7 things we learned when founding our second company

(And failing)

In 2011, we were contacted by a young founder with an interesting new idea. His plan was to transfer the printer ink and coffee capsules business model into the sex toy business. While working in a sex shop to finance his international business studies, he recognized that most buyers of sex toys also purchased lubricants. Hence his vision was to create a self-lubricating vibrator, to allow users to finally enjoy sensual moments without taking care of “technical” issues and unwanted side effects.

After many meetings and discussing possible cooperation models, we figured out that we could imagine working closely together in the future. As the business model also seemed to be extremely promising to us, we agreed to set up the new company, “Cupidou”, to promote this revolutionary product concept.

As a matter of fact it did not turn out to be an excellent business model and our thought-through, beautiful product never saw the light of day. Instead our learning curve turned out to be very steep. Here are some of the things we do differently since then:

Take a holistic view rather than focusing purely on a technical solution

From the start, we were fixated on a product that fixes an assumed problem. As a consequence, we only worked on the technical and design aspects of the company, rather than assessing if the assumed problem even was a problem, if there was a need for it to be fixed and how it should be fixed.

Problem-oriented testing

Rather than using the user research as a starting point to test hypotheses, it was used to collect general information. Feedback for our solution was only collected in some cases, instead of making it the focus of our efforts. During the later phases, potential users were only questioned about details (colours, cover-forms, …). A general feedback as to whether our proposed solution fixed a relevant problem wasn’t collected.

Only accept full commitment

None of the founding team saw themselves as the responsible founder. Instead, each team member focused more-or-less on the one area they were best at. There was nobody who was responsible for the development of Cupidou, by for example, looking for a functioning business model. All of the founders were part-time founders…

Gain more competence where needed

None of the active Cupidou team had any real experience as a founder (excepting the development of FP from freelance designers to a design agency). On top of this, nobody made the effort to collect the necessary know-how, such as can be found through reading, coaching and events.

Create a relevant network

Founding means making mistakes and learning! It also means talking to other people who have already made mistakes as founders and learning faster! This is exactly what we didn’t do. A network of experts who can help with advice or where some tasks can be taken over by external partners is a helpful tool. We provided the product development network, but no networking in the area of start-up development took place.

Follow your intrinsic motivation

None of the founding team really loved the idea! Nobody really wanted to put their head on the line as the leader of the company! Nobody worked on Cupidou because our product would make the world to a better place and because it was necessary to use up energy and convince partners of the idea. Our only motivation in founding Cupidou was our assumption that the capsule-logic would definitely result in a successful business model.

Be flexible regarding the business model

Corresponding to our motivation in founding the company, we were convinced that we already had a successful business model (Bait & Hook). Accordingly, we didn’t look for a sustainable business model, for example by creating hypotheses about the target group, Value proposition, etc., and challenging them (as would be smart for a start-up). We only adjusted our business model canvas once! We didn’t come to the realisation that a pivot could be necessary and that it belongs to founding a company.