Gaining traction as a startup founder demonstrates that your business has potential to grow and succeed, which is immensely exciting and validating!
I've spoken to and worked with many founders that have experienced the elation of winning new customers. But, for most, the party starts to turn sour when they realize just how difficult it is to serve their new customers as a baby startup that doesn't have a mature product yet.
It is common advice these days in the startup world to do things don't scale, but I still see early stage founders try to get around it.
Because, in reality doing what doesn't scale is much easier said than done. It is extremely time consuming to run your business processes manually when you have lots of demanding customers, and its even harder to do it well enough to retain them. But, I'm afraid that if a founder is unable to do it, it could mean disaster for their startup. I've seen it happen to founders I've worked with and its utterly heartbreaking.
So, this is why I've stopped building custom software for founders that believe they can't operate their businesses without it. I now advise most founders who approach me to use their cash in more productive ways. Its too devestating to see all of their self-funded dollars go to waste because they didn't properly test key processes before setting them in stone with expensive custom software development (or slowly struggle to build anything with a team of unpaid developers after a promise of equity from a company that has yet to prove their value). And, without adequate funding or cashflow, they can't afford to build what they learned was actually important after their initial release fails to meet customer needs.
Now, I have been impressed by founders who go through this tragedy of wasting all of their capital on software that doesn't serve their customers well, and still have the drive to go back to the beginning and try the manual approach to figuring out how to better solve customers' problems. It takes a strong character to not let financial devestation stop you. And I've also seen founders who never recover. Either way, I don't recommend building custom software before you figure out how run your business without it. I have personally never seen it work. It may work for some, but I have only seen it result in tragedy. :(
Statusphere is a perfect example of a startup that has done very well by always prioritizing serving their customers over building their product. I am endlessly impressed by how these women refuse to let anything stop them. They operated for years, pitching their "platform" to investors before they actually had one, before they came to me demanding that my team build their custom software.
And, one of the biggest benefits of Statusphere doing what doesn't scale for so long is that we knew exactly what to automate. Statusphere had already tested and iterated all of their process until they found their sweet spot. So, in a way, it made my job, which often starts by helping a founder figure out WHAT to build, much easier, because we had proof of what their most valuable and time consuming processes were, and which would benefit most from automation.
Because of that, we were able to justify the expense of custom software development (and we're east coast developers so we're not even that expensive) by how much time it saved the Statusphere team, and how much value they would gain by being able to allocate their time to other valuable (manual) processes that they hadn't had time for. We weren't guessing. We weren't hoping. We had proof that the software would be worth it if it could reduce the time Statusphere was already spending to provide value to their customers.
Anyway, that's my rant about that... I love to see startups succeed, especially Orlando startups. But, if I built an app for every founder who asked me to, I might be a much richer woman (or not since they typically can't pay), but I'd certainly be a sadder one, and I just can't bring myself to do it!