Trevor Cornwell | Crain's Silicon Valley

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Trevor Cornwell

Background:  

Appbackr is an online index for mobile applications.   

The Mistake:

I was in Budapest and I had started a radio news program called “Central Europe Today.” It was right after the Berlin Wall came down, so phone lines from Budapest to London were routed through somewhere else. There was a person in Vienna or Paris who had to flip the switch on, when we sent our program through to London.

But, one day the program didn't make it through at all and we had to notify Vienna about it—and it turned out the phone line wasn't being routed through Vienna that day. The next day it went through Paris and another day Geneva and another day Stockholm. It was constantly routed differently, so we had to be there every step of the way to wake up the operator in whatever country—but that was difficult because we never knew beforehand what country it would be.

It was a very small, unseen detail, but it was so fundamental to the way the company would be judged. We had all the big things right, but this small little detail at the core of what we were doing was broken and so everything else broke as a result.

 

I think you have to own, obsess and be paranoid about every single step.

 

The Lesson:

I think you have to own, obsess and be paranoid about every single step. Getting the program communicated was as fundamental as everything else, and that was my responsibility. It was my fault for not being obsessive about it or making sure somebody else was.

Being a founder of a startup, you are the point of failure for almost everything. I was the point of failure when we couldn’t get the program from point A to point B and I didn’t know about it. You have to be paranoid about every single detail.

Follow Trevor Cornwell on Twitter at @trevorcornwell.