Hey, Your Startup is “Unsexy as Fuck”

We’ll take it. It’s our ugly baby and we like it.

But It’ll Make a Lot of Money…

We’ve been making the rounds lately with VC’s and it’s been a trip (they say the darndest things) and I wish I had taken more notes because some of it is really quite tweet-worthy (if that’s a thing).

No, these aren’t any of the irritating things that VC’s say but rather clever one-liners that are both memorable and true, probably the former because latter. Yesterday we got this doozy that I really appreciated a lot:

Hey, it’s unsexy as fuck… but it’ll make a lot of money… and I like those types of companies.

And he was/is right: Our startup is as unsexy as they come and there’s really no way to put any lipstick on this pig — and I like it a lot.

But it didn’t start that way.

Move fast or perish.

At this point in time we’ve put together three working products / prototypes with customers to boot and I’m super-proud of the progress that we’ve made in the last 88 days (yeah, I’m counting!).

And what’s crazy is not just how far we’ve come but how quickly we’ve been working to attack the problem from different angles and perspectives. This makes sense because we’ve been attempting to ship Version Zero Dot Zeroes as much as we possibly can and reducing our core concepts to bare bones.

What’s equally fascinating to behold and admit is that our idea has become less sexy every single iteration. Our original idea and prototype was a super-sleek workflow tool for onboarding new staff into an organization. A worthy goal and something we felt really good about.

But that wasn’t what the customer’s really wanted; so we had to reconfigure and isolate a much more acute problem that they were having. We came up with a “universal profiling tool” a’la GitHub that wasn’t an entirely new concept but we attacked the problem in a way that was distinct. And, it had our corporate and team DNA all over it.

Less sexy? For sure, but we gave up the sex appeal so that we could attack a much more discrete problem that we knew that we could solve uniquely. If there was any serious deliberation about our first pivot it didn’t last long — we knew that it was right and we were learning to become a real product and engineering company.

So we fought (i.e engineered) hard to maintain velocity and eventually pushed through to our first public microapp which we launched exclusively on Product Hunt — it achieved some of our internal goals and even hit a few more that were very surprising (and welcome).

But let’s take a step back, shall we? We had moved from a complex, infinitely-scalable workflow tool for onboarding staff to an GitHub-like human capital profiling system to… *wait for it* … … … automating government paperwork.

I mean, let’s be intellectually and emotionally honest here — there’s just nothing sexy about the IRS W-9 Form:

There she is, in all her glory.

So when we stepped into this VC’s office yesterday and showed him and his team our progression over the last 3 months and where we’ve landed with our three prototypes he shared what was intuitive and self-evident:

… it’s unsexy as fuck.

And we were all-smiles. You see, we could legitimately beam with pride with that comment knowing that we had landed on something that was not only useful but the beginning of something much bigger — which is why he mentioned shortly thereafter that it had incredible potential as a business).

You see, we had proven our core hypotheses to be true and we had hit some really neat internal milestones, and we were iterating / engineering like mad men as well as building go-to-market collateral and optimizing internal operations weekly.

His comment was clarifying and encouraging; it struck a sweet chord with the team and was a real moment to remember.

There’s a lot of potential here.

This meeting was also special because we demo’d for the first time our next iteration of where we believe we need to head with our product. And you guessed it — it’s not getting that much sexier.

And that’s great because we didn’t set out to build a “sexy” product or a sexy company — we set out to build something that people would use and something that businesses would pay for because of the high-value that it created. If we’ve done anything sexy it’s just that we’ve worked our asses off to get where we are (although that, in and of itself, is not unique as that’s the standard for putting a company together from scratch).

But I can tell you that I am having the time of my life building things that resonate with others with people that I really love working with.

And that’s important because there are only a few things that you can really control when it comes to a startup, and those things or elements center around your decisions of who you want to work with and the shared values that all of you agree make the most sense.

And I’m proud of what we’ve put together and the team that’s behind it all —you know, that’s really, really sexy.

We’re putting together something entirely unsexy but is proving itself to be a pretty sweet business opportunity. You should follow our progress on this blog, via Twitter, and/or via our email newsletter for updates.