QuikTract – Why our first Startup did not fail, but was not here in the first place?
Last February we put together a team of three developers and one business/marketing/law person with an idea. Sounds wonderful, as almost all of the founders of QuikTract had a technical background. But what happened? And did we learn anything?
I first looked into Sharing Economy almost three years ago, when I wrote my thesis in the field. We then thought how to start an online marketplace where people could share their stuff, e.g. Sharely or Rentmarket, but postponed it after I started my law studies.
Last year, I decided it was still time to start a Startup and opened my old research on Sharing Economy. Thought the idea of online rent-marketplace was still funky and in December took part of University of Tartu’s pitching competition named Kaleidoskoop. There was a similar idea to mine in the field of providing on-demand services, e.g. TaskRabbit or GoWorkaBit, that made me think on looking into that market as well.
During meetings with some Startup advisors in Estonia, I decided to focus on the field of construction and make an online marketplace providing on-demand construction workers. I then registered into university courses where teams were put to work on some projects (Marketing, Startup Project & Business Plan), put together a founding team of three developers and I and we started working on the idea.
From February to May, we analysed the market and filled the business model canvas, using help from economics students from my Marketing course. We also took part of designathon, built our first prototype and took part of another Kaleidoskoop event, which we won. We were then asked to go into a student startup accelerator, where we continued developing our MVP, until one day… We decided to stop doing it.
That’s how QuikTract became a Startup that never was. So what happened? Or what did not go according to our plan of building the next Uber or Airbnb?
First, the founding team. QuikTract was not our idea, it was my idea.
Non of us knew each other before, nor had we real experience building a Startup. But we were eager to learn – that’s why we took the Startup Project course. And we did learn a bunch!
The first time we met, there were seven people, out of which two teams were made and we just had to think of any problem we would like to solve by building a Startup. As others did not have any ideas and I pitched mine so enthusiastically, they came on board. And we started working. Worked our asses off in order to get things done by the end of semester and did great. We did win the pitching competition after all!
But we never really talked future plans. We discussed, who does what and how would we share our shares. But we only signed documents after going into the accelerator. And even then we did not ask, what is the MOTIVATION of any of us. Only some of us did say then that they were not sure if they could work 2-4h per day during the whole summer. They were not, as they got jobs and even I went to Draper University in Silicon Valley, which was a great experience, but did not leave much time for other things.
And in the long run, most of us just did it as a school project, never really resonating with the idea itself.
Second, listen to the market. It is not enough to analyse the market, you have to use the data.
We were sure the idea was magnificent. There simply was no one providing people with great solution for on-demand high quality construction workers. We asked, would you use us, if there was? And people said they would.
But we did not really ask construction companies whether they would use our service and when we did, we did not listen, but argued. We also did not really show there were a viable amount of workers willing to use our platform. Did not listen to advisors saying it might not work. And DID NOT ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS of why there was no such system yet.
Later on, we of course learnt that there simply were not enough high quality construction workers on the market that were looking for extra work or were using IT services to help themselves, nor were the construction companies willing to use platforms similar to us, as they knew high quality workers would not go there, as they do not have such a problem.
So we did ask questions, but we did not ask the right ones, nor did we listen to the answers. And when we did, we decided there was no real problem to be solved.
Third, I stopped believing. QuikTract simply was not my true calling either.
From early on, I was the one who was selling QuikTract. And apparently I did rather good job doing that. The team bought it, the couches did, the jury of Kaleidoskoop did, the board of the student accelerator did, Draper University somewhat did and even I did. All until Tim Draper asked if it was truly something I did because it was in my heart or was it in my head. No one had asked me that before and it made the change.
After I had realised it was not the thing I was passionate about, I also started to see how the team was beginning to break down and that we had ignored all signs from the market. So we decided to stop, analyse what had happened, what we had learned and wait for the next revelation.
Points I took out of this experience:
- The whole founding team has to feel the problem You are solving and You should all talk about Your motivation.
- Really sit down and think whether the idea is in your heart or in your head and decided based on that whether its worth spending your time on it.
- When analysing your market, ASK the right questions, LISTEN to the people and do not try to defend your idea too much. It is a Startup. It is supposed to change in time!
- Building Startups is COOL and I will continue doing it. And I will listen more.