Lessons from Starting a Business for Seven Years: Ten-fold Goal is the Source of All Evils


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Wen/sterling Silver
Source: Growth Officer (ID: zengzhangguan)
The well-known product manager Sterling Silver recently shut down his venture “one can” and made a deep self-revaluation of business failures.
In fact, I knew from the beginning that I wasn’t fit to be a founder, and I didn’t want to be a founder at all.
One reason for holding on for so long is that I’m not social, I’m not looking for a job, nobody digs me up, there’s nothing else to do; the other reason is that I’m dragged by sunk costs, especially the sense of responsibility of investors and teams, until I sink.
After sinking, I sorted out the most important lessons of seven years of entrepreneurship:
1) Prototype testing is the source of all things;
2) Ten times the goal is the source of all evil;
3) Strategies, strategies and peers.
Let’s talk one by one.
I. Prototype testing is the source of all things
In my 12-year career as a product manager, I have made 10 products, of which the most successful start is three: “cicada travels”, “birthdays” and “a can”.
Birthday is too demon, let alone cicada travel notes and the opening of a can have the same commonality:
Prior to investing heavily, we have experienced prototype testing with minimal cost.
In 2012, there was a foreign web-side album called erly, which pioneered the horizontal sliding style of the album. Then I used erly to make my own Siem Reap Travel Notes – erly was not born for Travel Notes, the editing process was very painful, but the effect was good.
I used Siem Reap Travel Notes to persuade technical partners to join and get angel round investment. On this convincing basis, it is no challenge for me to continue optimizing the editing process and presenting results for travel notes. As soon as cicada travel notes are released, it is easy to obtain high-quality seed users, and the beginning is smooth.
One can is similar to cicada travel notes. Birthday’s wish has only been developed for 1.5 weeks, and accumulated millions of wishes over the years. With proofing experience, three people developed a jar of in-test version in three weeks, and the data burst out, proving that anonymous social products have an opportunity. It’s not known how big the chance is. At least the product is standing and won’t die early.
As another proof, I read the speech by the founder of the multi-catching fish company. She mentioned that she first validated the product model by launching a second-hand book transaction in a circle of friends and managing it with an Excel form. Only after the validation is established can we really start a business.
A few years ago, the industry screamed “Internet thinking” and “product thinking”, with a fart Internet thinking. The biggest difference between Internet products and traditional industries is that they support the development of prototype products at very low cost and distribute them to target users for testing at very low cost, which provides the opportunity for rapid iteration.
If the survival rate of the new product is 5%, on the basis of the prototype test, the survival rate can be greatly increased to more than 35%. That is to say, no matter how urgent you are, it’s always right to do prototype testing first, unless the product is too heavy to come up with low-cost prototypes, such as my travel strategy and video editor.
So what are the drawbacks of prototype testing?
It can not verify the height of the ceiling, the impact of small samples, and the validity of the product model after scale.
For example, in the prototype testing stage, a can will not find the bottleneck of “dialogue threshold increases, relationship escalation is slow”, it can not predict the data open high or low, and the anonymous social ceiling is low.
For example, before launching a chat room and group chat, a large number of prototype tests have been done — “proofing” inside. Operating group designs hundreds of thematic rooms and thematic group chat in advance, then simulates the environment through uki’s customized chat room, and also pulls users from different channels into dozens of QQ groups to simulate the environment. The test results are optimistic. Once put into a 200,000-day living environment, the data do not meet expectations. We can’t control that the prototype test is consistent with the environmental variables of the scale release, and there is no technical support for gray scale test.
So prototype testing can only dramatically improve the survival rate, which doesn’t mean that it’s a fixture, but it’s already the most reliable way for you to control the fate of your product.
At this point, you must want to ask: is there any counterexample of prototype testing failing and scale-up setting up?
I haven’t experienced it. I don’t know.
2. Ten times the goal is the source of all evil
Next comes the second lesson, one of my most painful lessons: Ten times the goal.
Let’s start with a short paragraph.
When I was raising money for a can, an investor asked me, “How much do you think anonymous socialization can do?” I think… I don’t know what the fuck is about. Stiff-headed, “Ten million Days of Life”? The other side’s expression faded down in an instant, sighed and said, “Only 10 million……………………………………………. That’s all right.
