News Armada Post Mortem

posted in: Startup Life | 0

We’ve stopped construction of News Armada.

One of the things you read, repeatedly, about founding a startup is that the idea will change. Ours was no different. And when the big change came, it felt like an exciting moment, like we’d reached a milestone. It wasn’t just a change, it was an improvement. Better features, better plans, better products.

The downside? With changed idea came a changed target market. And it went from one we were comfortable with, one we knew, to one full of strangers. Let me tell you, the last type of customer you want is a stranger. If you don’t know your customer, you don’t know your business. Before we knew it, we were solving a problem we weren’t completely sure existed for customers we didn’t even know.

How did this change happen? We were looking for the money.

Our core idea was simple, if ambitious: take social news out of its infancy, and create the most valuable community of content creators on the web. But big ideas take big bucks, and we needed a business model that would make it financially worthwhile. Our first idea for how to do that wasn’t going to work well enough. As soon as we realized that, we started thinking about other ways our idea could make money.

That was a mistake.

What we should have been doing was focusing on developing the features for a first version of our site as quickly as possible, so we could start building our community. Instead, we were chasing dollars and doing more research. It slowed us down, way down. Losing momentum on a startup is bad in more ways than one. It’s demoralizing, it’s a ton of effort to regain it, and worst of all, it acts as an anchor. It’s permanently attached to your company, and that’s a serious hindrance when you’re trying to reach goals like getting funding. Investors will look at the time you’ve spent on your company, look at what you’ve accomplished, and say, “This long, and that’s all?”

If you know you can create a company that can create value, and all you lack is a way to extract it, create the value first and worry about getting it later. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. There are real pressures on entrepreneurs to prioritize revenue before value. For first time entrepreneurs, like us, it’s worse. Without resources to bootstrap for very long, there’s a practical need for a clear plan for a payoff, for investor approval.

News Armada had changed, both too much and too little.

What’s Next

And now we’re moving on. Our next project, code-named RealtorForge, solves a clear problem for customers we know well. I hope to tell you more about that in the months to come. In the meantime, there’s still more benefits for you to enjoy from our attempt at News Armada, other than a lengthy post-mortem. There’s no reason the market should (or would) wait until I have enough money and motivation to improve social news. There are many players in this space, with more on the way as news is clearly an industry in need of innovation. I’d like to offer my ideas, and let others make use of them as they like. More posts on this subject soon.