Justin Bradshaw | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Justin Bradshaw

Background:  

REVER, pronounced REV-er, is an Eagle, Colo.-based startup that offers an app and website to help motorcycle riders plan and track trips. Justin Bradshaw founded the company in 2015, and it currently has four employees.

Bradshaw is also a participating founder of the 22X Fund, a group of 30 startups that have collectively launched a new securities token. They hope to “democratize access to capital” using blockchain technology.

The Mistake:

I failed to block out the noise.

REVER is not my first startup. I had a publishing startup a few years back. We published maps of all things, waterproof maps for motorcycle riders. My vision for that company always included the digitization of content and really what REVER has turned into now.

We didn’t stay focused on building that first business.

REVER ultimately became a great company, a profitable one, but we could have arrived here a lot faster had we not tried so many different things. All of them seemed good; we thought these things would be beneficial to our products, our customers, and our business, but in the end small teams can’t do everything.

Early on we had this product and we had this horribly executed idea. The thought was that we had these people using our product, which was a map for motorcycle riders. We rode motorcycles all over the country for years to catalog rides and roads and make it easier for people who ride to find good places to go.

My ambition to have a technology product hanging off of that started with this thing called Biker Brakes. We thought, well, people are riding motorcycles and they’re probably going to need tires or hotel rooms or whatever. At the time, QR codes were just coming out, and so I wanted to have QR codes all over our maps to unlock discounts for our users.

We didn’t have a sales team, so we spent a lot of time talking to small, mom-and-pop businesses and hotel owners in the nooks and crannies of the U.S., trying to get them to do things for us.

We had a lot of positive interest, but in the end no one used QR codes!

I wish we would have just focused on the core of our product, getting motorcycle maps into people’s hands all over the country and world.

It ended up fine. Things evolved into where I am now, but we spent time, money and a lot of brain power on things like that.

We had a lot of positive interest, but in the end no one used QR codes!

The Lesson:

You really have to learn how to say “no” and listen to your gut.

There’s lots of shiny objects around in startup world. Everything is new, and maybe you don’t have your business quite figured out. It’s easy to see these shiny objects as the thing you’re looking for.

I’ve definitely been on the highway, seen a fancy sign, and regretted getting off to check it out. It’s all part of the journey, and we wouldn’t be here – with good partners, funding and a recognizable brand – without it.

Still, the more you can sift through all the shiny objects and stay focused on the ones that matter, the better.

It’s hard to know which shiny things to pursue. If someone could figure out a formula for it, I think they’d make a lot of money. At a certain point, you just have to follow your gut.

I think it helps to give yourself time to work through a product or brand, and then really believe in it and yourself. It’s way easier said than done.

REVER is on Twitter and Instagram at @revermoto.

Photo courtesy of REVER.

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