The Humbling Confessions of a Startup Founder

Welcome! This is our first blog post. It should be full of pep and enthusiasm. But our company is not new. We recently made our third major pivot, with no significant success on our first three ventures. So I think it is appropriate that we begin with a humble recognition of how we got here, the huge mistake I made and why we expect this time to be different.

Actually it’s the mistake I made repeatedly. For three years. Oy vey.

In March 2013 I formed a partnership with Stephen Ostermiller to launch a new company that would eventually be named SavvyRoo. We had big ideas and a convincing story. We were going to change the way people consume news, get our citizenry to care more about facts than rhetoric.

It was supposed to change the world.

But we failed to get traction. Lots of people loved the idea. But no one loved the product.

At some point we realized our product could be spun off into a service for students. Again, we had big ideas and a convincing story and an idea people loved. But no one wanted to buy.

It was soon clear to us that our problem was that students and universities couldn’t pay. But a corporate client could and would. So we built it. And we pitched it. We were convincing. People loved the idea. But not the product.

So what was our my mistake?

I mistook love of idea for love of product.

There is a massive difference between asking someone, “Would you like a product that does this?”

Vs. “Here is my product. Can I watch you use it? Hmm. You didn’t click the “Create Account” button. Why not?” (And this can be done with a picture or PowerPoint of the product, actual product not needed.)

Our newest creation, the SavvyRoo Spark, may or may not turn into a mega-hit or even a hit. But it is already, at three months in, better than anything we built in our first three years. Why? Very simple. I now do something I never did before. I don’t pitch the idea. I don’t even tell people what our idea is. I just ask people to let me watch them as they experience the product for the first time. If there is value beyond priceless, for a startup, this is it.

So thank you to all of the people who have tested and provided feedback. And to you, I’d love to know what you think of our SavvyRoo Spark. What is it? Well, please, test it out. Then let me know what you think it is. I’d love to hear from you.

By Noah Blumenthal, founder and CEO of SavvyRoo, Wall Street Journal bestselling author, and ukulele enthusiast.