Startup Diaries Week #4: The Struggle is Real

February 9, 2016

I had a “short” week on Ignite during week 4.

On the Thursday morning I flew out to Belfast to speak at The Winning Mindset Academy summit at The MAC Live along with my friend Jay Allen and Mr. Peter Sage himself.

The event went well and it was great to be amongst so many stunning speakers from across the world.

Perhaps most importantly though, it gave me chance to work remotely of Ignite and take a little more time to reflect on things.

The very first thing I noticed was that when I stopped being so “pedal to the metal”, I was tired. Really really tired.

So much so that, despite being renowned for staying awake during even the longest of flights, I crashed immediately on sitting down on the flight out and woke on the tarmac in Belfast.

Wow, that’s so weird for me.

Up until Thursday, Adam and I had been focussing on rebuilding the website so that we can rapidly implement, test and measure our Facebook, Instagram and Google AdWords marketing campaigns.

I was a little frustrated at spending the time on the websites because I feel that time could have been spent better elsewhere, but I also saw the need for a system that allows us to rapidly iterate so that we can make the most of our meagre marketing budget.

Having said that, I do have a confession to make: I enjoyed getting my hands dirty and building something again.

I haven’t coded for a while now and the chance to dig in and flex those muscles again was a really pleasant change. I liked it. That’s our secret.

Speaking of coding, we had a lot of work to do on updating the Cavalry app in the App Store.

We realised that we had a little sign up friction for users so spent time mapping a new UX process and on-boarding system that will allow users to get in to the app so much quicker, whilst giving us more information at the same time.

That’s a win.

We also spent a fair amount of time building some more metrics for the app.

Creating markers at important stages in the user journey, we’re now able to track what a user does and where they drop off in the app. This is turn gives us superb insight into how a user behaves in the app and allows us toreally test new features, remove barriers to use and start to conversion optimise the app across the board.

Having submitted the app to Apple early in the week, we nipped off for a stunning tapas meal at Tramontana in Shoreditch, London – if you’re ever in that part of the world, do yourself a favour and stop by.

Oh and hey, Cavalry is live!! Our startup project is IN the App Store:

Download on the App Store

Challenges this week

Marketplaces are a complete pain in the ass to build.

We’ve had some great wins recruiting the techs over the last month, but somewhat predictably we we advised that we’d spent too much time on that side of things.

We struggled with that feedback as we know that we need that side of the business to be strong. And we know that for it to be strong, we need complete buy in from the suppliers so that we can be sure they’ll be there when we need them to be.

We have to earn that trust, and that takes time.

Having said that, we did understand the sentiment of the feedback.

We know that investors will ultimately want to see “traction” in the form of market proof and that can only comes from actually getting users on board.

Don’t get me wrong, we have some users, but we need more.

We knew that before we’d received this feedback and we had actually mapped out the beats of a plan to kick this off (that depended on having a budget to work with, which we struggled with), so that feedback was well timed and galvanised us to kick things up a notch.

Perhaps the most frustrating realisation from this whole piece of feedback is that half of our mentors say that finding the customers is the hardest part, whilst the other half say that finding the suppliers is the hardest part.

I can tell you, none of it is easy.

If there’s one thing no one’s ever say about me, it’s that I’m no good at getting my point across.

I’ve kicked myself up the ass for that. It will not happen again.

Real Life: How The Co-Founders Are Doing

I’m really missing home this week. I’m writing this as we travel back to London on the train and this is the first week I’ve struggled.

I can’t make my mind up whether it’s actually home sickness or being tired of travelling after the intensity of the Belfast trip.

Regardless, this is the first week that this hasn’t felt like an adventure.

If that’s my personal feeling, my professional feeling is much more positive.

I know that I’m getting better at what I do thanks to the guys at Ignite, the people that I’m around and the level of conversation that Adam and I have.

I can feel this already benefiting everything else that I do and really feel like this process is a catalyst for the next decade of my professional life, and beyond.

The way I think is changing and in particular, it’s making me better at serving the people that I want to serve whilst giving me even more tools to provide them a positive experience.

I assess things from different angles more, I think more laterally and I get better results from that.

And you know what, I have more patience.

That can only be a great thing.

Lessons Learned this Week

  1. Say what you actually mean.
  2. Create as many arbitrary metrics as you can for your product that support that ONE KPI that you have defined as being the most vital. Give yourself the best chance of tracking a customer through the entire journey.
  3. If possible, try to balance both sides of a marketplace business as best you can – don’t let one build without the other.

If nothing else, working at the intensity that an accelerator forces you into only serves to make you realise where the gaps in your armour are, and exactly what you need to do to fill them.

As a perpetual learner, I like it. I like it a lot.

Don’t forget, the more you expect from yourself the more you WILL excel!

Mark Asquith

That British podcast guy, Mark is co-founder of, the world's only growth-oriented podcast host. A Harvard, TEDx, Podcast Movement and Podfest speaker (amongst many more!), he's a wildly approachable Brit and Star Wars/DC Comics geek.

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