Entrepreneurship is Juggling

Being the founder of a startup means juggling more tasks and domains than you ever thought possible. I’ll share my mental storm in the last 3 days … for those who are considering the startup life.

At renooble we are 2½ people, and we are starting to build our product. We have a prototype which is mostly undercover (we’re not marketing much yet) and which experiences spikes of traffic here and there. We use this traffic to test questions like: Will people sign up? What is the conversion rate? Is this form too complicated? etc.

It sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Write code, find data and APIs (in our case for renewable energy) … and see if netizens like the concept. If they do, call potential customers (for us renewable energy and efficiency installers) and ask them for money: “Hey we have this website, and there’s 200 people who want your services to save energy. Are you interested?”. And yet you will soon discover that “write code + sell concept” is only a small part of what you do.

Juggling

Juggling Diagrams: Juggling is not necessarily multi-tasking

It certainly varies from month to month, but my swag is that it comprises about 20% of the effort. Only in the last days:

Money: No money means we’re dead in 6 months so … add to the calendar the startup accelerator deadlines, reply to their questions. As a Startup Chile member you get funding in exchange for developing the Chilean entrepreneurship ecosystem. So meet professors, schedule and prepare talks in their departments on entrepreneurship and attend round-tables as expert. Keep potential investors updated, and book flights to meet them. Is the video application ready?

People: As a fast moving startup you need everyone on the same page (and all the help you can use). So if my co-founder is travelling, are we still on the same page? I don’t want to step on his toes but need to discuss the code direction and strategy. Remind our part time collaborator about pending jobs. Asign new tasks and define his role and equity for the future. Reward his efforts. Setup 1 day trial for intern (tasks, goals, reading materials, etc). Apply for university collaboration: write a sexy project description for CS students!

Marketing: Link juice, page rank, reputation and content take time. So … write a blog post, participate in the energy community, give blog interview, learn from and talk to your mentors, contact new mentors, learn new techniques. Remember to gather relevant content for future blogging.

Plus the day to day stuff: Think of our future strategy, bugfix, try to get a discount on that data API, learn more javascript, email users, learn from competitors, check analytics, check conversion rates. Automate our processes. Help fellow Startup Chile entrepreneurs just the way you would like them to help you. And INNOVATE!

Add 90+ emails/day, facebook and twitter updates, a few taps on your shoulder, phone calls and try to tell me you won’t get distracted. So if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, can you work in such an environment?

I’m not saying entrepreneurship requires multi-tasking but definitely juggling a multitude of disciplines, relationships and expectations (of course many other jobs and activities do). I may also be doing it wrong (In fact, I seem to have made all the mistakes by the book: Fail late, over optimize too long, don’t talk to customers early). But I feel I am learning and adapting: I have found that it’s imperative to resist multi-tasking and interruptions. Neither are an effective way of working (especially as a programmer). When multiple tasks and domains compete for your attention, first prioritize. Then reserve solid blocks of time for each one, but don’t attempt it all at once.

What is (was) your experience as a first time entrepreneur?

 
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