Building in Public I: Revisiting the Problem You Are Solving

What is this? 🤷‍♀️

Hi I am Cara the co-founder and CEO (of a team of three…) at Steppen a social fitness app. Now for the obligatory one liner about Steppen- think of Steppen as TikTok meets Spotify for fitness. We connect people with the perfect workouts for their goals.

I have been working on Steppen now for nearly 9 months. Since getting started in November 2020, Steppen has grown up a lot. I am lucky to have two awesome co-founders in Jake Carp and Dave Slutzkin.

Dave highlighted to Jake and I the importance of building in public, sharing what we are up to with the others. Historically this is done in the form of tweets, but hey I am not a twitter person. I enjoy writing so I will be using Medium to showcase what Steppen is up to. This is my first post, each month I will share a key learning.

One of my favourite concepts about startups comes from Masters Of Scale, Episode 10 with Selina Toboccowala who was a leader at Survey Monkey and started her own fitness startup Gixo. In this episode Selina discusses how in early stage startups it feels like there are fires burning everywhere and you need to chose which ones to focus your attention on. This is definetly something I can relate to. Fires do not necessarily mean everything is going badly, but rather that there are many things calling out for your attention which seem urgent. The question is how do you choose where to turn your attention? What actually matters? What is a good use of your time?

In my case as a co-founder, head of product, head of content and CEO, often what makes sense to concentrate on for one of my hats conflicts with another one. The problem of where to turn your attention and invest your time is a vital one for any successful leader and founder. It is definitely something I have stuffed up and will at times continue to muck up. I have been there spending an entire day redoing our website (which still looks horrible), designing new feature only to realise I am not a designer nor does it make sense for us to implement this feature and so on.

The problem of what fire to put out also must be communicated with clarity to the entire team. What do you want your team focusing on? What actually matters? And how do you create allignment so everyone is clearly working towards the same end goal? Especially as our team grows (we have gone from 3 co-founders to recently hiring 3 part timers and a full timer) my ability to communicate what matters will become even more important. If it is not obvious what is important time will be wasted and progress slowed. Priorities shift constantly in startups and clarity can at times be difficult.

So what can we do to determine what makes the most sense to focus on as a team and as individuals? I have found returning to the problem to be the best source of clarity and focus. Returning to what problem you are actually seeking to solve puts everything in perspective — does this action help our users solve the problem ? No, don’t spend time doing it. Yes, that (probably) makes sense to do.

Naturally there will be a lot of things that help solve the problem — so then how do we prioritise from our pile of yess? (that is meant to be a plural of yes…). Ask:

  • How big will the immediate impact of doing this action be on our end user? (impact factor)
  • How quickly can this be done? (realistic /time factor)
  • How can I see this was a good use of time and measure learnings ?(accountability check)
  • And then — Does it make sense for me to do this action, or do we have better placed people to do this action? (responsibility check)

Based on the combination of the answer to these four questions you can prioritise accordingly. You can only use this framework if it is extremely clear what problem you are solving. By extension that needs to be crystal clear to every single member of your team. So they can also apply this framework and understand the why, when they are doing things.

Note: This is an essentially a pause to think, cool so why I am doing this- if you don’t have an immediate answer you could be using your time better. Unfortunately in startups we can get into execute mode so much that we just do without thinking (guilty of doing this). Therefore it is important (though difficult) to ensure we have some scheduled reflection time for both ourselves and the team as a whole.

  • Steppen exists because people do not know what to do when they are working out.
  • More specifically they know vaguely what type of fitness content they like (e.g. powerlifting, cardio, HIIT) but it is difficult to find what they are looking for.
  • These people (18–24 year olds) are currently using Instagram and/or TikTok to find workouts
A funnel of the problem Steppen is solving
A funnel of the problem Steppen is solving

Applying the above framework; pause, question and return to problem, you can start to have clarity in what you are doing and most importantly why. This is not something we are going to get right every time, but with constant active awareness of how we spend our time and why we will start to see less fires sprouting up.

Until next month my friends,

— Cara

Co Founder @Steppen. Working to democratise workouts. Lover of avo and halloumi.