My partner Dharmesh Raithatha wrote the post below on the Forward Partners blog earlier this week. I’m reproducing in full here because it’s a great explanation of our solo-founder hypothesis and how we work more generally.
Are you a solo founder with an idea? We believe that we can help you create a successful e-commerce company better than anyone else. Here’s a case study of how we’ve helped Snaptrip.
HOW IT STARTED
Snaptrip started as an idea, an excel spreadsheet and a passionate founder called Matt. We met Matt for a casual coffee and the chat quickly turned into a follow up meeting and subsequent investment.
Matt was a second time entrepreneur who had a wealth of experience in the holiday lettings industry. His hypothesis was that consumers were moving towards last minute bookings and there was a gap in the market.
With no team and no technical expertise Matt was planning to find a team and build out some product before starting to raise some seed money. Our unique model allowed him to get started straight away.
We help founders develop a deep understanding of the problem so that they don’t have to rely on gut alone.
We worked with Matt to design interview questionnaires and coached him on interviewing technique. More importantly, the team paired with Matt throughout this understanding phase to share the insight. Talking to customers doesn’t seem very difficult but learning how to intuitively ask open questions, deviate from a script and synthesise the information gathered takes practice.
Our neutrality also provides a nice counterweight to a founders confirmation bias.
THE PROCESS OF GOING OUT AND REALLY UNDERSTANDING THE USERS NEEDS AND PROBLEMS GAVE ME ABSOLUTE CONFIDENCE IN THE CONCEPT AND WAS INVALUABLE FOR THE SHAPING OF THE PRODUCT AND OFFERING. IF I MEET ANYBODY WHO IS STARTING A COMPANY NOW THAT IS NOT UNDERTAKING THE PROPER VALIDATION, I TELL THEM THEY’RE MAD, NO MATTER HOW GOOD THE IDEA IS! – MATT FOX
The Concierge MVP means taking care of initial customers with the attention that a personal concierge would provide at a top hotel. It allows you to launch with a minimal product and provide an amazing service to your early customers while learning even more about their needs and wants.
Most of our early seed companies have used the Concierge MVP to accelerate insight which have led to better business and product decisions.
Matt really embraced this and we put his phone number at the top of the site and really encouraged customers to phone or use livechat to get in touch. Snaptrip is a weekend and evening business so the demands on your personal life can be quite high.
The beauty is that you get real transactions with a minimal product and customers who are ecstatic with the service provided.
MATT AT SNAPTRIP DID AN AMAZING JOB TRYING TO FIND US SOME LAST MINUTE ACCOMMODATION IN NORTH DEVON. THE ACCOMMODATION LOOKS STUNNING, A PERFECT LOCATION OVERLOOKING WOOLACOMBE BEACH, LOOKING FORWARD TO A RELAXING 5 DAYS IN MY FAVOURITE PLACE. THANK YOU SO MUCH MATT, I WILL DEFINITELY BE USING YOU AGAIN AND WILL RECOMMEND TO MY FRIENDS. – TRUSTPILOT REVIEW.
THE DYNAMIC BETWEEN FOUNDER AND TEAM
With our investment studio model we are covering new ground so how we best work with founders is something that we think about everyday.
For example, will the founders rely on us too much and will it impact follow on investment for the companies?
So far we haven’t found this to be an issue. In the early phases the founders soak up as much as they can from the experts in the room and as the business grows they need less and less of our support.
The timing often depends on previous experience, key hires and the growth of the business. But it has happened in every single instance.
In the early phases Snaptrip would often have the whole team working on the company. Whereas as hires come on board and the product develops our involvement has scaled down to more of a mentoring role and for tactical projects.
FINDING A COFOUNDER
Our solo founder hypothesis doesn’t mean we don’t believe that having a strong founding team increases the chances of success. We definitely do, we just think that for solo founders our model leads to better outcomes and opens up a larger talent pool.
Our talent team was able to source a list of potential candidates and Matt approached them directly for a chat. At this stage Matt had funding (albeit tranched), a solid understanding of the problem, a product and early transactions.
This gives massive credibility and opens up a much wider list of interested candidates.
Matt interviewed a number of candidates and the ones he liked we also interviewed to give him a sanity check.
Matt now has a awesome technical co-founder in Dan who has relevant industry experience from 8 years at HomeAway and post IPO left to run his own holiday lettings startup.
When Dan joined as co-founder the dynamic definitely changed for the better. Snaptrip felt more solid as a team of founders who both had sector expertise. It also meant that some members of our team could pull away from the day to day startup work and move to giving strategic advice while we focussed on the newer companies.
Snaptrip works better with 2 founders, with both Matt and Dan fighting for each other 24 hours a day.
PREPARING FOR FOLLOW ON FUNDING
Snaptrip is nearing the end of its 12 months and our investment team is helping Matt prepare his deck and introducing him to potential investors.
We believe that Snaptrip has a really great future ahead of it and we are really excited that we could help Matt get his idea off the ground.