Failed startups should be celebrated just as much as successful ones. In a failed startup everyone involved has the opportunity to learn through ups and downs. Through this experience the knowledge can be passed on to new opportunities and others within the community. I am Fabian and I was the founder of Yelloh, a startup which took part in the Startup Sauna accelerator program in the W17 batch and we are now closing down.
The initial thought to Yelloh was in questioning the status quo of market research today and how companies are communicating with their customers. We had observed the change in how people were communicating with the use of video as medium, the likes of Instagram and Snapchat as a tool. However we were still left wondering why companies were still using online surveys and in-person interviews to understand their customers. Our story started in Zurich, Switzerland where we had taken part in the Swiss Startup Factory accelerator program which helped us build our initial idea into a product and thereafter into a business. Quickly after this we felt the need to pivot away from an agency styled business model and to a more scalable tech startup. In the process of pivoting we had created an imbalance between our value proposition and target audience as we did not completely understand the needs of our customers.
In hindsight this seems like an easy thing to spot, however during day to day activities working with Yelloh it was very difficult to notice. We were lucky to be accepted into Startup Sauna’s program and used the opportunity to submerge ourselves in to one of Europe’s finest startup environments.
At Startup Sauna we had the opportunity to meet and talk with some of the most incredible coaches, mentors, startups, founders and investors. The 7 week program had helped us nail down the problems within our business and develop a strategic direction in how to solve them. We came into the Sauna with a great team, an average product within an average market. We were very lost with our go-to-market strategy and therefore had no clear focus in any of our efforts be it marketing, sales or product development. The one on ones with the Sauna coaches helped us pinpoint some critical issues with our market and business model.
From Sauna our key findings were:
- From day one figure out if we are doing B2C or B2B, because without a clear focus nothing can be done correctly.
- Only take feedback from the people who are actually going to pay for your product
- Design tests to discover which path you should be taking.
- A startup is about thousands of hypothesis and your task is to validate them one hypothesis at a time.
- If your product is not sticky, people won’t buy it. Make something that the customers will kill you for if you take it away from them.
Prior to Sauna our primary client focus was on market research agencies. However, we discovered that this market did not fit our business model and had a limited sticky level as the agencies would use the product only once or twice a month. Whilst at Sauna we started exploring four different markets and had designed tests around them to discover which would be the smartest pivot. We explored fields such as restaurants, golf courses, hotels, events and food delivery companies, we felt there was a internal process where we could imbed our solution into. We set up KPI’s and started contacting potential clients in all of the above mentioned markets. We setup our solution with restaurants, events and delivery companies, yet couldn’t find an adequate solution.
Once returning to Switzerland (where we were based) we decided to narrow in on one last market: hotels. After exploring this market for a few months we as a team decided to close down operations. The reason for closing down was that our solution was not providing real value for these customers, and we were simply trying to fit our solution to non-existing problems. It was at this point that we decided it was smartest to close operations, reflect on all the learnings we had developed and move on to the next chapter.
There is not a single moment that I regret the last two years while working on Yelloh as it has been the largest learning curve both professionally and personally. We have met many great individuals, mentors, coaches, communities, investors and programs that are helping very talented people achieve great things. It goes without saying that we want to thank Startup Sauna for everything they have done, without their program we would still be trying to sell an average product to an average market and getting nowhere.
Our failure, is our success. With every failure we are one step closer to success.
Thank you for everything.
Fabian – LinkedIn