Welcome to the very first documentation of startup life. These posts will be numbered in chornological order, documenting the entire journey of nothing to something, or at least that’s what I aim to do. Enjoy!
How I Named My Startup
If you haven’t read the book Shoe Dog by Nike Founder Phil Knight, I highly recommend it. I’ve never cried reading a book before but I did with this one. It resonated with me in soo many ways. Aside from my tears, I pulled inspiration with how Phil came up with the name for Nike. He was in Greece at the Acropolis and saw the goddess of victory Nike. Later on when he had to come up with a name for his shoe company on the spot, that name called to him.
I’d love to say that I have an awesome story like that for coming up with the name SolyCow (Sol-Eee-Cow), I don’t. Instead, I looked up synonyms for the words sun, energy, photon, etc and couldn’t find anything that stuck with me (or available). Basically any word that had a correlation between the sun and solar panels. After a few weeks of searching, I saw a Geico commercial pop-up on YouTube.
I thought to myself how my parents had just gone with Geico’s insurance for the cars. Then I started thinking about the gecko and couldn’t get his gimmicky voice out of my head. Which then triggered me to start thinking about all of the other gimmicky national brands that have been so successful. (Hamburger Helper Glove, Ronald McDonald, The General Insurance, etc.)
This shifted my focus to animals and rhyming. If Geico could use a gecko, why couldn’t I use an animal? The word sol is Spanish for sun (energy). I put myself in the very first visitors shoes on my website.. what would be their first impression? What did I want them to feel?
Then it came to me, “Holy Cow this is easy!” That’s what I wanted visitors to feel. I wanted them to be awed with how simple the process of getting a solar quote, to bid, to installation was. So I replaced the letter s with h and that’s how SolyCow was born. Hint: our mascot is going to be a cow lol.
Open Startup Model
What exactly is an open startup? An open startup is essentially a company that discloses all of site metrics, customers, and gross income publicly. Again, I value transparency more than anything, so I believe more than anything this will develop trust within the SolyCow community. While it is frowned upon by some, I want our customers to know where our income is coming from and how it’s being made. I believe this is one way we will develop trust with our audience. Also, I think public documentation is a way of life already within our society: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. We’re already doing so with our everyday lives, people should be able to see the same with our metrics and financials.
I’ve recently been reading the book by Paul Jarvis, Company of One: Why Staying Small Is The Next Big Thing For Business, and I’ve been learning a ton! One of the people he mentions in his book is Rand Fishkin, Former CEO and Founder of MOZ.
If your idea requires a lot of money, time, or resources to start, you’re probably thinking too big too soon. Scale it down to what can be done right now, on the cheap and fast, and then iterated upon.— Chris Altamirano (@chrisalta) April 28, 2019
When Rand first started MOZ, it was a simple SEO blog where he would show tips and tricks on how to rank in the search engines. Years later it would transform into an SEO software company. He later would make what he called, a mistake, by expanding into a website service, social media marketing service, etc.
What Rand found so often was that companies who focus on one thing really well, and keep it simple, usually succeed. And companies who grow to fast or start to expand away from what they’re good at, find that when they look at their user base and revenue, most of it comes from the original product(s) that were first offered.
Figure out the smallest version of your idea and then a way to make it happen quickly.— Chris Altamirano (@chrisalta) April 28, 2019
When MOZ drifted away from their bread and butter, that’s when things began to take a dive. I’ve always been told to learn from the mistakes of others to avoid them yourself. Reading this book has given me tremendous insight, it’s also brought me tons of clarity.
While I was once overwhelmed by this grandiose idea, I now feel a sense of peace. Doubt had been creeping in lately. You know, that little voice in your head?
“You can’t code..”
“You’re never going to learn how to program..”
“How on earth do you intend to finance this entire project?”
I shut that down very quickly. If you’ve been in the same boat and don’t know how to tackle this voice, I suggest picking up a book and listening (reading) to the voice of someone else who has already done what you want to do.
Start Where You Are and Find Your Easy
It’s never a lack of resources but merely a lack of resourcefulness. I’m starting with what I know, what I have, and with what I’m capable of. Another key nugget I pulled from Rand was to figure out what you’re really good at. What are you the master of? Over the last few years I’ve had a hard time struggling to find an answer to that question.
Finally, after some internal and external validation, I’ve figured out that my strong suit is developing and meticulously laying out growth hack strategies to build businesses that thrive. Not rubbish, but cold hard data and metrics. For someone who hated math as a subject in school, I sure do love numbers. (I still have no use for the quadratic formula)
That’s my “easy.” Rather than trying to learn how to code, graphic design, responsive web design, UI/UX design, etc. I’m doubling down on what I am good at. I’m also pretty good at SEO (search engine optimization). So those will be the two core skill sets I will focus on, everything else I will seek external support.
Upwards and onwards.