There is no other way to put it: 2014 was a wow year for us. Every entrepreneur starts with a vision, and you try to communicate it, find and fix disconnects, keep moving forward as you bang your head into the wall, and look for that crack you can squeeze through so your company takes off. Luckily, we had a big crack.
I always go back to the prom metaphor: For a while, I was the guy in the corner that none of the girls wanted to go dance with, and now everyone wants to dance with me. Once we got noticed, a break occurred. We got seen in a different light, we became more attractive, and the herd mentality followed.
There is no way around the difficulties and challenges of growing a startup. You put all of your being into something. You’re trying to create a real game-changer. But the wait is agonizing.
Trust me when I say that the wait is worth it. Here is that lesson, plus the other our startup learned in 2014:
Don’t give up
The wait is worth it, so no matter what, persevere. If you believe in your vision, keep at it until you find the breakthrough that will allow you to grow your idea into a business
Listen to criticism
As hard as it is, listen to what people are saying. Reflect on their criticism. I know it can be hard to step outside yourself and be objective about your company, but it will allow you to build a better product that people will want and will pay for.
No doesn’t necessarily mean no
One thing that has kept me going is learning that no doesn’t mean “no,” it just means “not right now.” Figure out where the disconnect occurred. Do more research to find out why you didn’t get a yes.
Being an entrepreneur is not a 9-5 job
There is no time I don’t turn off, and I learned to be OK with that. It does mess up the balance in my life, but it also made me notice that there are roses there. As trite as this might sound, stop and smell them, enjoy them, and be thankful for them.
Ask how you can be more thankful
On January 1, 2014, I had been working on the idea for Spend Consciously and the BuyPartisan app for one and a half years. We had a wireframe and working prototype of what BuyPartisan would look like. We had a dozen test users. We had $500 in the bank. We had no press attention. No one knew who we were. We had an office at 1776, but we were a fledgling company on the 12th floor trying to break through the clutter and get noticed.
However, we were also just about to start up with the new socially-focused accelerator Conscious Venture Lab.
In the end, 2014 validated what I thought. We worked hard to build out the app, and we launched it over the summer. Our counsel sent out a blast to her people, and we got an interview with the Washington Post’s Fed section because of it.
That article was published on August 12. We got a bunch of comments. Users tripled. Then the Huffington Post reached out, then a Washington Post editor called, then ABC World News emailed us and Fox News wanted us to appear that Saturday.
We ended up enjoying eight straight weeks of massive press. I would never have guessed that we’d be one of only three tech companies that have had an editorial story written about them in the Washington Post: Uber, LivingSocial, and us. I don’t even need to tell you what that meant for the visibility and credibility of our company, but I will say that I am incredibly thankful for it.
If 2014 was all about validating, 2015 is about blowing up.
BuyPartisan’s features are going to grow and expand. Spend Consciously will launch as a web platform and Eye$pend will launch as its mobile twin; both will allow you to see if your buying, investing, and donating matches your values. We are even thinking about offering charity offsets that will work like carbon offsets to assuage the guilt you feel when your spending doesn’t match your values.
Here’s to a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2015!