Anthemos Georgiades is the Co-Founder and CEO of Zumper, a next generation platform for home and apartment rentals.
Create as many ways as humanly possible for consumers to find and then interact with your product. If that means building mobile apps across various mobile platforms, do it without question. We just launched our first iPhone app and watching the overnight step-change in engagement has been incredible.
I have a post-it on my monitor at work that reads “Impact, no process”. I read it before every meeting I have. Did anything actually change in this meeting, did anything actually move the needle? Both startups and big companies alike can spend hours on end talking around things that result in no tangible action and with no metrics moved. Unnecessary process is toxic to a startup.
I have personally emailed every single Zumper Pro customer (who are landlords, brokers and property managers) to onboard them to our SaaS product. About 25% of them reply to me and we often schedule a call where I hear about what they like and what they don’t like about the product. They are significantly more likely to use the product in the next 30 days if we’ve spoken. And so, despite needing to write thousands of personal emails which can be pretty consuming, it’s a great onboarding strategy and it helps me understand what should go into our next product push.
Balance humility and confidence. There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘our numbers are looking good but we know there are still several obstacles ahead’. It’s harder to get a positive reaction to ‘we’re slaying this market’ (which I’ve heard people say!). Startups are really hard, and your pitch should reflect the fact that you understand that.
Manually. Customers 1-5 (on our Pro product) came with no fancy landing page nor even with a very good product. They came through relationships we’d built, where they were willing to try the product as a favor. As the product evolves over time, they start coming back to you to ask for more.
Nothing too crazy yet! Taylor (our COO) and I once printed out thousands of leaflets and handed them out on the streets of a target city during rush hour to build our brand there. We basically harassed a few hundred unfortunate people who just wanted to get to work! It didn’t really work and we realized that digital PR is still king because a consumer can satisfy their curiosity then and there by clicking a link or downloading your app, whereas hustling on the streets rarely triggers an instant visit or download.
Seed rounds are like call options to institutional VCs. It’s unlikely they’ll buy enough of your company to make a huge return if you hit it big time, but they do it to build a relationship with you for if & when you’re ready to raise a bigger chunk of capital. You can use that to your advantage when negotiating a seed round’s terms.
Never re-read or check emails you send to colleagues for grammar or spelling mistakes. Knock out what you want to say, keep it short, and hit send. I used to be the guy who formatted everything in my emails, no matter who the recipient was, even if just an internal email to the Zumper team. Get comfortable with sounding like a dummy who can’t spell. It will save you several hours a week.
Our site went down as we were on stage launching at TechCrunch Disrupt in September 2012! We’d expected a strong traffic load, but underestimated quite how many concurrent uniques we’d get from people watching the live feed on TechCrunch’s website. These things happen!
Sometimes it’s right to throw in the towel, but if you’re absolutely convinced that it’s not yet time, rest assured that almost every founder who went on to be a huge success has had this moment. There’s the famous story of AirBnB’s first 1,000 days where it took them almost three years to get to any kind of meaningful traction. Sometimes if you’re betting big, you need to be patient and exhaust all your avenues. Even if you have an OCD attitude to delivering a vision (like I do!), others may take longer to adopt it and agree.