Jesse Harding’s Bio
Before coming to Weave as a product manager for our mobile app, Jesse spent 10 years building and leading product teams for seed stage startups. His background is in design and illustration and he keeps busy with projects that fuel that passion. In 2019 he accomplished a long-time dream to create a card game from scratch and successfully fund it on Kickstarter. He also makes and sells art and recently launched a mobile gaming platform called Squidface Games that lets you play party games with your friends on your phone. Jesse has an amazing wife and 3 awesome teenage kids that keep him on his toes. He’s driven by the goal of making things that solve problems and improve people’s lives and he loves doing that for our customers at Weave.
Leaning Into Creativity
Many people in the world think that creativity is a gift and not a skill. In addition to that, many people base creativity on art and drawing. But neither are true. Creativity is innovation. Creativity is problem solving. There is a visual component to creativity, sure, but that’s not what creativity hinges upon.
Choosing to lean into creativity is a choice that fosters great entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship. It’s taking problems like how to play games with friends, digitally, without needing a computer screen– like Jesse did with Squidface Games. Or helping people with side hustles to manage their finances (also another project of Jesse’s).
Think of the pains in your daily life. The work arounds. I’ll give some context to one of mine in my home. My husband and I do our best to decrease our carbon footprint, and one way we decided to do that is to purchase bamboo diapers. They break down within 75 days– 2500 times faster than regular diapers. But all of that is undone if you toss them in a plastic garbage bag that’s going to be sent to the landfill. So, our work around is to put them in a brown grocery bag. They may still be going to the landfill, but they’ll still have the opportunity to decompose.
What are your work arounds in your life? What band aid solution are you applying to a problem you experience? Is there a solution that already exists? Is it affordable, practical, and attractive? These are the things that get Jesse going.
Ideate, Quit, and Focus
In our conversation on the podcast, I recounted an activity Warren Buffet is famous for. It has stuck with me since I was first introduced to it. The challenge is this:
- Write down all of the things you want to accomplish in life/your career. All of them. Don’t hold back.
- Take a look back at the list and determine your top three priorities. What are the three things you want to do most right now?
- His advice for the rest? Avoid them at all costs. They’ll only become distractions as you pursue your top three things.
Once you accomplish one thing, you’re free to reevaluate and move onto another, while still remaining mindful of where your focus is and what is pulling it away.
In that same vein, if in the pursuit of one of your desires you feel you need to pivot, don’t be afraid to leave a project. Quitting is not this horrible, undesirable thing we make it out to be. Having grit is important, yes. But knowing when to quit can be equally important. Especially for ideators.
Evaluate all along the way as you develop your idea to see if you want to commit to that thing. Discovering new things and working through the process of development is a valuable experience. When you’re truly entrepreneurial, no time is wasted, because there are insights gained all along the way. The trick is to continue to record all of your ideas as you work on a project. Foster a mentality of abundance. Never let a hair brained idea go undocumented simply because you’re occupied, because that may change.
As you work and constantly evaluate, consider asking yourself, “Am I worthy to solve this? Am I in a unique position to solve this problem?” If you are, then get it done. See it through to the end. And the end may be realizing that that idea just isn’t in your wheelhouse and you’d be better off moving along. But always record your ideas. Whenever inspiration strikes.
Because you record your ideas, there’s no scarcity of ideas once you finish your project. Jesse and his partner chose to abandon Indigo Money, for example, after not making it into Y-Combinator because it wasn’t what they wanted to pour themselves into. Moving on from that allowed him to dedicate his resources elsewhere. He had plenty of ideas he wanted to pursue and was not worried that one didn’t pan out. There was plenty more where that came from.
It’s easy to get the ideas and thrive on them, but you need to do the grind, work to finish on the right things. There’s a balance to be met between finding a spark and working the grind (check out the book mentioned by Jesse)¹. With all of your hair brained ideas you may come up with brilliant solutions to problems but lack the skills to execute on them. You can grind all day long on an idea like that, but your time and energy may be better spent on further ideation so you can land on an idea in your wheelhouse.
Finding Creative Solutions
It takes practice and a lot of ideas, but creativity comes. The nice thing is that there’s no claim or right to creativity. We all have it in us. Sometimes it takes a little prodding. And if we had it but feel like we’ve lost it, all it takes is a few good brainstorming solutions.
An easy place to start is thinking about all the things that suck. What do you wish you never had to deal with again? Even if it’s not something you can solve right now, it will help get the wheels moving, the cogs lubricated. Because creativity is problem solving. Creativity is innovating.
And right now, there have never been more problems to solve at one single time. Because normal will be different. Start to consider how it will be different. We’ll touch less things in public– what will that mean? Will voice become a part of our interactions more to replace touch?
Think of how 9/11 and the 2008 recession changed the world. 9/11 changed security. The 2008 recession brought crowdsourcing. Already, this pandemic has lasted far longer than those two events. It’s almost crazier to think what won’t be changed.
Unleashing your creative genius
Abandon the fear of not being able to create a perfect thing. That will only get in the way. Guess what? It’s not going to be perfect. If you have an idea, GET IT OUT THERE. Make an MVP– minimum viable product. Just by moving and getting feedback, you’ll be shocked at how quickly you’re able to turn your imperfect solution into something totally killer. Start with thinking about what’s the smallest thing you can build to find out if X is actually a problem?
Creative solutions are the ones that win. So unleash your creative genius and let go of any preconceived notions. Embrace your inner child, where nothing is wrong and a cat can look like a wobbly blob with whiskers, and a sandwich can consist of leaves, twigs, and grass.
After years of serial seed stage startup guru, Jesse’s takeaways are:
- Talk to “customers” weekly– people who have the same problem you have and are trying to solve. Even if it’s imperfect. Then iterate. Reid Hoffman said, “If you’re not embarrassed by your first version, you waited too long.” Get it out there when you’re still embarrassed, because it’s still easy to make changes. Ask people what their work around is? And how is your solution better?
- Find a partner. What you make will be enhanced by having someone who thinks differently. Your partner can be anyone! It is best when they’re invested. It’s someone who can hold you accountable.
- Get comfortable with measuring success in real ways. Are people using it? How are the reviews? Is the thing you’re doing solving the problem? If it’s not, what can you change? Or did you end up solving another problem and can you pivot?