Overcoming Radio Silence after Launching a Startup Website
We launched our website over a year ago and then silently proceeded to succumb to an acute case of imposter syndrome.
The worst symptom was slipping into a state of zipped-lip silence—and then just staying there. There were no product updates, newsletters, or blog posts. No team updates about what we were learning. And naturally, I made absolutely certain never to share anything that might reveal we (gasp!) make mistakes and don't know stuff!
I cringed recently upon realizing I'd been keeping quiet due to a subconscious fear others might discover we weren't the polished startup superstars I silently hoped the world would see us as. Reality slapped me with the reminder that the companies I look up to most, also happen to be incredible models of transparency. They shine by being vulnerable and I love them for sharing their hidden journeys behind both their wins as well as their mistakes.
So this post is me flipping tables and throwing open the door. Mistakes and missteps clutter the wake behind us, but we're still afloat and powering forward.
Interestingly, the moment I decided to embrace who we are and where we're at on our journey, I realized that so many of the things contributing to me feeling small, scared, and intimidated, also happened to be the very things that qualify us as a legitimate underdog in this crazy startup game. And who doesn't like rooting for the underdog
Our Underdog Cred
- Not only are we nowhere near Silicon Valley, we're roughly 4 hours from Seattle, Portland, Spokane, and Boise. We're in the middle of nowhere! We're from the small town of Walla Walla in the high deserts of Eastern Washington State. And in addition to being geographically remote, our town is also essentially void of even a fledgling tech startup scene. We're pretty much it!
- We haven't raised a penny of outside investment. We're a totally bootstrapped startup.
- Nobody on our team has ever been a part of a previously successful SaaS startup.
- None of us have ever even brought one of our own products to market before.
- We're not a Y Combinator alum. In fact, we've never been a part of any startup boot camp, incubator, or accelerator.
- We have roughly zero connections to the tech startup world. We're far more likely to bump into farmers at networking events than other founders or startup advisors.
- We have a competitor! They're even a brand new, well-funded, much-hyped Y Combinator all-star. They're blasting out of the gate with more high-powered advisors and connections than Greta Thunberg! And they seem to be moving at the speed of light to dominate our market!
Aah! Feels great being an underdog! And to think I was allowing all this stuff to fuel my insecurities and fears instead of embracing it as the unique strands of startup DNA they are—the very things that give us our unique identity and power.
However, nobody is motivated to root for underdogs simply because the odds are stacked steeply against them. There needs to be a special-something about them. Something people can see in them to get excited about. Something to believe in and rally around.
Fortunately, I think we've got that covered as well.
Reasons to Root for Us
- Despite our challenges, we still full-heartedly believe our app solves the single-biggest problem remote workers complain the most about. Something no other app has succeeded at solving. And that is helping remote workers overcome feeling disconnected from their team, feeling out of the loop, and experiencing a sense of isolation. Swivel solves that in an entirely new way. And that's a big freakin’ deal!
- We have worked through and successfully solved a gazillion extremely complex, technological and UX challenges along the way. We can't wait to have others try Swivel! If they end up seeing our simple, clean interface and conclude the app wouldn't have taken much to build, we'll enthusiastically wear that as a badge of honor! Because we'll silently know how many painstaking refinements went into creating that experience and how sophisticated and well-built the architecture and code is under the surface.
- The future of work is remote work. And the future of remote work will happen in small, rural towns. Once remote work explodes and cuts people's tethers to the expensive, congested metropolitan hubs they've been forced to live in, they'll be free to live wherever they want. We strongly believe they'll continue flocking to sophisticated small towns more conducive to raising families due to more affordable housing, less congestion, and family-centric communities. Our company is headquartered in one of those towns. I also own a coworking space here that serves as a sort of landing spot for remote workers moving to town. We're deeply engaged with the steady flow of remote workers relocating here from Seattle, Portland, and beyond. As such, we enjoy a far deeper, more direct, and truly personal connection with our target demographic and the communities they live in than any competitor could dream of having.
- We're relieved none of us have a history with previously successful startups. We're free from any corresponding bias, expectations, and restrictive roadmaps. We're free from influences and pressure to build an app to fit any kind of trendy startup mold. Instead, we've been free to simply build an app that remote workers love and that magically solves so many of the most painful problems they report experiencing working remotely.
- As a bootstrapped company, we have the truly delightful and unparalleled opportunity to have our owner, investor, and fellow developer, all be the exact same person. Plus that person just so happens to fully espouse and passionately believe in absolutely everything I've written about here. There are zero competing self-interests or out-of-touch advisors to deal with. We enjoy an unrivaled, shared, laser focus around our vision, values, strategy, and priorities that would be the envy of startups with multiple investors and shareholders in the mix.
- Our team oozes with creativity and talent. Plus, we all admire the heck out of one another, we work extremely well together and have a combined skillset that's off the charts considering we're such a small team from such a small town. We have the ability to brainstorm and engineer truly innovative and groundbreaking ideas. Some of which are in the initial beta version of the app and tons more that will be revealed and implemented later.
Feeling hesitation to share your startup's story because you fear drawing attention to your team’s weaknesses or mistakes comes from a perfectly natural place. If you're in a similar situation, just remember that your experience is almost certainly far more similar to what other startups go through than you currently realize. It's also very likely that the areas where you are genuinely different, whether those be perceived weaknesses or strengths, are the exact things that make your startup and your story unique and worthy of sharing with the world.
If it's been awhile since you've written a blog post or sent a newsletter because you're waiting for something worthy of sharing, stop waiting. Explore or share what it is you're working on. Find a question someone has asked you about your startup, imagine you're writing them a response via email, and then publish that as a blog post. Or publish your own post addressing why you feel reluctant to publish a blog post. But whatever you do, don't keep waiting like we did. Write something. Publish it. Share it. If your work is worthy of your focus, it's worthy of being shared with the world.