Reflections on start-up life: Week 32

We closed two more sales this week, one of them three months up front (end of financial year special). Officially we’ve now taken more money through the door this month than we’ve spent. A nice feeling. Now we just need to make enough to start paying ourselves.

I think we are starting to see the chasm ahead of us. We’ve got a few early sales and there are several more in the pipeline, but which one(s) of these is going to build us the bridge to get to the other side? Although we are getting a much better idea of what our “ideal” customer looks like, we still have a way to go.

I often find that we invest a lot of mental energy in things that we already know the answer to. Usually our gut tells us one thing, but our head is over-rationalising and trying to find some smart way out of a situation. One feature we’ve had strong feedback on is white labelling (an unbranded version of Tribalytic). Logically this makes sense (Agencies want to deliver their customers the Tribalytic experience but under their own logo / brand). The problem for us is that when we added the sharing features, we envisaged this as viral component to what we do and white labelling removes this.

The quote that sums it up went something like this “I would love to share this information with my clients, but I don’t want them signing up directly with you once they see how easy it is.” Do we change our iteration plans now to White Label, or do we hang back and make sure there is a enough to build a bridge to the other side before we rush on in. The head is desperately trying to rationalise doing it for the money, the gut says no.

Truth be told, we ended up unintentionally dodging the issue — the relevant decision makers are all heading off on holidays for a few weeks (this seems common across a few agencies at the moment) which has brought us a few weeks to have a better answer. How do we get a better answer? Well, it means we need to really access the size of the agency market — if that’s going to be our niche, we need to get a few more on board and also have a much better idea on how large that eventual market really is. Then we’ll be in a position to start building features, customising and targeting that niche.

Pricing has also been a topic we’ve debated on back and forward. It’s a balancing act between needing to be flexible again (testing different markets and price points), but it gets more complicated as we sign customers. Ultimately we needed to settle on something, even if just for a few weeks. We’ve made a decision early on to largely target the same set of features in different product tiers because it greatly simplifies the tool at this point in time, however this become problematic in creating price tiers — how to make them look different?

In the end we’ve gone with three differentiators — accounts (tier up and get more accounts for less), reports (tier up to be able to generate more reports) and custom reports. The custom reports one is interesting — right now we really want to build more reports into Tribalytic, and we want to do it with customer input — we need to know what’s valuable rather than just try guess. By explicitly pricing this in, we are actually articulating that value up front to customers in a way that we weren’t before. It didn’t change anything we were going to do, but it does help the customer understand the value.

Once I started thinking about it like that, lots of things we do have a customer value that we can explicitly express. So my challenge for you is this — what are you doing as a “matter of course” that is actually something with a tangible customer value — should you be pulling this out and listing it? For example, if you’re developing on two week iterations, is “New features monthly” something that your customer will value?

On an engineering perspective, we eased off the accelerator. We’ve pushed our release back a week — sometimes you wake up and realise you’re burning the candle at both ends. It’s a marathon and not a sprint, making sure you cruise and conserve energy every now and again is critical.


  • Two more customers.
  • New branded design coming together.
  • Good client meetings with potential new customers.

Lessons Learned

  • Think more about dates up front! We lost a day with the leadership spill which highlighted (because it was so short and sharp) that we were a few hours out on our time handling (to do with having a server in LA, storing some things in LA time, some things in UTC and displaying them in Melbourne). All resolved now, but has highlighted some engineering challenges for the future when we expand our market.
  • Go with your gut more often. Don’t try over-rationalise your way out of something if your gut feel says you were right first time. Otherwise known as “learn to say No and take the tough decisions”.

Goal this week — Customer

  • Preparation and then a significant pitch to a major “brand name” key client — if we get this one, we’ll be well on our way.

Goal this week — Engineering

  • Continuing to implement the new look and feel and inbound site design. Hopefully launch towards end of this week.