I am now half way into this exercise, at least the school sanctioned part, and I can no better tell you now where I am then I ever could before. A lot of incubators claim to have pathways to launch, predetermined steps you run through to get to market. I can definitely say that every single one of these is useless. This is a Choose Your Own Adventure not a novel.
When I first started I had goals for where I could be each month, a first prototype by October, a security handler by December. I had reduced the world down to Gantt charts and flow diagrams, which, in their credit, are very useful things when you have a predefined path.
The problem with this model is that startups live and die on the agility of their model. If you are in the business of bringing the exact thing you dreamt of months ago to market, you will ultimately go down with that idea. Process gets defined as you go through it, and planning this as if it is a family vacation is a fool’s errand.
So, I guess the question is what exactly have I been doing? I am not exactly sure I have an answer for you. Since September I have pitched to four possible partners, developed marking and customer acquisition strategy, spend ungodly amounts of time on conference calls, and almost have a market date prepared for launch.
I have mounted wild goose chases, and dove into tangents of unspeakable depth and worthlessness, I have written thousands of lines of code, and deleted thousands more. I learned a whole lot of Linear Algebra and a little bit of Numerical analysis while loosing all ability to do basic match. I have figured out equity models, at least to some extent, and can responsibly pitch to almost anyone.
I have chased imaginary deadlines and missed them, and I have chased real ones and made them. I have no better idea of where am I now, nor where I will be, but I have a pretty good idea of where I need to be come January.
and I can tell you for sure it won’t be described in a gantt chart.
Bringing a product to market is an exercising in learning simply how much you don’t know. At the beginning the amount of effort that I thought this ‘minimum viable product’ would take was in fact, maybe the amount of effort it now takes for me to finish one pitch slide.
I have learned the pure marathon that is FDA compliance, and how creatively breaking rules is often the best course. I have learned how to dodge late night violations to Skype possible foreign partners, and how to schedule calls in ways not to hint I am still in high school.
I think I finally figured LinkedIn out, and mastered Angellist. I have cold calling people down to a science, and pitches memorized down to the individual word. I have built two hundred powerpoint slides, about twelve of which have seen the light of day, and learned how important it is to detach yourself from the work you are doing.
I have made countless flow diagrams and thrown all of them away, and mastered way too many chart making softwares. I have written blog posts on Tetris and Computational Theory and tripled our Google Search placement through sketch Facebook tricks.
I am also about to rebrand almost everything, maybe.
In terms of what is left to do; almost everything. We still need to hire a development house and a marketing agency all while retaining a compliance attorney so I can stop calling in favors. I need to turn 18 so we can incorporate, but I don’t think there’s a way to speed that up. I need to meet with more patients, both because it is the most fulfilling work imaginable, and because they are our customer base. I need to drive out to Penn State to catch up with Roger, and carve out more time to call my mentors.
I should also probably read my email more often.