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Matt Hunckler

When to Quit: Why It’s Good to Live Life Like a Lean Startup

Six months ago, I quietly left my role leading product and marketing at a startup.

Social Reactor received most of my energy, focus, and time in 2013. And it’s taken the past half of a year to find the perspective on what made it an exceptional learning experience and why parting ways was the right decision. high-school-bball

Back in high school, my basketball coach used to shout like a maniac during the end of the fourth quarter, “Leave it all on the floor!”

It’s easy to find the energy right after tip-off, but when do you dig deep and give it everything you’ve got? The isolation of entrepreneurship, late nights, and ramen meals can leave us feeling empty if there isn’t a big “win” at the end of the game.

Despite building some beta software with the team and building strong partnerships with incredible clients, I wasn’t able to get Social Reactor to where I wanted to see the business by the fourth quarter. But I never questioned myself: “Did I leave it all on the floor?”

There’s only one way I’ve found to be that confident in a decision. And in some ways, it’s like living your life like a Lean Startup.

Build, measure, learn.

That simple phrase has evolved from my startup mantra to my life mantra.

Define your hypothesis and why you think taking a specific action will ultimately help you reach your life goals. You should know why you’re doing it and how you’re keeping score.

If you’re not checking in regularly with yourself, you’re missing the measurement part. So, define check-in points. I like to do this quarterly because it gives me the freedom to keep my eye on the ball during sprints. But it also ensures that I’m always learning and getting better.

Pivot (when necessary).

When I laced up and got into my last game, I knew what it would take to win. I also knew that, as with any business, there was no guarantee of victory.

But, I defined the rules by which I’d play and what I would do if initial assumptions weren’t validated. During my time with Social Reactor, we had a lot of variables to manage. But we still found ways to work together to run our tests by eliminating uncertainty. We tried new plays and reviewed game tape frequently.

But ultimately, pivoting is about overcoming obstacles, getting around the defender, and finding a lane to the hoop. It takes a whole team and an entire playbook to consistently put points on the board.

Fail faster.

You shouldn’t always wait until the end of a quarter to changeup your strategy. There are a lot of reasons you might need to call a timeout, for instance when you start seeing most or all of these happen:

  • when you don’t feel confident enough to recruit the best people and partners you’ve worked with
  • when you’re wasting time fighting the wrong wars internally
  • when the team is no longer behind the vision and you don’t have the energy to get people running in the same direction again
  • when you start spending time worrying about investors losing their money or your team wasting their time
  • when it feels hard all the time

That last one is important because it should feel easy when you’re winning. If you never feel like you’re winning, you’re probably doing something wrong. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to continue down a lane. So, call a time out when you need it. Photo Credit: Indianapolis Monthly

Silicon Valley glorifies failure. But I assure you, it is not glamorous.

When the buzzer went off for me, I was burnt out.

I was lucky to have the chance to learn directly from the inventor of voicemail and play the game of business with an all-star team. I’m so lucky that my friends, family, and business relationships supported my leap back into the venture-backed business arena. Because it really takes a whole program (fans and all) to win championships.

Last year, I left it all on the floor, giving my all for a startup that I believed in. Not only did I learn a ton about social media and content, but I got valuable perspective in product leadership and building a business with a vision.

I stayed under the radar to give myself time to reflect and to define the next game I want to play. I’m excited about the momentum we’re building with Verge and the successes we’ve already seen this year in our community.

And for tomorrow’s post, I’ll share with you what game we’re winning and why it’s taking me half way around the world.

About Matt Hunckler

Matt's a founder and organizer at Verge. He's a connecter, writer, and habitual start-upper.
  • Andrew Blejde

    Fantastic metaphor, Matt.

    • http://www.repurify.com Hunckler

      Thanks, Andrew. Gotta get my hoops experience in there somehow :)

  • Verg Fan

    Umm I thought you were fired ? That is the word on the street.. Either way good to have you back at Verg

    • http://www.repurify.com Hunckler

      Haha, thanks Verg Fan. It’s good to be back. Yes, the way I exited was technically during the great layoff of Q4 last year.

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