the lows


We’ve all heard the startup “war stories”,  usually in the form of how hurdles were overcome to “smash it” or the gallant loser that could do nothing to stop his business falter. Now when reading these things I’ve always found it hard to empathise, because at the end of the day, I’m just not actually experiencing them, even the greatest writer in the world can’t make that happen. There often tends to be some new-found wisdom attached to these stories because time affords you that. I’m not sure if hearing it from the pit makes much difference either, you’ve got to feel it, then really not forget it, maybe it should be written down as it happening, not when it’s finishing, or maybe not. However, things really feel real when you’re in the thick of it, there are no anecdotes, no perspective, no money, only tomorrow, only bills, only lack of sleep, only walls not doors, the lights don’t turn on. It’s not hard, it doesn’t make you a hero, it doesn’t deserve sympathy, it’s not the way it should be, how it should be doesn’t matter because it’s the way it is.  The Lows.

getting over the line

Why is getting over the line so difficult? When developing software and someone asks you how are you getting on, you always inevitably hear “it’s nearly done, just this, this and this” to do. Next week “this, this and this” are the exact same things. Your first thought is then to say “do we really need these things done before we launch/release?” Surely if they’re not essentially then you just release? The problem is, this will boil down to how you define “essential”.


For example, I have a really hard time with the concept of a MVP (minimum viable product). Maybe I’m just not the customer for someone launching an MVP as I would abandon it in minutes if it was (A) difficult to do what I wanted it to do, and (B) bug ridden. The thing is, I can’t honestly understand why anyone would tolerate an app with these shortcomings. Is it just the case that a product has to be 10% better to convince some to buy/switch? That seems low to me. I’d say in my case it’d need to be at least 50% better to motivate me to switch. (Those we made up numbers!)

In reality, I think I’d be more encouraging of MVP+ – basically MVP that does something but I’m not expected to deal and workaround shitty bugs all day, and you wouldn’t be embarrassed if you asked someone to pay for it. I don’t see a meaningful B2B product as something that you can do throw together in 2 weeks.

Having said all this, I think it’s important as a founder to realise when you need to show what you have created – what is the point in doing it otherwise. I’m one of the guilty ones when it comes to holding off for an MVP++! There comes a day when you need to get off your arse and take a risk – but just minimise it and don’t turn customers off for good by releasing crap.

So in summary, if your product is good enough that you’d feel happy charging money for it (assuming you have a reasonable moral compass) then it’s definitely time to let the world see it, otherwise I’d think twice.

PS. 50% better than others and I’d happily take money for it Haha.

it’s so easy to do things wrong even when you know they are wrong

Jesus. How could I be so stupid. Have you ever done that thing? You know? That thing! It sort of rolls like this.

You’re creating something, it doesn’t matter what it is, you’ve read all the books, been practising your art for years, you’re ready to create something big. You start building it, so utterly sure that you’re doing all the right things, then someone says are you doing *this*, confident you answer “Yes of course I am,” because it’s so obvious that you would be doing that thing as it’s fundamental. But you’re not.

That happened to me when building my product. I would swear I was doing what you should be doing, building something small first then incrementally expanding it based on user feedback, implementing their feedback, and iterating. Then came the question, “What about the many other users that could potentially use this product, what do they say?”. Ehhhhh, what do you mean all the other users? Oh shit. I knew I should have been talking to as many people as possible, it costs nothing, I almost thought I was, I really did, but I wasn’t expanding my horizon to the people that mattered. It seems so fundamental that you’ll not believe that someone wasn’t doing it. You’re probably laughing at me now.

Maybe everyone else is doing the right things and I’m just that loser. Probably not though. I think my point is to make sure you are doing the things you think you are doing. Just asking yourself if you are doing them may not be enough, have someone challenge you on it.

does your employer suck?

So you slog your guts out each day programming away, typing faster and faster, writing tests and more test, refactor after refactor, then after five years you think to yourself: “Screw this! I’m doing all this work for Mr Somebody and I’m getting jack shit in return”. Then before you know it you’ve said those inimitable words “I’m going to start my own business”.

Yeah yeah, we’ve all heard it before. The very next day you go back to typing, you end up getting married, you have kids, and you die.

If my business model was that I got a £1 (or $1 – I’m not fussy) for every developer I’ve heard say this then I’d currently be sitting in my winter home in Sydney Australia – rather than cycling my ass down to work every day in sub-zero temperatures. In fact, I’d have contributed much of my wealth from my own contributions.

So why do we do this? I mean, for sure, we developers certainly think we can run a business better than our employers – remember how you tell yourself that every day – so why do so few developers start their own?

To be honest, this is maybe not so much the case in the USA, or in Silicon Valley at least. The Valley seems to bring out the spirit in people to follow through with these ventures, so why can we not harness the same spirit here in the UK?

Over here people frequently talk about it but never do it, and yes I’m one of those people. We need more people doing it here in the UK. It can work as well. Check out Redgate Software, they not only create great products, but they also help other startups. It’s almost like Silicon Valley in Cambridge – OK, I took that one a little too far.

Realistically, to give our economy a brighter future, we need to improve things. I know everyone can’t do it, but everyone wants to work in a cool place that treats their staff well, right? So those who think they have got it stand-up. I’m sure their must be plenty of you?

So the next time you are moaning about your job, spend the time thinking about a product or a service that would be great, get some balls and create your own “thing”. I know I’m going to – well I just made myself look like a fool with this rant if I don’t try and it’s kind of why I done it.