Max Finn is the COO and co-founder at Loot!, a platform that rewards you for creating and sharing branded content. Before starting Loot! he graduated magna cum laude from Babson College with a double concentration in Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management. Follow him @maxwellfinn.
Who is your hero?
Elon Musk. He is a true modern-day da Vinci who has put everything on the line — both personally and financially — multiple times throughout his life.
What’s the single best piece of business advice (unorthodox tips welcome!) that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
One of my favorite pieces of advice hangs on my office wall thanks to Startup Vitamins and Facebook. It reads, “Done is Better Than Perfect.” Without living that motto we never would have released our app or any of the subsequent updates. During Loot’s first year I would spend several hours a day playing with the newest and most popular apps. Consequently, I would see dozens of interesting features, animations and designs that I would ask our tech team to incorporate into our app.
We would be close to releasing our app but each time I would see something that I believed that it absolutely needed. This would cause another release delay, which at the time seemed necessary. I eventually realized that if I kept this up nobody would ever see our “perfect” app. We now have a consistent update schedule where we add no more than one feature and two to three bug fixes/UI enhancements per release.
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 would have to say that one of the biggest mistakes I made was using an independent contractor to build Loot! 1.0. My partner Nick Haase and myself are non-tech founders, which made building a minimum viable product quite difficult. After raising some capital from family we were able to hire an independent contractor to build our beta iPhone app. Because time was of the essence, we focused our due diligence almost exclusively on coding ability and didn’t take the time to get to know the individual or spend the time looking for someone equally qualified who lived close to us.
Over the course of our contract period this individual went MIA over six times. At one point, an entire week went by before we heard back from him. The scariest part of the story was that he had all the code, so if he vanished we would be back to zero. Luckily we were able to salvage the relationship and get the product released close to on time.
This experience taught me a lot about developing a tech company without being a coder. We now have a great group of formal and informal advisors who we consult with before making any hiring decisions. We also use tools like GitHub and Dropbox to ensure that all of our code and assets are backed up and accessible 24/7. We have learned to thrive and develop a great corporate culture despite still having a remote workforce by doing two or three video chats a week and using tools like Slack to ensure the entire team is always talking.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I start every day the same way. First I drive to my Wawa to grab a 20 oz. coffee and maybe a Red Bull depending on how busy my day is. After that I check my email, respond to user feedback and comments, check our app stats from the previous day and then check in with our lead developer on Slack.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
It’s incredibly tempting to quickly hire more people and incur other growth-related expenses after raising capital from angels or VCs. After we raised $500,000 in September of 2013, we almost tripled our burn rate. There are two primary reasons this happened. We had a big chunk of cash sitting in our bank account. We also had pressure to grow faster than ever and hit big milestones from the people who gave us the cash. My advice is to keep your burn rate in check and grow your team slowly. It’s a lot easier to hire more people and increase spending than fire people and cut spending.
What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Surround yourself with advisors who have clout, experience and connections in your target market. This is especially important for first time, young entrepreneurs.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
I define success as the realization of my business’ long term strategic vision. In my office I have several whiteboards and one of them is filled with a detailed feature set. We have been building out our product for close to two years based on this whiteboard (we have clearly added to the board, but the end product has stayed the same). The day I can erase the board is the day I know I will have been successful.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.