Reflections on startup life: Week 52
Just over twelve months ago, this appeared on this blog New beginnings — I’ve resigned. Shortly followed a few weeks later by Reflections on startup life: Week One.
I made no promises in that first post but I did say that “I’d like to try and make this a weekly habit, to review the progress and what’s happened”. 52 weeks on, I’m proud that I have achieved this, and in some instances more than weekly where there has been a lot to say.
There’s lots I could talk about in this post, but I won’t other than to touch on them quickly in this list:
- How proud I am that 12 months in we’re still going, still iterating and hanging in there.
- How 12 months in my relationship with Alex is stronger than ever.
- The support and understanding I’ve had from my family, without whom I wouldn’t be able to get this far.
- How much fun it’s been. No regrets — I’d not trade this last 12 months for anything.
- The mistakes we’ve made along the way (I regret nothing).
Instead I think it’s appropriate to recap with our organisational story. It comes up again and again and continually evolves — how did you get here? What gave you this idea? It evolves as you tell it again and again, bits get added, bits get removed. What was critical at day one, is less important 12 months later.
For example, you’ll notice I changed the blog template today (prompted by Posterous releasing new templates, but also a feeling that it was time for a refresh). When I looked at the sub-title of the blog the first line said “The often random thought of an Enterprise Technologist…”
Sometime over the past year, that’s ceased to be true — it just kind of creeps up on you. In week 1, week 10 and perhaps even week 20, this was still true, but today, 12 full months since my corporate life I think I qualify as ex-Enterprise technologist. Now I’m first and foremost a “Startup Co-founder” and happy to lay claim to that title.
So what’s our twelve month journey look like now?
We said from launch that BinaryPlex was about “People centric software” and that hasn’t changed — in our pivots to deliver our big idea there’s been a consistent thread in this. Over the 12 months we’ve:
- Built a beta of an Enterprise Knowledge Location system codenamed “HiveMind” which tracked experts based on their conversations. We dropped this prior to launch as we realised that it wasn’t a technical challenge, it was an Enterprise Sales problem and we didn’t want to build the type of organisation required to service this problem.
- We took the engine from HiveMind and created Twendly, a public implementation of the engine that allowed you to find people on twitter based on what they talked about. We took this to Sydney and pitched for funding, but were advised that it was a “feature not a product” and they didn’t agree with our plans to monetise it.
- Learning from this, we built Tribalytic and invested nearly 6 months in building a product around the core idea of Twendly and creating a social market research tool. Tribalytic was our first successful product and is growing, but as we understand the market in a lot greater detail, we can see that scaling and growing Tribalytic is an Enterprise Sales problem again, and for the same reasons early on, we don’t really want to build an Enterprise Sales organisation. We continue to sell, support and maintain Tribalytic while looking for a more consumer focussed idea.
- We launched a prototype of Distlr which is an event specific Twitter client. After discussing it with several people and showing a few organisations, we could see this was very much a two sided market — you could monetise off the broadcasters (people operating events) but not the consumers. Once again, it was an Enterprise Sales issue and so we moved on again.
- We are close now to opening up our latest idea which is “in stealth” at the moment as it’s genuinely consumer focussed and a little bit different — we want to make sure that the experience is right before we go too broadly.
Throughout all of this, we are continually optimistic that the next idea is “the one”. You wouldn’t be in a startup if you weren’t.
Perhaps the simplest answer to the question “so how’s it going?” is this.
When we first started in November, I set a deadline of June to make a decision to continue or not. At June, we were able to extend this to September. Once we reached September, we pushed that deadline out until January, now in November, we think we’ve got until March.
It’s been made possible by a combination of Tribalytic making money as well as picking up a few contracts too. While we don’t want to be a contracting / consulting company, we will look at more — particularly anything aligned to what we do, know and love (social software, building applications on top of this and analysing data for insight).
12 months of startup life Highlights and Lessons Learned
- A great first year, educational, challenging and above all FUN.
- Feeling I’m making a difference — there’s something very direct and tangible about the work we do that makes it enjoyable.
- Developing new relationships and meeting some really great people who’ve all taught me a lot.
- Spending 2.5 weeks in San Francisco soaking up the culture.
- Realising how awesome the startup culture in Melbourne is — like all good things Melbourne, it’s not in your face, but it’s there and it’s of very high quality.
- Every one of the products we’ve developed and launched — I’ve loved and believed in them all and it’s hurt when we pivoted away from them for whatever reason.
- You can live on a lot less money than you think. It doesn’t feel like a sacrifice when you are striving for something else.
- You need a co-founder — you might even need 3 of you.
- Sometimes in the heat of the moment you need to walk away from the problem — it’s amazing the perspective when you take a break.
- Contracting may be a necessary evil, but it can be fun if you align the contracts with your own goals — set out to do this early so that you can pick and choose. If you leave it to the last minute, you’ll do things for money, not because you’re interested and passionate about them (which is better for you AND your client).
- Someone is always doing something similar to you, no matter how unique you think your idea is. You just don’t know who they are yet. When you do find them, they are always appear better funded, further progressed and bigger than you think.
- Never give up
- Keep having fun
So happy birthday BinaryPlex on achieving the first 12 months! Here’s to 12 months more.