I can't believe that 2011 is almost over. It seems like yesterday that I was writing the themeword post for this year...REAP. This year really seemed to fly by in a way I don't recall other years flying by.
Perhaps it is because I was so pre-occupied. Between being busier than I've ever been in my life and starting a new relationship, I lost track of time. You can say what you will about the challenge of startups, but they define a new level of focus that I didn't even know existed before this year. Even though I'd been working pretty diligently last year on things, it wasn't until this year that 'shit got real' (so to speak).
When I started thinking about my #themeword for this year (thanks to Laura, Karen and Liza), I looked back at how REAP worked out for this past year. What started out as a rocky year actually turned out pretty REAP-worthy. It unfolded slowly and I hardly even saw it shifting because it never got easier, but there it was. There was still time in 2011 and we started to REAP the benefits of the long road of work we put into things. But let me back up.
Number one was the relationship. I met someone right away. Only. That wasn't the right person. I thought it was because, well, I asked for the ability to find one. But it was pretty quickly apparent that it wasn't the right one. But it didn't take long and those closed doors made way for open ones.
When I met Carlos, I wasn't sure. He was definitely handsome, fun, smart and sweet, but I had a very definite 'type' in mind. That was my biggest problem. I kept going for the wrong guy. But I was lucky this time. The right guy went for ME. And even when I resisted, he persisted and wore me down. He helped me see that my list was stupid. I wasn't looking for what I needed, I was looking for what I thought I wanted. And what I wanted wasn't congruent with what I needed. But it took a man with a will bigger than mine to show me the light.
This has been a big 2011 point of REAPness.
As for Buyosphere, which started out this year under a different awful name. And a bit of a different idea. Well, that took a little longer. And with good reason...in retrospect.
I wrote recently about the anatomy of a pivot. It's a really personal story. I needed to learn a bunch of things: how to let go of the solution and focus on the problem. I'm stubborn. If it wasn't apparent in my personal relationship story, I suffer a bit from myopia. I convince myself of something and everything lines up to support that thesis in my mind. I don't budge. For Buyosphere, I was focused on data as the solution to helping people find what they were looking for. I was so convinced that I didn't know why everyone else didn't see it. And, to be fair to my own thinking, it was AN idea and someone will surely do it someday, but it will take lots of time and money and huge leaps forward in web standards...probably resulting in about 10-15 years of blood, sweat and tears on the subject.
It was late spring that we realized there was an issue. People liked the name, the design, the UI and a whole bunch of other bits and bobs with Buyosphere, but it wasn't solving the problem that it set out to solve and so it fell flat. We knew we needed to be useful now.
The funny thing is that I often told the story of my epic search for a black skirt and nobody ever questioned it...until one day David Rose made a super 'should-have-been-obvious' statement to me. I told him that Buyosphere is born from a series of fruitless and frustrating online shopping searches that ended empty handed and the best illustration of this was a search for a plain black skirt that took me 3.5 hours and 14 sites to find. So after giving him a few bars of my pitch, he stops me and asks, "Wait a minute. So when do you find the skirt?" I stammered a bit, "Well, after we gather the data and create this..." He stopped me, "Let me get this right, you took a 3.5 hour search and turned it into a 3.5 YEAR search? That doesn't sound so efficient to me." My jaw must have dropped to the ground. He was completely right. I was at a loss. But he's a smart guy and pushed a bit more, "Stop the deck and show me your site." And I did. I walked him through some of the features. The next thing he said to me triggered everything else that would come, "Wow, this is nice. Your site has a bunch of Quora-like features."
Black skirt. Quora. What would it take to shift...er...pivot to make helping people find stuff less about data and more about Q&A? Turns out 3 months.
It wasn't the first time I heard Quora brought up as a comparison or the first time someone suggested we create the ability to ask one another for advice. But it was the first time I was open to it and completely ready to hear it. David Rose is truly an angel.
It's what turned everything around for us. Jerome started working on the new site. I re-worked the pitch deck and the business plan. Cassandra worked on the business modeling around the new, improved idea. Within 3 months, we had a new site (which we haven't started any promotion on, but is getting steady sign ups and pick up), our seed funding (oversubscribed!) and a bright new path into the new year that is much more exciting and feels like the winner.
So...yeah...epic 2011. Very very REAPable. Where do I go from here?
Well, I know we still have lots of work to do and a long road ahead. I like the way that road is looking though. And now that I know that the road we're traveling is the right one, there is nothing left to do but work hard, smart and...well...
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it comes from my upbringing. I was raised in small town Alberta where bush parties and shotgunning beer are hobbies. If you haven't seen the movie, Fubar, here is a taste. Ah. Sniff. Memories! The term GIVE'R is often the philosophy of the partier, but I think it applies well to startup life. In essence it means (from Urban Dictionary):
"1. Going all out and/or balls to the wall to take care of business as quickly and as awesomely as possible
2. Acting in a way that is like you're rocking out really hard, but at the same time, trying to solve a problem that may or may not involve drop-kicking something without hesitation"
Quickly, efficiently and awesomely going all out. That is what 2012 is going to be about. With or without the drop-kicking. Hopefully without. We're going to GIVE'R through this next year and it's going to pay off big time.
So there you go. GIVE'R in 2012. That's my #themeword.
So, in the tradition that Erica Douglass began on NYE 2007/2008, what is YOUR #themeword?
How to Pick Your #ThemeWord for 2011 (via Erica O’Grady):
- Think of a word that reflects your hopes and dreams for 2010.
- Share your ThemeWord with friends on Twitter, Facebook, or Your Blog.
- Be sure and use the hashtag #Themeword.
What I love about boiling the entire year down into one word is that it helps focus everything else. It’s also a fun exercise. Be sure to tweet and tell me yours.