The second time you start a company, you’re older and wiser. Trust yourself more.
By Lindsay Blakely (Senior Editor, Inc.com)
How do you follow up launching a successful app that gets acquired by OpenTable for $10 million? That’s precisely the question that plagued Soraya Darabi, co-founder of Foodspotting, an app that helps people discover great dishes around the world. In a breakout session at Inc.‘s Growth conference in Nashville on Wednesday, she explained how she had been on a rollercoaster ride for the past two years.
“You feel every emotion in the book,” Darabi says of starting a company. “And then you get to that moment when you want out — you want the safety of a 9 to 5 easy desk job and four weeks of vacation. I’ve never had a job like that but I’ve heard they exist.”
But a desk job was not in her future. Darabi spent months soul-searching and speaking with a career coach, corporate leaders and fellow entrepreneurs. At the end of it all, she knew two things: She knew she wanted to start another company, and “the second time around I wanted to make an impact.”
She reconnected with an old friend and they discovered a mutual interest in artisinal craft making. The two decided to create a marketplace that sells sustainable clothing and housewares made by individual artisans around the world, not sweatshops. In the same way that Whole Foods drew consumers’ attention to the stories about where their food comes from, their startup Zady would tell shoppers where their goods were made and who created them.
Nine months into her second startup, Darabi offered plenty of lessons for entrepreneurs who are thinking about launching for the second time. Here are some lessons she offered:
1. Think Long Term
When Darabi co-founded Foodspotting in San Francisco, the mentality among many startup entrepreneurs at the time was that all you needed to do was find a good app idea and flip it to a bigger company. She said that wasn’t entirely Foodspotting’s goal, but it was hard not to get caught up in that mentality.
The second time around you have the luxury of not rushing into your idea. So she took her time thinking about what kind of business she’d want to be a part of for the next 30 or 40 years.
2. Spend 90 Days Preparing for Your Launch
When Darabi was incubating Zady in a co-working space within Google, she received some very wise advice from two of retailer Warby Parker‘s co-founders. “You can only launch your brand once,” they told her. So Zady planned that day with extreme care. They put up a “coming soon” website and didn’t talk to any press until three months before the launch date. And then they decided to speak to one journalist — a fashion reporter for the “Wall Street Journal” who had an interest in sustainable manufacturing. It resulted in a cover story in August of 2013 and Zady moved its launch day by a couple days to coincide with the story.
Don’t think you can land such splashy press? Spend all of your time and attention identifying the media and organizations that have the best fit with your mission.
3. Pick a Co-founder You Know and Trust — But Not Your Best Friend
In Darabi’s case, she had known her co-founder Maxine Bedat for 17 years and had kept in touch off and on. Most importantly, they had complementary but not overlapping skill sets. Bedat, a former lawyer, is the one who’s a stickler about reviewing contracts and keeping the trains running on time. Darabi offers more of the creative vision.
4. Listen to Smart Advisers — But Not Too Closely
Zady has 15 investors, five advisers, and no shortage of smart and talented people who can offer advice. But the second time around Darabi is much more comfortable trusting her own instincts. “As smart as they may be, nobody knows your business as well as you do,” she says.
One adviser told Darabi that Zady, which still hasn’t spent any money on marketing, needed to start investing heavily in marketing. “It’s much more important to us to get an organic, cult following first,” she says. So she said thanks, but no thanks to that particular advice.