Pulling off the Bandaid

No one said this would be easy.

It’s been a crazy couple of months and my first time riding the infamous startup roller coaster. In January, Appcues got a nice boost in leads and customers with almost no effort. I was riding high, thinking about how I’d be able to find my first hire, office space, etc.

As I was onboarding customers, I also started setting up metrics to gauge customer engagement. I even whipped up a sweet internal dashboard that showed my customer health. At the time, hacking my own dashboard felt like an indulgence. In hindsight, it was probably the single best thing I’ve done so far.

After spending a couple of days building that sweet dashboard, I realized that my customer health was redlining. People who were actively paying me money (for months!) weren’t using the product. They hadn’t even set it up. It turns out that I had completely misunderstood the problem those customers had: no time. The kiss of death.

Fast-forward to today, and I’ve churned a majority of my customer base, mostly by proactively reaching out and suspending accounts I know will never be used. Making those phone calls was tough. I also had a handful of companies who signed up because they liked me, not because they needed Appcues. That’s the wrong kind of revenue, so I had to cancel those accounts too.

The past few weeks has made me realize that starting a company is easy. Building software is easy. Even finding customers isn’t that hard. Having the courage to see your work (and yourself) honestly is hard. Waking up every day and saying, “I’m going to fucking crush it” is hard. Mustering the strength to pick yourself up when you fail (and you will) is hard.

So if you’re an aspiring entreprener and are worried about not having a good idea or a technical cofounder, let me be the first to say, “Relax.” That’s the easy stuff.