Building a startup virtually is no easy task. You’d think it would be as easy as defining roles, setting goals, and meeting expectations. It comes with great displeasure for me to inform you that this is sadly not the case. Building a startup is hard. Building a startup virtually, is even harder. What ends up being discounted for is all the nuanced discussions, critiques, and motivational sprints that occur when humans are in a room cranking out code and pushing forward. To our enjoyment, the CRUNCH 2015 program has provided me and my team that crucial structure that has translated our once virtual communication to physical discussion (although only two days a week) to finally push our project forward. The changes and improvement have been significantly noticeable.
Prior to CRUNCH, Cole and I would do a lot of online tabbing where we could “keep tabs” on each other by posting progress, met goals, and tangible reaches on a private Facebook page only accessible by the two of us. What we began noticing was a lot of talking, and not enough doing. It became a miniature competition of who was posting more and following up on those posting and having a lot of meaningless conversations and meetings in order to supplement that digital void between us. However, after we started meeting twice a week for CRUNCH, we noticed that our process began to significantly improve because we began meeting in person more frequently. It was also a structured time for us to sprint during the week without the frivolous meeting times, and then compare progress on Friday morning, after a week’s length of work.
I think the most successful accelerator and incubator programs out there such as YCombinator and 500 Startups is that they walk a very fine line between meeting too much and meeting just enough. It’s this middle ground where they host events, discussions, and programming to get the founders together but they are very cautious of forcing them to meet to much because then, it has the chance of becoming a social club. The sole function of these accelerator programs is growth, and growth becomes difficult to achieve when so much networking is going on around you. CRUNCH I believe has also found that sweet spot. By front loading the more introductory classes and then opening up the later half of the semester for growth and taking your product to market, I think really prepares the teams and sets us up for success in terms of implementing what we’ve been learning in the classroom for the past 8 weeks.
The favorite workshop or class lecture was the differentiation concept where nowadays, in our incredible saturated market, it requires your product to be a “purple cow” or “thin mint” to succeed. No longer can you just serve a purpose and expect customers to flock to you like in the good ol’ days. Now, you need something special from beginning to end with increasing drive to innovate and provide customers quality experiences. My favorite example comes from the architectural design of the Facebook HQ office. When buying out an old bankrupt tech companies old headquarters, Zuckerberg made the choice to not destroy the sign out front but rather, flip it around and paint Facebook on the back side, so that every employee leaving work that day would see the old “Sandisk” logo beaten and weathered. His thought was to instill the mentality that if you don’t innovate and progress, no matter how large of a company you are, you will face a similar fate.
Above all, the mentorship and constant feedback has been such a great asset to me and Cole. Getting feedback from multiple data points, running user testing on our product, all of these interactions have been incredible helpful to our development of a company. Thank you CRUNCH. See you at the Evening of Innovation.