Yesterday, we settled into Tribe Theory — the hostel focused on startups that we really liked. We have already met three fellow Antler participants here!

The past few days we did our 2018 end-of-year reflection, reflecting on things like the times we felt most alive, the strengths and weaknesses of our cofounder, and what we would do differently if we could go back to September.

It was very clear that our favorite time was late October/early November. We were launching features at the rate of 1 feature every 1-2 weeks, we had just been accepted to Antler, and we were signing up 3+ users per week. Momentum was building and it felt absolutely great! One of our goals will be to bring this momentum back, so expect to see a return to a high development pace.

During our conversation with Google in November, we realized that the foundation of our startup is somewhat shaky — we cannot confidently say what problem Openly is solving and point to data (from interviews or research) to support that statement. This makes potential collaborators like Google skeptical of what we are doing — rightfully so.

So we spent some time looking at various startup frameworks for an approach to strengthening our foundation; from Steven Blank’s The Four Steps to the Epiphany to Justin Wilcox’ FOCUS framework. Initially, we were planning to adopt one of these. But at the end of the day, we felt that we could get most of the value of these frameworks by adopting just one exercise: Riskiest Assumption Testing (RAT)

The idea is to write down all your assumptions/hypotheses and then rank them by how risky they are. For example, for us, one of our assumptions is that open collaboration will help organizations to make the world a better place. Everything we have been working on with Openly is built on that assumption. Since Jessy and I really care about the positive impact of our business, we would frankly just be wasting our time if the hypothesis turned out to be incorrect. This means it ranks very high on our riskiness scale.

After ranking the assumptions, the final step is to pick the riskiest one and test it. This can be done by doing research, talking to users, running experiments, etc. Repeat this entire process every week, DOCUMENT YOUR RESULTS (let me repeat that: DOCUMENT YOUR RESULTS*), and you will slowly be strengthening your startup’s foundation over time.

*Documentation is absolutely critical. Jessy and I did an incredible amount of stakeholder research (200+ conversations), but we did a terrible job documenting it (read: we did not document) and now we can essentially start the entire process over. Maybe you think you can remember everything, but, trust me, you will forget. Plus, your collaborators and investors will want to see your data. So document it! Trust me on this :)

Next up we will be doing some goal setting for the period of now until the end of March 2019 (when the Antler program ends). Speaking of the Antler program, it starts on Monday. Here is a screenshot of our schedule for the next two weeks. Looking intense!

Antler schedule week 1 Antler schedule week 2