Scott Austin is the Chief Product Officer at Porch, where you can get inspired by the best home projects your neighbors have completed, see what any home project will cost, and find the best service professional your neighbors and friends recommend. Previous to Porch, Scott grew MSFT's Xbox Live Marketplace from $100 million to $800 million in 4 years and served as VP of Strategy at Active Network. Scott lives in San Diego, CA. Follow him @svaustin.
Who is your hero?
I don't have one. Sorry, but it's the truth.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
I'll always remember a time when I was 10 years old, in Rhode Island, cutting down a tree with my grandfather. I was stacking wood in the truck, doing a haphazard job like any 10-year-old kid would do, and he stopped me. "If you’re going to do a job, do it right," he told me. For some reason, those words have stuck with me throughout my life. There’s a lot of hype about the lean startup methodology and MVPs. But in light of my grandfather’s advice and the ever-shortening attention span of the younger generation, I think there’s something fundamentally wrong with the philosophy that pushes out bad products, which in turn get bad traction in the market.
Instead, I hold my product teams to an MEP (minimum excellent product). It doesn’t have the full investment and support of a polished product, but it’s a complete good and it's large enough to provide an excellent experience, rather than just a test. As an entrepreneur, a major part of my focus is on brand building. I want to ensure every product I push out meets a minimum quality bar such that it builds brand equity from the first time a customer touches it. You usually don't get a second chance.
What's the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
I wish this wasn’t true, but my biggest mistakes in business have come from being too trusting. Startup communities like those found in Boulder, Seattle and the Valley are wonderful in that they provide unique ecosystems that breed openness, transparency and trust. But what many founders, myself included, sometimes fail to acknowledge is that beyond the warm fringes of these communities exists a much colder, extremely litigious business domain.
I’ve learned that in any business deal, especially when dealing with the big guys, always do your due diligence and read everything. If you need to, have lawyers on hand to go through the paper work to ensure all your bases are covered and everything’s on the up-and-up. And of course, always get it writing!
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
The very first thing I do when I get in each day is review our stats and business metrics. Once I've taken a pulse and know where we stand, I create my priorities for the day based on what we need to do to keep moving forward and hit our goals. I commit to those priorities so that no matter what distractions arise throughout the day, I don't leave until those items are handled. This way, I ensure we're always progressing in the right direction.
What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Keep it lean. Spend only what you absolutely have to on the operational stuff, but don't hesitate to spend money on talent. Talent is far and away the most important thing for your business. Do whatever you must to attract and retain it.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
This one's for the aspiring entrepreneurs: Just freakin' do it. Don't wait another year. Warren Miller has a famous line I love that he puts in all of his movies: he shows you Whistler Mountain and he says, "If you've never been to Whistler, go this year...or you'll be another year older before you do." If you want to start your own company, stop talking about it, stop going to meet-ups, and make a real commitment you can't go back on. Quit your job, develop your idea, and follow your passion!
What's your definition of success? How will you know when you've finally "succeeded" in your business?
My personal definition and professional definition of success are separate entities. My personal definition of success is happiness, plain and simple -- it’s whether I feel at peace and at ease. I stop myself at random points throughout the day and ask if, being completely honest, I’m enjoying myself in the moment. If the answer to that question is yes a majority of the time, I know I’m doing something right. I call that a success.
Professionally, with Porch, I’ll know we’ve achieved success when we’ve measurably reduced the pain that we know homeowners feel when trying to maintain their homes and find good professionals. We’ll be super successful when we’ve seriously reduced that pain.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.