Trust, Speed, and Indiana Jones: The Boba Guys Learn to Cut the Rope

Startups thrive on speed, and that demands trust between partners. How the Boba Guys learned to cut the rope.

Starsky and Hutch. Abbott and Costello. Indy and Short Round. Boba Guys.

“Partner” and “founder” are loaded terms these days. We steer away from Silicon Valley war stories of betrayal, broken friendships, and espionage, but to ignore the tensions that come with co-ownership altogether would be foolish. Fortunately for us, we make boba. When your business plan is simple, so is the partnership.

Our iterative business model relies heavily on speed, so the faster we can make decisions and improve, the better we serve our customers. The question we ask ourselves is how can we improve our iterative speed?

 As cheesy as it sounds, we believe it hinges on an intense commitment to trust: It’s like Indy cutting the rope while his friends hang on for dear life.

Trust is a lubricant for speed, and in the startup world, speed is everything. If business is a game of football, trust is your lead blocker. Producing a tangible product means we face a variety of operational constraints, so we cannot afford to double-up on tasks—it is extremely inefficient. We ask each other for opinions, but decision-making lies squarely on one of the two owners.

At first, it was hard for both us to trust one another at this level, despite our foundation of friendship. As perfectionists, we craved control. But as business demands grew, we each had to let go of certain things. As uninspiring as it sounds, trust—in our case—came out of necessity.

Trust also makes up for inherent differences. As our profiles suggest, we are two very different people, so it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. To boil us down (like our tapioca pearls) into a reduction, Bin is a free thinker and Andrew is logical. You can imagine the conversations we have about topics like branding or mission:

Bin: “Do you like the aardvark for the logo?”

Andrew: “Um... what does it symbolize? Us?”

Bin: “It has a classic feel to it. It’s what we’re going for.”

Andrew: “I see. Do you think people know it’s an aardvark?”

Bin: “Does it matter?”

Andrew: “I like the look and feel of the aardvark. We can even tell people we chose an aardvark because it has a built-in bubble tea straw.”

Bin: “Hm... it makes sense in a funny way. More practical than I was going for, but I’ll take it.”

Andrew: “Ok. Let’s go with the aardvark.”

In the end, we rely on each other to make businesses decisions that affect both partners. It may not always be the right call, but it is a call, nonetheless, and even wrong decisions are useful as markers for dead ends. Perhaps our commitment to trust has less to do with our abilities and more to do with our willingness to learn from mistakes and hold on for dear life. Let’s cut the rope!

See you Monday!

Julian Meehan

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