5 lessons learned over the first six months of my start-up
Two years after my debut on Fetch, I want to share the lessons learned during the first 6 months of this adventure, this corresponds to the phase from the idea to the private beta launch of our delivery service.
During these 6 months I learned a lot, I was 23 years old (2015) at the time, almost no business and start-up experience. So I obviously made mistakes that I will never do again (but they had to be made to realize this…).
This article can be used by anyone interested directly or indirectly in start-ups, as an entrepreneur we all go through the same phases, talking with other entrepreneurs and CEOs I quickly realized that we often make the same mistakes in this first phase of a start-up’s life.
Before starting, I want to clarify that I am thinking of doing a more detailed article on each of the points that I mentioned. If some of you want me to go further on one or more points in particular, just ask me in the comments!
Lessons learned during these 6 months
No need for a developer / technical associate to start a start-up
I know that it is a very strong belief for the “business” profiles of which I am a part, this need to have from day 1 or almost a developer with you. On Fetch we did exactly the same thing as 90% of the start-ups that I meet: look for a developer too early.
Start-up weekends, pitch in dev schools, aperitif entrepreneurs …
I was convinced that having this profile with you was mandatory to start a start-up.
In fact this is not the case at all!
I always recommend the same thing to people who ask me what to do in this phase: build your first product / service yourself.
If you are a true entrepreneur, you have to be able to build your MVP yourself, your product or service “just needs” to bring your value proposition to your customers. You don’t need a war machine to start.
At Fetch our value proposition is to allow the inhabitants of a city to have their favorite restaurants delivered to their homes or offices. For that, you don’t need to have the great site right away with all the features we dreamed of.
We had made ourselves a small showcase site on strikingly as well as a private group on Facebook to exchange as much as possible with the first customers.
Lessons to remember:
- do not spend 10,000 euros on an MVP that you will most certainly have to redo once it is confronted with the reality of the market.
- you will find your developer later, do it yourself at startup (there are plenty of sites to build your V1 yourself).
Be more selective in the choice of its associates
Any start-up at the start of its existence is worthless and has little or no funds. This sometimes leads to short-term decisions that are not good for the business if the business is to be successful in the future (we never know that too then).
Concretely on Fetch I let some people join the team for the wrong reasons.
My senior partner, who was 100% my choice, turns out over time to be a very good decision as he has become, in my opinion, one of the best CFOs I can have by my side. I wanted to work with him as soon as I had the idea and I am very satisfied with this choice in all aspects (human, technical, progression…).
On the contrary, there are other people who joined the team from which I had to separate prematurely, these people always had one thing in common: I did not choose them by believing 100% inside me.
The reasons for these choices were:
a need for a developer (we come back to it!) which led to 2 fruitless collaborations
a graphic / visual need that has resulted in an association with someone who is a true friend, but who does not have the same vision and expectations / aspirations at all as the rest of the team.
Lessons to remember:
- do not take a choice lightly at the beginning of your entrepreneurial adventure, at the beginning we do not realize the medium / long term consequences of these.
- only take with you people in whom you 100% believe that they can become excellent associates and with whom you have a very good understanding both on the vision of the company, but also in life.
Don’t partner with just anyone
Another subject that ties in with the previous one, the first few months of Fetch we considered working with a company that would have managed all of our deliveries.
Having no experience in this area this seemed like a good idea to start. This allowed us to focus on the marketing and the sales part.
Fortunately for Fetch that did not succeed, because I am convinced that we would not have spent 2015 with this partnership. We came across a person who does not share the same values as us at all, does not have the same vision and who above all was not at all professional in his approach. It was 2/3 months complicated with threats to “poke the market if we do not hurry to launch Fetch” and other disrespects which for our greatest luck finally made us aware of a beautiful lesson: the short-term easy way is very seldom the best solution.
I learned a lot from this experience, I was just way too naive which is not necessarily incomprehensible at 23 years old …
Lessons to remember:
- think long term from day one.
More often listen to his intuitions
I read a lot of articles in English and it is not uncommon for entrepreneurs to use the expression “trust your gut“. In a business world that is increasingly based on data, this may seem strange, but the more time passes, the more I understand this expression.
Anytime I deep down believed that a decision or situation we were in was bad for Fetch, I did. There are sometimes counter-intuitive decisions, but you will know it is the right one to make and vice versa.
I explained it in the previous points, but it has happened in other cases.
- Separate from associates not compatible with Fetch’s vision.
- Stop working with partners even if they are financially interesting (example: a restaurant posing a lot of problems).
- Do not accept financing from an investor whom we know is unreliable even if the amount offered and the conditions are attractive.
Launch your product / service even faster
We therefore took 6 months to go from the idea to the very first delivery. For some it will seem fast for others, very slow.
The reasons are simple and have been mentioned: bad associations / partnerships, lack of experience.
If I were to restart Fetch from 0, I think we will be able to launch the private beta in less than 2 months. But these experiences also allowed me to become the entrepreneur that I am today and especially Fetch has in its DNA strong values which were built during this period.
However, I will always advise starting your business as soon as possible and I will follow my advice for my next start-up since: the real life of the business begins once we have clients.
There really was a before and after when we launched our private version service in the summer of 2015. The theory was confronted with reality and it was much more educational.
Thanks to this we have:
- understood the concrete needs of our customers (both restaurants and consumers).
- make a second site (this time with the help of a developer) that better matched customer needs.
- learned to manage delivery people and partners.
- have the satisfaction of having real customers which is an incredible boost that will make you want to move forward even faster in your business.
- handle the first problems.
The list could still be long, but the takeaway is:
- step out of your comfort zone and launch your MVP faster.
- it is a real positive engine to have customers, to do something concrete.
A lot of lessons to be learned over these 6 months which lead us from the idea to the launch of the activity.
Today more than one after the launch of this private version, Fetch is present in Nancy, Metz and Reims. The team has grown from 4 people to 14 and our mission is to offer this delivery service to the inhabitants and restaurateurs of towns of 100,000 to 200,000 inhabitants in France and more if they like …
There will undoubtedly be a future article on a review after an activity if the following interests you!
And you? How did this passage from idea to execution go? What did you learn?
Jean-Charles Kurdali is the CEO of Fetch Delivery.
Read also: My first months as a student entrepreneur