A month ago today I left my full time job to set up a company called Revolution in user thinking aka Riut. Everything this company designs and does revolves around the user. Product number one is a rucksack for urban commuters and city dwellers. These lessons are relevant to startup buyers of business services and B2B service providers hoping to get new clients. They have also taught me how to behave towards my future customers and clients.
Am I happy with my first month as a startup? Let's see.
Learning to work with other businesses
For any new company creating a new product, getting a prototype together is crucial.
I could spend the next three years looking for the perfect prototyping company wherever it is in the world. This, however, would pretty quickly drain my time and resources, potentially leaving me with no money and no rucksack. Therefore, my goal was to stop planning and start implementing. Doing, not just planning to do. That meant researching, shortlisting and meeting prototyping companies to see whether we could work together to create our best shot at Riut bag prototype number one.
This month taught me about trusting business partners. I travelled to Cheltenham and Bristol respectively to meet the two companies I shortlisted to see how we could work together.
I met two companies: 1) D2M Innovation and 2) another company. D2M Innovation was patient, professional, personable and honest about the difficulties we might face. I'll come back to this company at the end of this blog.
The second company really shocked me. The owner cancelled our first meeting in Reading, where I'm based, at short notice. Instead, I drove 160 miles in total to visit his Bristol office. When I arrived it was in chaos so we had the meeting in a coffee shop. One of his first statements was that I should probably just work with an individual on this project rather than ask his company to do it. He also told me he was concerned for me that I'd given up my job to start this company.
After our meeting - which was actually quite promising - he failed to send the proposal on time. I asked a week later whether he still wanted to submit a proposal. The answer came back "yes". I've heard nothing since.
Speaking to my friends, I noted that I was unsure about this company. This is the classic "gut feeling" that people speak about. The many small signs made me think: "What happens if this project doesn't matter to him as much as me? What happens if this continues when we work together?"
Alone, any of these things could have been understandable. However, collectively, they pointed to a company that was demotivating, unsupportive and which could not be trusted.
Why does it matter?
When you've just given up your job, started building a company and a future out of nothing, you must have confidence in those you choose to spend time with and money on. That's why it matters.
During month one of starting my own business that behaviour set off real alarm bells for me. Who can I trust? Will I be able to find a trust worthy business partners out there? Starting a company alone in a new industry, I'm blind and have only my judgement and a few first impressions to go on.
Partner of choice: D2M Innovation
I've chosen to work with the first prototyping company: D2M Innovation. The owner and an expert textiles designer met me, we spoke and looked round the studio where the work would take place. We had good ideas together, we supported each other on social media and I received an extremely professional proposal on time.
Am I happy?
It's a scary time when you go it alone and take a risk by spending your savings on a startup idea. This prototyping company makes me feel confident that we can create a great first shot at this rucksack. We get on well and, crucially, they really get the idea that exists in my mind and my basic drawings. They keep to their time promises and are patient with my curious and fledgling approach.
D2M's professionalism allows me to rest assured at night that I can make this company and this product a reality. And it's really exciting as a consequence. So, yes, I'm happy with month one.
Get in touch
I've done more than started prototyping this month. I've also registered my trademarks and company, done market research on over 600 people and started looking at business bank accounts. Still to do: make website, create Kickstarter video and work on a B2B strategy.
I'm on Google+ and Linkedin. If you're a startup who is making decisions about prototypes, or any new business partners, get in touch if you feel it would help. We're all learning all the time. Of course you'll work it out for yourself; if you can learn from others' experience, though, why not do it?
The Riut bag will be unveiled and available this autumn for 30 days only via Kickstarter, crowdfunding website. Give your views on rucksacks and register to find out about the Riut bag when it is released.