This is the position of the investment circle. You can bet on losing and win a big one if you want to win. In dealing with capital, we must talk more about big stories. For example, the story of the first anonymous social model is not big enough. A VC signed the term and then stood the pigeon, explaining that “there is not much room for imagination”. This forced me to look for bigstory and come up with a social solution to the topic. It also wasted half of my time.
As high-level product managers know, the product strategy adopted is totally different with ten-fold target, three-fold target and one-fold target.
In order to get financing, I designed a “topic social” solution which persuaded myself and investors. In theory, it can achieve a growth curve of ten times the goal, running for 100-5 million days. But it doesn’t work at all. If we change to a conservative strategy, first consolidate the steady gains, follow the prototype test, perfect cold start of the original anonymous social line to go?
A can was officially released at the end of June, 18, and has been alive for 200,000 days in late August. If it hadn’t been unexpectedly removed from the AppStore during the Spring Festival, the 19-year Spring Festival would have lasted 300,000 days. Assuming that I don’t go through “leaps and bounds”, but steadily optimize anonymous social interaction, I am confident that I will be able to live 400,000 to 500,000 days before the A round of financing runs out. But the resources have been allocated to 10 times the goal of the topic of social networking, product changes, even double the goal has not been achieved.
So why should I toss about?

Firstly, I have a strong commitment. Now that I have painted a cake for investors, I must fulfill my promise. Second, the investors also told me, rush up quickly, the capital market will be cold next year, we will have another round of risk reduction in two or three months.
I had a very frank five-hour sharing meeting with the team after the dissolution of a can. Speaking of this, the team sighed, the inner OS capital is too evil. I knew what they were thinking, smiled and said to the programmer, “Don’t be crazy, buddy. If I hadn’t told a big story, would you come to a small company?”
Senior programmers, senior designers, where is not good, if I persuaded to join the entrepreneurial team, there will be good expectations for the future. If I said at the beginning that this anonymous social interaction, the ceiling is about 500,000 days of life, to 500,000 we will see how to go next. So not only can I not get round A financing, but also I can’t form excellent teams.
Back 10,000 steps, if I coax and coax the team, the data stagnate for a long time, and fail to meet the expectations of high growth, the employees will also change jobs. Where are the outstanding talents not welcome?
Without positive cash flow, the Internet has no “small and beautiful” living space.
In retrospect, if I step by step, I can not only get money but also form a team. Cicada travel notes consolidate the trunk of travel notes, not to rush to make heavy strategies, cat cake consolidation editor, not to rush to make scripts and communities. Two years later, cicada travel notes are confident to do 200,000 daily work, 200,000 cat cakes, 500,000 cans, with. The bottom line is to explore the next growth point. Even if, to take a step back, I couldn’t find any growth point. When I sold the product, investors and core teams could cash in, and I personally made enough. You know, the cicada travels follow-up hydrogen balloon travel in 2015 to do light travels, Ctrip in 2018 invested a huge sum of money to do the same thing, content is not up to the level of hydrogen balloon. The cat cake sells to Tencent almost no iteration nor promotion, idle for a year and a half, daily life has increased a lot…
In my seven years of starting a business, the saddest thing is not to fail, but to pursue ten times the goal and adopt radical product strategy, so that every product fails to meet the quality ceiling I can reach. I have the ability to do them much better, but I am not strong enough in spirit, team building and financing to drive me to take risks and to be defeated by risks.
When the company broke up, the technical partner told me, Sterling silver, your biggest problem is that your skin is not thick enough. You are a rare person with consistent words and deeds. You have great commitment, but it’s wrong for the founder. You should talk about big stories to get investment, to organize teams, to figure out what to do in the future, to move forward steadily, and not let big stories become your burden. Now that the team is disbanded and the product is abandoned, this is the biggest harm to the team for investors.
I was silent for a long time and couldn’t speak. After all, continuous entrepreneurship also makes me more anxious, more want to win, I can not shirk responsibility.
At a five-hour sharing session in July, someone asked, “Sounds desperate. If we don’t talk about big stories, we can’t form teams without financing. If we talk about big stories, we will increase the probability of serving the streets because it is too radical. Is there really no solution?
The solution is correct. I coined the term “native entrepreneurship family”, which means an entrepreneurship team that meets the following four conditions:
Angel Rotation Financing
The core team fully covers product development and operation
Core Teams Start Businesses Together Based on Old Friendship
The First Start-up of Core Team
As a result of:
Angel wheels usually do not attach much importance to bigstory. They mainly focus on the team, the track, and do not put pressure on the team.
