Hang out at enough startup events and one is bound to hear a few common refrains.
“Where’s a lead Angel to be found?" “Know a really good designer, who’s amazing, and who’ll take equity?" “Where’s some inexpensive office space?" "Where am I going to find a rock-start technical founder?"
One can make the argument that. if effectively executing on a startup business idea is tough. then building a great team is even tougher. In all fairness it’s teams that fail, not ideas. Surveying the Vancouver landscape, you’ll spot no shortage of solo-entrepreneurs and two person teams. You’ve got to look a lot harder to find a real three to four person team of co-founders. They're not easy to find.
And what do you call a team of six co-founders? An anomaly for sure—but in the case of Ubounce we’ve got a Vancouver startup that is growing, succeeding, and giving back to the local community.
With more than 50 people turning out, five of the six cofounders shared an evening of Q&A and “Lessons Learned” courtesy of the tech co-founders Meet-up group (June 20) at Unbounce's headquarters. Jesse Heaslip moderated the “fireside chat” with Rick Perreault (CEO), Carl Schmidt (CTO), Jason Murphy (COO), Justin Stacey (product development), and Carter Gilchrist (user experience). Oli Gardner (marketing) was MIA.
An easy first question: what is Unbounce? Rick questions the audience by asking who at knows or who’s used Unbounce? With almost every hand up in the air… next question please! (For those who don’t know Unbounce allows users to build, publish and test landing pages without requiring any technical skills.)
This is a team of six guys who had previously worked together—a real life example of familiarity not breeding contempt: each of them has a unique skillset, so in many ways they aren’t “tripping” over each other. Their roles were naturally defined and the fact they all experienced first-hand the business “problem” that needs solving meant they were very much in synch the moment code started flowing.
The word hustle is becoming synonymous with “startup-ville." Having seen one of Rick’s first pitches at the Fusion Forum in November 2009, where a collective panel of judges (including a future investor) and I’m sure most of the audience shook their heads, and collectively uttered “what’s a landing page?” These six guys have been hustling in every way imaginable—selling, coding, marketing, listening, and questioning. They have collective faith and resolve in the mission.
The Unbouce co-founders' focus really stood out: the customer/client experience isn’t just about the product and it isn’t just about the business plan. An experience is created for investors (did the story get better, or did the market catch up? Probably some of both); an experience created for advisors, (I’m sure Rand Fiskin, Chris Goward, David Huaser, Dan Martell and Eric Ries, aren’t on board because of Rick’s colorful choice of Chuck Taylors); and an experience is created for the first hires.
There were so many great lessons shared, and no shortage of questions still to answer.
Bullet point lessons: don’t go stealth, push out the MVP, move fast, and always be validating—what’s minimum effort needed to validate an idea? The Launch@Grow competition coming up is a great opportunity to increase visibility, so don’t hesitate entering. Winning helped immeasurably, they said.
None of the co-founders adorn rose colored glasses, acknowledging the many every-day challenges. The team is growing (20 people with group benefit plan documents in hand, a new co-founder milestone) and they find themselves asking, “how do we cultivate new leaders”? Sure there’s competition, but how do does the leadership team assess the risk of unknown competition (the guaranteed break into cold sweat at 3am feeling)? “How do we keep reconciling lean development with design goals?"
Ultimately the business space of online marketing lead conversion is still young, there’s no shortage of opportunities, and the Unbounce team is just getting started.