Startup Finance: pain point or starting point?
What's the most exciting thing about working on a startup? Knowing you've got a chance of being the next unicorn; seeing the MVP in play for the first time; pulling all-nighters to get that pitch just perfect. Being a founder means embracing a crazy and ever-changing life, and those who take this path tend to thrive on the thrill of the unknown.
So it's not too surprising that 'getting the financial details down on paper' is not usually the first on the list of dizzyingly attractive elements of startups. You want to be lean, you want to be agile, you want to 10x your product, and you don't want to be researching the cost of employee health insurance. But the numbers should be at the heart of everything you do, from problem-solution fit and user tests to finding partners and selecting a business model.
Swimble app founder and participant in OTF's Techween accelerator programme, Susan Proctor, was guilty of ignoring the need for numbers. "I knew logically that the money matters. But it's easy to get carried away. I'm building an adorable app, and it's much more fun to be back-and-forthing with my design partner over the exact shade of orange we need to appeal to kids, than plugging in data on office furniture and server charges."
Metric Bee founder Maya Beyhum knows this issue well. "Financial considerations are eclipsed by the more fun elements, and founders come to think of finance as an entirely separate chunk of the business, when in fact it should be a driving force behind any decision." Susan found this out following a one-on-one session with Maya; "When I ran the numbers that Maya had helped me coax out of the data I had - I was really surprised. What I saw on the screen was suddenly not just numbers. It was a warning: if I continued to build my product the way I had been thinking of, the way the product-market fit and the validation and the user testing had shown me was the right way - I would be bleeding money by year three."
Numbers tell a story, and they're always going to be a part of every startup's journey. For Susan and Swimble, looking at the numbers led to a sharp pivot in the build plan. Maybe what you see will tell a different story, but don't shy away from seeing it.The earlier you test out what you're building using actual figures - however rudimentary the data - the clearer you will see your future pathway to growth.