How we are using a free website building tool to develop our product and ultimately build our company!
Sounds interesting, but it is just another idea! Put it on a paper and see if you can convince others to build it with you! Said my brother at the other end of the line, as his voice got blurred into the sound of HW101 traffic during one of my nightly commutes back home to the city.
For several months I struggled to start my company. I had a solid answer to the problem of a niche group of customers and I was convinced that is enough to build a company. Despite the idea and the product being so clear in my mind, I was struggling to make a progress. For many days and weeks, I had thought about it and worked on what I thought is the company's product. I had several Google sheets and docs describing it - mind you that our product is a downloadable content so in its barest form it manifests itself in the form of docs and sheets. I had even gone further and had a manifesto to describe company's values to the future employees. However, I still did not know how to take the next step between a product I thought we had and a company we wanted to build. In the simplest form, you have a company when you have a product that someone is willing to pay for it in a sustainable period of time and you have a way to distribute the product to the target customers in a repeatable way. While I thought the product was ready but I could not make visible progress in building the company that can produce and sell it. There is a Persian proverb that goes something like this: "seven sets of pots of pants but no lunch or dinner". It resonated with me for several months as I struggled with defining the starting point.
You don't need to know the final answer to build a deck. Use the PowerPoint as a tool to put yourself in the shoes of your audience. It forces you to think within the boundaries of a page and bring your idea to life as you build the deck. Heard myself coaching one of my team members with such a confident tone as if I'm a kung fu sensei explaining the art of martial arts to my student. It sparked then and there.
Of course! the starting point is to design and build it from the point of view of the audience - may it be a PowerPoint deck or a new company you are trying to build. You should bring your idea to life through the lens of your audience. It's like what they teach you in "design thinking" workshops. Empathize with your audience and build it in a way that they can interact with it.
Empowered by my own sensei-like wisdom and fatigued by several months of not knowing where to start, I ditched everything - the business plan template, the business model canvas, the job posting to hire people to help me further enhance the product, and every other docs and sheets I had put together to build my company and instead I bought a domain name and started with a free website theme on weebly.
A free website theme gives your three things and in my point of view that's all you need to build a company: 1) a Home Page, 2) an About Us page, and 3) A Blog. One might think a website is just a marketing tool in the age of Internet. But when website is your primary means of communications with the customers and the main channel of distribution for your products and services then it is a lot more than a marketing tool. It is the lens through which you experience your company as if you were the customer and even an investor. The three elements of any free website theme can be used with purpose to develop your product and design your company around it. And that is what we are doing these days:
There you have it. We are building our website first so that we can develop our product and design a company around it. When I started I thought it will take me couple of days to publish the website but 1 month into the process the website is not published yet. Because as I started to put it down on paper so that it can be presented on the website, I am realizing there are elements of our product that are not ready yet. We are forced to go back to the drawing board again and again. It has proven to be the most effective tool to start our company. It has given us a framework and a platform to develop our minimally viable product and commit to a progress that is publicly visible and shareable. Where I'm standing today, I still think we will swing back and forth between our website pages and the drawing board for couple of more weeks and that's going to be the engine of our progress.
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