If this is your first time reading, I recommend you start with my 6-month challenge and table of contents of weekly posts for the past 15 weeks.
tl;dr I finally shipped Cusoy! It’s kind of a baby right now and far from being mature, but I’m just glad I’ve finally shipped! Woot!
So — this brings me to some interesting crossroads.
Since some of my users from Cusoy may or may not be reading my blog, I don’t really want to go into specific startup things I’ve done, especially if they’re a work in progress. Wouldn’t want to bias anyone — and I think it’s also somewhat weird too, if I was a user. For that, I’ll keep to my newsletter audience.
If you want insider knowledge on what’s going on with me every week — you can sign up at the sidebar to your right. No spam, ever, I promise. Just an email once a week letting you know how Cusoy is going.
What will be on this blog is more general things I’ve learned or experienced, but doesn’t go into the nitty gritty of Cusoy.
I know some people have noticed, and rightfully so, that my blog newsletter wasn’t much more than a pale reflection of my blog posts, with nothing that substantial added. You could probably just check back here every week and get blog updates, without having to sign up for my emails, basically. Oops.
Well, today that’s going to change.
For example, I’m going to be 100% transparent and talk about real numbers, things I’ve also delved into (private experiments I’ve been A/B testing and that I mentioned last week) but didn’t work out, etc. that I don’t feel comfortable publishing to the whole world.
Not to mention — at the end of these six months (actually now eight months, March 2014) — all my email newsletter buddies will receive a free ebook compiling my entire experience with Cusoy with additional commentary, resources, etc that is not shared publicly. Think of it like a director’s cut, if you will 🙂
I. Shipping and pulling the trigger
II. Chats and motivation
III. Next week and key lessons learned
9. Engage Users
Product development is a conversation with the user that doesn’t really start till you launch. Before you launch, you’re like a police artist before he’s shown the first version of his sketch to the witness.
It’s so important to launch fast that it may be better to think of your initial version not as a product, but as a trick for getting users to start talking to you.
– Paul Graham, What Startups Are Really Like
I. SHIPPING AND PULLING THE TRIGGER
Oh boy… This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
This release is also about 2-3 weeks late, and as each week kept going by (and as we are quickly racing towards Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s), I kept feeling more and more desperate and angry with myself with not being able to ship yet.
I kept coming up with excuses:
You don’t have enough restaurants yet.
You don’t have the best and most optimized formatting and organization of data.
You don’t have all the information people want.
You don’t know how to track important funnels.
You don’t have an email drip campaign.
You don’t have a social media presence at all.
You don’t have a content marketing strategy; actually, you don’t have any content marketing at all.
This isn’t going to succeed. At all. You’re completely wasting your time.
What are you doing? What are you thinking?
Would people actually use this?
Would people reject Cusoy and think it’s terrible and pathetic? (and by extension, reject me?)
No one’s actually going to use this.
No one actually cares about this. They just don’t want to hurt your feelings.
What’s the use competing against Yelp? Or FindMeGlutenFree? Or Gluten Free Registry? Why do I even bother?
And my favorite: Why don’t you get a real job and stop this charade? (<— this is mostly my parents 🙂 haha)
OMG. The list goes on and on. Confirmation bias — your mind actively searches for information to confirm its own beliefs, even when they may be overrated and patently false.
It’s irrational and fearful. I am a perfectionist and am self-conscious and conscientious about what I put out to the world under my name and do not want anyone to have a terrible user experience or hurt my reputation with a bad product.
…I’m actually really glad I have a blog for this purpose. It keeps me accountable and every week that I kept saying I was going to ship but when it didn’t happen, I was crushed and felt extremely embarrassed. Not to mention I kept telling all my friends — next week! I’m shipping next week! It’s going to happen, I know it!
And it didn’t happen, until today. I stopped talking to them for several weeks out of embarrassment and invigorated energy to ship and then tell them and let them know.
Actually, not having enough restaurants was my #1 insecurity — I launched with 40 restaurants, which will go up to 50 within the next day or two. I thought it would be a completely failed launch if I didn’t reach 50 — not true.
Early adopters, thank you
Early adopters understand. This is just the start. They’re not just here for today, they’re here along for the journey. That number of restaurants is going to grow over time, with their help. The user experience is going to get better over time, with their help.
…I’ve already got my first user registration and support ticket from an enthusiastic beta tester who said “Cusoy is going to be awesome” but was confused on how to submit restaurants 🙂 I love it! Not the confusion part, but that people are using Cusoy and actively seeking ways to contribute content back into it.
…I’ve gotten several emails congratulating me on my soft launch and how easy and simple the UI is. Even a tweet from another similar app (potential competitor?) in the food/delivery space looking to grab coffee and discuss helping each other. Awww, thanks guys 🙂
II. CHATS AND MOTIVATION
I met with a Rock Health venture associate and a friend for coffee a couple days ago.
No, we didn’t discuss my Rock Health application, but just reviewed where I am now with Cusoy, my concerns, my plans going forwards, their questions and so forth.
The chats were helpful and informative, but overall — repeating what I already know I should be doing. This isn’t an excuse, but more of a fact that I say in a very resigned manner — it’s tough because I’m working by myself on this and thus have limited time and constraints, obviously. I have to be ruthless in my prioritization, which means a lot of things that could help Cusoy in the long-term but not in the short-term probably won’t get as much attention as more urgent tasks.
If you’ve been reading my previous posts, you know I’ve gotten pretty jaded over the past month over how difficult B2C is to make money, and how great products with great teams and great traction (re: Forkly, Everpix, Wantful, Tutorspree, Sonar, Flud, Cue, etc) all eventually shut down, presumably because they weren’t financially sustainable and profitable. Well, each startup shutdown had its own story of trials and tribulations, but overall they either couldn’t find product-market fit, ran out of runway and/or just wasn’t making money or enough money.
Ouch, that’s got to hurt. A lot.
I know that I’d personally be extremely upset. I can’t imagine how hard it was for them (or maybe it was an amicable conclusion? who knows).
I am much more painfully aware of the need to make money (especially since I’m on my own savings and don’t have Series A or even seed funding) — but not at the expense of focusing on the user and addressing the core pain points.
It’s just gotten to the point where now it’s up for grabs what happens next — which is empowering in my power to shape its direction, but also scary in its uncertainty and high risk of demise. My MVP is now shipped, and now the real work begins.
As PG notes in the beginning quote and Alex Taub of Dwolla mentions, product launches (even soft ones like mine) are only the first inning.
Ultimately, these chats were instrumental in providing additional fuel and motivation for me to look beyond generating revenue.
I’m solving a real problem for real people. It’s not just another social network or photo-sharing app.
People actually need a solution like mine, and what exists out there in the market is not the best (I’m not saying Cusoy is the best either, but it’s a bit better) and are eager to give me feedback.
I’m excited to be working on a problem that solves my own personal pain point, solves a real problem people are facing, makes a meaningful difference in people’s lives in helping them eat healthier and not get sick. What you eat affects everything you do, if you actually think about it.
What more could you ask for?
III. NEXT WEEK AND KEY LESSONS LEARNED
Next week will be adding more restaurants in San Francisco and start seeding ones in the rest of the Bay Area. At this point, it’s just a race against time and not a technical challenge, but a data challenge.
Yeah, it’s an interesting position to be in — but one that I will fully embrace.
The usual iterations and feedback from users will also be my main focus, as well as other necessary things like user acquisition, marketing and analytics.
Key lessons learned:
- Just ship it. Don’t wait. It’s never going to be perfect. JFDI. It’s not going to be as bad as you think 🙂
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