Day 26: Even the smallest steps can sometimes be made even smaller.

STATUS: I’m getting some very light traffic to my Facebook and Twitter feeds! Also discovered a few tools to help me automate this extremely arduous process. That’s more inspiration to automate it!

MOOD: Less tired! Feeling good!

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I took most of the Memorial Day Weekend off to recover and relax. Ate too much and partied too little. I needed it.

I actually lied a little. It just so happens that not only did I work a little during the weekend, but I also worked on maintaining a MVP that I accidentally launched via platforms that I never thought I’d be using.

(I also bought my own coffee maker after wasting 1.5 hours trying to find a cafe to work out of on Memorial Day Monday. #firstworldproblems.)

One of Paul Graham’s most famous tidbits of advice is to “do things that don’t scale.” It’s not the first time I heard that either; Lauren’s (from sea/salt) primary takeaway from our first meeting was more or less this. She suggested that I start a blog much like those that currently exist. I thought it was a wonderful idea. All I could think of for the few days that followed was making that happen.

The only problem is that it didn’t happen.

I was too focussed on the technology. How can I automate the blog posts? How can I automate the source acquisition and the rating calculations and the Facebook integration and the this and the that…Even though it seemed like a smaller step than before (i.e. build the entire damn thing and call it the MVP), I think I thought of it as a reduction from the stride of a T-Rex to the stride of Godzilla. Smaller, but still bigger than the size of Manhattan.

Attending Startup Weekend two weeks ago showed me that I can reduce that stride even further by focusing on the customer. How can I get customers to get excited about my product? How can I prove that thinglistr is something that they’ll not only actually want, but something that could even be part of their weekly night ritual?

So I spent some time focussing on the delivery. I finally made those mockups. I built a profile on AngelList (full well knowing that it only gets me 0.001% closer to landing an investor or a partner). I validated, and then I validated further. I felt like I was actually marketing my work.

(Something else that blew my mind about that weekend was that I actually can sell stuff. I long vowed against selling anything after having trying and massively failing to sell cookies in middle school. Maybe that was for the best.)

I then realized, I think kind-of randomly (while thinking of how the fuck I’ll convince people to invest in giving me a year to work on this), that I’m still side-stepping the actual, really-real problem: how do I get users onto thinglistr?

And then it clicked. It made so much goddamn sense, I couldn’t believe I thought of doing it earlier.

Why the fuck don’t I become thinglistr for a little while?

thinglistr collects a bunch of cool shit happening in really local areas into one easy to navigate page. I wrote code that gives me a list of every bar and restaurant in the area (thanks, Google Maps!). What’s stopping me from doing this while I develop automation around it?

And then it clicked again. Again, I was  baffled by its simplicity.

Why don’t I just use Facebook and Twitter for my MVP?

While this won’t prove the value of ranking stuff, it will prove thinglistr’s raison d’être: that people actually want an easier way of seeing stuff that’s happening around them right now.

So that’s what I did. And, as I expected, the work sucks ass. But it’s extremely valuable, and I’m only two days in.

I’ve basically converted myself into a social media intern that crawls my list of bars and restaurants for stuff that they’re doing and blasts them on Twitter and Facebook. Some bars don’t post much on Facebook; some still don’t post anything at all on there. Their customers, however, sometimes leave clues about events they run (“bar x does trivia on Mondays; it was pretty good”, “their 2-for-1 on Tuesdays,“) on review pages. Surprisingly still, a lot of bars (most of the ones I looked at, actually) have their own web pages. A lot of them don’t look terrible! Some of them don’t leave any clues at all, but other sites fill in the gaps for them (like a bar that does Karaoke on Mondays, but some random third-party site is one of the few on the Internet that knows this, etc).

I only do this for an hour or two per day, though now that I’ve discovered HootSuite and Buffer (so THAT’S what they do), I can probably do this in the morning before I get to work and disperse my posts during the rush-to-happy-hour transitionary period.

If all of this isn’t inspiration enough to automate this process, then nothing is. Actually, that’s not true: the fact that nobody else is searching this deep for stuff that’s happening is the inspiration I need.

On top of all of this, I’m getting a few followers and reaching a few people on Facebook without paying them for the privilege. So some people do think this is useful, and that’s cool.

When I originally told my family that I felt more strongly about starting a venture, my uncle was baffled by the fact that I didn’t know how to use Facebook. I never though I’d use social media for much of anything, let alone to prove a business concept that I still strongly feel is sorely needed by A LOT of people. These two days have shown me exactly why (a) these companies are unbelievably valuable, and (b) why businesses depend on them so damn much. (Something that surprised me slightly was that every establishment I found on Google has a presence on Facebook. That’s incredible.)

I’m learning a lot, which is, I think, what doing this startup grind is all about. Learning, failing, then getting back up and learning some more.

I can’t wait for this to become my full-time job, even if thinglistr isn’t what will get me there (though I really strongly think it will).

…and what of getseatd?

I loved the concept (I pitched it, after all) but decided to table it for now. After thinking about it for a week, I realized that I’m much, much, MUCH more passionate about working on thinglistr, even if it becomes an epic failure for the ages. thinglistr is on my mind almost every minute of the day. thinglistr is in my sleep sometimes. I’m at the point where I want nothing more than to hear random people on the street talking about how fucking dope thinglistr is and how they couldn’t imagine finding stuff before it.

getseatd needs less people to make money, but if I had to stay up until 01:00 working on something, I’d rather that something be thinglistr. 

For now.

Day 26: Even the smallest steps can sometimes be made even smaller.