. My advice is for the people who is in the same boat as me. The point is to build a business, which is quite different from building a product.
3). Your partner has his share as promised. Don’t worry about too much that he would just walk away a few days later. It’s quite standard that equity is distributed based on this simple term: one-year cliff, four-year vest. Just tell people upfront that so you won’t lose anything substantial, if things don’t work out as expected. (* not a legal advice.)
4). Don’t care too much how much your (sales & marketing) partner is contributing at the beginning. It’s quite easy to measure how much a builder has built, but it’s very hard to measure the result from all marketing effort. It takes time and isn’t always proportional to the time and money spent. On the other world, sales & marketing is a very hard job, especially, measured from people’s expectation. People don’t come to pay you because you build a product. People come and buy from you because you have persuaded them you have built a useful product. It’s especially hard for a company to have an accountable marketing result while it doesn’t have a name out there yet.
5). It might be common that your partner in sales & marketing doesn’t use the technology tools as fluent as you do. But it’s total OK. Over years, you would realize that marketing/sales strategy plays long term role. Believe or not, it’s quite standard it takes time to see the result.
6) Be humble with the product you have built. Always remember there are tons of great products and only a few could sell well.