When my co-founder and I incorporated our company, we didn't have world domination on our minds. We simply wanted to solve a problem that we saw as a major barrier in the shipping and logistics industry--it's tough for companies of all sizes to compete with giants for market share. Even PwC has pointed out that the consumer goods/retail landscape is more fragmented than ever before.
Whether we found it to be a niche or pervasive problem, we were naturally obsessed with tackling it. We interviewed potential customers before we built features. We collected feedback on an ongoing basis. We built technology that we needed but didn't have when running when we were running our past company--an e-commerce store.
On our path to series A, our business evolved naturally. But now we're on a different trajectory, applying the early lessons we learned to reach out next goal of scaling our company. Here's what we learned at the beginning, that's guiding our growth path, now:
Be bold in your vision.
As our company grew, we reached a point where we needed to establish a clear direction. Because we're innovating in a very established industry, shipping, and logistics, we realized that we needed a crystal-clear goal. For us, long-term success will come from collaboration across startup, corporate, and public sectors.
So what does long-term success look like for us?
We want to fuel a borderless ecosystem for e-commerce, in which companies can transact across borders with little friction. That's why we're building the biggest global shipping network, allowing any e-commerce store, no matter where they are, to integrate our API and be able to ship with a reasonable cost, to wherever their customers are.
Be highly flexible and adaptable.
Many people think that startups are a function of luck and brilliance. That's because it's tough to truly understand what happens behind the scenes--the daily grind, tough work, and emotional toll. What I've learned, when scaling a company, is how to be flexible and adaptable. No matter curve ball comes our way, we need to be able to respond.
I learned this lesson at a young age because my father was in the German ministry, and my family traveled wherever the government sent him--I grew up in Germany, China, Ecuador, Egypt, Spain and then Switzerland. With every new situation, I needed an open mind.
Back to startups--things don't always work out. But what my experiences taught me is that there is always another potential angle and direction.
Be picky about the advice you receive.
I have a process for seeking advice. It's not that I don't respect the opinion of others--it's that I need to stay intently focused on solving specific challenges in our business. Here's my process for picking and choosing the right advice:
I speak to individuals who have been exactly where my co-founder, team and I today. These are entrepreneurs who are currently running startups that are more mature, having raised a Series B round, for instance. They can relate to us as well--where I am as a founder, and where we are as a company is close to where they are now.
I seek advice from people who are operators--these are individuals who have tackled challenges themselves. First-hand stories illuminate stories between the lines and help us recognize what we don't know and what questions we should be asking.
I'm skeptical of "universal" opinions. No advice is universal--not ever. Every business is unique. If someone tells me that we should do something because "that's the way it is" but can't justify why--or relate the advice back to our experience--we politely move on.
The joy of scaling a business comes down to the micro-decisions that we make and the adventures that we experience each day. It's our long-term vision, and an understanding that startup successes span years, that keep us on track. I'm excited to write this story again in five years.