The Y Combinator Podcast: Avni Patel Thompson of Poppy

  • You were successful in the traditional world. MBA at Harvard. Worked at big companies. Why leave and start your own company? I fell in love with consumer psychology. And consumer companies. I love the Steve Jobs quote: You can only connect the dots looking backwards. Even though my career appears traditional now that I’m in startup land I’m connecting the dots that have come to me from the past. . . I’ve always had an entrepreneurial inkling. My parents owned a small business. I always thought I’d eventually take my shot. [0:36]

  • I’ve had Founders ask me when is the right time to have kids? The same way there is no perfect time to start a startup there is no perfect time to have kids. You’ll figure it out. [9:45]

  • Lesson learned for her first failed startup: E-commerce is hard. Customer acquisition costs can be crazy. A lot of people will tell you they love your idea. That’s not validation. The only real validation is with people buying your product. That’s how you prove value. [17:23] 

  • How did you come up with the idea of poppy? I started talking to parents and asked what are some of the big problems you face. They kept saying child care. I knew that too since both my husband and I work. [20:01]

  • So I have an idea but I don’t know how I am going to do this: It doesn’t matter that I can’t build an app. I’ll use SMS. Ill start by vetting a few caregivers and then just find parents in my neighborhood. It doesn’t have to be a big fancy thing...that was good because it gave me no expectations. [23:46]

  • How Poppy got their first customers: I sent an email to 15 parents and said Hey I have these 3 amazing people. If you need child care just text this phone number. [It was her personal cell phone] They got their first booking that day. 4 bookings in the first week. 6 the next week. Small consistent growth. That was the genesis of Poppy. [25:45]

  • It’s not just about the starting: If you are lucky and you have something of value you are about to spend the next 5 to 10 years of your life working on this. [29:29]

  • Don’t feel the pressure to start a company: I had a lot of different experiences before starting a company. That has been fodder for building a more interesting company. If you feel like you want to start a startup but don’t have that specific idea.... focus on your studies, go get interesting experiences that will serve you down the road. [30:14] 

  • How do you think of product market fit? Am I solving the problem? They’re [customers] are using it and coming back to it. So how do we make Poppy something that parents can’t even fathom being a parent without? [36:44]

  • Advice for other founders: Too often we have interesting ideas but we focus on the obstacles. All the reasons we can’t. That’s why I recommend a 4-week test. Just give yourself a small goal. Can you get to 100 paying users? Breaking it down into smaller increments gives people tangible ways for them to get started. [44:16]

  • Full podcast here.