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The Doppler Effect

Last week Yo-Da we were in full celebration mode. It's important to celebrate big milestones, and we'd secured investment and were about to start life at PUBLIC. We were (and still are, of course) excited. But what we've learned very quickly is that success creates new challenges, almost immediately.

Now reality bites. As a new business, you need investment to get off the ground. I've had probably a hundred investor meetings over nearly 2 years before finally securing funding. It's been a long, brutal slog and the feeling of finally getting over that hurdle is exhilarating! But suddenly you now have other people's money in your account, and they've placed their trust in you. It gets real very quickly.

It's a bit like going to university or starting a new job. You distill your life into a paper application, in the hope you are deemed good enough to get accepted. But even after getting accepted, in effect the organisation telling you "yes we believe you are good enough" you continue to have some lingering questions about whether or not that is true. 

One friend I described my feelings to retorted that it resembles the doppler effect in physics, you know when an ambulance sounds different after passing you by on the street? On a forward looking basis it's all sunshine and roses, but afterwards the rain clouds in the distance are both more obvious and more ominous. Competitors seem more threatening. Opportunities appear more fleeting.

The stress of the unknown

For months I've been selling the grand vision. I've been taking people on a 5-year journey and I've become very attached to that pitch. It is almost impossible not to when you sell it over and over. But now we have a new set of very concrete challenges; what is feasible to build in the next 6 months with the money we've got? 

With limited funds, it's an extraordinarily difficult optimisation question and the switch from thinking big to executing small is harder than you'd imagine. It's crucial we get our heads down, and in my humble opinion, this is what differentiates true entrepreneurs from the "wantrepreneurs."

It's a new type of worry and stress. You simply can't afford to simply burn through cash, and so wasteful spending is a startup killer. Every penny paid out needs to reap upside for the business. At the same time, you stress about your consumer proposition, given we're a B2C business, and strengthening that requires spending some money. 

Investors have bought into the vision, but will consumers actually want the product we have promised to build? Getting the first few thousand people to sign up to a totally new service is THE critical challenge over the coming months. We have to identify "product market fit" while building, which is no easy task.

So now Eduardo and I are getting our heads down and working on the nitty-gritty. I have to be honest it's not quite as much fun, but we're still super excited by what we are building. It's just that life as a start-up founder isn't all cakes and roses, reality comes with ups and downs.

Benjamin Falk, co-founder of Yo-Da, was talking to David Savage

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