Q&A: Anatomy of a Startup
There’s a lot of mystique around startups, and maybe for good reason. But at Q, we’re engineers, and engineers don’t really do “mystique.” We’re nuts and bolts guys, and we thought it might be helpful (and maybe interesting) to draw back the curtain and show the process. Here’s founders James and Mark on the formation of Q, in their own words.
What was the first step to starting Q?
JAMES: First there was getting the courage to resign. Mark and I had to find our own path and we figured out that, yeah, this was the right time to quit and start working on this. We couldn’t work on our idea at our current job, so we had to quit. We had to put all our faith in this and convince ourselves that it was going to work out before we even took the leap.
MARK: For me, it wasn’t about the upside. For me, I had to realize that this was something I really had a purpose for. I really wanted to pursue this. I really had to rationalize it. And I realized that if things didn’t pan out, it didn’t lead to death. I’d just have to get started all over again.
What did you do once you were sure you wanted to move forward?
MARK: A startup is a family experience. One of the things I think we did right was, when James and I were sure we were on board with doing this, we took our wives to dinner and had an open discussion about our timeline. Because at the end of the day, no matter what we thought we were looking at, without their support we wouldn’t be here.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
JAMES: I really wish I did more reading before we jumped out there, but we started to build. The whole concept we had for building was: you build something to completion, then you see if somebody wants to buy it.
That quickly felt like the wrong thing to do, because a lot of these software companies have long development cycles. We had to spend 2-3 months building a prototype, and our first customer was too big for what we were able to handle.
We just went back to the drawing board, rebuilt, and figured out we needed to stop visiting these large companies first. We visited smaller companies and were able to iterate much more quickly based on their feedback. We kept iterating and iterating until Marathon picked us out as a startup and helped us finish the prototype. They helped us commercialize the final product.
MARK: It was really helpful to have a launch partner out there.
Why did you feel like now was the time?
MARK: There’s really no timing it, for us. We felt like we had a great idea, we didn’t see that idea anywhere in the market, so the timing never could have been better. There’s no way that any entrepreneur can completely time the market, so the best possible time tends to be right now.
JAMES: I second that. If you wait until you have a sure thing, then someone else is going to beat you to market.