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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Lerner

The left side of the graph

I love my job, not in the least because founders, at all hours, randomly send me screenshots of graphs like this:

That’s a 4X conversion increase with one change! But that's not what this post is about.

What happened? They found language/market fit. But they sell SaaS to German architects. (I speak German, but I still don't understand the winning headline, because I don't know the architecture lingo.)

But I want to talk about something that matters to all of us (even non-German non-architects): The left side of the graph.

Compa came out of our Coaching Program in November and had five months with zero results (The graph starts in Feb, but the pain started in November).

Every week, for 5 months, they ran experiments. They kept testing and failing, testing and failing. Nothing worked. Until something did.

The hardest thing about startups is the mental battle. Success is not linear or incremental. If you train for a marathon, you can see a bit of progress every week. You know what you need to do, you get a bit of feedback, and you keep moving in the right direction. Even when you hit a setback, you know what you need to do to get back on-track.

In startups, you're not executing, you're figuring things out, so it's more like "nothing, nothing, nothing, bang."

And after enough weeks of “nothing,” you start to question yourself, your team, even your original idea. Is this really a good product? Are we really good marketers? Am I really a good leader? And it's hard to power through that.

So how did they keep going?

I asked Ferdinand and Mattheus, and they told me 3 things:

1. "Our coach, Marcin, warned us about the 'valley of despair' so we knew it was normal and we should keep going."

2. "We enjoyed interviewing customers and doing the experiments."

3. "We didn't know what else to do, what better option did we have?"

When things aren't working, it's normal to wrestle with self-doubt. But remember, success on the right side of the graph depends on how well you manage your energy on the left side of the graph.

Congrats team Compa, and thanks for agreeing to share your story, and not just the happy bits.

Simple Next Step

I'm no stranger to self-doubt. I made 50 LinkedIn posts before my first “viral” success, and I still get nervous every time I click “post.” But I do eventually click it. My main lesson from the Compa team is to try not to let anxiety and self-doubt slow me down. It's helpful to question my assumptions, but there's no value in questioning myself. If the market tells you to to change direction, change direction. But act from a place of insight, not from a place of fear.

I hope this helps.

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