Welcome to our founder lessons series. Today, Cody Candee, co-founder and CEO of Bounce reveals how he and his team successfully launched a startup that lets you find a place to leave your things anywhere in the city.
Simply put, Bounce is bag storage everywhere for a low daily rate. It’s convenient for locals and commuters who don’t want to carry their things around from work to the next activity, as well as for
Over the next few years, the vision is for Bounce to be the remote control for your things: You’ll be able to summon your bags to and send them from wherever you’re located. We’re currently live in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, D.C., Boston, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, and we’re expanding rapidly.
Why and how did you start Bounce?
I’ve lived in 12 cities—including San Francisco, Bangalore, London, Barcelona, San Diego, New York, and Chicago—and have been able to fit my possessions in only three suitcases. Throughout my travels, I saw the recurring problem of people planning their days around the things they owned, and knew that there had to be a viable solution.
I first envisioned an “Uber for your things” back in 2014, and sat on that idea for three years. In the summer of 2017 while exploring new projects to launch with my business partner, Aleks, we discussed this idea; we knew we were onto something, but didn’t quite know what it would be.
We decided to put up a landing page for bag storage and delivery in NYC. Within three hours, we had our first customer and hustled on Citi Bikes pick up and store his things. Before we knew it, we started fulfilling orders all around the city. We knew from the get-go that logistics would be hard, but that paved the model of where we are today.
For instance, having to meet someone at an exact time can be difficult, so we figured that we could partner with local businesses for pick-up at one location and drop-off at another. We tried out this prototyping stage in October 2017, and quickly learned that people were willing to do pick-ups and drop-offs at the same location.
Aleks and I felt that we could build a great tech product around this prototype, and after going live within three weeks, Bounce was officially born. We’re now on a simplified model but are in the process of adding delivery services. By spring 2018, we grew into a six-figure annual revenue business, and by the end of the summer, we raised over $1M in seed funding.
What have been the biggest success factors?
I believe that three elements have directly led to Bounce’s success. The first is the ability to be super iterative: to service customers before building the product rather than waiting around on development. The second is being comfortable making quick decisions without having all the answers straight away. You have to ask yourself if the outcome is reversible or permanent. The third is being relentlessly focused on our vision of what Bounce can be, which keeps us persisting through rough patches and leads us on the right path when other potential opportunities or digressions arise.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced launching and running the company
We were first challenged by the idea of starting small, which we had to do to get the product off the ground although we were so excited by the vision and wanted to go live straight away. There also remains the constant tension between having immediate growth versus investing more in product development.
As far as situational challenges went in the beginning, there were many. Back in February 2018, we were dealing with some personal issues: my cofounder’s visa was in jeopardy of getting rejected, I had just gone through a breakup, and we both had taken out debt to get Bounce off the ground. Not only was it a tough time for us personally, but we also had given up fantastic cushy jobs to launch Bounce. Adding insult to injury, we weren’t satisfied with the traction yet and our revenue was still pretty small. It was a period of major uncertainty, to say the least. We could smell demise.
In March, we decided to give ourselves a 90-day window to expand to San Francisco as a do-or-die mission to prove that we had something good on our hands. If we were successful, Aleks would have a better chance of getting his visa, and we’d have the growth we’d need to keep pushing.
We landed in SF, launched quickly, and got to work. Within 3 months, our revenue grew over 6X. It was as if the tough period had never existing looking back. We were running full steam ahead with nothing stopping us.
Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?
Having the right team is crucial at first. It’s key because you need to stay relentlessly focused on the vision and be able to build. Once the team has traction and gets going, the priority kind of shifts to market. If you’re in a good market, you’ll then be able to attract top talent and thus be inspired to create the best product.
Final words for those chasing the startup dream
I’d advise that you make sure you’re working on a project that truly excites you. As a litmus test when you’re just getting started, ask yourself if you’d be willing to work on this project for the next 10 years of your life. If you’re only thinking short term, it probably won’t be the right fit since you really need to have the grit, passion, and determination to stay focused in the long run.