6 Months. 6 Startup Lessons.

It only feels like yesterday that Tap featured on Product Hunt.

I get a massive wave of excitement just thinking about it.

But its been 6 months since then and today I’m reflecting on 6 big lessons we’ve learnt as founders of a tech startup in this vast and volatile digital landscape!

1) Paying users have lofty expectations

Paying users are the best kind of users. A new upgrade never gets old.

But the minute a user starts paying, their expectations significantly increase.

So we’ve had to deal with some hot-headed people with hefty demands, who aren’t particularly tactful in expressing their dissatisfaction. This can make support an emotionally traumatic experience.

It can make you question your very existence.

But with a lot patience we’ve learnt that the problem often comes down to a mismatch in expectations, whereby users have certain ideas or unspoken expectations and then feel chronically dissatisfied when Tap doesn’t meet them.

Then there are users who believe that certain features should be implicit to the service e.g. “You seriously don’t provide email? That’s just crazy!” I’m sure, in their head, it does seem crazy.

How do we deal with this? We always try our best to really empathise with these users because, more often than not, they just want to be heard and know that their issue is important to us. We just assure them that it is and try to resolve it as fast as we can.

Granted, I’ll be the first to confess that, when people are being nasty, this is a lot easier said than done.

So paid users expect a lot, deal with it.

Tap Tip: The ability to read minds here will put you at a distinct advantage. Failing that, try hard to understand your users’ expectations; open a dialogue, listen to their frustrations and you’ll soon identify legitimate areas to make improvements and the unrealistic expectations which you can, quite frankly, ignore altogether (that doesn’t mean don’t respond!).

2) Support takes up most of our time

Providing access to fast and reliable support is fundamental because great support leads to sales (or upgrades in our case).

So we made support really accessible and we always aim to respond to tickets at lighting speed.

This has made support the single biggest strain on our team because the more we scale Tap, the more users we get, which leads to more support time. It makes sense.

Now, with around 10,000 websites hosted on Tap, it only takes a little blip in server connectivity or performance to trigger a wave of support questions from users wanting answers, reassurance and explanations. Things can get a little hectic.

Tap Tip: Create some templated responses so you can quickly reply and let the user know you’re investigating (we use Intercom). If you only have a small team with everyone on support, agree who will be responsible for responding in the morning, afternoon and evening (a bit like shift work). You can switch this up each week. Build your knowledge base and record questions as FAQs (we need to get better at this!).

3) Remote working requires solid processes

Remote working is the perfect way to bridge distances and remove geographical barriers; we depend on it for many business functions.

But it requires more discipline, structure and process than we ever could have imagined.

When you’re 100 miles away, it’s easier to push that one task back – you can get it done tomorrow, right? As a small team this is a dangerous mentality, because letting one task slip a day or two can delay a whole new feature for weeks.

The glue that ties the team together is the hardest part to implement when you choose to work remotely.

So never underestimate the value of getting your whole team together in a room and getting done what needs to be done. When everyone is together, everyone is accountable!

Tap Tip: Have weekly catch up calls to set priorities and measure progress. Try using Trello to assign tasks and hold people accountable.

4) It’s easier to launch a business than scale it

When we realised people loved Tap, the feeling was euphoric.

We’d done the really hard bit and all we had to do was sit back, watch the platform grow and the money roll in…

It didn’t take long for that illusion to pass.

Honestly, most days it feels like we have to fight our way through a brick wall and it’s almost impossible to predict all the implications that massive growth will have on the infrastructure, for example:

Plus, as your business scales your reputation becomes more visible – the good and the bad! You become more vulnerable.

Tweet about Tap

Tap is built on a pricing model which depends on massive scale and, yep, scaling a business is both hard and expensive – take it from us.

Tap Tip: Be patient and don’t get obsessed with growth at the expense of your users and their experience. Remember as you scale your business, your costs will scale too!

5) Focus is essential but really hard to achieve

There is nothing more stifling than endless distractions which keep preventing you from getting that one important thing done.

We have millions of great ideas for new features and improvements in our heads, which makes it easy to get carried away.

The trick here, we’ve found, is to be strong, relentlessly prioritise and keep saying “NO” in order to stay on track and make meaningful progress.

This is a constant battle.

Tap Tip: We use Trello to keep a track of all our new ideas and features, we order them by priority and then assign to specific team members to be clear on who is responsible for completing the task. Try asking yourself “why?” every time a new idea crops up.  If it doesn’t benefit the user in some way, push it down the priority list.

6) Everyday is a school day

Tap is our third attempt at a startup; one of which failed and one of which is now a successful web design agency.

So we thought we’d done it all and were perfectly positioned to disrupt WordPress hosting with Tap. We weren’t.

We’ve still got a long way to go and we’re learning new lessons everyday.

In fact, we actively seek the advice and feedback from leading WordPress experts and server specialists to help us continuously improve the platform. This is so valuable to us.

When we face a challenge which we don’t know how to solve, it presents us with an opportunity to grow, develop our skills and keep making Tap a better product.

Tap Tip: Be humble and get advice from as many experts as you can. You’ll know who the real experts are when you meet them.

That’s it for now, we’ve got a whole series of blog posts planned for the near future but, like I said, focus is everything (pop your email in the box below and we’ll keep you posted).

About the Author

Pete Heslop

I'm Pete, I manage development over here at Tap. When not coding away on the latest and greatest features for Tap, you'll find me drinking coffee!

Comments


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  • https://wpsmackdown.com/ Dave Warfel

    Great stuff, Joe. Thanks for sharing. I think you guys are doing a respectable job with Tap so far.

    Your ‘users before growth’ concept is admirable, and unfortunately, too scarce in today’s business world.

    • Joe Perkins

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, finding the balance between growth and staying loyal to your users is a tricky balance, but one you have to work hard at!