If the core team can fully cover the critical path, there will be no shortboard and bottleneck.
If it is the first time to start a business, the mentality is more stable, will not set too high a goal for themselves, not easy to rush ahead with greedy achievements;
Old friendship has stronger team stickiness and will not give up easily.
Therefore, it is easier for native entrepreneurs to move forward steadily and pragmatically without exaggeration or greed. In the range of successful entrepreneurship I have observed, the proportion of native entrepreneurs may be more than half. I have also experienced the stage of the original entrepreneurship family (cicada travels), but at that time, the market promotion weak chicken, short board, missed the early dividend of mobile internet, forced me to use product solution to make up for the bottleneck of promotion, so as to step into the trap of radical strategy.
Back to the topic of ten-fold goals, in our industry, you often hear ten-fold goals… Ten times the goal… Although there are many successful cases, I still hate ten times the goal. It will give people an illusion that they will win only if they dare to fight. The higher the goal, the faster the growth. Attitude determines the outcome. There is a great feeling that someone will win the day.
In fact, the most important thing is that in your field, the model you’re working on, is there a ten-fold increase in the likelihood of a goal. If not, not for at least half a year or a year, the ten-fold goal is to find the way to death.
In other words, if there is a 10-fold target growth possibility, as long as the team is good enough, even if they do not set a 10-fold target, will they slack off? Can’t we achieve high-speed growth? For project leader, the most important motivation is inner passion, not external KPI. The excitement of growth naturally drives the best people to jump on the bandwagon. Using the successful case of ten times the goal as a reference is the typical reason for the reverse result of successful learning chicken soup, ignoring that under ten times the goal, pulled out seedlings help pull out dead tired bones.
III. Strategies, Strategies and Peers
The last lesson: strategy, strategy and partners.
The strategy of new product is equivalent to what market to choose and what product model to design. In my observation, most startups are “push people by themselves” when they start, and find market opportunities from their own life / work / hobbies over the past few years, which I often say: your past determines your future.
So without talking about strategy, strategy is fate, and strategy can be controlled by human resources. Strategies can be phased goals or plans to achieve them.
I decided to give up entrepreneurship and crush my feathers not with frustration, but with loneliness.

As you all know, the most difficult thing to start a business is the three major “directions / financing / recruitment”. For seven years, I carried it alone, without any help, and no one discussed it with me. Later, when it came to product strategy and operation strategy, nobody discussed it with me. At the meeting, they asked, “Do you have any ideas?” Always silent. My team is very good at landing, but the strategy is not good enough.
This is not to complain. I carefully analyzed the matter later. What is the way to put forward the strategy?
The first is a summary of the status quo. First of all, you have to make a full summary of the status quo. Full meaning is that you can write more than 1,000 words casually and speak for more than 10 minutes at the meeting.
The second is to collect information, collect demand and portraits extensively, and study competitive products and market trends. This information also needs to be sorted out clearly, and can easily write more than 1,000 words and speak for more than 10 minutes at the meeting.
Thirdly, it is possible to grasp the key information and put forward strategies and plans, commonly known as “ideas”, after having enough information inside and outside, sorting out the context and prioritizing. Ideas do not fall from the sky, nor do they hold back ideas. They come from a large amount of information integration and analysis.
Don’t be afraid to say that I’m a monster in integrated analysis. When the meeting was silent for a long time, I just waited for a few words, and then I went on to summarize the internal and external situation. The impromptu speech was like a speech. After that, my colleagues all smiled and nodded, and you were right. Do you have any supplements? No additions, you’re done.
In the long run, I have developed a team’s dependence on me, because the disparity is too big, but my extraordinary play has suppressed their growth, just listen to my summary before / after the project is launched. This dependence also weakens the diversity of possible strategies, reduces the output of the core team from the source, and especially enlarges my “lack of mental strength” personality defect. After all, it’s no use just telling me “don’t rush” if you don’t mention the strategy. I’m even more impatient when you say that.
So, seven years after carrying the direction strategy alone, loneliness crushed me. I was totally tired of or even disgusted with the role of founder. I retreated from the entrepreneurial stage and started gapyear for middle-aged people.