Edited excerpt from This Entrepreneur Raised $70 Million by Ignoring Some Popular Startup Advice by Ben Baldwin:
In 2006, Allen Lau decided to leave his full-time job and focus on building Wattpad. Lau expected that at the end of 12 months he would be able to raise capital for Wattpad. But a year later, Lau and Yuen could only muster enough revenue to buy a single cup of coffee, and they had only around a few hundred people using Wattpad. With a product that wasn’t gaining traction, they stood no chance of raising money. But both still believed in Wattpad’s potential, and both badly wanted to realize their vision of a global storytelling community.
As they considered what to do, Lau thought about the prevailing wisdom of startup success. Unless you were laser focused on building your product, evolving it, driving users to it, and quickly creating critical mass, the startup would never get off the ground. There was no point limping along.
Or was there? As Lau thought more about Wattpad’s problem, he began to feel that limping along for the time being might just be the road to success for Wattpad. As he saw it, the company was where it was because its timing was off.
So Lau decided he and Yuen would dabble in Wattpad in their spare time. Over the ensuing months and years, people started to sign up. Wattpad’s number of users grew. By 2009, Wattpad had a million monthly users. Lau and Yuen left the new startup they were working on at the time, and jumped back into Wattpad full time. Today, Wattpad is the largest community in the world for reading and sharing stories, with 40 million users each month.
(1) This is an extreme story, but illustrates a key point: you can’t thrive if you don’t survive, and timing is often out of your control.
(2) Cf. Profitability = control of your own destiny.