Monday, August 12, 2013

The Long Slow Search Before the Long Slow Ramp of Death

The "Long Slow Ramp of Death" is just as hard as it sounds, but getting to the ramp, any kind of ramp in the first place... oh golly. 

A Graveyard of Good Intentions

What if I told you that the Long Slow SaaS Ramp of Death is actually the winners circle? By the time you've reached any kind of ramp, you'll have endured what Felix Dennis calls "The Search". For many people, but especially bootstrappers, "The Search" represents a graveyard full of trial and error, both great and small. As far as I know, there is no way around this. On your way to the Ramp, if you ever arrive, you will hear success stories from other people that have found their ramp. This will prompt you to try more things, which is good, but you'll be depressed when you have to kill most or all of those ideas in the end. If you have thin skin and you're getting ready to start the search in earnest, I strongly suggest you quickly grow a layer of rhino pelt.


Glimmers of Hope Die Hardest

While you're busy digging plots for your old ideas, a new idea will surge up and you'll get energized. Other people may get excited with you. And you'll get back to work. At this point, you might build something pretty great. At this point you might win the bootstrapper lottery and be invited to prestigious events, but in the end, no one remembers your name and it doesn't do much for your company. You can decide what you really need is more engineering talent to throw at ideas, and you'll sometimes find solid business partners who believe in your idea with you, but life can intervene and cause reliable people to flake. You can try coat-tailing by working with people who have been highly successful in the past (I have), but its no guarantee. You can be featured in the media, and if sustained, this can actually create an escape velocity of sorts.. but more often than not, it doesn't lead anywhere. Soon, the ideas that you felt had the greatest chances of winning are laid to rest among the fallen.

These are the most painful friends to lose. They had so much potential.


What You Can Do: Execute Well

You: "What?", you say "Half my problem is that I don't know what good execution looks like!"

Me: "Hmm... good point. Lets just introduce you to the shorthand version of good execution: Keep going, but, go faster"

You: "This fast?" {goes amazingly fast}
Me: "No, faster"

Why this?       "Speed is the only competitive advantage" -Max Levchin

Going fast yet? Great, have you brought in someone smarter than you yet? Do that.

Done that?

Great! Now have smart people critiquing your idea.

Done that?

Great! Now, find more people! Find powerful people!

Done that?

Great! Now, join communities, get involved, be prolific, keep going!

Why all this then?      "You need to kill naivete." -anon


In Conclusion

On the Long Slow Search Before the Long Slow SaaS Ramp of Death, pick up the pace, grow some thick skin, keep going, go faster, involve smarter people, kill naivete. Good luck.

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