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  • Starting Up

    Lessons learned while starting Jolt

    June 1, 2016 in "Entrepreneurship"

    I’ve recently had a number of friends and acquaintances interested in my own experiences as they prepare to make the entrepreneurial leap. In my conversations with them, I found myself often circling back to the same points of emphasis. While there are lots of great resources out there for entrepreneurs, I’ve always found that the personal stories and inisghts of founders add valuable context. In that spirit, I’ve distilled down the most important lessons I learned while starting Jolt in the hope that they might be useful to a broader audience.

    Things We Did Well

    Prototyping

    We focused on cheap and easy ways to quickly build functional prototypes. These prototypes allowed us to quickly test assumptions, validate the concept, and iterate on the core design.

    Early Customer Feedback

    Using the functional prototypes, we were able to get early feedback from customers. This feedback was crucial to better understanding our customers and their requirements while continuing to refine the product.

    Staying Lean & Scrappy

    Rather than raising too much money too early or growing the team too quickly, we utilized community resources, grant funding, crowdfunding, and accelerator programs wherever possible. This allowed us to focus our time and attention on building the best possible product for our customers.

    Local Manufacturing

    While many startups immediately opt for off-shore manufacturing options, we determined that our best choice was to stay local. We found partners in the Midwest who were easy to work with, willing to get creative to help us keep costs down, and provided the necessary flexibility to scale from small batches to large runs with growing demand.

    Our Biggest Pitfall

    Neglecting Sales & Marketing

    While we were laser-focused on product development, we should’ve put more early reources towards sales and marketing strategy. By neglecting this, we weren’t able to immediately hit the ground running once our manufacturing lines were up and running. Although we had early adopters thanks to a Kickstarter campaign and pre-orders, we would’ve had a smoother transition to shipping had we adequately tested and refined our business model sooner. This is a common pitfall for engineering-heavy teams. Even though we were well-aware of this, it was still an easy trap to fall into.

    Useful Resources

    Books I wish I’d read sooner (if you only read two, read these):

    Self-authoring provisional patent applications:

    Other books that have been useful/interesting:

    Suggested books that I haven’t gotten to yet: