Jojo Hedaya and the Model for Early Entrepreneurial Success

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Jojo Hedaya and the Model for Early Entrepreneurial Success

Anyone who tells you they can guarantee you success in an entrepreneurial pursuit is either misinformed or trying to sell you something. It’s implicit in the nature of entrepreneurial pursuits that you will have to take a risk to be successful, meaning there’s always a chance that things don’t work out. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of things you can do to set yourself up for the greatest chance of success.

From investing in the right skills to develop in yourself to establishing your own management style, young entrepreneurs from any background can make the most of their talents if they act strategically. A case in point is Jojo Hedaya who—despite no technical background in software engineering—managed to guide the development of the popular email app called Unroll.Me. Not only did Jojo Hedaya help turn his and his business partner’s idea into a workable product, but he also helped build a company around that product that was eventually sold to one of the largest technology companies in the world, Rakuten Intelligence, just a few years after him and his business partner released the product.

To help guide young entrepreneurs on their path to success, let’s take a look at the skills Hedaya developed and the choices he made to get himself where he is today. That way, you can use Jojo Hedaya as a role model for your own entrepreneurial career.

Taking the Leap… After a Little Bit of Looking

When you think about the typical entrepreneurial journey, at some point you assume you’re going to have to take a giant leap of faith. As we can see in Jojo Hedaya’s case, the truth is a little grayer. Hedaya originally conceived of the idea for his company along with his business partner. From there, they worked on developing the idea and creating a minimum viable product (MVP). Even at that point, Hedaya was still in school so he had a backup plan in place.

However, as his company started to gain momentum and many of the things he had envisioned started to become a reality, he decided to dedicate himself full time. This was a significant leap of faith because it meant forgoing his studies. But as you can see, Hedaya didn’t take the leap without basing his decision on information. He knew that most startups fail, but he also knew that his company was gaining momentum. In other words, he didn’t take a blind leap. Instead, he took a calculated risk based on knowledge of his company’s performance.

Young entrepreneurs would do well to follow this model to decision-making as best they can. In other words, don’t buy the conventional wisdom that you can’t get anything done without taking a huge risk right away. Instead, test the waters to the extent that it’s possible, gather information, and make your decision based on an evaluation of all factors.

Invest in the Right Kind of People

Jojo Hedaya himself has written at length about the importance of people. At his company, Jojo Hedaya quickly built the high-performing team that made Unroll.Me the great product that it turned into. However, as a young entrepreneur heading a company with funding only from friends and family, it’s not as though Hedaya could go out and poach the best software engineers from other tech companies. The company simply didn’t have the financial resources at that point, so Hedaya took a different approach.

He prioritized hiring self-motivated people who had potential and passion, who weren’t afraid to solve problems, and who had a team-first mentality to their careers. Jojo Hedaya likens his process of investing in the right people to the approach of the legendary general manager Billy Beane who emphasizes looking for contributors that are undervalued by the job market.

Of course, while the idea of investing in the right kind of people sounds good, it can be difficult to put into practice. Hedaya executed so well in his hiring practices because he stuck to a certain set of principles. Young entrepreneurs would do well to follow a similar path. Even before setting out to hire someone, figure out what characteristics you value most, just like Jojo Hedaya did. Then, rather than pursuing whoever looks the best on paper, go after the prospects with passion who fit the mold of what you’re looking for.

Test Fast and Adjust Accordingly

Another thing that Hedaya emphasized while he and his business partner brought Unroll.Me to market was speed. They wanted to develop a minimum viable product as soon as possible so people could get their hands on it and so they could adjust based on the market’s reaction to the product itself. In fact, the first prototype of their product was released in just a few months.

As a result, Hedaya and his team were able to better understand their users. Using that new understanding to inform the next design iteration of Unroll.Me, Hedaya and his team could develop the product in a way that aligned with their users’ needs.

Young entrepreneurs, even if they’re not in the tech industry, can learn quite a bit from this approach. Too often, aspiring founders spend an inordinate amount of time iterating, improving, and adjusting their products or services internally. And while this internal iteration has its place, the best form of feedback comes from the people that will actually use the product or service. Spending too much time without getting your innovation in the hands of customers can result in a product that doesn’t fit the marketplace need.

Entrepreneurial Success: Not for the Faint of Heart

There comes a time in every entrepreneur’s pursuit of success when it seems like nothing is working and their business is a lost cause. Even Hedaya faced many of those down times, but surrounding himself with the right people and continuing to move forward brought him through the tough times. Follow that model to keep yourself going even when times are tough and you’ll give yourself a chance to achieve success like Jojo Hedaya.

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