Six Things Every Founder Needs to Know, Part 2

Last week I handed off the blog to my client, Jessica Devine, the founder of Todayist, to discuss the six things that have stuck with her most during our six months of coaching. And we only got through three of them. Here’s the final three…

#4 When You Think You’re 80 Percent Done, You’re Really Only 20 Percent Done

During my development process, I can definitely identify a low point. I thought we were in our final round, but the fact is, we just weren’t anywhere close to done. That’s when Eric told me, “when you think you’re 80 percent done, you’re really only 20 percent of the way there.” And it completely reframed the entire way I was viewing the product journey.

As a former Facebook employee, I thought I knew the life cycle of a product. But the fact was, I wasn’t managing engineers. Facebook also has essentially unlimited money. And I’d never considered that the first “80 percent” is actually the easy stuff. The things you save for last are the things you don’t expect, and you’ll never know how long they’ll take. The bugs. The features you never really defined. The problems you said you’d deal with later.

As a first-time founder, having Eric tell me that I wasn’t fucking anything up, and that this was a normal part of the process, was invaluable to me. By reframing it from “this last 20 percent is taking too long,” to “I was really only 20 percent of the way done,” I was able to take a step back, realize I was at a different point than I thought I was, and move forward from there. And know that getting done will take… as long as it takes.

#5 You’re Going to Launch… and No One is Going to Care

At least, statistically speaking. Which may sound hard to hear, but it’s a blessing in disguise. 

As a founder, you constantly see and hear that product launches are your moment to shine, and no one wants to miss that opportunity. You read articles about buzzy companies that went through cool accelerator programs, and you think that’s how it’s supposed to look for you too. It becomes your expectation.

But what Eric reminded me of is that while you hear about the big launches, there are many, many softer launches happening every day. After hearing him tell me that I’d launch, and likely no one would care, I started thinking about it like I did the birth of my children. The entire nine months you’re pregnant, you think about the delivery. You take classes for it, you talk to your friends and family about it, you create detailed plans for it with your doctors. And then your kid is born, the nurses hand you a human, and it’s on you to keep it alive. Your first thought is, “holy crap, why did I spend so much time thinking about the delivery! I should have been thinking about how to keep this thing alive forever.” 

My company was born in January of 2021. But now I have to keep it alive. Eric’s advice helped me realize that my true moment to shine will come later (ideally, as an app made for things like New Year’s Resolutions, in January of 2022) after a year of learning more about my product market fit, tweaking it to fit my users, and truly making a great product. He helped me see that this is a longer journey, and stopped me from focusing on what I think I should be doing to get me back on track with the fundamentals. A big moment is great, but so is consistent growth.

#6 People Don’t Care About Features, They Just Need To Know They Will Solve Their Problem

In my first attempt at marketing language, I (unsurprisingly) found myself very focused on features. I love my features. I designed my features, and they are the beautiful babies I’m bringing to life. If I do say so myself, they’re so cool. 

At the same time, I had a nagging feeling that describing features wasn’t the way to go. So I showed Eric my website, and asked for feedback. And this is what I got. People don’t care about features, they just want to know how they will solve the problem.

When there are so many stories you’re trying to tell, so many features you want to highlight, and so many different emotional hooks to consider, it doesn’t take much to feel overwhelmed and stuck with how to best describe your product to potential customers. 

Knowing that I can let it be as simple as “here’s how we solve your problem,” was just what I needed to hear to get clear on my story. 

So, there you have it. While this definitely isn’t a list of everything a founder should know, it’s definitely a list of things you need to know. And now, hopefully you know them before you truly need them. Each were things I needed to hear at that moment, and Eric has an uncanny ability for knowing that. I can’t recommend working with him enough, so you can not only learn these things, but so much more. 

— Jessica Devine, as told to Megan Hanson

As I say on my coaching site and elsewhere, I’ll talk to any founder at least once, regardless of whether they’re looking for a coach. I just want to be useful in the startup community the way others helped me when I was first getting my feet underneath me. So when Jessica reached out, it was an obvious “yes, let’s chat!” It was a wonderful conversation and at the end I immediately asked if we could talk in a month. Even though she was bootstrapping and couldn’t afford my coaching rates, I still wanted to be a part of her journey. Seven months later and I’m proud to share that her app launched this week and I couldn’t be happier to have made even a tiny impact on her company.

If you are looking for ways to make daily incremental improvements to your life, please install Todayist and see what you think. And if you would like some feedback on your own startup, send me an email at and we’ll set up a call.

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