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Startup Diary: Anatomy of a Launch in Process

As an entrepreneur, one of the questions I’m asked most frequently is, “How did you take the leap?”  No matter how many times I’m asked this question, what I always picture in my mindseye is my daughter Yumi as a toddler, shouting, ““Jumpin’!  Jumpin’!”  Her face would scrunch up in focus as she bent her knees.  Then her eyes would widen expectantly and her little diapered rear would move up just a little, but her feet never actually left the ground.

Until one day, they did.  I have both the failed/practice attempts and the full-fledged jumping caught on video, but the actual moment of her first jump was integrated so incrementally into her every movement that it was impossible to identify that any one moment as the one where it happened.

I believe that this is true of most first jumps, both physical and metaphorical.  Often a leap only looks like a leap in retrospect, when you’ve had the luxury of gathering up all the small hops (and non hops) into a coherent arc.  Behind each bold leap is a series of smaller hops, including many stumbles, mostly with survivable consequences.

So here I am, taking “The Leap” again.  But this time around, I’m enjoying the practice steps.  Yes, we took down our “under construction” plugin on September 18, and I had filed for incorporation in our state some time before that.  I hired my first employee in June, and my first contractors as early as April.  I opened a bank account in May.  But I can’t pick any of these dates as our official “launch” – because we are still in the process of launching.

With the confidence of my past experience, I’m really enjoying the fact that it’s easier than ever to iterate as we go.  While I know many tech entrepreneurs who do (or feel like they must) don the Steve Jobs persona of obsessive drive to perfection, my experience tells me that the only thing I can achieve with this approach is a deep unhappiness and a need to purchase ever bigger bottles of bourbon.

Instead, I ask, “Do I believe this will delight my girlfriends?”  (Sorry men, I don’t spend much of my time thinking about you because you drive less than 10% of consumer spending outside of cars and electronics).  Then I ask, “What can I do to delight them more?”

From the second I started playing around with the idea of Tokki earlier this year, I’ve been constantly balancing my passion for openness with my drive for excellence.  I want to get something out there to give people something real to respond to, but I also want it to spark some joy. 

Here’s what I know so far about the kind of entrepreneur I am:

  1. I am wired to build companies that drive moments of delight.
  2. I believe deeply in the power of collaboration. And I also believe that the most important input on a product comes from paying customers, so getting to the point of having something you can sell as quickly as possible is important.
  3. I believe in doing better every day.  I love breaking “better” down into the smallest feasible unit to achieve.  I believe in iteration more than a “big bang” approach to change.  When I was younger I used to worry that this was gendered, that I wasn’t being as bold as the boys.  But now I believe that many different approaches can exist.  Mine is probably very much defined by my life experience as a woman and immigrant, but I can lean into my approach while looking around to question it from time to time. 

So welcome to this leap in process.  I’m not sure exactly when our feet will leave the ground, but I plan to continue to share our efforts at launching as we go. 

Jane

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