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Lessons from a startup journey

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by Startacus Admin


Asaf Navot, CEO of proptech rental service, Home Made shares insights, advice and tips that he has picked up during his own startup journey

image002 (2Getting a business off the ground and then scaling it is a challenging journey for every founder. It’s a constant work-in-progress and your success will only be determined quite some time after taking your first steps.  As a very successful entrepreneur once said, “it took us years of hard work to become an overnight success”. 

While my Home Made story is still just beginning, I’ve already had my fair share of ups and downs and picked up some lessons along the way that I’d like to pay forward. Hopefully, these insights will help others who are just beginning their startup adventure. 

Align your team around your ‘True North’.

Google employees don’t go to work with the mission of making people click on more ads. They’re there to organise the world's information. At Home Made, the team is motivated to show up every day by the mission of making the process of renting and letting better for everyone - not the day-to-day operations required to be that disruptive force. 

My previous life working at management consultancy at Bain & Company instilled in me the importance of having a ‘True North’ to guide everything you do, and the importance of aligning your team around the mission and values you stand for.

This grounding has been invaluable for life as an entrepreneur. At Home Made, the first thing we did when we raised our pre-seed funding, was to codify the culture we wish to have in the company, making it the best place for our team members and customers. 

For example, we refuse to deal with partners or customers who behave unethically or display toxic attitudes towards renters, regardless of the commercial opportunity. I’m proud to say we’ve remained true to this principal on more than one occasion and turned down significant business in the process. 

“Be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn, In that case, you should always be a unicorn.”

photo-1529119368496-2dfda6ec2804.This cheesy quote (that I saw on a nearby nursery window) could also be reinterpreted in the context of startups. All startup unicorns (a private company with valuation above $1B) went through some form of pivoting in the process of building their company. They all address the same problem they have set themselves to solve, but the solution is different. Don’t be afraid to change the plan if you spot a better way to reach your endgame. 

The point is that if you want to go big (and a company valuation is just one, very poor, metric for success) – you need to pay attention to what the market is telling you. Do they like your product? Do they have other needs that are not being addressed, or preferably even unidentified? Solve them too and you might go big.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Another habit picked up during my MBA studies was my occasionally obsessive quest for perfection. While this can be a good thing in some industries, in the startup world, perfect can be the enemy of ‘good’.

In the early days of Home Made, I often struggled to accept imperfection. Whether it was my own ego, or a misperception of how important small things may be to our customers, we spent a lot of time on things that in hindsight are….not that important.

I soon learned that sometimes good enough is enough to move forward. Early to market at 98% is better than late at 100%, and you’ll have to reinvent everything from scratch as you scale either way. 

Surround yourself with the best. 

home made logo One of the most important aspects of being a founder is building the best possible team. The earlier the startup, the tougher it is to get high calibre professionals to jump on board and commit when you don’t have sufficient funding, brand, and sometimes not even suitable challenges for experienced staff to tackle. 

I couldn’t be more proud of our team at Home Made - the team is amazing. We have a diverse group of talent from inside and outside of the property sector, providing valuable expertise and experience alongside a totally fresh new perspective on how to improve the customer journey for landlords and renters. Seeing people grow with the company, and taking on exciting new challenges as they develop is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a CEO. 

Love thy customer

I’m a big basketball fan. And besides being obsessed with what happens on the court, I’m also obsessed with what happens behind the scenes. The NBA is a benchmark when it comes to listening to the voice of the customer. They are committed to always listening to their stakeholders, fans, partners and community. They were the first major sports organisation to release their own app, they were the first sports brand franchise to go global, they were the first to shut down for Covid-19, and to openly support the Black Lives Matter movement.

photo-1556565681-306458ef93cdListening to, and learning from, your employees, customers and partners is crucial in shaping and improving your business offering and staying ahead of your competition. It seems so obvious but not a lot do it right or do it at all. Saving money or offering a new service is just not enough, as copycats may recreate your product while better-funded startups may sell at a loss. It is hard to maintain a customer centric culture across a scaling business, so surround yourself with people who love and respect customers, and the message will trickle down throughout the organisation. I personally speak with several customers every week, in order to hear what they need and how they experience working with us. 

A lot of our most successful innovations were born from listening to our customers. We are the only lettings provider in the UK to use WhatsApp for Business, because that’s how renters prefer to communicate. The biggest pain point for landlords with the traditional industry is a lack of transparency and poor communication from agents. So we created an online platform that provides real-time marketing and viewings data to keep them up-to-date and in control from the comfort of their own home. Listen to your customers and your product roadmap will become clear.             


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Published on: 19th November 2020

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