Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Startup Steak and Startup Sizzle


Tell me your mouth Isn't watering right now.

Tell me your mouth Isn’t watering right now.

Let’s talk about Ruth’s Chris steaks.

When I think about RC, the first thing I think of is that awesome smell of butter melting on steaks when you walk into the room. It hits you in the face and is so deliciously intoxicating.

Then when the server describes to you all the features of the steak you’re about to order: where it’s from, how it’s prepared, etc, they tell you that it will arrive at your table sizzling on a 4000 degree hot plate (or whatever) covered in garlic butter.

Then when you finally get to cut into that first bite, it’s pretty much, absolutely, spot on perfect.

Every time.

I’ve never had an RC steak less than perfect.

At Voxa right now, all day long we are talking about, debating, and wrestling with our product’s steak vs. its sizzle.  No, it’s not because we have Ruth’s Chris every day for lunch… although, if any investors out there want to offer, perhaps it could become a company benefit.

It’s because every startup product has some steak and some sizzle.

Our steak is what people really buy. This is what they need. This is the point. It’s why they come to our restaurant.  If the actual steak at RC didn’t taste perfect every time then the sizzle would be a sham. It would be wasted effort, and probably would eventually cause folks to associate that smell with a bad steak. Pavlov Steak.  (Maybe I only like the sizzle because I’ve been trained Pavlov style to know that a good steak is coming.)

Startups and high-energy entrepreneurs love to talk about the sizzle. We love to promote it. Demos are best with sizzle.  Sales guys especially love to talk about features that cause the buyer to have a “Wow” reaction.

The steak at Voxa is pretty unsexy. We simply make Email to work. Really work. Like bulletproof, brilliant, and automagic.  We take a really simple, annoying task and make it go away. That’s the steak. It’s a darn good steak (near perfect, I dare say), and our prospects are talking to us and buying from us because of this steak.

But….! We also have this delicious sizzle. Ahhh, the buttery delight of Natural Language Processing (NLP) for emails. The spice of automatically reading email and magically interpreting actions to do even more than just log the email in Salesforce, we will do everything else that needs to happen in Salesforce.

(Example: If today I say these words in an email to you “Voxa could be a fit” … my Voxa App has been told to interpret that to mean you are a lead for our sales team, and you will be automatically added as a Lead in my account and assigned to a sales rep and probably called very soon. :)  I never had to even login to Salesforce for all this to happen, I just sent you the email and said the words.)

We are building this sizzle now, and it’s the most fun to build, admittedly. But when we sit down each week at our sprint review and evaluate priorities and the time allocation for the week, we (so far) have landed on the decision to keep the steak first priority and keep making it a better steak. Since we are so young we spend only a fraction of our limited engineering resources on the sizzle features.  Hopefully, this percentage of time will go up as we add engineering resources.

For my startup friends dealing with this: One day you will have it all, and it will all work together in clean harmony. Sizzle adding value to your steak.  You’ll get there, but having the discipline to prioritize the steak first is an important lesson that doesn’t come easy.



Category: Efficiency

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