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Ooshma Garg, founder of Gobble (YC W14) – Startup School video and AMA (themacro.com)
52 points by craigcannon on Oct 5, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 33 comments

Ooshma here. Let me know if you have any questions about Gobble!

Thanks everyone for the insightful questions! Hope the answers here and the Startup School talk are helpful to our community. This was fun! Singing off now -- I'm hungry and it's time to cook up a 10-minute Gobble dinner.

I'd love to see more videos by people who have failed dissecting their failure. My guess is that we listen to successes way too much. That if you look at the failures, you'll find that they share many of the same traits as the successes and that the random element is significant.

I also think that the funding environment is quite biased. What's successful is a function to some degree of what is fundable. When VCs start funding based on "what was successful in the past" you create a feedback loop which likely doesn't create the best possible businesses.

Hey Ooshma! I was at Startup School 2016 and absolutely loved your talk! I was just curious about how you built your initial product- you mentioned not being able to find a dev who wanted to play the long game. What did you end up trying and eventually doing?

Gobble is my second company. With my first company, I bootstrapped and never raised outside capital. I got introduced to a consultant by a friend and I paid him to build our first product part-time and help manage an engineering team in India and I contributed front end and simple back end code myself. The initial MVP (minimum viable product) of a company is typically very scrappy and taped together. If you know how to write software, you do it yourself. If not, you can do it in a very scrappy way and do not feel ashamed to do so. Ideally, ad especially with consumer applications, the initial focus is just proving your concept and seeing if it will get any traction or make any money, before investing heavily in a fuller or more perfect product.

With Gobble, I discuss the answer elsewhere in this thread. Two engineers were moonlighting with me to learn RoR and see what it was like to work at a startup. We built a very simple website to display meals and collect sales for a few months. That basic site, along with PDF mockups I designed of our future product, was enough to raise seed money. I hired one of the engineers full time after I raised the funding. Then, I started meeting everyone I could in my extended network and recruiting the rest of the team.

Hi Ooshma! -- you mentioned in your talk that you + team did things that didn't scale to delight existing users and acquire new ones. Kevin Hale brought this up during his Startup School lecture, writing Christmas cards to all of their users, but referenced a user writing to him the following year asking when he would receive this year's xmas card.

When deciding what "non-scalable thing" you were going to do, did you ever wonder: will this come back and bite me in the butt when I can no longer do this with a large user-base because of either time or monetary restraints?

This is an awesome question.

See my other answer about getting our first users and then here is Part II of that answer:

AirBNB scaled product appeal by later building out an entire internal marketplace and international network of freelance photographers to take great photos of all their hosts' properties.

I care deeply about the personal touch of our business and personalization in both our communications and the dinner kits given to each member every week. We have built software and systems that target my direct communications and our overall lifecycle emails in a very nuanced way across our community. We slice and dice our community in different ways constantly for all daily experiments, communications, and backend analyses. I hate sending someone an email that is not relevant to them.

When you do something that doesn't scale, you gain key insights into what is working for your company. You may not be able to replicate the exact same action from the early days, but you can certainly work to build a scalable solution that replicates those key insights and yields the same success.

PS: I know some excellent mechanical hand-writing services and I'll email Kevin a few options ;)

Haha! about to be so many Kevin Holiday cards this season.

Thanks for your answer, super helpful as my team and I create new ways of connecting with our users.

Wanted to say that thanks for the talk on Startup Conference.

I still have the mental picture of the table with the wine bottles. On what timeframe did you accumulate those bottles? Wiggles of false hope?

(Sorry I don't have a better question )

F(wine consumption) = ∫ f(growth)

i.e. when growth is flat in the trough of sorrow, wine consumption goes up linearly week/week... that said, even when you start growing, you develop new problems and can gathering bottles even faster ;)

Hi Ooshma,

Curious as to how you found and got your first batch of users that loved you and were paying for the product.

I did things that didn't scale. #ycfirstprinciples

I put our promo cards at coffee shops and laundromats, emailed meetup groups, went door to door, bought people coffee to demo our product at Starbucks, walked around farmer's markets and gave people coupons and samples, and literally pounded the pavement.

Then, you follow up with them personally. Do they want to order again? Why or why not? What would make them order again? Are they willing to let you visit them in person? What patterns are you noticing in the early feedback?

High level: first you develop a small core user base, then you learn everything about them and communicate with them constantly to find what is secretly working and not working. I would go to people's houses and talk to them and watch them eat dinner multiple times per week. That led me to our 10-minute dinner kits. The AirBNB founders went door-to-door to people's houses and helped them take the right photos to market their homes. This grit is the difference between the want-rapreneurs and the entrepreneurs.

As testament to doing things that didn't scale, Ooshma turned up to my apartment in Palo Alto a couple of years ago (mid-2013) to fix a botched order. Ultimately, the switch to dinner kits wasn't for my family, but I always remember that occasion as a great example of the principle.

Well done Ooshma!!

Two-parter, what's your favorite dish at Gobble and will you be updating the Gobble branding to match the beautiful illustration work from your slides??

Love it when YC alumni's do AMAs!

