Reflections on start-up life: Week 33

I’ll say up front that this last week has been one of the toughest. Some of the best highs and the lowest lows to date. It’s perhaps the most challenging post to write as well — I’ve always wanted to keep this an open dialog yet I find some topics this week a bit sensitive. Here it goes anyway.

Ultimately this week has been about performance. Our performance with clients, the performance of the server and even the performance of the DJ.

For the first time we’ve hit significant performance issues. It’s compounded by a range of factors, but ultimately in trying to improve the speed with which we gather data it caused our site to fail. Multiple times. Every time we thought we’d fixed it, the problems would appear in a different area — it’s like forcing more water down a pipe, ultimately the whole pipe has to be bigger, not just the opening.

This was annoying at first and then over time, more and more stressful. We decided to significantly change the approach which finally looks like it’s fixed things for now. I suspect that as we grow and scale, this will be a recurring theme, but I think we’ve bought ourselves a couple of months breathing space.

In doing this, we dropped all the other items on the plate — this became issue number one.

As far as clients go, we’ve signed more clients last week than before, but we also lost one as well. The lesson we take away is our renewal processes need a lot of improvement. I don’t believe the issue was related to the product per se, but the way we approached the license renewal was not good enough. I’ll leave that one alone — it’s like a scab I keep coming back and picking — what if I’d done this instead of this? What’s done is done, we can only do it better next time.

The DJ’s performance on the other hand was awesome! We sponsored our first event — International Social Media day. Kate Kendall approached us to ask if we’d like to sponsor the DJ and we leapt at the chance. I’m increasingly finding when I speak to people that they feel they’ve heard of us before, regardless of if they have or not, having a presence is on the whole a good thing.

The whole social media meetup night was great fun, good networking, great people, great entertainment, but my overall favourite moment was when someone asked me about Product Camp (which was on Saturday and I’d said I was attending). They asked if I was going to speak, or if I’d be sending one of my staff. I don’t know if we ever will have staff, but it’s nice people think we might!

Product Camp was really great. I need to get out and do more events like this one — there is just so much to learn and listening to, talking with and presenting to people who do product management as a profession was so useful. There is a big difference between a start-up and a large business of course, but that made it all the more interesting too. Imagine taking 3 months to survey customers and analyse opinions to decide what features to schedule for the next 6 months development! Inconceivable!


  • Sponsoring our first event.
  • Signing new customers and great indications for a couple of others.
  • People “getting it”
  • Vision for the future — Alex’s email about a new reporting approach was just what I needed to lift my head out of the trenches and look at what might be in a month or two. Exciting.

Lessons Learned

  • So much more to do — there are two ends to a funnel and you have to work on both.
  • I really don’t like performance issues.

Goal this week — customer

  • Met some great people and have some interesting conversations to follow up on. Lots of leads.

Goal this week — engineering

  • We are close to resolving all the performance issues — pipeline is back up and running, but a few niggly little things left to do to make sure we don’t need to look at this again for a while.