Passion as a metric
Startup founders and angel investors are always trying to determine how to effectively measure traction. You need to find the right metrics and you need to try and weigh the significance of each metric. It can be difficult to do - after all you’re going a lot by “gut instinct” early on. Also, it’s easy for one metric to leap ahead of others for a period of time which might be a blip or might be the long term lesson for your business.
Yet you need some metrics to measure and gauge progress. Firstly, you’ll want to answer the most basic question of all; is this a business worth pursuing? You’ll also want to gauge progress and feed that back into timing decisions around investments (employees, marketing, raising).
I saw a tweet go by in my feed the other day (I can’t remember the source but I think it was around the Mixpanel event). It talked about how important highly passionate early customers are to your chances of success. It struck me that I) we’d had this very experience at Spreedly and ii) it’s something relatively easy for founders and angel investors to gauge.
I joined up with the existing guys from Spreedly nearly two years ago. At that time Spreedly had around 200 customers using a digital subscription management solution. They also had around 10 beta users who had been using this new service - then called “Core”. I understood exactly what the subscription service did. I have to confess I didn’t really understand what Core was for or who would use it. Either way I set about contacting users from both services as part of my due diligence.
The subscription users I contacted followed the following pattern:
- Average response time of 2 - 5 days via email
- One to 3 paragraphs
- Good feedback in general on the service.
The Core beta users I contacted had the following pattern:
- One day or less turn around
- Multi paragraph detailed descriptions of why the service was so fantastic
- Passion and enthusiasm oozing from the communication
Perhaps it was the process of doing these two together that made the contrast so stark. It wasn’t that the subscription customers were unhappy. It’s that the Core users were so fanatical. We did a lot of analysis after that (market size, competitors, scaling issues) but it was all tied back to that initial overload of passion.
What’s the benefit of effectively gauging how passionate your early users are? It’ll answer some critical early questions:
- How likely are they to sign up even if my pricing and on-boarding experience is far from optimized
- How likely are they to stay engaged once they sign up (vs lose interest and drift off after 100 days?)
- How likely are they to stick with us even if we have early struggles with the reliability or usability of the product?
- Will they tell others and/or create some other organic/viral effect for my service?
Achieving your first paying customer is great. Achieving your first 100 paying customers is even better. All things being equal I’d take 10 passionate customers over 100 semi interested ones any day either as a founder or angel investor.