Amaryllis Fox is the CEO and founder of Mulu which automatically illustrates and makes content shoppable in real time.
Use what’s already out there. We used to ask users to manually curate their favorite things for their followers to shop. That was cool but relied on users taking the time to pick new products as often as they could. When we started using semantics to automatically pull the things they were writing about from their articles and blog posts, we ended up with orders of magnitude more recommendations, more authenticity, and all in real-time.
We decamp for one week each year – what we call Vision Quest. Every team member choosing their own destination – cabin in the woods, shack on the beach, RV on the playa – only rule is no day-to-day work allowed. It plucks us out of the minutia to mull on the big picture. Then we come back and share the magic.
We ran a competition in partnership with Universal Studios for Snow White and the Huntsman where the prize was a trip to the film’s premiere in London the following week. The winner turned out not to have a passport — he was heartbroken. We pulled together and pitched in for a no-holes-barred, balls-to-the-wall race to get the passport expedited and shipped to the airport so he could get on the plane. He live tweeted the whole thing. And after all that, he had such an amazing trip, he decided to move to the UK. Awesome.
Don’t get bogged down in the dozens of cool features your product has and will have. Focus on the reason you obsess over it at 3am. Focus on what delights you, on what secret you are going to tell this person that will change the way they think about something or the way they do something forever. Because in the end, if you’re not passionate about what you’re building, nobody else is gonna be either.
If you build it, they will come. No wait – If you build it, and it’s useful, they will come. I truly believe that. The world is so connected today, launching anything that truly solves a problem — truly delights someone or saves someone time or makes them some pocket money to buy that green maca smoothie to make up for that 4th Fortaleza on the rocks last night — launching something useful will win you those first 1-5 users, and the first 1M -5M too. We are insanely focused on listening to our customers and our data and going that next mile to make ourselves indispensable.
We started life in a garage in Menlo Park with no heat and no bathroom. We had a propane garage heater that blew the fuse every time it ran – for the first four months it was power up laptops, unplug, turn on the heater, run down laptops, go back to typing in gloves. We launched right before the holidays and got enough traction to move a couple miles into Palo Alto. Into an office. With heat AND a bathroom. We’ve expanded again since then, but we still have that propane garage heater on our wall. You gots to keep it real.
Entrepreneurs always gripe about the distraction of fundraising but if you do it right, even the no-go meetings should be pushing you forward. You’re talking to people who survey the market from a different vantage point, who potentially know what your stealth competitors are doing, who’ve watched similar stories play out or have solved a similar problem, who know somebody you should know. If you’re talking to them about funding your company, it’s because you respect them enough to want them on your board, or at least in your tribe. So even if it doesn’t work out that way, squeeze every last drop out of those partner meetings. There’s a whole lot of intellectual electricity in that room.
Listen to the data. Kill the dark spots and replicate the bright ones. Build the best product you can today, but don’t be afraid to scrap half the code tomorrow if the other half is shining.