Spend more time validating than ideating.
Jay Desai is the Founder of Swpely, previously Head of Growth at Trend, and has just finished his own mini-series. His mini-series, Season Pass highlighted how he was able to validate his product fast, finish building in 3 months, and gain a thousand users in under one month. Jay’s career has been fuelled by curiosity, constant experimentation, and avoiding false objections. Jay is an active member of the communities that he’s a part of and works to make genuine connections. Jay is a bigger believer in spending more time validating over ideating.
The biggest moment of growth or development for Jay was starting his own company, Swpely. The change, having the keys to the car, made such a difference. In the early stages of the business, he didn’t really have a lot of budget for marketing, it challenged his creativity. His decision-making skills were called upon constantly, what tools to use, what to focus on and what problems to tackle. As a solo founder, Jay was not able to boil the whole ocean. The ongoing process of his role meant he became confident in his decisions and knowing the right levers to hit.
In the development of the skills that have helped him as a founder, Jay recalled his last role as Head of Growth. Working at a startup with a team of 5 people, he was exposed to many different processes. He would be wearing many hats, but his curious nature helped him approach different problems and gave rise to plenty of experimentation. The management was also influenced by his ability to say no, to take on exactly what he could handle.
The experimentation that Jay has been so consistent with comes from an internal motivation. He is driven by a desire to grow, to become better, to take on roles with more responsibility and higher stakes. Within any role you have Jay believes that you should take time to learn and then go out and take risks. You’ll never achieve great success if you’re just running the typical playbook.
Confidence is a big factor when it comes to the experimentation process. From Jay’s perspective, you need to believe in what you’re doing and putting out. When it comes to your gut and intuition, you need to trust it. There will always be competing voices in your head, doubt will often serve up false objections. Should I add another section to the website? Should I add another feature to my email campaign?
These will act as barriers to you validating your ideas and product. There will never be a perfect time. Often too, there is a temptation to follow in the footsteps of more experienced people. Any individual who has ever experimented has started at step one. Use that concept to enliven your own experimentation process, learn from it, and move on. There are few, if any people who are tracking all of your experiments.
Jay has discovered throughout his career that he’s not half bad at growth marketing. This has been validated as he’s seen his skills develop and the value he’s offered to companies. Every moment in his career has been leading to where he is now, he’s taken all the pieces of information, understanding the process with greater ease. His new role has him doing it all himself, and that onus and responsibility is what he loves, he’s driven by it.
Jay spoke about self doubt. The moments in which self doubt is the strongest for him stem from comparison. When Jay sees another company go to market with a great idea, getting good traction or fundraising faster, self-doubt can come knocking. More recently, Jay has become far better at managing those thoughts, choosing instead to reflect on his own progress. His company has made great strides, little wins often get taken for granted. His reflection helped him shift his perspective to seeing these little wins as legitimate milestones.
Support is everything. Jay believes in the power of community and how they help him in a career context. A major system of support is the validation of those around him. In the process of going to market, people gave him some great feedback, really building him up. Jay also consults his own team of advisors, a brilliant sounding board for his journey as an entrepreneur. Additionally, he has the private slack channel for Swpely. The customer feedback is motivational and inspirational.
Many think of their product in the future, and the countless features to add, and the summits to climb. Although there is real value in your current product helping your customers. They’ll have some magnificent things to say about your product. When you hear other founders saying it, it’s so validating. Jay wants to remind himself and other founders that they’ve built something. Building something takes focus, energy and time. No matter what the final output is, credit is due.
Finding a Balance:
Jay is still working on the work life ratio. It’s an area where he is constantly trying to improve. When Jay first began his startup, he was grinding. Work, break for meals, then more work. Waking up early to factor in more time to work. Jay noted that in the development of a better balance, he was able to realise that when he stepped away, nothing caught fire, there weren’t any major meltdowns. He has become far better at taking breaks and realising that everything is going to be ok.
Jay told a story about how he is improving with his recovery time. He had been having a tough day, feeling fatigued and very low on motivation. It was almost 3pm, he knew that if he opened his laptop he wouldn’t be doing his best work. He made the choice to leave the laptop and turned to videogames. He purposefully made the choice to rest and relax. This can be easier said than done as most founders want to hustle as much as they can, to be the best.
Jay has one tip for community building, and its pretty simple:
Talking doesn’t mean having a 30-minute zoom call. An email exchange can be talking to someone. For the development of the Swpely community, this has been really important. Within Jay’s emails, he has been having back and forth with at least 25% of Swpely users. Each interaction adds up and builds the brand identity and culture. The users are validated and feel heard, especially dealing with the founder himself. Jay uses this same tactic across social media, with Twitter and LinkedIn, replying to comments and tweets. Jay recommends to have as many conversations as you can, with the goal to build genuine connections.
Jay’s one key piece of advice is to spend more time validating than ideating. As a founder or entrepreneur, you’re the only one who knows what the final solution looks like. Your audience can only know what the product may look like from their own context and perception. Jay also noted that everyone wants to generate revenue or customer acquisition goals. Another view is to think of your users as a funnel. You will always have someone using your product weekly or monthly. The challenge then is what do you need to offer to get people to use your product daily, instead of weekly or monthly. What is your strategy to turn monthly users into weekly users, and weekly users into daily users.
Jay Desai is moving from strength to strength and we’ve benefited from his Season Pass, his insights on social media and we’re excited to be a part of his waitlist. Upflowy is working hard to match him for content, waitlist numbers, and product development. Enjoy some more of our growth stories, learn from our expert’s corner series, or claim free access to our product.