As the global crisis deepens, we are hearing more and more stories of entrepreneurs failing in their quest – running out of cash or focusing on the wrong things – utlimately leading to failure. Nic Brisbourne, Partner at DFJ Esprit Capital Partners, actually had an interesting post on his blog (more here) – an extract of the 10 reasons as to why startups tend to fail is below:
There is a lot of truth in this – especially point 4: “They want to do too much” – I have to admit that Peter, Mike and I often talk about the amount of work that we have had to deal with and often realising that this is non core – sometimes adding further business development integrations into the community because of the initial commercial value it represents but very often realising how far it is from the core of what we should really be about. Lack of focus. Too much distraction. You then end up with a service that does 10 to 15 different things very averagely rather than one or two things that you absolutely excel at!
In the past few weeks, WAYN has gone through a number of drastic changes and we all collectively feel this is the hardest time the company has had to face in its 5 year history. After a lot of recent refocus and a change in our strategic vision, we, as founders, feel more and more committed and believe in our collective ability to turn things around and to agree to be part of the transformation that will see WAYN turn from good to great. The start of the global economic recession has in many ways acted as a blessing in disguise for us, as it has forced us to really think about what is truly important for the business, what our users value and ultimately, what will make this company a real success story.
That is why this next milestone represents a real change for us and a new beginning. We are about to release a main release that will mark a significant change in our strategy going forward, for the long term benefits of the business.
We are passionate about this business, and believe in both the people that make up this team and the new vision that we are striving towards. We are capitalised and unlike many of our peers, and with the recent cost reduction coming in to effect (as for most businesses that aiming to cut fat), we should be in a stronger position going forward. We also have over 7.5 million monthly uniques and 15 million users worldwide to leverage from – by far the largest community in Travel and Lifestyle.
Here is what Mike, Peter and I believe we need to do.
1) Reform the way we send emails to our users.
We have already taken some very positive steps in this area with a drastic reduction in the amount of emails beint sent and clearer guidelines for users to better control their privacy. We have also suspended all daily and weekly alerts as well as some of the as it happens alerts and consolidated them into one weekly account summary, which we are a&b testing to improve results further. Finally, we have also added in a new algorythm that stops sending certain emails to members if they have not responded to a certain number of communications – More Customer Segmentation Analysis will be key. More needs to be done in this area but we believe we are on the right path towards this.
2) Focus on fewer projects and release them more often
After the big release, we should be in a much better position to release things more frequently and break down projects into smaller chunks based on priority. We are also constantly refining the way that we use SCRUM methodology and have already noticed that communication amongst teams has improved significantly, more focus is being made on the user stories and tasks required to deliver against them, and we are starting to spot things that need improving more quickly. We will also be spending more time on our core offerings so that we can become best in class in at least one thing rather than average in many. The key to our success in this area is to focus on the most important projects that will provide users of WAYN with a unique product offering, that is sticky, naturally viral and brings people back often. This will in turn lead to increased traffic and ultimately revenues for the company.
3) Listen to our users more
We really need to make the effort to listen to what our users want and what our core demographic are asking for. As a result, we are starting to conduct usability tests, and plan to do such tests with people within WAYN, so that we can obtain your feedback, as well as a selection of our existing users and non users. We will need to create a private beta environment for a selection of our users. Perhaps VIPs and or those that have expressed an interest in testing our new offering. In the newsletter that is going out now, we have included a link to a survey and feedback box on Marta’s profile, (Marta is our Marketing Manager) so that we can obtain additional feedback from our users and from there, they can tell us if they want to participate in any user testing. One of our investors, did mention that it is imperative that we give some of our users the chance to feedback to us with what works well and what doesnt.
4) Communicate and cooperate more effectively
Having two remote offices will always be a challenge when it comes to communication, as nothing beats being in the same place as your people. We’ve made a number of mistakes along the way, which has unfortunately, sometimes in the past, led to mistrust, despite the best of intentions, and changing the organisational structure is inevitably going to lead to tensions. But if we do get things right further this new release, that should change quickly. Good communication doesnt need to rely on face to face meetings all the time. Often, it simply requires us to involve other people to obtain their thoughts and recommendations and for us to micro manage less and empower more.
Doing all these things wont be easy. But we are passionate entrepreneurs. We’ve met tough challenges before. And we can again. With a small team, we managed to get from less than 50,000 users to over 1 million in less than 6 months, and raise $11M dollars after working only 1 year full time on this business. If we focus our talents on the tasks at hand, we can accomplish anything we put our minds to. we look forward to the challenges ahead.
Let’s do it!
Jerome, Mike and Pete
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