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Experimentation is to a startup as a task list is to a job

Founder Friday is a weekly guest post written by a founder who is based in or hails from the Silicon Prairie. Each month, a topic relevant to startups is presented and founders share lessons learned or best practices utilized on that topic. May’s topic is leaving a full-time job to pursue a startup.

About the author: Wade Foster is a co-founder of Zapier.


Few people come out of the womb, kicking and screaming, born ready to be a startup founder. Most of us take the longer more traditional route.

Usually that means 12 years of primary education, 4 years of secondary education, a few more years working at a good job before finally catching the startup bug. You can’t get this idea out of your head so you make the leap of faith into entrepreneurship.

There is nothing wrong with a more traditional route. I took the more traditional route. But in many ways making the leap from a full time job to full time entrepreneurship requires a change in thinking that is hard for most of us.

Getting out of your comfort zone

For decades we’ve been trained, molded, guided, and shaped to follow instructions, stand in a straight line, check off items on a to-do list, respect authority and not rock the boat.

As an entrepreneur you don’t have the luxury of getting instructions from a teacher, having a line to stand straight in, or a todo list from a boss. You are now the authority and odds are the boat is sinking so it’s time to get creative.

Experimentation – The entrepreneur’s to do list

As entrepreneurs one of the most important things to learn is experimentation.

You can plan your site or app’s architecture. You can talk about market size and opportunity. You can break down what competitors are doing wrong and how you’ll be different. But at the end of the day 90 percent of a startup is still guess work.

Enter experimentation.

A good simple experiment can take a set of unknown problems with unknown solutions and turn those unknown problems into known problems that you’ll probably have a much better idea of a solution.

Experimentation is an easy way to figure out what you should be working on and where your startup can get the biggest wins for the future. What sort of things can be experimented with? Plenty…

  • Is PPC a good channel for acquiring users? Spin up some ads on Google or Facebook.
  • Will users like this new feature I’m making? Put a fake feature in the UI to see if people try to use it.
  • Will an intern help me get more done? Hire one for a few weeks and see what happens.

The beauty of a startup is that very few things are permanent. If an experiment doesn’t work you can quickly pull the plug and move on to the next thing.

Just try things

It’s better to do something and do it wrong than to not do it at all. By doing something wrong you’ve likely learned what is right and can use that to your advantage.

This week I’m experimenting with whether or not emailing new users proactively about their experience on the second day of use will decrease our one week churn rate. What about you?


Credits: Photo courtesy of Wade Foster

About the author: Wade Foster is a co-founder at Zapier, a web app that let’s users sync data between any two web apps. He hails from Columbia, Mo. and loves getting great products into the hands of people that need them.

Foster can be found on Twitter, @wadefoster.


 Founder Friday is brought to you by the Heartland Technology Alliance

Thanks to our Founder Friday series sponsor, Heartland Technology Alliance, a nonprofit working as an advocate for innovation and competition in technology and communications across much of the Silicon Prairie and throughout the Upper Midwest.

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