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Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #176
What do porta potties, John Wick, and entrepreneurship have in common? They're all featured in this issue of EOH!
I’m just gonna come right out and admit this: my articles got a little random this week. I don’t mean they’re bad. They’re just random.
In the first article, you’ll find me explaining entrepreneurial passion in relation to portable toilets (a.k.a. porta potties). In the second article, you’ll find me comparing successful entrepreneurs to John Wick. Yes, that John Wick.
You’ll have to read the articles to find out (obviously).
When you’re done with this week’s articles, I wrap up the issue dealing with some hate-mail.
To be fair, it’s not real hate-mail. It’s just someone (rightly) pointing out my contradictions. And, to be honest, I appreciate my readers trying to keep me honest.
Keep the feedback coming!
If not for passion, how else can entrepreneurs justify all the effort they put into building their companies?
What if the tireless assassin is dangerous for the same reason established companies fear startups?
Office Hours Q&A
I really appreciate the entrepreneur-ing in public thing you’re trying. That’s something most of us entrepreneurs wouldn’t have the courage to do, and I, for one, am enjoying following along on your journey.
For the startup that you’re building, I was wondering if you could help me understand what seems like a contradiction in how you launched it. I watched your series of videos on your website where you talk about the importance of validating an idea before building anything, but Autopest is something you seem to have built and launched without doing any of what you talk about.
Did you validate the idea for Autopest at all before you launched it, or did you just build something you thought seemed like a good idea? If so, how do you justify not following your own advice?
When I decided to launch Autopest, I was wondering if anyone was going to mention this little contradiction. For what it’s worth, this email was actually one of three I’ve gotten so far that are quasi-calling me out. I’m glad to know people are paying attention to some of my lessons and taking them to heart, even if it means using my own advice against me.
In this case, I’ll justify my decision with three points:
I did a lot of validation testing of the idea a decade ago when I built Autopest V1. Specifically, I tried to productize the tool I’d initially built for myself, and it got lots of traction in terms of people wanting to use it. In that sense, I proved demand. However, I couldn’t make the idea sticky because people didn’t like the templated follow-up emails the platform generated before it could use ChatGPT.
In other words, I’ll argue I did follow my advice and prove demand 10 years ago. Unfortunately, I just didn’t have product-market fit because the product couldn’t do what the market wanted.
For what it’s worth, I’ll also admit that, back then, I should have figured out my issue with the technology itself before I spent however-long building a full-on product. That was a mistake.
I guess this part of the answer is my way of saying that, originally, I didn’t follow my advice, but that was a decade ago. My current version of Autopest – Autopest V2 – does follow my advice because I already proved market demand (albeit a while ago).
While I spend lots of time telling entrepreneurs they need to validate market opportunities before building their products, the main reason I give that advice is because I work with young entrepreneurs. Young entrepreneurs have a distinct disadvantage compared with older entrepreneurs: they don’t have as much real-world, industry-based market knowledge.
Older entrepreneurs building companies in markets where they’ve been employed for a long time don’t need to do as much market validation before pursuing ideas because they’ve already spent however-many-years in their respective industries and likely have significant first-hand knowledge of the problems they’re trying to solve.
In my case, I’d argue I qualify as an “older person.” I personally know how painful sending follow-up emails is (the problem Autopest solves), and I’ve seen tons of other people struggle with the same issue. Is my data perfect? No. But 15+ years in sales, marketing, startups, and management has given me lots of knowledge about my industry and the pain point I’m tackling.
It’s moments like these where I’m glad I spent a decade studying Walt Whitman, the famous, American poet, because he has a wonderful quote for dealing with contradictions. He writes:
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then. I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.”
I’ll tell you the same thing. Do I sometimes contradict myself? Yup! Like anyone, I can know something to be true and still not be able to follow my own advice. For example, I know eating junk food is unhealthy, but I still eat it. I’m sure the same is true for most of you.
In the case of entrepreneurial advice, I often know the “right” things to do even if I personally struggle to do those things myself. That doesn’t make the advice flawed. It makes me – the person giving the advice – flawed.
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!
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