Timing and Iterating Personally within Entrepreneurship
The following post is from Christopher Dowd M’16, founder of CrowdLever, a summer 2015 hatchery business.
Recently a classmate of mine posted a great short TED talk by Bill Gross about start-ups. In that talk, Bill Gross takes a look at 200 start-ups, 100 from his own incubator Idea-lab, and 100 others, and tries to see what factors were most important in making them successful. He used ratings of team, idea, funding, business model, and timing. And he said he was surprised by the results: that the most important factor among those categories was “timing”, i.e. AirBnB and Uber entering a recession economy and getting countless “hosts” and drivers looking for additional income right away, or other market factors that led to great environments for a start-up to take off.
Timing is something that motivates us at CrowdLever as we are hoping to be a part of solving a fast changing problem, and that problem is getting companies to invest in mitigating climate change. We’d like to bring consumers into that equation through a platform that connects consumer buying to that company-specific action on climate change, and we have a plan to make that economically and emotionally valuable for all of the different stakeholders involved.
So there is a bit of a sense of urgency to our business and idea, because its a current issue, its ecosystem changes quickly, and its hard not to check new companies all the time to see what’s being put out there and what might relate to our vision. That sense of timing has led to some decisions based around doing what’s best for our business, and that’s what I’m writing about today.
I originally set out this summer to devote regular business hours and commuting to an internship, and to work on CrowdLever every night at the Babson Hatchery. This was meant to allow ample progress on our venture until we were ready to take off. This has worked but not in an entirely sustainable form, for me or the business, and its led to some change that had to be earned. I cut back on my internship (with support from my company and opportunity for flexible work) and now have more formal working time on building this idea in the Hatchery.
This process has led me to an interesting data point about starting a venture. It’s personal to me of course, not for all situations, but in the interest of sharing what’s worked as a singular data point I thought I’d share.
Not quite intending for this originally, I see my experience this summer as an iterative approach to figuring out what a business is going to need from you personally. I kept my responsibilities and goals the same in my life but tried to work in a set amount of hours each day for this new venture as well. This allowed me to determine what was needed from me professionally to truly launch CrowdLever, and to incorporate necessary changes. While we are often coached to iterate within our business, looking back I thought it was interesting to reflect on how that can be useful within a personal framework as well.
I hope I’m not stating the obvious but I like that framework and I thought I’d share. In the future I’m looking forward to providing updates about CrowdLever and what we learn from a start-up business perspective as we go further.