Turning Dreams into Businesses

This was written almost 4 months ago, as Hilea and I reflected on our journey in building something impactful. We’ve learned and grown — with our reflections as lessons and for posterity. One year ago today, my cofounder Hilea and I raised our first round of funding. We packed our bags, moved out to SF and propped ourselves up in a top-floor suite of our new condo, getting ready to build the next big thing.

In the early days, we found ourselves entrenched in ideas, prototypes, and covered whiteboards. There was an intoxicating allure to the promises of the future - constantly selling others and ourselves on our grand vision. It was easy to get lost in that dream.

We, nevertheless, were able to sell our dream well. And by May, we hired staff, set up an office, and built out our advisory board. To me, at 18, I thought this had validated our perceived naivety.

Venture capitalists can buy into dreams, that's their job. But users and companies are not afforded that luxury; they buy solutions they need now. Our job everyday was to provide them with value. What we soon learned was that most dreams don’t deserve to be businesses, even the “greatest” ones. Ours, at that time, certainly did not.

It's easy to fall in love with your vision of the future when you're at the helm. To dream is human, and to dream big is a common, necessary trait among those who must. Yet, those dreams need to take root in the present. After all, you can't build a user base in the future. You can't generate revenue in the future. And you certainly can't survive as a startup on the promise of future success alone.

One of the realities I've come to appreciate is that $5 today is often better than the promise of $50 tomorrow. It's a validation, a signal that what you're offering has value now solving a real problem today. In contrast, $50 tomorrow is often just a hypothesis, no more than signal. Contracts > Growth Metrics. You can’t buy Blue Bottle with a rain check. Startups don't exist in a vacuum. They're inextricably woven into the fabric of our rapidly evolving society. The world changes at an astonishing pace. Technologies evolve, markets shift, societal values transform, all at a velocity that was inconceivable to the past. Yes, some human needs and desires are evergreen, but their specific manifestations are highly susceptible to the volatility of now. A fantastic idea that's ahead of its time is, in many ways, just as ineffective as one that's behind. If you can't produce a paying customer or contract, theres no way in hell im giving you any money.

Now, permutations removed from our starting point. It’s been important for us to be agile and shift our mindset to the business we are making from day to day. Our product has not just evolved with the entity of ‘now’, we have been demanded to. Today’s brilliant innovation is tomorrow’s relic, and the same goes for people's wants and needs. Our dreams are nothing without an audience, without being useful. That's our goal. And so, our mantra is clear. It's not just about building something people want; it's about building something people want now.