ShelfLife was asked to blog about its biggest struggle with decision making thus far at JOLT:
The toughest call is the day-to-day decisions on how best to spend your limited resources. As a fledgling company, you typically have limited cash flow, people and connections and a ton of things to get done. Everyone on the team is wearing multiple hats and their effectiveness with each will vary with their experience, enthusiasm and skill set.
For a project as ambitious as ours, these issues are compounded by the fact that it took months of code, design and business process planning just to get a minimum viable product in place that is worth launching. Everyone talks about lean startup models and agile development but some companies just need to go big from Day 1 and they require special care in resource utilization.
A big part of honing our resource spend is about identifying the two or three things that will drive our ability to prove market traction. When you’re bootstrapping no one is expecting you to actualize your big vision on Day 1 but you do need to get a product out there, get users involved and gather feedback. You need to dive into metrics early so you can test your usage hypotheses and ensure you aren’t wasting time on things that no one will care about once you go large with marketing spend. It’s easy to get lost when you are heads down, piling on 16 hour days, and often a fresh pair of eyes and a bit of A/B testing is all it takes to wake you up to a few harsh realities and get you refocused on the core goals.
For a collectibles focused social marketplace such as ShelfLife, the big metric is definitely the number of users. But it’s more than that: We need those users to be active, contributing, passionate and vocal about gathering more banners to the cause. Without deep pockets to execute on paid marketing opportunities that takes a co-ordination of effort across viral media, the social sphere, bloggers and niche magazine writers, fan sites, conferences, etc. Ultimately, we want to find every collector on the planet and let them know we’ve built this big, awesome tree fort and it’s ready for them to come play with us. It’s hard work, but we’re having a blast and the initial testing and metrics tell us we’re on to something. Each little win gives you the boost to get through the next endless work session and move one step closer to profitability.