Startup Advice from an Advice Startup
A year ago, we got to work on a radically simple and immensely difficult venture: to build a platform where you can have five minutes of anyone’s time.
The way we see it, we’re adding a missing piece of infrastructure to the web: a direct line to the right person, with the right experience, at the right time. Or, in plain pitch language:
Google solved the information problem.
Wikipedia solved the knowledge problem.
Anyone is solving the advice problem.
We can talk for days about how we’re doing that, and why we believe that a marketplace for five-minute conversations can unlock a completely new way to share valuable advice. But we thought it’d be much more interesting to share the most valuable advice that we’ve gotten so far. In five minutes.
1. Solve for scarcity.
As startups, we learn to begin with the problem we’re solving. There’s nothing wrong with that, but as a mindset, it can easily lead to focusing on specific use cases and behaviours that are symptoms of something else. In short: How can we be sure that the problem is the problem?
With Anyone, we set out to solve ‘Access to expertise’ before realising that it wasn’t a problem at all. It turned out that what we really were trying to solve is something far more valuable: Personal advice.
Today, we can access people everywhere: we can follow them on Twitter, hear them on Clubhouse, support them on Patreon, or even get a shoutout on Cameo. But access is not the same as attention.
That is the scarcest resource in the information economy. And that is what Anyone delivers: True, undivided attention.
The internet has created a world defined by abundance, but scarcity is still the foundation of economics and the driving force behind demand. When we solve for scarcity, we’re more likely to solve real problems along the way.
2. Nail your narrative.
As startups, we learn to be user-centric. Or is it product-focused? Or maybe talent-driven? Probably all of them. But the thing is, that in order to have any of those things — users that grow the product so that we can hire talent — we first need people to understand what we’re doing.
At Anyone, we started with a pay-per-minute model and experimented with many different formats before deciding to build a product that does one thing, and one thing only: five-minute voice calls. No video, no DM’s, no calendar integration — just great conversation topics, at a price that advisors decide, with an on/off switch for accepting calls. Why? Because it aims to solve the biggest pain points (time, cost & availability) and introduces a creative format that encourages people to connect.
‘The rule of three’ is a staple in storytelling. (We’re using it in this text.) But with the Anyone narrative, we stumbled upon ‘the rule of thirds’:
1/3 of people are excited and immediately sign up.
1/3 are intrigued and want to learn more about how it works.
1/3 laugh out loud and explain to us in great detail why it will never, ever, work.
A good narrative isn’t one that everyone likes — it’s one that everyone remembers. Nailing this is not a marketing exercise. A contrarian narrative, backed up with data, is fundamental for founders that want to create something truly new.
As startups, we learn to give answers. This is our moat. This is our flywheel. This is our serviceable addressable market. This is our CAC:LTV ratio. This is our ping pong table — it brings to life our vision of a fun, dynamic and informal environment that supports both work and play.
Of course, it’s critical to keep track of our north star metrics and make data-informed decisions. But more than anything, to build is to ask questions. Why does this matter? Whose lives are we improving? What mistakes have others made when attempting something similar? What red flags are we missing? How can we be better parents, while still giving this venture all we have?
Not-knowing is a wonderful thing, because it leads us to new places, new people, new conversations, and new ideas. If we let others know.
There’s an old clip of Steve Jobs telling the story of how he, at the age of 12, called up Bill Hewlett (Co-founder and President of Hewlett-Packard) and asked about building a frequency counter.
Hewlett, presumably somewhat surprised, got Jobs some free parts and a summer job on the assembly line at HP, where he could learn more.
The moral of the story is that most of us aren’t Steve Jobs.
But most of us are Bill Hewlett.
Most of us aren’t comfortable with reaching out to people we don’t know, even if we really need their advice on something. But most of us want to help out if we can and support those who need it.
A year into the pandemic, as many of one in four Americans are considering a career change, and record-breaking number of new businesses have started in the last twelve months. In parallel, mental health issues are on the rise and cases of depression have doubled, partly due to the isolation that follows from social distancing.
There’s a lot of general advice available on all of the above, thanks to skilled content creators and industry professionals who generously share insights on platforms like this one. With Anyone, there’s finally a way to convert that into personal advice: to get a second opinion, do a quick due diligence, double-check something important, ask a short question, or get some encouraging words from a person we look up to.
Life is full of five-minute problems.
Solving them is what progress looks like.
Anyone is a voice app for five-minute advice that helps you make better calls.
Join our waiting list for early access.
We’re humbled by the volume of sign-ups so far, and committed to give our early users the best experience possible. That’s why we onboard and train every advisor, making sure they are aware of their role, the relevance of their experience, and any biases.