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Seriously, what can a non-technical founder achieve in one year? How about:
When you make a transition from being a corporate employee to become a founder, the biggest challenge the sudden endless possibilities. You are so used to having your own "swim lane" and the borders of your responsibilities are pretty defined. But, when you become a founder, you are responsible for everything, and I mean everything. Good entrepreneurs are those who find a way to cut through the noise in their heads, figure out what to focus on and stay resilient throughout the course of days, weeks, and months. Bad ones are those who start with excitement and then the excitement fizzles out as they jump between trying this thing, and going to that meetup and talking to that other guy.
Imagine when you start your entrepreneurship journey with a lot of focus. You don't get pulled into several directions. You plan, build, deliver, test and refine the product without any distraction. And you are able to maintain your momentum over weeks, months and years. Founder Institute does exactly that. It gives you a process to stick by and hold you accountable to it. Not only during the course of the first few months, but even after your graduation. When you feel you are losing your energy or direction, there is always someone to back you up and nudge you toward the right direction. I started StockCard.io as a solo founder about a year ago. We are now a team of four (three and half to be exact). We have a working product with hundreds of users who are actively using it. One year ago, I had no idea we could accomplish all that. Joining the Founder Institute and working with its Silicon Valley chapter- specifically Mike and Ryan who are the program's local directors here in Silicon Valley, have set us on the right path.
Thank you Founder Institute!
Also known as the company's strategic story and purpose...
Everything in life is a sales campaign. If you are a startup founder and you are not coming from a sales background, you most likely hate that. But, that doesn't make it less of a truth. Everything in life is a sales campaign and when you pitch your startup you are actually selling your idea, yourself, your team and your product. The worst thing you can do as a founder is to pitch as if you are pitching. By that I mean, you present your company based on what people tell you what they'd like to hear. Start with a problem, and give a solution, show the market size and brag about your team. Finally, make an ask. These are the questions the audience have, but they answer to them is not what grabs their attention, unless you have a thousands and thousands of users or you have Elon Musk on your team. When you pitch to answer people's questions, without having million users or Elon, it feels like you are cold calling them in the middle of dinner trying to sell them a time share.
Imagine you pitch and after your pitch everyone wants to have a second meeting with you. That's what you want. You don't want to follow a script that most people just zone out. Specially, if you are in your early days. You probably don't have an amazing traction figure or an all-star team. So, you can't just pitch the bare bone. You need to sell it like the greatest salesmen(women). And, that's where Andy Raskin comes in. You've got to read Andy's 'The Greatest Sales Deck I've Ever Seen' post. Read it 100 times and internalize it. When you pitch as if you are are selling a story that's when people put their iPhones down and listen. At StockCard.io we used to pitch and people's reaction was "why are you doing this?". We picked up Andy's methodology, telling the story of what we do, why it matters and is the only thing they need to pay attention to, there is always a follow-up conversation waiting for us at the end of the pitch.
So, thank you Andy Raskin for your brilliance.
For every early founder, it is going to be really difficult to explain to others or even to yourself what's the idea you are working on. Everybody wants to have it in their hands and see how it works. And, to get from an idea to a product - especially for a non-technical founder is literally a nightmare. The sooner you have something for people to see and react to it the faster you start the cycle of feedback and iteration. Otherwise, the idea keeps getting refreshed and revamped without ever getting the light of the day. You miss the chance to get to build a product that actually works.
Imagine when you start, even if you have no technical background, but you have a product that you can show to others. You can build it yourself and actually have a starting point to gather feedback. And, it costs you less than hundred bucks to get there. That's where Weebly comes into place. Weebly makes it possible for a non-technical founder to have a home for her ideas and a starting point to get feedback. It promotes itself as an easy platform to build a website. But, these days, unless you are creating a new technology, everything else is basically a website. The early generation of StockCard.io was built on Weebly. We used it as a landing page to test the idea and build our sign-up list. We also connected it to Google Docs and Sheets and some FB messenger and essentially we delivered our product as some sort of a high-end manual concierge. It helped us get all the feedback needed to build the new generation of Stock Cards which are not live, connected to a well-structured database and data APIs.
We never forget what David Rusenko and his team at Weebly did for us.
Update: After writing this blogpost, we actually went back to Weebly to build a subdomain for our website using Weebly. You never know how and when a good tool such as Weebly would come to the rescue.
Creating a brand identity (logo, social media banners and all that) are very time-consuming and frustrating. Every non-designer knows how much time it takes to google things out and figure out what logo, which font, in what ratios you build your logo and visuals. Do you use an icon or image.. How do you keep it consistent and professional and not spend hours and hundreds or thousands of dollars on it? Time is of an essence when you start. There are several things you need to take care of and spending hours building your logo, resizing it for all your social media and creating a banner for your emails, etc. is not the best use of your time. Successful entrepreneurs don't spend much time on these stuff. At the same time having a beautiful and consistent look is a requirement if you would want to stand out.
Imagine you have a tool that helps you build your brand identity in 1 hour. It gives you just the right amount of flexibility so that you can play with the colour and theme but all the other things such as the aspects and ratios, the color palette, and keeping things consistent across all channels are figured out by that tool. That's what Tailor Brand does. You don't have to be a designer, and you don't need a lot of time. All you need is less than 100 bucks to develop a professional, beautiful and consistent brand identity for your company. We used Tailor brands to create our logo. We use the brand identity package they sent us to guide our colour theme and designs on Stock Card.io. We also use their design studio tool to build all of our social media content, banner and updates.
For us, Tailor brands is like an in-house design team and we are grateful to Yali Sar and his team and product at Taylor Brands.
Also known as user acquisition or traction... (I know, I know, I'm pushing my word choice to fit it in the 'Five Ps' of a non-technical cofounder! But, admit it! It's more memorable this way!
There is one question that as a founder you need to have an answer and almost all founders have no good answer for it. That question is 'What's your traction strategy?' How would you get 1 Million users for your product in a cost effective way. And, oh boy, its damn difficult. The worst thing you could do as a founder is to think that you will find one magical way to acquire users in millions and that will be your holy grail. I've listened to 100s of podcasts about very successful startups on and almost none of them knew how they will acquire their million users from the get go. Successful founders will know that finding the best traction channel is an iterative process.
Imagine you have a very easy to follow roadmap that can guide you through that iterative process to figure out your traction channel. And, it stretches your thinking beyond the usual acquisition channels (social media posts) to think of new ways you would have ever considered. That roadmap is called Bullseye Framework by Justin Mares and Gabriel Weinberg who co-authored Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers. It's a easy to follow and it gives you ideas you can implement today. Most importantly, it works. At StockCard.io we have been using their framework since we started our open beta. We are acquiring users at a consistent rate of 4% per week, without single dollar spent on paid acquisition.
So, thank you to Justin and Gabriel for the Bullseye Framework that teaches you how to acquire users for your startup.