My first real failure! thinglistr is shutting down.

I’m shutting down thinglistr today, and I don’t even feel bad about it.

I had an interesting conversation with someone on Reddit about the viability of the idea, and from it, I had second thoughts about participating in making something for small businesses. I knew that making something for them would be difficult, but after having that conversation, I realized that the thing I was going to make would have to *really* take off before it becomes a viable source of revenue.

To better forecast the possibility of this happening, I told myself that I would reach out to five bar owners or consultants to get their professional opinions on the viability of thinglistr. As it happens, getting in contact with any of them is a real challenge. Most bar owners own multiple bars and aren’t normally at any of them at any given time, so the success of simply popping in and asking for the owner or founder of a bar at any bar with real traffic depends on how lucky you are that day. Unfortunately for me, my luck normally runs short; thus, I couldn’t get in contact with any owners this way.

Bar consultants weren’t any easier to get a hold of. I’ve tried emailing and messaging on LinkedIn and couldn’t get a hold of any of them that way either. My next step was to cold call them directly, but I’ve been losing interest in the project for several weeks up to that point and didn’t really find it worth my time. After the code for my MVP blew up, I didn’t feel the same fire I felt while I was redesigning the whole thing, and the project itself wasn’t getting a lot of love from anywhere. I couldn’t focus on it as well as

Most of my interest in the project shifted towards re-building my IT consultancy using the knowledge I’ve learned from trying to grow thinglistr. I used to be a freelancer doing break/fix type work, but I eventually grew to hate it. I hated writing code and doing really advanced work in the daytime to then play desktop support at night for relatively low pay. ($60/hour in the IT consulting industry is chump change.) When I first started doing that, I didn’t know anything about social media, getting press or even how to network that well. Now that I learned a few tricks (and experienced what working hard on the side *really* felt like), I felt that putting an earnest attempt into restarting that business wouldn’t be a bad thing.

So instead of focusing on break/fix work that’s really, really overdone (even high school students do it, and with the world moving on from desktops and onto tablets or technician-proof laptops like Macbooks, there’s less and less demand for this sort of work), I’ve decided to consult on the skills I’m actually paid for and am really good at.

Enter caranna.works.

I love automation. Making the workplace function more seamlessly is something that I’ve been very passionate about for the last five years. I’ve done really interesting work for lots of top-shelf companies in NYC, and I want to bring that experience to other companies that are doing great work and could benefit from better and faster IT.

Call it a pivot, if you will. I’m excited for what this future looks like.

thinglistr and I had a good run. I learned a ton from doing it. I’m sure some other company will figure out what I was lacking and make zillions. Maybe I’ll consult for them!

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My first real failure! thinglistr is shutting down.

Day 96: I. Need. More. Time.

STATUS: Really slow going. I’ve got some of the components written and tested, but it’s a while to go before alpha. But I’m being showered in interviews for new consulting-like gigs, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

MOOD: Fuckin’ tired

———–

I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. The code I wrote for the true MVP was downright terrible. It worked, and I eventually got comfortable with the speed at which it did what it did, but scaling it up even slightly proved really difficult. (I wanted it to prepare a list of events for a mailing list, and modifying the script to work with MailChimp’s template was migraine-inducing when it shouldn’t be.)

So I had to make a choice: do I keep spending time running and maintaining shitty code while I get users, and leave the technical challenge of fixing things for later, or do I re-do the MVP with more stable, but not production ready, code that will make it easy for me to adjust as necessary?

After much thinking and a few event listing errors (the part of the script that created the events list mismatched Twitter handles and businesses, and the root cause for it seemed like yet another huge time sink), I decided to use what I’ve learned and start fresh.

It feels kind of like losing. I’ve been down for three weeks now and it’s killing me everyday. I wish I was doing more to attract users, but I have a feeling that doing what I’m doing will make it easy for me to grow faster, especially since I’m starting to pitch thinglistr at bigger stages.

Yet another day in the life of startup land.

Despite all of this, I am damn proud of myself for not having quit yet. It’s been nearly three months since I’ve started and I’m still really excited to see this damn beta go live.

Onwards!

Day 96: I. Need. More. Time.

Day 84: Confused

Status: I’m rebuilding Thinglistr core and have a design laid out, but am now also focusing on getting out of my full-time job, so not sure if I’ll have to put this on hold for a bit.

Mood: Confused

————

I’m reaching a breaking point at my job where every passing second sitting on that chair feels like a vice-grip slowly chipping away at my soul. I really dislike my job. I dislike nearly everything about it, but I especially dislike the fact that I can earn more for dealing with less bullshit. A lot more.

The thought of spending a few more months there is unfathomable let alone another day. I’m not sure of whether this is a challenge disguised as an emergency.

These feelings came to a head over the weekend and from that, I decided to find consulting work by all means possible.

So now I’m spending my mornings searching for clients and recruiters and spending my evenings moving Thinglistr along. I originally went into the consulting thing with the intention of allocating more time for Thinglistr, but both paths are really high-intensity and require a lot of time to make something out of.

