Another weekend, another episode! Welcome to all the new listeners and readers who have seen the podcast and blog on my social media pages and just joined! Lets have a quick recap about what we talked so far. We started with the general introduction of the podcast, followed by the dive into childhood and the university years and how all has led me to starting Getguided. In the next four episodes, including this one, I will share with you the story of GetGuided and what has happened behind the scenes for the 4+ years I have been running it. So here is fourth week, episode three — The first year of GetGuided. (Transition).
In October of 2014 I attended a student event called 3-Day Start-up with an idea called “Guided”. Inspired by Uber, Guided was meant to be a platform where young students and travellers would find like-minded local young people instantly, to show them around the city. It would be an app just like uber, with a map showing local around who would be happy to join a sightseeing walk. Due to the format of the programme, the teams got allocated for each of the 8 or so ideas and we started working. First lesson I learned there was the leadership lesson, actually there were several lessons on that topic. I am generally extremely passionate about the things I do and tend to work really hard to convince people around me to join the vision I am embracing. Within a team we had one more person as passionate about her vision as myself about mine. Not having clear-set expectations about the responsibilities within the team, not establishing the vision and not defining the work culture will cause disruptions and clashes. Another problem with the team was that no one was the expert of their domain, including myself, at the end of the day we are just students trying something new. Not having that domain expertise did not lay the ground for trust and has contributed to the disagreements. From that point onward at later stages of the company, I have always tried to listen to all of the ideas, feedback and comments from the smart people in the team, who surely know more than me in the area or function they are working at. As Steve Jobs, we do not hire smart people to tell them how to do things, we hire them so they tell us. These lessons came in handy when I had to find a co-founder. I met Turan, who is also Azerbaijani, thought a friend of a friend. I pitched him the idea and se started working without actually meeting. Over the years there were mistakes I did in the way we worked with Turan, but here I would like to focus on the year 1. Turan is a great guy and is probably one of the smartest and the best software developers I have ever met. Without him GetGuided would be impossible, but there are things we probably would do differently. First, we would have met and get to know each other, understand differences in work attitude and culture. Turan like to work quietly, behind the scenes, delivering amazing results whereas I am more of a energetic, lets discuss, have meeting every day guy. That difference led us to several-hours long fb argument once in 2016 that deemed essential at later stage. Also we have never discussed what is big picture for GetGuided and the differences were popping here and there when applicable. My initial advice for people who are looking for cofounders is to serach for a partner and a good friend. You should be able to bond together, talk your differences and find a middle ground, just like a marriage. Turan is a good friend now and I still reach out to him for advice, so even if business does not work out you get a good friend. More lessons on this in the next episodes.
The 3-day start-up event taught me about a customer facing aspect of the business as well. On the second day of the event we were tasked with going out and talking to potential customers, to find the viability of the business (quote on quote). We spent several hours to talk to hundreds of people and get responses. Unfortunately, all the effort was wasted due to bias. We have asked the question about our solution, rather about the problem of the customer. We were sure that the problem exists and asked if the customer would use our solution to the fictional problem, we just assumed the user or customer has. That mistake I have realised at the later stage. It is generally accepted that good business ideas either solve a problem that others face or a problem you faced yourself. And if that problem is faced by a large amount of people, where you can create a solution that those people love and ready to pay for, then you got a business. At GetGuided first we wanted to solve a problem that did not exist and then we found the problem, but it was not a problem large enough for us to build a business on. Therefore, we had 4 or 5 pivots and twitches to product as well as business model over the years, but those will be discussed in another episode. For now, just remember that you have to solve a problem. There is a famous McDonalds milkshare example I want to give. When McD wanted to increase their milkshake sales they hired a team to find out how. The team observed customers and found out that most people buy a milkshake for a specific purpose. People would buy a milkshake on their long commute to work. They have left home early and had breakfast and will drive quite a bit of a distance to the office, so will ultimately get hungry again, well before the lunch time. The options were a chocolate bar, which was easy to eat not messy but not filling and unhealthy; the sandwich or something homemade, which was filling healthy but not easy to eat and you would need a drink in both cases. Milkshake was filling, less unhealthy, unlike a bottle of soda slow to drink and was not messy at all. So milkshake was solving a problem and was doing a job. People have problems and they look for solution to do the job. If you think of your app, website not solution as a tool that does a specific job you will have more chance of building the right product for the right job. If you would like to know more, read the book called “Jobs to be done.”
The next thing I would advise you from my first year of business is learn the details of the admin work. Get to know how legals, accounts and documentation works. Understand your boring (quote on quote) duties and things you will need to do at the end of every financial year. This not only save you money and time, but will also help you to systematise your growth and give discipline to work with and not feel overwhelmed. But what you do when you are overwhelmed from running a business? That would be my final and may be the most important advice, build relationships, not only for business but also for yourself! Taking time off, building good relationships from people of all walks of life is crucial for your mental health and also the business. I did not go out almost at all and did not enjoy my time at all. Besides not having any cash and living off 550 gbp per month from part-time job, including rent food and bills I believed that if I do not work every minute of my available hour I won’t succeed. It definitely helped me to build some resilience and learn the hard work, but it burned me out, and when that happened I found no one around me to talk to. If one business fails, you can start another one, but if your health fails you there is no another you. So don’t be hard on yourself, enjoy the process not the final destination. (Transition)
With that being said, these are some of the key moments I remember from late 2015 early 2016 and wanted to share with you. Hope you enjoyed and will continue with Part 2 in the next episode with talks about raising investment, team and growth and argue if you need to focus on investment or revenue first. As always, feel free to send me topic ideas, episode feedback or just reach out for anything else. Make sure to check the Anchor channel of this podcast under the same name, if you are more of a listener. Thanks for joining and have a great day wherever you are!