First Year Learnings from Co-Founding and Running BotNot
We started BotNot a year ago today! It has been a surreal and wild journey that began with a Cabin Fever Discord, numerous iterations of using crypto to cut the foreign transaction fees, and countless other ideas. Despite building products and offerings at some of the world’s largest companies, we were fixated on building something ourselves.
One afternoon, I received an enthusiastic call from Alex, my sister and co-founder, while she was driving three hours to pick up a mattress. Initially, I was skeptical, as I thought bots and bad actors were solely impacting sneakers and concert tickets, and I thought there were endless companies in this field. However, the more I learned about bad actors and the disconnect between brands and their customers, the more I became obsessed and fully dedicated myself to building the best digital identity solution.
We experienced a lot in our first year — forming a global team and balancing 15-hour time differences, numerous iterations of building BotNot, getting our first customers, parting ways with a co-founder, and raising money from some incredible investors (shhh, more to come soon). It has been an eventful year, and we have learned more than we ever thought was possible; thus, we wanted to share some of our biggest lessons from our first year!
1) Creditability through improvement — one of the scariest things we struggled with, along with other founders, was the notion of “being ready.” I must have this feature, I am not creditable enough, or it is too early to reach out to that person because the platform is not developed enough. It is natural to be scared, as there is a ton of uncertainty, and you need to be vulnerable. However, we learned that taking risks and reaching out to these individuals, clients, and investors was the best way to “get ready.” We realized that the best way to establish creditability was through showing consistent progress — initial discussion turned into mockups, which then turned into live demos. The more we showed progress, the more we got these individuals to become believers, stakeholders, and customers. Taking a leap of faith and showing consistent progress is the best way to cultivate relationships and creditability.
2) People WANT to help you — we thought that no one would be willing to help or give their feedback, plus it is always a little awkward asking for a favor or cold-calling. We were shocked by the number of people that took our cold calls and friends willing to make introductions for us. We turned cold calls into evangelists and friends, who offered their expertise and opinions, and some answered at 2am. People want to help contribute to some, especially if it makes their lives easier. This has made us big believers in building publicly, as we found our best evangelists and customers solely by posting.
3) Culture & team is everything — I was a naysayer and ignorant by assuming that we can establish culture once we have the time to focus and concentrate on it, and I could not have been more wrong. Establishing our culture of communication and values was essential for us, as it shaped the way we approached our entire business — hiring, development, and interaction with our team and clients. It has enabled us to build our company despite navigating 15-hour time zone differences, six languages, and countless bad jokes on JackBox. Furthermore, it has guided us through one of our hardest decisions, needing to part with one of our co-founders, as she did not align with our culture. Establishing your culture is essential for your success.
4) When you know, make the decision — like everything in life, sometimes you need to make tough decisions. It is easy to delay these hard decisions, as confrontation can be daunting and challenging. This is just procrastination; you often know the right answer and decision but are too afraid of the consequences of making the best decision for your company. I heard this amazing quote that embodies our learnings:
“When struggling between two choices and they are even. I choose the one that is harder in the short-term, as I know it will be better in the long-term.”
This mantra resonated with us and the difficult decisions we needed to make at BotNot. Whether it was dropping out of Michigan, Michael and Nathan taking a gamble on a young startup, becoming partially nocturnal to support our global team, or parting ways with team members, it has been a guiding principle for us. When you know the right decision, make it quickly, as many times you spend more time worrying, accommodating, and trying to improve it. Buck up, make the tough decision, and go through the short-term pain, then be free in the long-term.
5) Rome was not built overnight and celebrate the little victories — it is easy to be impatient, especially with the stereotype of crazy founders who seemingly build businesses overnight. This is the exception, not the standard and while being a founder is completely consuming — things take time. Everything takes longer to build than you expect, marketing campaigns will not always go viral, you will send 100s of cold calls for one response. Gradually that one response turns into critical product insights and changes your outreach campaign to increase the number of responses or refine the best engagement for your marketing strategy. Take a deep breath, focus on daily progress, and you will be shocked by the amount you accomplish within a short time.
Take the time to celebrate your accomplishments, as it is easy to always be focused on the next thing or needing to improve something — it is in our nature as entrepreneurs. Reflecting and celebrating the little victories motivates you to continue to push and improve.
We have learned so much during our first year at BotNot, and we wanted to express our gratitude to EVERYONE. Without you, we would not be here, and we would not be living our dreams! We are beyond appreciative of the support, advice, and teachings you provided us! If anyone is looking to jump into their entrepreneurial journey, brainstorm ideas, or have questions, we are always happy to help!
We are beyond excited for the future of BotNot and for changing the way brands digitally interact with their customers. Digital identity and knowing your customers are critical for decision making, as having a skewed dataset impacts your entire business. Look at Elon’s fight with Twitter around bots and fake accounts, as it is holding up a $34b acquisition!
We are just scratching the surface and have some exciting announcements coming soon! 👀