Taking Smaller Bites

As a part of the Judy’s Book wind-down process our core management group (Andy, myself, Dave, Rahul and Erin) did a debrief on our mistakes and lessons learned from the past three years. The full list was too long to cover in one post (if you’re curious, Andy’s been blogging some of the major themes at A Sack of Seattle), but one big takeaway was a collective resolve to build our next business by “taking smaller bites”, working toward a vision by executing more thoroughly around discrete building blocks of the idea.

We’ve now put this idea into practice in our first post-Judy’s Book venture: Cooler Planet. And the early results are pretty exciting.

The “big idea” behind Judy’s Book was closing the yawning gap between online consumers and offline businesses. In retrospect, we tried to tackle that opportunity much too broadly, reinventing the entire yellow pages everywhere in the U.S. before we’d built a functioning model of the business in just one category and city. With Cooler Planet, we’ve narrowed our focus to just one service category (solar system installation) and one primary geography (California). And while we have aspirations of scaling nationally and expanding into related “green” service categories, the fresh memory of Judy’s Book has proven very effective at keeping us focused.

The benefits of that focus are manyfold, but the most tangible one is how fast we’ve gone from concept to revenue. We started talking seriously about the idea in the summer, enlisted an operating co-founder in July, brought on a technical co-founder in October and started generating revenue in November. And while we still have much to do before we hit breakeven (not to mention profitability), the steps we need to take are specific, clear and actionable.

I’m always tempted by big ideas and grand visions, but my Judy’s Book experience has helped me see the power of taking smaller bites.