When you generate an idea that you want to pursue, it’s too easy to jump in and start a startup for it. You think: My idea could be it. This could make tens of thousands, maybe millions, billions? Am I about to be the next Jeff Bezos? Maybe. But, Maddie Wang, the founder of Sesame, wants you to consider a few things first.
Maddie created Sesame, a Chrome plugin designed specifically for you to connect with other people. You add the plugin to your browser, make an account, add some friends, and you’re ready to use Sesame. As a user on Sesame, you can “close” or “open” your door to let your friends know if you’re busy or free. Join a video call for a silent study session, a quick call about your day with friends, or a spontaneous startup founders meeting.
As we interviewed Maddie, she gave us an incredible QOI (Quote Of the Interview) that is the theme of this article: “Find your burning love.”
Maddie emphasized that it’s important to determine if starting a startup is truly what you want to pursue because of these reasons:
Maddie candidly shared the risks she’s taken in order to grow Sesame. She canceled a Facebook internship, is taking a gap year from Stanford University, and giving up the “easy life”, while thinking about Opportunity Costs.
An Opportunity Cost is “the value of the next-best alternative when a decision is made; it’s what is given up”. Maddie notes that by choosing to focus on her startup, she’s risking the other opportunities she has given up.
“Having a startup takes a lot of time. I can’t just endlessly scroll on Facebook and eat snacks all day anymore. I’ve traded that for working many hours every day, trying to do my best, and risking my own comfort.”
If you start a startup, you have to be prepared to give up certain aspects of comfort. Maddie spoke about days where she’s worked until 1 or 2 am, has woken up to “fires”, and has dealt with various neck pain and eye soreness from constant computer usage. Sometimes, “it repeats the next day and the next day”.
For Maddie, she doesn’t have regrets over what she’s risked, which she attributes to the fact that she loves Sesame.
During our interview, I asked Maddie if she had experienced any failures. She recalled back to when Sesame was first beginning and it was a desktop app. Through data, she found that people were downloading the app, opening it once, and then never returning.
“This felt like a failure because people were leaving the thing that I built, even though I was certain it would be amazing.”
However, Maddie said “even though failure hurts, if you sincerely love your product, you will be willing to exhaust all of your ideas before you give up.” It’s possible that you have a great idea but still have poor execution. Even Steve Jobs says “You gotta be willing to fail.” If you truly want to start a startup, be prepared to experience failure, of all different magnitudes and types. Failure is an inevitable part of entrepreneurship and startups in general. Once you establish the value of your idea, you must be prepared to reimagine your product before giving up.
This passion for Sesame allowed her to redesign and develop Sesame as a chrome plugin instead. The redesign of her product was wildly successful and to date, Sesame has had over 1000 users and more than 3,500 calls in just the past seven days.
“Although an idea might be cool and lucrative, is it worthy of your time?”
Whenever Maddie has a product idea, including Sesame, she considers if it is worth her time. She wants the product to represent the difference that she wants to make, in a way that she is excited and in love with the thought of developing it.
Maddie loves to dismantle loneliness and Sesame fits right into her passion as a product that inherently connects people together, despite the limitations of COVID-19.
When you’re investigating if you should start a startup, determine if it is your “burning love”. How are you connected to the problem you’re trying to solve? You must realize that to create a great product, there are risks, sacrifices, and failures that must happen. Maddie says, “Ask yourself what problems boil your blood? What change do you want to see in the world?” If you love your startup, you’ll be willing to invest in it until it matches your vision.