I don’t know what to do. All I know is that I’ve got to get out. This whole equation would have been much, much simpler had I saved money instead of going super aggressive on paying down my loans (which I’m very proud of but is sort-of working against me now).

I’m desperate now. It’s fucking up my energy. I know I’ll be alright, but turbulence always feels scary at first. 🙂

Day 84: Confused

Day 59.2: TFW you realize you think you’re in it for the long haul.

STATUS: Same as the previous post. Fixed a few bugs with the event collection I currently had in place. Progress!

MOOD: More optimistic now that I thought through things.

————

So I thought about something that I’m pretty sure everyone in my place eventually thought of before.

“What if I just…quit?”

I *could* concentrate on being the best damn employee my employer has ever seen. I’ve done it before, so I’m pretty sure I could do it again.

I *could* get my weeknights and weekends back, since I don’t take my work home with me and my employer’s work-life balance is actually pretty good.

I *could* think about how to pump up my resume and prepare for my next move, even if it’s within the company.

I could have a social life again.

I could go back to having no responsibilities.

All of that would probably happen.

I’d have no real responsibilities.

I’d have no real direction over the bigger picture of my work.

I’d have no real way of *directly* helping society.

I’d have to settle for being a chesspiece on someone else’s board.

I’d have to settle.

I’d have to pave someone else’s way.

I don’t want to settle.

I want to pave my own way.

And even if I fail in the most spectacular way the world has ever seen, debt and all, I can say that I tried. I’d be ready for anything. I’ve even helped some people so far. That’s worth a lot.

Day 59.2: TFW you realize you think you’re in it for the long haul.

Day 59: Am I crazy for thinking that employee happiness and well-being are REALLY DARN IMPORTANT?

STATUS: Started building the website proper. Discovered that I have some more work to do on the core tech. Not a bad thing.                                    

MOOD: A little sad, but still optimistic.

—————-

The number of stories I’ve read and stumbled upon recounting or describing terrible work environments at startups are astounding and really surprising. Stories of founders ignoring their employees, founders stealing or “creatively using” investor money, marketers and salesmen selling non-existent features, founders pressuring their development teams into creating these features, 16+ hour workdays at minimum wage pay (or no pay at all!) and other A+ epics are more common than they should be, and it makes me a little worried.

I want to build an environment where customer and employee happiness come first before anything. I want my employees at all levels and positions to be paid (really) well and given as much freedom as they need to build awesome things. I want them to tell people about how awesome thinglistr is and how awesome *working at* thinglistr is.

The possibility of making your product *worse* by treating your employees *well* eludes me completely.

Am I crazy for thinking this way?

Day 59: Am I crazy for thinking that employee happiness and well-being are REALLY DARN IMPORTANT?

Day 51: I’m proud to be an American. Also, learn how to code. Own your startup.

STATUS: I built a Twitter search engine for businesses. The shit you’d do to get your startup off the ground.

MOOD: AWESOME

—————

1. I am SUPER happy that marriage doesn’t just mean man + woman anymore. We’ve just witnessed our own Brown vs Board of Education, and no blood was shed! What a time to be alive.

2. I made this post on reddit, thought it’d make for an interesting blog post:

Okay, so before I write my post, I’ll be upfront and say that I’ve had a few beers while trying to battle Twitter’s OAuth implementation. I won. Anyone interested in a business to Twitter username search engine?

If you’re a non-technical person, learn how to code. Seriously, just learn. It’s a time investment and will take a while for you to get right…but so is this startup building shit. I can’t imagine ever wanting to put the core technology of my business into someone else’s hands, and I can’t imagine hiring someone to build something that I can’t understand.

Programming languages are WAY easier to learn than they used to be. Python is an incredibly accessible language that is EXTREMELY powerful. Entire businesses (i.e. Google) were built on it. Entire businesses are devoted to teaching it (i.e. CodeAcademy). Again, it’s a time commitment and your code will BLOW CHUNKS at first, but it’ll get better.

Honestly, I wouldn’t even let this discourage you. You WON’T FUCKING BELIEVE just how much EXTREMELY powerful software used by household businesses is using 100% n00b code. The code isn’t important; delivering the product is

(more disclosure: I’m using PowerShell for my MVP though I’m planning on porting it to C# when it’s live after a few weeks of fund-raising)

maybe i’ll post this on my blog

TL;DR: LEARN TO CODE and own your startup

EDIT: EVEN MORE DISCLOUSURE I “learned” Assembly, C and C++ in colleges. Those programming languages are hard to learn. If you’re reason for not learning how to program is “I took a class on C and it sucked ass,” things are better now, I promise. (Yes, I learned some very valuable programming idioms that would be difficult to learn in higher-level languages. Things like pointer arithmetic and manual memory allocation. Things that 9 times out of 10 WON’T prevent you from starting up your startup.)

Day 51: I’m proud to be an American. Also, learn how to code. Own your startup.