This phrase normally predisposes us negatively cause it is usually spelled by someone trying to be a “know-it-all” guy or whispered by others who don’t care or don’t want to shout it loud, although they know they are right.
Well, this phrase really means a lot for me…and in fact, it proved to be the most motivating phrase over the last year…Sounds a little contradictory?
How can such a negative phrase be so inspiring and motivating to someone?
Please, let me explain…
About a year ago, when I was 24, I decided to join the world of startups. I was then asked to be the one of four co-founders of a new web app. This was quite amazing for me because I was searching for a challenge and the idea was really cool. So, although I had no previous experience in startups I didn’t even think about it.
Over the first 3 months we managed to hit the 2nd place at the Microsoft’s Startup Challenge competition (phase 1), be a finalist of a competition that led to a great accelerator in US and also gain important experience in startup competitions and pitches.
But, this momentum didn’t last for long.
The phrase “I told you so” started to exist among us quite often. I started to had lots of “told you so’s” for things that I had suggested but nobody listened to me (maybe because of the young of my age, no hard feelings though), the rest teammates also had their own “told you so’s” and we became a startup that was really rich of “told you so’s” and poor of user base.
As you guess this startup just didn’t work out in the end.
Quick disclaimer: the reason behind this “break-up” was not the “told you so’s” but the communication of the team, but I’ll write something about it in the future.
Then, some afternoons after this “divorce”, while eating a delicious plate at a little, scenic restaurant somewhere in Athens, my cousin, who was one of the 3 other (ex) co-founders (and the guy that invited to me join the startup), had a phenomenal idea: “What if we created a way to keep track of our told you so’s?” he said. And that was it! I was so excited about it that I just waved “yes!’ (with a mouth full of passion and…beef!). “Let’s do this!” I said.
And with such an spontaneous and natural way we had the “birth” our new concept: An app that would allow you to prove or not what you’ve said.
But just a minute? This is mean. Isn’t it? We don’t really need an app for the “know-it-guy”. Nobody does!
So we had to analyze the meaning of the “I told you so” to find a deeper meaning.
And here’s what we’ve found:
Each time someone says “I told you so”, either because he is an egoistic jerk or just a shy and humble man (or whatever), it always is exactly one, sole thing: it’s a teasing. Just think about it, he teases you! He teases you because he proved to be right about something! He just either teases you to feed his egoism or just for…fun! Exactly! This was the missing part for our puzzle. We were sure that while no-body would like an app to just prove his “told you so’s” while he could just put his egoism aside and prevent something, but on the other hand, some-body would like an app to tease and have fun with friends. To have fun with the smaller, not so serious “told you so’s”, the ones that are more naive and “irresponsible”, the “told you so’s” that has as purpose one thing and only: to tease so as to have fun.
And as we moved on and shared our idea with others we understood that this “somebody” were actually many “somebodies”! An app that would allow me to tease my friends by sending them “told you so” messages about Sunday’s matchday or Saturday’s date with Helen, or about what clothes will the prof wear tomorrow in class or I don’t know what else, proved to really grab people’s attention.
So, from the next day, we joined a co-working space and began analyzing the idea and its potential. Although the idea was so “new” we decided to apply for a local venture capital pre-seed funding. Actually we were rejected, badly. Rating our idea barely with 2/5 stars and practically saying “NO WAY”. That was a pain in the ass.
But do you know what we did?
That day we swore that no matter what, no matter how many months, money or energy would take, we would find a way to make this idea work, so as to be able to come back and say “We told you so!”
So we spent over 6 months during which we had to analyze the product and all of its potential markets, pick one segment and start prototyping. We pitched our idea with lots of people, entrepreneurs, mentors and potential users. We met incredible people that really helped us make our product better, we joined an incubator and finally, after more than 6 months of really hard work and many, many weekends sacrificed, we are launching the private beta of tizU in less than a week!
It’s time for us to show, for the first time, our app, our work to some people! It may suck (I hope not!), it may not, but the deeper meaning and purpose of it, it’s all this journey during which we learnt and lived so many things. The countless hours of work, of dedication, of passionate chasing of our purpose.
And the most ironic of all? The fact that all these are the outcome of such a negatively “charged” phrase: The “I told you so” that we wanted to say to that VC and we will finally be able to send it to them via our app.
So if you ask yourselves about motivating phrases and quotes I’m sure that you have plenty interesting phrases, but my own phrase is this bad, mean and negative to most people’s ear: “I told you so.”, cause actually it’s our product itself! 🙂
Quick disclaimer no2: This VC is a quite respectful organization and I would also reject our application back then. Their honesty filled us with persistence and passion to make it work.
This is the biggest told you so of my life, of our lives.
Thank you for reading this. 🙂
ps: If you liked my story I would be really happy if you tweeted me! @apostoleez