When I first met Suki Shah, who was wearing a red sweater to make himself stand out in a crowd, there was little outward indication of the treadmill he had been on over the last week. He was charismatic—I detected a dash of Jeff Bezos in him—and he had a penchant for enthusiastically championing his own entrepreneurial efforts.
Never mind that he had been up until 3 a.m. the night before and that he and his staff had pulled several all-nighters in row that week. Such is the life of an entrepreneur during launch week.
"You have to have a lot of energy," joked Shah, founder of GetHired.com, which launched the first week in February.
Indeed. But getting to—and surviving—launch day requires much more than that.
A little background on the company: GetHired is like a more interactive Monster.com. It allows employers to schedule interviews with potential employers. When a new job posts, they can browse thumbnails for all applicants. And, interviews can be two-way conversations, a la Skype video call. One major plus: The management tools are clear and easy to use.
Over the last year, Shah has worked frantically to hire his staff, find an office close to other Silicon Valley start-ups, and raise capital. He succeeded in all three endeavors: He used his own site to hire employees, rented the same space in Palo Alto where Intuit started out, and secured about $1.75 million in funding.
Launch day was where the rubber would meet the road. Here's what happened and what Shah learned from the experience:
What you think you know about your customers can change. In the first 24 hours, he says, his team found out very quickly that the site would get traffic from many countries—94 to be precise. And that wasn't exactly something they had planned on.
"We were not able to provide these people with access to some of the features that would have made their experience better, such as language preferences," Shah says. "As a result, we know that one of our top priorities moving into the next year or so is to expand internationally so that all of our users have access to the same great features," he says.
Expect technical glitches that you never expected. When the site launched, users started accessing the site via many different browsers, including older versions of Google Chrome and Apple Safari. It's one thing to expect alternative browsers, but when the browsers are alternative and old, they can cause greater problems. He says the site tended to hang for these users, so his technical team worked a full 24-hour shift when they first discovered the problems.
Launch day wasn't the only period when overtime hours were required. The technical team worked 12-hour shifts both day and night during the first week of operation to address the problems, which is why it's important to...
Do whatever it takes to keep employees happy during the first week. Shah hired massage therapists who were on call during the entire first week.
He purchased about two dozen tall plants and placed them around the office creating a zen space he calls "the jungle." To keep employees motivated during the first week, he provided Guru Energy Drinks by the case and free snacks. He encourages spontaneous push-up competitions to keep the mood light. Shah says these extra motivational steps worked because it gave employees the sense that they were working on something together that was worth the expense and the effort.
There is nothing quite like getting feedback from real users. Even though Shah says the company ran several beta tests, they never could have anticipated all of the things real users who need a job would need from the site. He had three engineers wade through this feedback and act on the suggestions in a tangible way.
Of course, launch day is the only the beginning. Now comes the even harder part: staying in business.