The hardest part about starting a company is actually starting it.
I remember showing a couple buddies my early product screenshots and pitch for LearnBoost, and many were skeptical - they were looking for the 30 reasons something might not work, as opposed to the one or two reasons it might work.
Fast forward a few years: I’m running LearnBoost, we’ve raised from some great investors, and among other things we’re creating the landmark libraries in Node.js. Then one day I get an ominous email from my friend Apoorva (I looked it up and it was on May 22nd, 2012) saying he had a major update and wanted to meet for coffee before work the next day.
What Apoorva showed me were some pretty crude mockups of what Instacart could become - he had some wireframes with grocery products and that’s it. You couldn’t make an order, and the data was a bit messy, but his vision was enormous. As I asked questions, I realized Apoorva had several unique insights into how to actually build a big business. It felt like I had been let in on some incredible secrets. And what really struck me was that it was the same feeling I felt when I was starting my previous company.
We both knew there was a need and a way for me to help as a founder who had been there before. That meant strategic help with fundraising, go-to-market, when/where to expand, etc. but it also meant tactical help like the employees/execs I have referred into the company. Heck, Apoorva didn’t even have co-founders at the time :) but funny enough one of the candidates I referred then ended up being someone I once again referred in later and is now an executive at the company. A match made in grocery heaven!
I have loved being involved with Instacart. Not just because I love helping startups, because I do love that and it’s my reason for being at CRV, but also because being the first call (or text) that a founder makes for any bit of help is personally rewarding. I love the ambiguity of the earliest stage startups and trying to provide clarity and sanity from my own experiences in the trenches. And I’m on a broader mission to be more helpful, and at an earlier stage, than most of the investors I had broadly gotten to know through my own experiences.
So while it’s early days for Instacart, and for the other companies I am lucky to help out (e.g. Pebble, as one example), it’s certainly fun to be on this journey from the other side of the table. And while I’m usually in my favorite spot of helping out ambitious founders behind-the-scenes, lately I just can’t help but be proud like a family member of how far founders like Apoorva have come in such a short amount of time!
Of course I’m on the lookout for the next Instacart or the next Pebble, which means that I’m always ready to be helpful to founders at the earliest possible stage. The goal is to remain the first call (or text) that great founders make when they need help.