Conversation Part 1: Are these girls headed for complete failure?
Part 1 is usually where people test the waters as to whether our startup is in any way viable. My answers to Part 1’s top questions are as follows:
Question: How are you going to make money?
Answer: For our platform to be successful, it needs to attract an enormous user base. That will probably only happen if our product is free for users. Thus, our monetization strategies will need to be indirect and numerous, in case one or more strategies fail.
Then I’ll usually continue the answer to this question by listing some of the broad monetization strategies we’ve devised.
Question: How are you going to stand out from your competitors?
Answer: If you’ve noticed that the online roommate-finding space is starting to get crowded, then you’re right! We have a lot of competitors, but at the end of the day that doesn’t scare us (it would actually be more scary if no one was trying to get into this space!). Our vision for a product is vastly different from anything else available today, and we’re also placing a huge priority on scale so that we can bring our product to, eventually, every city in the world where people live with roommates – something our competitors have not managed.
Question: Will you hire someone to build it?
Answer: Eventually. Probably. Only when we really need to. Marian and I met each other while wrapping up math degrees, and mathy people usually have a huge capacity to learn how to code. And we’ve learned! We’re definitely not professionals but we have gained enough knowledge to do a lot of our web application development on our own. Though we don’t expect our coding knowledge to stand up to that of industry professionals, we also don’t intend to start a tech startup completely in the dark about how our product is built. For mission-critical components, such as security, we’ll hire professionals; but, we can learn a lot and save a lot of money by doing the small stuff ourselves.
Question: How are you going to get funding?
Answer: Marian and I are both thankful that our work experiences in the past few years have enabled us to self-fund for a while. At some point we will need to ask for money, but when we do we will prioritize the knowledge and guidance firms can offer over how much cash we can get. The right investor for us would connect us with resources we really need such as lawyers, accountants, HR professionals, and will also advise us on how to successfully launch our product. Attracting this type of investor will be difficult, and we likely won’t be able to do so until we’ve built something tangible. Until then, we will be paying for everything ourselves.
Conversation Part 2: Advice
Passing Part 1 with flying colors will usually get others feeling relatively comfortable with the fact that Marian and I are serious about our startup and that we have a solid plan going forward. In other words, they might start thinking that our craziness is reasonably under control. At this point (if I haven’t yet talked their ears off), my conversation counterparts will proceed to Part 2: advice. I love advice. Many of the pieces of advice I’ve received about Chimney have manifested into new monetization ideas and into new ways of thinking about the quest to find the perfect roommate. Advice makes fighting through Part 1 worth it every time.