In 2019, I spent 3,000+ hours starting a company. During the process, we’ve hosted over 150 in person gatherings and painted a dream.
From knowing absolutely nothing about what it means to start a business, diving straight in with little startup experience but a lot of courage, to now knowing perhaps a thing or two to potentially derisk my next venture by a small bit.
I come from a design background, the realm of practice that puts experience and aesthetics on the pedestal. As a result, I had little awareness of the business, growth, and finance side of the picture. In the past year, however, I made my best effort to shed some of my designer identity to learn to think in terms of P&L, cash-flow, and marketing conversion metrics.
After a year, despite establishing a small stream of MRR (~$2,000/mo), I still cannot say that I have reached product market fit (my retention rate hovered at around 35%, when long term retention rate for consumer subscription products should get to around 50% according to best practices around growth metrics).
What I can say, however, is that I now feel comfortable with the process of coming up with an idea from scratch, launching a product, to getting early paying customers.
Here, I want to summarize all that went right and those that went absolutely wrong after a year of running Socialhaus, both as a reminder for myself and as learnings for all who are reading this post to avoid making similar mistakes.
A bit about my startup:
Socialhaus is known as “your city’s living room,’’ a unique space dedicated to the meeting and gathering of friendly strangers, an inviting alternative to a bar, and a Third Place beyond home and office. It is a place where one will spontaneously walk in, and meet over coffee, tea, and board games those whom they otherwise would never have met. At Socialhaus, we bring together people who thrive on deep and intellectual conversations and those who wish to build purposeful relationships.
Aside from these learnings, I had the best conversations I’ve had in a while at Socialhaus; I met four friends in the process whom I still do weekly hangouts calls with and now they’re a big part of my life.
A few months after I had paused the business, I saw this quote in my inbox, reminding me that this is what we did for them —
“There’s this feeling that we should be self-sufficient, islands on our own, but secretly, introvert or extrovert, we all crave finding ‘our people’ and physically hanging out with each other… Why can’t someone gather all of us up with a big net and put us in a cozy pub with a fireplace and feed us nice snacks? Why must talking about loneliness and breaking out of it be so hard?”
Many things could’ve been optimized, made more efficient from a startup perspective, but the connections built at Socialhaus are real.
I never stopped believing in Socialhaus. I’ll bring it back one day when the world is ready for it, because it must exist in this world, in one way or another.
(If you’re curious how Socialhaus came to be — The story behind Socialhaus)
Through a year of experimenting and iterating on what problem space I care about and can try to solve, I’ve discovered an ever stronger passion in innovating on the built world and how the way our space and cities are designed has such a powerful impact on the ways we feel and connect. I find companies like Sidewalk Labs, Space10, Backyard, and Culdesac absolutely fascinating, and would love to meet the minds thinking in that space. Please reach out if you’re interested in brainstorming for a better future on building towards more livable cities! firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to the thousands who came out to support Socialhaus in person. Thanks to friends and teammates who believed in me this entire time.
Reach me on Twitter @cocobliu