When someone asks me how they should go about deciding what to build, I always answer the same way:
“Build something you wish always existed.”
Over the years, I have spoken to thousands of startup founders across the country, been involved with Techstars and other accelerators, worked at a big company (Amazon is still pretty big, right?), and even have had the pleasure to invest in a few companies.
At this point, I feel pretty confident that I have seen the entire life cycle of the founder’s journey a thousand times.
As I was getting ready to leave Amazon, a question continued to burn in the back of my head:
“Do founders truly have all that they need to be successful?”
There are coworking spaces, and networking events and blogs and tweets and tons of content focused around ideas to raising money, but what I wished existed, well, didn’t.
And, now I get to build it.
For most of my life, I have found purpose in helping good founders become great leaders, and I as I built a personal list of what those things would be, I kept coming back to the same 5 pillars:
Curated shared working space
When we moved Graphicly to the Bay Area, we shared space on the third floor of the AOL building with companies like Carta and Xobni. The energy that each growing company provided helped us keep focused and motivated. Developers shared ideas with developers; deals were done because the companies wanted each other to succeed.
It also became a place that people wanted to be. Founders from all around would spend time there. (Sometimes too much time.) Investors would roll through. It was pretty amazing.
And you know what? The snacks sucked. The coffee sucked, even the cubes weren’t great, but the people, man, the people, were dope.
Networking events, both hosted internally and by members of that community, are paramount to meet potential employees, co-founders, business partners and peers. While there are many startup focused events, most are focused on attendance first rather than content.
What if large and small companies had a venue to share ideas and content? What if instead of a panel on blah, it was highly relevant and actionable?
Most startups are built to “disrupt” a large enterprise or to sell to one. As consumer companies become more difficult to build and scale, the opportunities in B2B are exploding. How can one benefit a startup greatly? Connect them with enterprises that can both help them focus their efforts as well as buy their software. The hardest part of growth is go-to-market, what if we could make that easier?
I love stories. I love to tell stories. I spend a lot of time thinking about stories. But, of all the things we do as founders, story telling is the hardest. Did I use the right words? Did my message hit? Should I be on this podcast or speak at this conference?
Can’t I just build a product that everyone wants to use?
Creating a Content Studio that both tells a startup’s story as well as helps develop their own would be amazing and valuable.
Something like this wouldn’t work without it being accessible and available to all founders, investors and partners, so there would need to be an inexpensive, easy membership to allowed everyone to be included.
For most founders, seeing and seizing opportunities are often the difference between good and great. I don’t know if Create33 will become the resource I hope it becomes for the Pacific Northwest and founders everywhere, but I do know we can’t do it alone.
It can’t be something I do. It has to be something we do.
The thing I always wish existed will in August.