That “What Now” Moment

Whew – what an election!  And it’s not even over yet (looking at you NC-9).  Great, with that acknowledged, let’s move on.

Every so often in the life of a startup, you have a “what now” moment.  We had one due following election day. Oh, and that “what now” moment can easily become a “what now” week or two.  It’s a time to take stock of what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, and how best to forge ahead.

What we learned:

Let’s spare modesty for a moment: in under a year, Deciding Vote formed a team, built an application from scratch, and executed a successful pilot with a prominent politician as its first customer.  Everyone who’s helped us along the way should feel proud of that achievement.

Ok – with that stated, we also learned a lot more about our own business, the nature of our market, and the value of our product.  We realized that Election Day, a day that we had been targeting since early in the life of Deciding Vote, ended up not being a big deal for us.  We had pivoted the value proposition of our product (low-cost supporter list building for campaigns) to be useful any time in an election cycle. While we tried out other value props (that’s biz lingo for “proposition”…in case that wasn’t obvious; although I could see how you might think I was referring to plastic dollar-signs stuck on the ends of sticks at a party photo booth) in the months leading up to the election, none stuck as much as this list building one.  Yet we had forgotten to update our mental model regarding the importance of Election Day for the company, which affected how we approached the sales cycle for our product. So…

The second thing seems obvious in retrospect (don’t they always?): the sales cycle for campaigns and elections is terrible after Labor Day.  Just as we got our product ready for prime time, everyone in the industry locks down. What’s worse, people only really emerge the following January (so a couple of weeks to go still).  Yeah, we’re throwing around a lot of *facepalm* emojis in our Slack channels about this. But the good news: come January, we’re ready to roar with a successfully piloted product that addresses early cycle challenges.

Oh what’s that I mentioned about a “successfully piloted product”?  Yeah, that’s right, our pilot with Senator Jeff Merkley did really well on its key performance metric: cost-per-acquisition.  And that’s with the product right out of the gate. There’s so many aspects of the app to improve in order to drive down costs even further.

What’s Next:

Speaking of improvements, we’ve added a new feature that we want your feedback on!  In addition to tapping yes/no on a question, we now offer the option to indicate how important a question is for you.  This really lets us know what you care about, and not just your yes/no position.

Here’s the link:

(I’m not actually running for student council, but you can see how you would match with me if I hypothetically did.  Also, photo courtesy of my cousin’s cat.)

Let me know what you think by replying to this newsletter.  All feedback welcome!