My name is Julian Ivaldy, Co-founder & Head of Growth at The Secret Company. We are a crew of serial entrepreneurs, with a pirate mindset, secret co-founders of 10+ startups.
Every year, we co-found several companies. We partner with small and medium-sized enterprises, agencies, creators, and ambitious entrepreneurs to co-create businesses and make them flourish. If there is one thing in common between all the companies we have co-founded, it’s the high success factor related to the “Founder-Market Fit”.
At The Secret Company, we believe that everyone has a secret superpower; our mission is to reveal it and make it a success factor in the development of a company.
Let me start by telling you a story.
I used to work with freelancers using service platforms like Fiverr. One year ago, while I was trying to develop a Twitter bot, I met Sacha, a young French guy offering his digital services on the website. Sacha was selling Twitter and Telegram bot creation services, so I decided to work with him.
I was quickly intrigued by his profile: He was young, nice and extremely talented. I started to talk with him and he told me something that stuck with me:
I accepted your request knowing perfectly well that I didn’t know how to accomplish it. I knew that once the mission was validated and the money in transit, I would have no choice but to complete it.
His willingness to learn, entrepreneurial vision and what I would call his “pirate spirit” attracted me. So we started talking about more ambitious projects. I saw that he liked challenges, enjoyed computer programming, and had been selling Twitter and Telegram bots for months on Fiverr.
I immediately put myself in the shoes of the secret co-founder that is The Secret Company and proposed to create a common project. The idea was to create a much more ambitious project than rendering services via the Fiverr marketplace. And, of course, he agreed.
We naturally moved towards the creation of a social network automation platform. It made sense in relation to the services that Sacha was already offering to his clients. It also matched his skills and, above all, the product-market fit that we had identified.
Everything started well, but as time went by, as the months of design progressed, the project began to stagnate.
Meetings with partners were skipped, product development and ambition disappeared.
Something was missing
Sacha was the project leader, but I could feel that he was not living the project. He was behaving more like an employee than a co-founder. He was rigorously providing updates in the development of the project but was not more animated than when he was providing his services as a freelancer.
It turns out that we never asked ourselves if we were actually interested in the market, the product, the company we were developing.
In the end, the automation of social platforms didn’t make sense to Sacha; he wasn’t even on social networks and considered them boring…
That’s when I understood that the market and the product were not adapted to the founder. I realised that you will never make a legendary company if it is not closely tied to your personality, your history, or your interests. That’s when I learned the importance of the Founder-Market Fit.
Knowing your unfair advantage
Founder-Market Fit is an unfair advantage, a boundless obsession, that has a great influence on business success. More often soft skill than hard skill, the personality and history of the founders must make sense with the company, its positioning, its offering, and most importantly, its market.
Iconic companies have been started almost always by founders with this level of obsession, because it gave them the right tools to endure the long journey required to build a business without burning out or losing faith.
Building a business takes a tremendous amount of effort, creativity, ambition and execution. Very few people achieve their goals if they are only driven by financial opportunity. People who live their business through their own story are able to keep going for years until they reach their goals.
It’s all about who you are
No one else but you will be able to find your Founder-Market Fit. You have to go back to your history, your deepest desires and passions, but also your weaknesses.
Experience is often overrated when it comes to the Founder-Market Fit. To find yours, don’t necessarily look where you are the best. Instead, go where your inner self guides you.
Here are 5 signs that you have a strong Founder-Market Fit:
- You dream about your industry
- You understand the current and future market players of your sector
- You have become obsessed with the problem you are solving and have been relentless in learning everything about the market
- You already have access to a large network in your industry
- You have experienced the problem you are solving first hand and have a deep understanding of the pain points
Now back to Sacha’s story. Without discussing it with him, I tried to find Sacha’s Founder-Market Fit, and I got it wrong many times. Two months later, we were continuing to exchange, though the project was put on hold. I tried once again to understand Sacha, and I identified a big interest in the Decentralized Finance (DeFI) investment industry.
Talking with him, I discovered that Sacha had an intimate passion for the DeFI / Crypto world. He had been interested in it for years, even before the sector was really publicised. Our weekly meetings for the automation project quickly turned into discussions about the DeFI industry.
Sacha had found his Founder-Market Fit by pursuing his passions, the subjects that made him dream and in which he cultivated his knowledge for months.
Think about your company
We are in the 21st century, the development of the Internet has changed the way we do business and the way companies succeed. Before, the idea was the main success factor of companies, their ideas, their solutions, their offers.
Today, success is more about execution. The majority of successful businesses are digital and this type of business can be copycatted in a matter of days. It is no longer enough to have the right idea.
You now have to seduce your customers with the right story so that they use your service and not another competitor’s.
To see how influential founders’ stories can be, take the example of Steve Jobs. Apple customers are attracted to Steve Jobs’s story, to the vision he imparted to his products, to the company’s history. His level of obsession has defined how customers have connected with Apple products emotionally. Apple users identify with his story of creative genius and ascribe to similar aspirations.
Customers care deeply about the identity of a company’s founder, much more than most founders do.
From an economic point of view, as seed-stage investors, we look at many things when evaluating whether to invest in a company.
The profile of the founding team is crucial. When we talk to a potential founder, we look for speed, grit, intelligence but most importantly, Founder-Market Fit.
Returning once again to my story, Sacha started testing several offers, working day and night with passion, and this gave birth to one of the most beautiful companies we co-founded in 2021, StaySAFU, a platform against DeFI scams.
His first scanner feature has attracted over 50,000 people in less than a month, and the StaySAFU (SAFU) Token launched with a market cap of $2.5 million.
Sacha found his unfair advantage, his interest and knowledge of the DeFI industry and his ability to execute in the blockchain sector (both tech and marketing). He managed to gather a community of 7,500 people who supported the project from the beginning, even before a product was developed.
He also convinced major DeFI players to partner with him in the early days of his project. But above all, Sacha has found his Founder-Market Fit which makes him happy and has a very positive impact on his business.
What Founder-Market Fit could you have?
By asking yourself this question, you will be able to project yourself at the head of the company and to imagine what degree of obsession you could have, your credibility in the eyes of your clients, etc.