There is an interesting dialog in Atlanta right now around the lack of B2C startups and successful tech companies. My only comment on the dialog itself is that I wish it could stay positive and not come across so negative from a few folks. It’s really great topic with powerful ideas around how to make change.
In parallel to those Atlanta conversations, as follow-up to the Bay Area trip with Kasim Reed, I’ve had the opportunity to chat at length with VCs who do very well investing in consumer startups. Also, I’ve learned a great deal by helping our Atlanta Ventures Accelerator company, YikYak negotiate investments from B2C focused VC’s from Silicon Valley. I’ve learned that the way the B2C crowd thinks about growing startups is completely foreign to me, and learning how they think has opened my eyes to some valuable points for my own B2B startup, Voxa, and can help others as well.
It’s easy to sit atop the imagined ivory tour of Enterprise SaaS startups that can generate substantial revenue very early and proclaim that businesses without revenue models don’t make any logical sense and aren’t sustainable… but… B2C startups benefit from a clear, undeniable, singular focus that often times it is hard for B2B folks to achieve. B2C startups must be 10000% completely focused on building the best product, period.
Build the best product, or die.
One of the investors in SnapChat, Facebook, and Twitter told me that they tell their portfolio entrepreneurs over and over to stop thinking about monetization. They tell them that monetization will be figured out in 3-5 years at the earliest. Instead, focus on the user experience. Focus on building a product that has tremendous value. Live inside the head of your users. Be a user! Use the app yourself constantly. Always be thinking what you can do to make it more useful for yourself. It’s very simple what to do.
In the B2B world (and I can already see this happening in Voxa), it can be easy to get distracted with the other challenges of building a sales oriented business. You have to put a ton of effort and energy into your customer acquisition machine. If you do this before the product is fully ready, you will have issues. If you have success with your sales efforts, but have a product that hasn’t been fully proven to add sustainable value, you can be falling into traps you set for yourself. While it’s important to find the balance between sales and product, remember that when you put your “product hat” on to think like a B2C startup.
Think about what features and improvements make the product the best to *use*.
In any startup, you will always be prioritizing your product roadmap. As you get users, you will add more desired features. Some of these features make the product easier to use, while others may be growth hack features. Features that are intended to make the product more far reaching perhaps shouldn’t be prioritized over features that make the product 10x more valuable to the current user base.
It’s all a balancing act. Everything is a compromise. Remember to give both sides of the equation intense and intentional attention.
I look forward to learning more from B2C startups as Michael Tavani becomes successful in bringing a boat load of energy towards more B2C in Atlanta. Way to go Michael!