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A Tale of My Two Startups
I was just packing up some of my past notebooks, and I found one yellow pad that was fascinating. Half of the notes on it were from 2011, when I was working at Xpert Financial (the first business I co-founded out of college), and half of them were from 2014, when I was deep in the heart of starting Boost VC. I’m sure most of you have notebooks scattered around your life, but I’m not sure I have ever been able to read one that had two completely different time frames back to back.
So I read them.
Most of the notes are task items, or brainstorming. Not so much journaling, which I did take up at some point. Even through simple notes like this, I learned the issues that led to the eventual demise of Xpert Financial, and comparing it to the Boost VC notes, it’s clear as day.
FYI: Xpert Financial was a secondary market for private securities. I know this was from the year 2011, not because I dated anything but because we had already received our broker dealer license (this was a big deal), and these were the notes from after that. We ran out of money in 2012.
In the Xpert Financial part of the yellow pad:
Notes were about learning about how other companies operated
Notes were about “building culture”
Notes were about building process, before doing things
So many notes on the type of people you want to hire and how to assess them
In the Boost VC part of the yellow pad:
Every note was a task to help a startup or get in front of a startup
Almost every note on the to-do list was an introduction I had to make to a company
There were lists of many things we attempted in the past that ended up not working
The operational questions were all focused around “how do we attract the best founders”
It was night and day. The one thing that was never in my notes from Xpert Financial was a discussion about the customer, or what they wanted. It was things that you may think are important when building a startup rather than the things that are actually important.
The Boost VC side of the startup was ONLY talking about the startup and what they needed. To be fair, we housed the startups in the first 12 programs of Boost VC, so it would have been difficult not to speak to the customer every day, but that ended up being a piece of the magic!
The only thing that matters is the customer. And when in doubt, default to movement.