How startups are like startups
Due to popular requests, here’s the story of my past 8 months.
I left Google in July, to work with Radu on a yet-undetermined idea. I wasn’t very sure what I wanted to build at the time so the ideas behind the lean startup that my co-founder loved seemed good as a starting point.
The first idea
We first tried to solve dating. I don’t even remember if we had a name for this product.
We thought it would be cool if you could meet likeminded people around you. What if you felt like seeing a movie that all of your friends already saw? Going to see it with somebody that shares some of your interests sounds like a good idea.
After two months we realized that people don’t really do that and it’s not a real problem, so we dropped it.
The second idea
Back to the drawing board.
We realized from building the previous idea that it would be interesting if we’d have better mobile analytics.
It would be so cool for mobile app developers to learn how their app performs in different contexts, depending on what their users do and where they are. We looked at the competition. Flurry sucked and we didn’t like other analytics services either.
We talked with a few people, they said that Flurry was good enough for them. We ended up building an SDK to see if some advanced context information on your phone would be useful to apps.
Nobody cared, we moved on.
The third idea
We looked at local search, something I really cared about since I worked on Google Maps.
I was looking for a bar one night and I realized that photos from the place would have been much better than ratings and reviews in that case.
We’ve built in two months an app that was like Foodspotting, but for bars and coffee shops, with photos of how the places looked like.
We applied with it to YCombinator but got rejected, I suspect largely because they didn’t like our idea and ten minutes is a very short time to evaluate a team.
After talking with a few more people we realized we were missing what Foodspotting had: a passionate community of people that produce all this content.
The fourth and current idea
After six months and three failed ideas I realized that the lean startup methodology is not for me. I understand it rationally but it doesn’t match my personality.
I need to work on visions that I strongly believe in and I am passionate about, even if it’s a riskier way. And because Radu didn’t like this approach or the idea I wanted to work on, we parted ways.
I started working on PicSpree by myself. (if you install the app, don’t forget to rate it 5 stars. thanks!)
I care deeply about social and I am frustrated that even though my friends put a lot of data in my social network, I don’t have good tools to take advantage of that.
I want to build those tools, and I started with a better Facebook Photos app that will have added layers of meaning built on top of the large pile of photos that your friends uploaded.
A friend helped me for a while, but he realized that he wasn’t ready to do this. So now I’m back at square one, with a vision and a product I’ve built mostly myself, looking for a partner to join me in this vision and trying to get into TechStars to accelerate my company.
What’s the take away so far?
Startups are hard. Life kicks you when you’re down, sometimes repeatedly. You fail, you get up, try again, until you feel like you can’t do it anymore.
I made mistakes, for sure. I’m still learning. I still feel like I’m making progress and that I’m a better person every day. As long as I feel like that, I’ll keep doing this.