What was your growth rate for the first 3 months of launching Gobble and how did you acquire your first batch of users?

Also, "I just searched my email for "sit this one out", "going to pass", "won't get there", "not the right fit", and "not going to get to the finish line", and I think we're at 200+."

Is that "200+" denials for VC/angel funding??

Hey Ooshma! I saw you talk live :) We met several years ago when you were working out the enterprise version of Gobble & I was an undergrad at Stanford, but never kept in touch. Let me know if coffee in Palo Alto sometime works for you, would be great to catch up.

So glad you got see Startup School live. All the talks this year were mind-blowing. Re coffee, email me at ooshma@gobble.com.

Hi Ooshma :)

Our products is being used by few people, but we still haven't found those users that really love our product. We feel that we should make a major pivot on our product. But it seems like a big rick. Any recomendaciones on making the transition a bit smoother.


What's your mission? And what's your product?

We are constantly talking with users but it's hard to filter their feedback. I guess you experienced this situation before you found product/market fit. How did you filter your user's comments? Based on your mission?

Great question.

The way to filter feedback is based on your target demographic. Identify exactly who are the super users of your product (hopefully they're a small part of a very large segment of our population) and then listen to only them for the feedback.

Other tips: (1) Make sure to get their feedback in multiple ways, we still do surveys every week, phone calls, and home visits. On a survey, someone might say they shop at Whole Foods. At home, you'll see all the Costco stuff in their pantry ;) (2) Set benchmarks for when feedback becomes meaningful. When over 5% of our community says something, we start prioritizing it. When less than 10% of our community uses a new feature or offering on our website, we consider letting it go.

To get to product/market fit, meeting the customers is everything. They will help you both better describe who is your exact target market (the professional mom who says she shops at Whole Foods but still likes deals from Costco) and help you refine your product for that market.

Hi Ooshma! Long time follower, first time question asker.

When you're preparing to pitch to potential investors, what do you do to get yourself in "the zone"?

p.s. If your answer involves listening to music, I'd love to hear about your playlist!

I have "lucky shirts" and "lucky dresses". I wear the same set of outfits to first meetings, second meetings, and final meetings. That way, I don't have to think about it and the superstition gives you extra confidence. Sometimes investors throw in more meetings, and I honestly don't know what to wear.

In the bigger fundraising meetings, you have to control a room of 15+ people. I only think about my psychology, the rest is just details. I meditate for longer than usual the morning before these meetings.

The Pre-Pitch Playlist is an extremely guilty mix of pump up pop and hip hop music... think Work from Home (Fifth Harmony) and All The Way up (Fat Joe). The Diligence Playlist is a set of concertos and symphonies featuring Ludovico Einaudi, Rachmaninoff, Edouard Lalo.

And Chris - Thank you for engineering brilliance, your sense of humor, and for grinding it out with me at Gobble for so long and sitting right next to me through all our ups and downs.

How many times did you get rejected at each stage by investors

Haha. Brutal question. I don't even know if I can count...

Big secret: There are no real stages. We didn't just have a seed, Series A, Series B, etc. And, that's the story for most companies. There are oftentimes intermittent rounds, that you can call bridge rounds or just financings. We had three times where people put in more money, sometimes a little, sometimes a huge amount, that aren't technically called anything. These intermittent financing are especially common in the early days.

I just searched my email for "sit this one out", "going to pass", "won't get there", "not the right fit", and "not going to get to the finish line", and I think we're at 200+.

Maintain good relationships with all investors, especially those that reject you.

Treat every funding like your last. Be thrifty and try to make revenue, and ultimately profit, as soon as possible. It will at worst extend your runway and at very best help you avoid the need to fundraise anymore at all. The goal is not to raise money, the goal is to build a standalone bad ass business.

That said, when fundraising, keep going and remember: it only takes one yes.

Interesting. How did you find them initially. Gobble is great!

Would like to know how and when Gobble has seen the traction.

We saw varying levels of traction throughout the years with different product iterations. In the talk, I discuss why we made the specific product decisions at different points in time. We target busy families, and we saw the least traction with a la carte and on demand, more traction with subscription prepared meals, and the absolute definition of product-market fit traction ever since we launched our weekly subscription of freshly prepped 10-minute dinner kits in August 2014.

How long were you working without a team? How did you recruited your first hires?

I told people about my idea at various events and I actually first started out with three volunteers. It was the summertime, so we had one student who interned with me and helped me with marketing/business. The other two folks were engineers at big tech companies who wanted to moonlight with me to (1) have an excuse to learn RoR and (2) see what it's like to work at a startup.

It was just the four of us until I raised the seed round. I was the only one working on Gobble full time, and the investors (to my surprise) were not deterred by this fact.

I started hiring more senior people full time after our seed financing. The best hires, and I cannot emphasize this enough, came by referral. It's a 10X difference. I recruited them by paying a salary to cover their expenses, but mostly like every founder, by sharing the mission and selling the dream.

Recruiting goes back to the entire message of my Startup School talk. I looked for people who aligned with Gobble's mission and they feel more purpose working at Gobble than at any other company.

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