Reflections on start-up life week two

So the beginning of week three. Last week started with a bang, we were charged up and excited after an excellent first week. Unfortunately it didn’t stay that way. It wasn’t a bad week at all, but I think the size of the challenge ahead is becoming a bit more obvious.

The technical side has had its challenges, but on the whole has progressed smoothly. The decision to implement an AMQP Messaging bus will pay dividends in the long run, but has cost us time at the moment. De-bugging a-synchronous message queues in a distributed architecture turns out to be harder than you’d think. Ironically I’m now considering removing it anyway because the focus should be on getting the product into peoples hands, not Enterprise scale implementations — something others have tried to tell me but I think I’m just beginning to realise now.

Networking events also seem to be a bit hit and miss — I don’t mind them for the social side of things, but our customers often aren’t there. The lesson here is go to these because you want to, not to “have” to meet anyone and you won’t be dissappointed. A lot of events are now winding up anyway in the lead up to Christmas so it will be interesting to see how these play out next year.

One meeting that was excellent was to catch up with Mike Casey from Grad Connections who was down here in Melbourne — he’s got his own start-up with a couple of other business partners ( and is very interesting to us because although in a different area, he’s also trying to sell to Enterprises as well so there is a lot to learn from him. We had a good coffee in the city and he really challenged my thinking on a few things — ultimately the conclusion was we were going along pretty well for the second week, but we should really be doing more to speak with customers.

This led to me spending most of Thursday afternoon putting together a calling list and much of Friday cold-calling people.

What did I learn from this? Contact names are crucial, you need to know who you want to speak to. Some organisations really need our product based on conversations with receptionists who had no idea about who would do “Knowledge Management” inside their organisation. Speaking to IT is “easier” but not as productive — easier to reach them, but they aren’t interested unless the business tell them they need it (fair enough).

What’s interesting is how small setbacks (or even just things not going as well as they did) quickly turn into self-doubt about your product and idea. It’s not helped by the many conversations about HiveMind that we have where people say “Oh, you could use this to xxx”, which is often true if we decided to veer left or right at this early stage. What is the balance between tilting at windmills Vs. listening to people telling you how they want to use your product?

I always thought that this time of year would be a good one to start as it gives us a couple of months to get things developed during the quiet period of Christmas / New Years in Australia, however I wonder if this is wise now as the people we need to provide us feedback and guidance may be harder and harder to reach.

Roll on week three! Lots of interesting conversations scheduled — we are planning to use this time to reflect and gather feedback on the Darebin sprint and plan how we move forwards with the next Alphington sprint.


  • Meeting our commitment to the three week Darebin sprint with a week to spare.
  • Meeting with Mike Casey from Graduate Connections, it was really useful to share ideas and seek advice from someone who’s been there and done that.


  • The daunting size of the challenge
  • Experiencing cold calling for the first time.
  • Self-doubt creeping in for the first time — is this a product that people really need?
  • Minor frustration with iPhone battery life — really the only thing about it I don’t like. It does amazing things, however the minute you do any of them, it lasts about half a day before needing a re-charge. It’s certainly different from the BlackBerry Bold — with the iPhone you need to keep it on the charger most of the time so you can get 6–8 hours out of it “on-the-road”.

If I could change on thing / goal this week?

  • Re-focus for the next sprint on a “hands on” version of HiveMind.