Reflections on start-up life: Week 43

Is it the spring in the air? I don’t know, but I think the fact that Alex and I sat down and really challenged ourselves on what to do differently has brought a different vibe this week.

That and two potential customers got back with strong buying indications which always makes me happy and several earlier leads are interested in the latest Tribalytic feature (new API and Excel export) which should be released today or tomorrow if I get time to review it.

But it’s more than that. We shelved off some time (2–3 hours a day) to play around with some new ideas. The goal was quite simply to see if we could find some other idea which had a shorter path to revenue while we continue the slow road of developing the market for Tribalytic. We did.

Maybe it’s just the change of pace, maybe it’s a distraction from the real issues, but it’s clear that we both like new and shiny things (and ideas). The challenge is that this new idea we’ll call Project X feels like a much stronger proposition.

Two competing thoughts are now going through my mind:

  1. Focus — We shouldn’t let ourselves get distracted.
  2. Flexibility — Startups are all about pivots, spotting the opportunity and pursuing it.

It’s really interesting to me how this isn’t the first time this has happened — we pushed two wheelbarrows for a while with Hivemind and Twendly. We did the same thing with Twendly and Tribalytic. I think this time though we are better at handling this.

In one week with our Project X (and yes I’m deliberately not disclosing what it is just yet) validated it with several people on the consumer side, lined up meetings (today) with people on the business side, drafted our first executive summary, found a domain name and because there was an Angel event in Shanghai, Alex has already pitched it to some Angels and even scored some follow ups to discuss it in more detail. They get the idea, the get the market — conversations have leaped straight to what’s your advisory board and covering the inevitable weaknesses we have. With Tribalytic we alway stalled at the market stage.

I think Tribalytic took nearly 3 months to achieve all this! There’s something about doing a startup that makes you better at a startup.

The most attractive thing about Project X? Well when we pitch Tribalytic to investors they glaze over.

It’s not that Tribalytic isn’t useful, it’s just that it’s not the kind of things investors like — it’s an Enterprise play (ironic given we stepped away from this) and while we believe it will be successful, it’s not likely to ever go ballistic in its current form. Ouch, that hurt to say. What’s success? Well, we will continue to grow, acquire more customers and staff — but it isn’t a $100 Million dollar business in its own right. Investors bet big on big returns — Tribalytic is shaping up to be a successful (yes, still yet to be proven) small / medium business. As one VC said to us back in San Francisco — “you know, I just can’t see where this is going to be a billion dollar return for us.” He might be right.

When we pitch Project X, sparks start flying. This is now the third idea we’ve pitched to investors (Twendly, Tribalytic and now Project X) — Project X just gets people excited. There’s no education, they can see it straight away, they can see where it can make money and how with the right investment, potentially a lot of money. There’s room to invest, and room to grow — and that gets investors excited.

It might turn out to be a match that flares and burns out quickly, but we have to play with this a bit more and see if we can really light the torch.


  • Excitement of chasing a new idea
  • Really positive customer contacts
  • Keeping pushing the PR barrow is slowly paying off.
  • Some successful “cold” contacts

Lessons Learnt

  • Everything takes time (I must of said this before)
  • I’m going to put Project X down as a successful diversion for the moment, not a waste of time (reserve the right to change my mind later though!). In that case, it’s always good to challenge assumptions and the road you’re on. What opportunity are you missing because of your tunnel vision?

Goal this week

  • For me — it’s a much needed break. We haven’t had a family holiday for a couple of years, my daughter has just turned 10, so we are off on to the Gold Coast to enjoy the weather and visit the theme parks.
  • Before I leave mid week, there’s lots to do first. Bit of writing, some more PR, some meetings for Project X. Life in a startup is always busy.