What I learned from our evangelist tonight

Tonight I had a great dinner with new friends. When I introduced them the service we’re offering, there’s a girl who was especially enthusiastic about it, she keep saying that the pricing is “cheap” and she started some sales pitch to one of her friends in front of me.

I learned few things tonight.

Talk to your customers, especially on pricing!

We were buzzed these days about pricing. One thing that troubles my partner most is that he couldn’t convince himself about the price. It’s just too high to be competitive. However, I learned tonight that it’s product market match.

There’re a sweet spot on price where customers are happy with the product. That may not support long term scalability but it’s not the problem now. What we need now is to know what’s our customers like.

You don’t have to teach them with use case

I only told her the functions of our product and when she gets it, she immediately turned to her friend and did a pitch with all the use case. It really works like magic!

I was preparing marketing materials and powerpoint the other days. We discussed a lot about how to show “use cases” to customers. It reli strikes me tonight that once they get the functions, they immediately know how and when to use it.

When we design the marketing materials, we can’t help “profiling” our customers: corporate customers are boring and they only use it for a, b, c. Other consumers are lay-back and they use it for x, y, z.

But in the real world, there’s no corporate or consumers, they’re all human being who need a solution to their problem.

“Pin it forward”, the project that helps Pinerest to obtain significant growth in early days, was started by a local blogger organizing a meet-up, literally Pinerest’s first meet-up. The use case wasn’t expected by the team but it became an inflection point. [1]

[1] In May 2010, a woman named Victoria helped organize a program called “Pin It Forward” – a “chain letter” where bloggers would exchange pinboards about what home meant to them. It was an inflection point.

What I learned from our evangelist tonight

What do you regret not doing in your 20’s?

This is my top answer on Quora. As of Mar 17 2013, it has over 940 upvotes. It sums up my lesson learned from a difficult period in life.

It’s not regret. But looking back, it seems my life would have been better if I had done / had known these earlier:

  • On love: Leave an unhappy relationship. It’s not about commitment. It’s about how to respect yourself.
  • On work: Quit an unhappy job. The feeling of being caged, deprived of the opportunity to learn new things simply because of your role – are not compensated by pay or even gratification of supporting your loved ones.
  • On emotion: Appreciate, listen to, even indulge in emotions sometimes. It keeps a human life. No worries, we’re rational enough. Our brain is amazing.
  • On body: Have happy (safe) sex more and earlier. Play fun sports more and earlier. Feeling a cramp in my leg once saved me from depression due to overthinking.
  • On money: More is not better. There’s a threshold over which you feel secured and free to pursue your dreams. Work constantly to lower this threshold. It frees you from constraints that you set for yourself.
  • On desire/passion: It’s OK that desire/passion changes over time. Someday the dots can be linked. Before that, follow the passion even as it takes leaps and seems without focus.
  • On fear: Never act/decide out of fear. You’re doomed. Lying is an example.
  • On people: Stay around those you want to become. If your network is not given, create it yourself.
  • On human life: You can change your life. Be kind, be honest (to others and to yourself), be grateful. Genuine happiness triumphs.

Regret is a self-referencing concept in the sense that you only become the person with regret because you were once the person you now feel regret on.

Maybe some journey must be traveled in order to learn from it. Maybe we should be grateful that, finally, we realize what we regret. Then everything is worth it.

Things I’m glad that I did early on:

  • On family: Invest in it heavily. They may disappoint you. But they’re (usually) there to cheer you up when the world disappoints you. (maybe I’m the lucky one)
  • On knowledge: Read a lot. Study logic and philosophy. Master a second language that represents a different culture. It changes the way you think.

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If you’re interested, these’re what I’ve experienced so I come up with above list:
June Chan’s answer to Life Advice: What mindset should one possess to be more comfortable when things are miserable?

Update Dec 2012: I quit, moving to a new city and focus on the work that energizes me. 🙂

Update Mar 2013: I was found by a tech co-founder. Joining a startup that helps people go online aboard without roaming. 🙂

What do you regret not doing in your 20’s?

I found a tech co-founder. Here is how. (4 of 4)

In this series, I’m going to explain the four steps I took, with specific time frame, that helped me find a tech co-founder. The first post is here.

Step 4: Give up finding a tech co-founder. Instead, be a non tech co-founder.

Time Needed: Varies

Let’s admit this, everyone has his/her own agenda. Non tech people has biz ideas, technical people has something they want to do. If the supply and demand curve never meet, nothing will be done.

When non tech people look for “tech co-founder” to execute their ideas, they forgot that they’re also looking for an opportunity to be a non-tech co-founder.

Why stuck at finding a tech co-founder when you can actually close the deal and become a non tech co-founder there’re chances to work with really cool team and a massive market?

“How about my ideas?” I’d say when you sell your ideas hard, you’ll eventually meet people in the same eco-system. I was introduced to my current tech co-founder because the angel investor connecting us two found that we both target in the same market segment in China. He’s working on hardware and telecom part, I’m working on the content part.

It’s not easy to be a good co-founder. People expect you to do everything except coding, which is really tough and huge job. Before you have any track record showing your ability in execution, marketing, business development, design, strategy, admin and calling for delivery, an opportunity to do all these is the best you can get.

There’re tech co-founder finding stars like you. To meet with them, you have to learn enough to show that you’re knowledgeable, network enough to meet them and show that you’re able to bring in businesses, and build a prototype to to show that you know what you’re talking about.

I meet “biz people” who say they’re good at strategy and ideas. I honestly feel worried for them. They think finding a tech co-founder is the problem. Sorry, it’s not.

Conclusion

So here are the 4 steps and the actual time I spent:

Step 1: Learn everything about startups not just coding. 
I spent on average 3-5 hours every day after work and full day every weekend to read books, articles and blogs on startups, technology and motivations since Aug/Sept 2011, before I move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Network every awesome people, not just startup or technical guys.
Since Jun/Jul 2012, I started to build a network that I believe can support me in all ways. Startup-wise, I started commenting on popular startup blogs, joining coding event and hackerthon, writing to startup founders for job. Life-wise, I started writing on Quora and meet some cool people there.

Step 3: Build a prototype and more, not just a B-plan. 
I spent 2 weeks to build an app prototype in Jan 2013. I submitted it on iTune store and got rejected twice. I wrote a B-plan and applied for 2 seed funds in Feb. Haven’t heard from them. I applied for YC Winter 2013 batch without a prototype tho.

Step 4: Give up finding a tech co-founder. Instead, be a non tech co-founder.
Feb 2013, with the efforts above and luck, I met my current co-founder through an angel investor in Shanghai, whom I got introduced by a key person in Hong Kong startup community because I commented on his article.

So to conclude, it took me 1.5 year to find a tech co-founder. I believe my experience can be generalized and hopefully inspire non tech people who are passionate about startup and how technology are changing our lives. 🙂

I found a tech co-founder. Here is how. (4 of 4)