… until you launch.
(Disclaimer: All of this advice is from my personal experience running Eggsprout and probably won’t apply as much to larger VC funded companies)
If you’re a software startup, which I’m guessing most of you are, you know that before you have a live product what really matters is… getting a live product. Nothing else matters. Don’t hire marketing people (you have nothing to market). Don’t hire business developers (you have no business). Don’t hire PR managers (you have no news), accountants, lawyers, customer reps, etc. You get the point. There may be occasional times when you need to do some legal stuff, some marketing stuff, or other business type things, but it’s so little, you should do it yourself. You’ll learn something.
This is where it gets interesting – after you have a live product, you can’t go without business people for several reasons: 1) You’ll get feedback from customers 2) Businesses will reach out to you for partnerships 3) You’ll realize you’ve got a lot of things wrong.
#1 and #2 are pretty self-explanatory. People will now start to talk to you and find you interesting. You need someone with their head in the space and some business savvy to talk back. #3 is a little bit less obvious – and I’ve only learned it through living it. You probably got a lot of things right with your launch, but once you start talking to other people and hear their needs, you’ll realize you’ve done a lot wrong. And by wrong, I mean, you’ve prioritized something that’s not so useful, or deprioritized something someone really needs, or missed or didn’t see an opportunity. You’ll have a lot of ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ moments. Every startup goes through the same things.
After we launched Eggsprout, I’ve done no coding and no project management. Our team has reshifted our responsibilities to allow me more time to be the ‘business person’ – do biz dev, sales, marketing, customer support, investor relations, public relations, etc. And boy is it important. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve come back with new insight into our customers or opportunities and refocused or reprioritized things for the team.
So for all you techies out there who believe business people are pretty much useless (I used to be one of them) – make sure you have someone or can hire someone that can pick up that role after you have a product. You don’t want to run a startup that’s isolated from the world and wonder to yourself why your traffic isn’t picking up. Biz people are important. :)