Think Big, Start Small, Iterate Quickly

by Ash Kumra

This chapter is a free excerpt from Confessions from an Entrepreneur (Volume 1).

Slava Rubin: CEO & Co-Founder of IndieGoGo

With the experience I have gathered as CEO and co-founder of Indiegogo, the best advice I could give to a first-time entrepreneur is three-pronged: think big, start small, and be ready to iterate quickly.

Thinking big means expanding your idea to go after the largest market segment possible, leaving room for flexibility and learning when entering a high margin industry that is growing fast. Thinking big allows you to bring your idea into fruition in the fullest way possible. When I joined forces with two trusted friends to create Indiegogo, I had no idea what I was doing. I was not an entrepreneur. I didn’t know how to turn nothing into something. Nevertheless, I was passionate about empowering people to reach their goals. Not just certain people in America, with certain types of ideas. We made Indiegogo for all people, all around the world, for any project under the sun. It was our belief that there was no reason to regulate creativity and that true crowdfunding should be in the hands of the crowd. We took a concept and turned it into a tremendous idea and enormous task that keeps us working hard each day.

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Slava Rubin: CEO & Co-Founder of IndieGoGo

With the experience I have gathered as CEO and co-founder of Indiegogo, the best advice I could give to a first-time entrepreneur is three-pronged: think big, start small, and be ready to iterate quickly.

Thinking big means expanding your idea to go after the largest market segment possible, leaving room for flexibility and learning when entering a high margin industry that is growing fast. Thinking big allows you to bring your idea into fruition in the fullest way possible. When I joined forces with two trusted friends to create Indiegogo, I had no idea what I was doing. I was not an entrepreneur. I didn’t know how to turn nothing into something. Nevertheless, I was passionate about empowering people to reach their goals. Not just certain people in America, with certain types of ideas. We made Indiegogo for all people, all around the world, for any project under the sun. It was our belief that there was no reason to regulate creativity and that true crowdfunding should be in the hands of the crowd. We took a concept and turned it into a tremendous idea and enormous task that keeps us working hard each day.

Starting small involves setting reasonable goals and focusing on execution. When you are starting a business, it is tempting to let the idea of “being perfect” get in the way of being “good enough” to move forward. We founded Indiegogo in 2008, just when American and foreign markets were crashing and times were especially bleak for entrepreneurs. People stopped spending and viewed each new project with increased skepticism. It was not the time to get investors excited about a new venture, nor the time for individuals to convince friends and family to contribute to campaigns on Indiegogo. We soon realized that we wouldn’t see success overnight, and there were times where the very future of Indiegogo was extremely uncertain. It was necessary to focus on attainable goals in the short term rather than expect total satisfaction. We focused on proving that there was a need for our solution in the analog world, and then used the digital world and the Internet to scale our business. Life as an entrepreneur wasn’t what I expected. It was more work, it was more confusing, it was more uncertain. But it was also more exciting and genuinely rewarding to be working on an original idea. My co-founders kept focused on what was important and constantly looked forward. I was energized by the idea that where there used to be thin air there was now something new, based on my actions and work. We trudged through a few years of slow progress, and slowly things started to pick up. Today, we work towards new benchmarks with more speed and success because we spent those first few years building slow but steady momentum.

To iterate quickly means being ready to make changes as soon as your good or service reaches the marketplace. Many entrepreneurs focus obsessively on the perfect business plan with far-reaching projections. At Indiegogo, we learned that markets can change overnight and that it is impossible to really know how customers will interact with your product or service. Once your idea is out there, it is all about listening to your customers, gathering current data, testing ideas, and using A/B analysis to improve the product. No matter how great your idea is, if you don’t meet the demands of your customers, your business will collapse. When we first launched Indiegogo, we hand picked our favorite campaigns to be featured on the home page. Very soon, we discovered that our customers wanted to have equal opportunity to be discovered and featured. We took this to heart and came up with the “gogofactor” algorithm that evaluates key campaign characteristics and activity to determine what campaigns deserve to make it to the home page. Because our users love this merit-based promotion, we have seen positive growth. We are constantly changing and improving based on the feedback of our clients, employees, advisors, and just about everyone else in our lives.

Indiegogo now disburses millions of dollars of contributions each month, has a staff of more than 30 people, and offices in 3 cities. We have gotten this far because of our initial passion for a great idea, our ability to take it step by step in the beginning, and our willingness to listen and adapt along the way. These lessons are universal and can be useful to any young entrepreneur looking to take a stab at running a business.

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Slava Rubin co-founded IndieGoGo.com, which is a collaborative funding platform for ideas (creative, entrepreneurial, and cause). Prior to IndieGoGo.com, Slava was a strategy consultant working on projects from start-up go-to-market strategies to corporate execution plans. He offers expertise in audience building, marketing, and DIWO (Do-It-With-Others). Beyond his passion for film, Slava started Music Against Myeloma, an annual charity event raising funds and awareness to fight this rare form of cancer.
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