Lessons From a Founder: Addressing Leaps of Faith, Fear and How to Choose Team Members
Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ was motivation for this founder. See why she thinks it’s worth it to push through fear and what to consider when choosing team members.
By Marie Arturi (Founder & CEO, buncee.com)
A startup is fun, it’s exciting, it’s nerve-racking. It inevitably competes for your focus in nearly every part of your life. It’s everything a proverbial “startup” is supposed to be. And while the very nature of setting out to build something new from the ground up is never easy, I’ve learned that keeping perspective on a few key realities throughout the process has not only helped me, but my entire team handle the inevitable rollercoaster ride with an eager acceptance and a drive to bring our vision to a reality no matter what’s thrown at us.
Just Do It
A cliché, sure, but does it pay off? Absolutely. My family and I have run a medical research foundation for many years, which ultimately became the inspiration for starting my startup. Just as I didn’t start the foundation knowing that one day I would understand enough molecular biology to be dangerous, I also wasn’t an expert in software development or web-based businesses when I started my company. I was simply writing boring email thank you notes to the doctors and researchers following a conference the foundation hosted, when I started to think that there had to be a better way to do it. I wanted to be able to use an attractive background, add a few photos from the event, personalize it with text or even a video and then share it quickly and easily among all our attendees. In a day when you tend to think all the good ideas have been taken, I was surprised that I couldn’t find a website that offered a simple platform for non-technical users like me to create this type of a custom messaging. This thought process coincided with a reality I had been struggling with for the foundation – how to more effectively fundraise for our medical research goals. So, I put two-and-two together and decided to take a leap of faith into the new world of tech startups by creating buncee.com – a digital canvas that makes multi-media content creation simple for even the most non-technical users.
Three years later we have 12,000 users in the education, small business and e-greeting markets, with hundreds of buncee’s made each week. I didn’t know where it all would lead when I set out. I simply hoped I could create a great tool that others like me needed, and that in turn any potential proceeds would help fund the foundation’s medical research efforts. I didn’t over think it – I had an idea and simply rolled up my sleeves and went for it. Whether it was that decision on day one or the decisions we make today at year three – we still shamelessly rely on Nike’s famous philosophy to not over think anything, “just do it!”
Fear Is Not an Option
Certainly leaping is easier said than done, but when I first started out, if I had thought too much about how hard it could be, I may have scared myself into not taking the leap to begin with. That would have been a terrible mistake. Facing things in a one-day-at-a-time manner lets me get through the challenges our company has faced in bite size pieces. There are still naturally some days that I walk away feeling a sense of uncertainty, but it’s countered with a deep appreciation that my team and I will be there the next day with fresh perspective and an eagerness to find solutions rather than being weighed down by the unknown or events that didn’t come together the way we first imagined. We’ve also learned fear is different from caution. We take time to ensure we’re prepared, but we never let ourselves miss or delay an opportunity to talk to a VC or a reporter or a corporate partner out of fear of failure – we steady ourselves and leap.
Failure Is Not an Option
There are only a few lucky founders who can say their company was an overnight success. For most of us it’s a bit of a journey. My initial vision for buncee has taken twists and turns I could have never anticipated. I’ve had to learn not to let the deviations stop us, but rather guide us to consider new ideas about how to solve the problem we’re trying to address, and for exactly whom. Initially, we were disappointed that we weren’t gaining the traction we anticipated among our targeted “early adopters,” but it forced us to think more clearly about buncee as a universal tool and about whose lives it could really make easier. By trying to keep an open mind about who is being drawn to the site, and for what purpose, we’ve seen the applicability of our product mature and take on new shapes to meet demands far greater than we originally considered. This has opened the door to new user groups, new monetization strategies and new investment opportunities that complement our initial target market well. This and so many other examples have emphasized the need to keep a vice grip on the notion that a setback in one direction only crystallizes your vision going forward.
It Really Does Take a Village
Your team is singularly the most critical aspect of any endeavor. The people you choose to work with are not just bodies to get things done, but human beings that will invariably leave their personal imprint on the product, the culture and the company you’ve worked so hard to build. When setting out to build your team, meet as many people in the field as you can, be as open minded as you can, but chose your team not just in terms of talent, but also attitude and perspective. They will become the individuals you lean on, learn from and depend on to help guide your company and vision to success. A happy, engaged team is a force multiplier.
What piece of advice did you find the most helpful?
About the guest blogger: Marie Artur has successfully led Buncee LLC to more than 12K users and buncee’s recent win as a 2013 TiE Silicon Valley Top 50 Start-Up. Marie is also founder and Executive Director of the Daniella Maria Arturi Foundation, a foundation that has stimulated over $40M to advance research and clinical care initiatives for the rare blood disorder, Diamond Blackfan Anemia.