Reflections on start-up life: Week 36

It was a confronting week in a number of different ways. Definitely not quite back on an upward swing yet! Under pinning all this is a personal milestone this week — a switch from money set aside for this venture, to now starting to eat into personal savings.

Really in a lot of ways there isn’t very much to say about last week other than it really felt like a grind. Nothing exciting, nothing bad, just a need to keep at it, keep pushing forwards and not lose momentum.

If I stop and reflect, I think it’s got a lot to do with being an adrenalin junkie. When things are going really well, or really badly there is the rush of energy and enthusiasm — there are tight deadlines, there’s pressure to get things done, or there is immediate reward. When things are just going “OK”, everything actually feels a bit flat. No disasters, but no highs either.

We spent a bit of time focusing on our internal strategy and several things came out of that:

  1. Performance is crucial. To effectively do many of the next round of deliverables (effective reports, index more users, dynamically indexed results, micro sites, API access etc.) we really need to improve the database performance. We’ve “bitten” the bullet and we are now moving on to a database performance sprint. The goal — sub 1 second for every query (for comparison, queries for some really popular topics like iPad can take around a minute at the moment).
  2. There is lots of opportunity for our SEO — this has meant me learning to write content for search engines as well as people (i.e. make it attractive to both) and we have also redesigned and integrated our blog now with several improvements. It’s a longer term goal, but good content helps build and demonstrate our relevance and expertise for the future.

The most confronting thing was a realisation after a chat with our advisor and a separate one with a business consultant friend that we are in the wrong sales mode at the moment. Regardless of where we want to be at (people finding and self-serving themselves on the site), the reality today is we are a direct sales model. We have to go and find people and sell it to them.

The other related topic was some challenge to us to think about our product offering — should we be a tool (which is our current focus) or should we package up more services (tool and training) for example. Again, we really see ourselves focussed on the first, but there is lots of evidence that what the market wants is the second. Lots of things to think about.


  • New blog template up.
  • Really a pretty slow week.

Lessons learned

  • Lots to think about — it’s worth stopping and considering where you are and challenging assumptions, even if it does make you feel uncomfortable.

Goal this week — Customers

  • Aim to get out 8 or so high quality posts and in particular focus less on the “entertainment” side of the data and more on the educational side.
  • Lots of customer meetings and follow up — I want to get 4 sales this week.

Goal this week — Engineering

  • 2 week sprint to implement HyperTable — we feel the need for speed.
  • Minor enhancements while the HyperTable implementation is going on.