Reflections on start-up life: Week 37

Typically we know how to do whatever it is that we need to do (we may not always be the best at it, but we know the mechanics on how to go about it), but we sometimes don’t do it because of blind spots in our thinking.

The realisation I spoke about last week, that we are in a direct sales model, really opened up my eyes to a range of things we should be doing that we weren’t. Monday I was “out of the blocks” in a rush and tried hard to focus on getting back in touch with lots of different people and contacts that I hadn’t been chasing for a variety of reasons.

While it hasn’t generated more sales (no, I didn’t meet my target of 4, or even 1), it has generated a lot more meetings which I hope lead to sales or at the very least, more knowledge about why we are struggling to sell.

It’s beginning to get very frustrating this “pause” in sales. The first few went by in such a rush it was misleading in many ways. It’s turned out to be a very lean month.

On the engineering side, Alex is kicking goals — the performance release is coming on very well. The new HyperTable implementation has already improved speed substantially and now he’s ironing out other bottlenecks which mean we should meet our performance goal (of sub second searches). He’s also found other places we could improve even further which would enable us in the future to improve performance by 10x or more. This is important for us in so many ways, although we can live without the future performance improvements for now. I’ll return to performance in a moment.

As well as the “usual” activities (coding, blogging, meeting, emailing, accounting etc.) that go on, we had a hard think about product value. Sooner or later (in our case 3–4 weeks since the last sale) you have to ask yourself if the product is worth it. I keep meeting people that love what we are doing (they love it, the get it, they think it’s a great idea) but that won’t pay for it, or at least won’t pay for it yet.

So what does this mean? I think it just means we aren’t a must have product yet. We don’t yet have our MVP and need to continue to pivot. It’s a bit like a game of “hot or cold” — we are getting good warmer signals, but we aren’t hot yet.

Here’s where we now think we are at.

  • We charge ~$100 per month for access to Tribalytic.
  • Let’s assume that (because some people have bought us and returned) we deliver more than this in value. The question is, how much more? More importantly, for who?
  • I think realistically, the value we generate is currently at best a borderline amount. Why? All our existing customers have other benefits — relationships, early adopters, a really specific business problem, that the more general customers don’t.

This is OK, because it shapes our thinking on what the “next thing” we should do is. The short answer is “something that generates more unique value and that customers want”.

It has to be both of these. For example, reports are desired, but don’t generate unique value (of course something like reports may have retention value which is also worth considering however it’s a different problem). Although we may not necessarily change the price of the tool, another way of answering this question is “if we did X, could we charge more for what we do?”

We think we have it. Something that takes advantage of what we think is our Unique Selling Proposition and delivers significant added value that will support the way customers are using Tribalytic and turn it from something that’s “a convenience — we do it better than you could do it yourself but you still could if you had to” into something where we deliver something you couldn’t do. For perhaps obvious reasons, we plan to sit on this idea for a bit until we work it through, but I think this was the week were we saw how to pivot into something that isn’t just useful, but that certain companies and marketing agencies will really want to pay for.


  • Vision — excitement despite the challenges.
  • Finding a good niche where we can really help (but can we make money there… more on this in the future).

Lessons Learned

  • Matching your activity to the mode you’re actually in really works. Direct sales time.
  • Continually challenge and critique why you’re doing what you’re doing BUT stay focussed too.

Goal this week — Customers

  • More meetings and setting up more for next week.
  • Explore the idea we’ve come up with and see what the appetite for it really is.

Goal this week — Engineering

  • Fingers crossed, an early test release of the new improved engine ready for launch next week.