Merakyat.org – In the ever-evolving world of startups, sometimes a “pretty good” idea just doesn’t cut it. This was the realization that dawned upon Spenser Skates and Curtis Liu, two MIT graduates who once spearheaded a voice recognition startup named Sonalight. Described as a precursor to Apple’s Siri, Sonalight garnered significant attention, securing a spot in the esteemed Y Combinator’s startup accelerator program and amassing 500,000 app downloads.
However, despite its initial success, Skates and Liu noticed a concerning trend. Users were downloading the app but not returning to it. Recognizing that Sonalight was a commendable idea but perhaps not the “bestest best,” the duo made the bold decision to shut it down. Their rationale? To pursue an idea that resided in the 99th percentile of innovation.
The inspiration for their next venture came from an unexpected source: the in-house analytics tools they had developed for Sonalight. These tools, designed to gain insights into user behavior, were superior to anything their Y Combinator peers had access to. Recognizing the potential, Skates and Liu pivoted, laying the foundation for what would become Amplitude in 2012. This analytics platform, officially launched in 2014 with the addition of co-founder Jeffrey Wang, rapidly gained traction. By 2021, Amplitude had secured $336 million in investments, leading Skates to take the company public.
Reflecting on their journey, Skates emphasized the importance of pursuing greatness over mere goodness. While Sonalight had potential, it lacked the stickiness required for long-term user engagement. The decision to transition wasn’t easy, but the duo’s commitment to making a significant impact drove them forward. Skates’ experience in finance and high-frequency trading post-college further solidified his entrepreneurial spirit. He observed that while many engineers dream of starting their own ventures, few take the leap due to inherent risk aversion. In contrast, true entrepreneurs embrace uncertainty, guided by the belief in their vision.
In the end, Skates and Liu’s story serves as a testament to the power of adaptability, vision, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. Their journey from Sonalight to Amplitude underscores the importance of recognizing when to pivot and the courage required to chase transformative success.