"Sometimes the best (and only effective) way to kill an idea is to put it into practice."
Sydney J. Harris
When we think of the startup world, many restless images come to mind. The anxiety of that first pitch, the hustle of closing deals, hours and hours of programming, interviewing, negotiating. We’re caught in this hurricane of procedures, but often forget the underlying truth: every project is but an abstraction waiting to materialize.
Ideas are the core of every thriving company. Once that eureka moment hits you, you’re thrilled and willing to invest all you’ve got. Everything feels wonderful for as long as it flows — but the real test for a product comes when things backslide. Where did all those strenuous days of designing your MVP, pitching and talking to potential customers go?!
Take it from me: it feels like a huge punch in the gut.
Here’s a little story from my own journey. When I first started developing our caffeine gum, it was intended as an effortless pre-workout treat. That uplifting effect of a cup of joe was all there, but the most important part was missing: the taste was absolutely hideous, because the gum soon grew bitter on your tongue. After sampling and showing that initial product around, the feedback was clear as water: on a scale 0-10, reviews hovered at 2 and 3.
Sure, we could have insisted on that vision. It was perfectly possible to create a new gum from scratch, taking into consideration more sophisticated taste preferences. After all, people liked the concept, just not the outcome. But at what cost? Importing a sweeter product from Eastern Europe soon became unviable, so we decided to finally let go. Honestly, we just didn’t have enough enthusiasm in us to go through the whole process again.
Things worked the opposite way with Gymhopper. Our first model also took a wrong turn, but the key difference here was that we were not discouraged from that first fall. Instead, we decided to take a long break, go from gym to gym asking for honest opinions and adapt as we went. Could our new model adapt to those expectations and needs?
Thankfully, the answer was yes! Those sincere, straightforward comments were our selling point. As soon as we suggested a major app redesign that could solve those demands, gym owners were now more willing to pay for the product.
The balance between throwing in the towel once and for all versus pivoting is not easy to find. However, there are strategies you can adopt to reduce the impact:
Being a salesperson in Switzerland will get you a fair share of odd looks. Why is that?! The way I see it, this bad reputation is far from fair, because sales really require social intelligence and humility. Struggling is a part of the process, and that is why I chose to tell you the story of how I grew from anxious cold-calling to striking fantastic deals.
Expanding your operations beyond borders is a tricky process for any business. My experience with a startup gone global has helped me see the good and the bad, and I now know that being informed of the stumbling blocks you'll find along the way is a great start towards success. Read on to see how you can scale up the safe way and receive the best of what branching out can offer.