Chad Burgess is a co-founder of Francis. and a Stern MBA student focusing in Entrepreneurship & Innovation and Financial Instruments & Markets.
A few weeks ago, my cofounders Maximo, Rodrigo, and I were faced with a difficult decision. Should we not only make a substantial change to our business model, but also to our entire idea?
We interviewed around 100 folks about our initial idea, Olympica, which would connect people to play sports and games. We did this over a 3 week period, and we found that there was a legitimate need for our service. Check! We created a minimal viable product, had about 30 users sign up, and we connected a few of them to play different sports. Check! With that figured out, we moved on from user validation to work the customer piece of the process. We began interviewing venues, and the feedback we received was clear as mud. Though, as optimistic people, we thought we were on the right track.
A few of our mentors told us about companies that had failed a couple of years ago by trying to do nearly the exact same thing we were attempting. Max and I decided to reach out to those who had failed in the same space, and luckily, we were able to set up interviews with them. One company seemed as though it failed due to internal strife, and for the other, we really couldn’t figure out. They had a solid founding team that worked well together. All of them were very smart and they worked on the idea for years. However, the idea just didn’t work.
The problem became clear when we continued to interview sporting venues, which were a critical aspect necessary to execute our intended purpose. These venues had no need for our service, and we had no incentive to offer. Max, Rodrigo, and I swallowed our pride, and we made a dramatic change in the course of Olympica. We consider ourselves lucky though – what took us a total of 5 weeks to learn, took other companies anywhere from 3 to 4 years! For that, I am incredibly thankful to our mentors and the SLP process.
The silver lining from the initial 5 weeks and first 100 customer discovery interviews in the program is that we tapped into a basic need that we think (but still need to validate) crosscuts a much larger population of people. We have adjusted our focus to create such a tool to fulfill this need. We are also much more aware of our strengths, weaknesses, and overall capabilities as a team.
The new Olympica (newly renamed Francis) leverages our internal strengths and capabilities much better. We are creating an initial business model for product launch that we can execute with the minimal resources that we have.
I titled this post Adapt and Overcome, a phrase borrowed from my days spent in the Army prior to going to business school. Failure was certainly not an option back then, and I do not view it as an option today. To be successful, we must be truthful with mentors, partners, and ourselves – this truth is what ultimately allows us to adapt and overcome both tactical and strategic obstacles that lie in our path.