Despite some mainstream predilections (yes, we're obsessed with Pinterest and the entire Bravo lineup), we've always prided ourselves on being out-of-the-box thinkers. And to be an entrepreneur, you kind of have to be someone who thinks outside the box. So it's been a surprise to us, as we've launched our women's health and wellness startup, ChickRx,* and become more immersed in the tech entrepreneur community, that there seems to be quite a bit of herd mentality regarding what a tech startup should look like. But what works for most might not be what's best for you and your company, and we're here to share some areas in which we're proud to be doing things our own way:
Inside-the-box norm #1: Raise millions, from a VC if you can.
In this insightful post, entrepreneur and investor Chris Dixon says, "For some entrepreneurs, raising venture capital becomes a goal unto itself, instead of what it should be: a heavy burden that only makes sense in certain cases." Amen, Chris, amen. We're so over this culture of celebrating the raise--sometimes, frankly, it just doesn't make sense for a startup to take on boatloads of cash, and while we're impressed by all those founders' fundraising skills, we certainly don't envy the current position some of them are in.
Inside-the-box norm #2: Coders are king.
Meghan went to Princeton and spent four years at major Wall Street banks, and Stacey went to Harvard and HBS. We've been working our tails off since we were pre-teens, but since we aren't engineers, sometimes we honestly feel like second-class citizens in Silicon Valley. Stellar product and execution rule in startup land, but it takes strategy, a great network, and empathy for/understanding of users to get there. Is engineering a critical function on the founding team? Of course, and our CTO Kendrick Taylor is top notch. But business skill and experience, as well as emotional intelligence, are invaluable assets that should not be underestimated, especially as coding skills become more of a commodity.
Inside-the-box norm #3 - Right now, mobile matters most.
Kleiner partner Mary Meeker says there are 1.1 billion mobile 3G subscribers worldwide, which signifies 37 percent year over year growth. This trend is certainly exciting, and enough to make anyone want to download the iPhone dev course on iTunes and get their coding on. But that doesn't mean launching only a mobile app, or launching on mobile first, is right for your company.
For ChickRx, there are all kinds of potential media partners who've already attracted our target audience online, and starting with a web platform will help us partner with them more easily and more regularly. Not to mention that mobile monetization, though very promising in Meeker's opinion, is still in very early stages and needs to catch up. Is ChickRx building a mobile app, and even planning other mobile products too? For sure. But launching online first was the right move for us. We know your phone or tablet rules your commute (and our site is easy to use on mobile), but we're all too familiar with concept of office "face time" to ignore the need for online distractions.
Inside-the-box norm #4: The entire team should always be in the same geographic spot.
ChickRx is based in both San Francisco and New York. We've been made to feel guilty about this and even told we should flat out lie (not our style) and say we're all only in one location, but you know what...this works best for our company. Both locations have so much to offer a consumer internet startup, and with video chat, an unlimited AT&T plan, and the not-so-modern wonders of air travel, we're always either physically together or in constant communication. You'd think that the tech community would celebrate using technology to make the modern company more flexible and opportunity-seizing...
When it comes to thinking for yourself, people like investors, advisors, and other entrepreneurs who have "seen it all before" might make you doubt yourself. As a startup it's important to be open to change and adapt if that's where the data points, but don't cave to pressure to follow the herd. And if your Facebook newsfeed is anything like ours, inundated with friends' wedding and baby photos, this can also be a valuable lesson for your personal life: Do what's right for you when it's right for you, and don't make big choices just to fit everyone else's definition of what's best.
So which of these norms hold true for your startup, and which don't? We'd love to hear about your experience in the comments section below.
*ChickRx, a women's health and wellness startup, provides an online platform for women to easily connect with experts and peers to get answers to their questions, product recommendations, and relevant news delivered in a fresh, fun voice.