Bootstrapping a business in your spare time is hard (Four reasons why we haven’t launched yet…)

This is a question that I ask myself every day. Multiple times per day.

  • Why are we not live yet?
  • Why haven’t we shipped v1?
  • What’s been slowing us down?
  • Could we be going faster somehow?

These questions are probably some of the most frustrating in my head.

So last weekend, we got on the boat and went to a secluded river to see what we could figure out.

When I say secluded I mean secluded. Middle of a nature reserve, one other boat a half mile away!

Other than the occasional boat going past, some pretty sleepy seals napping on the river bank and wild birds there was nobody around.

* I love 2019 btw, despite being secluded, with our 4G/LTE antenna on the mast we still had 10mbps down/20mbps up/30ms latency unlimited internet!

So what’s slowing us down?

Other than ‘Bootstrapping a new product in your spare time is hard’, here’s what we figured out has been slowing us down:

  • The last two months we’ve been refitting the boat. It was essential time consuming (and expensive) maintenance but it means we have a stable base of operations for the next 5-10 years;
  • Product instead of promotion. We’ve been so focussed on product we’ve almost completely excluded promotion. It’s been in our minds but not in our hearts;
  • We’ve not been tracking goals properly, we obviously have a backlog and run regular catch ups but we weren’t well enough aligned on a bunch of things;
  • More face time. Spending two days isolated from distractions made us realise we need to spend more time together. Our intention for Kuwinda has always been to be a 100% remote business. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t regularly meet up in person.

There were some others but these are probably the top three. Some avoidable, some fixable. All important lessons.

As with any problems the first is admitting it’s there. The next is to come up with a plan and figure out how to solve it.

Boat maintenance

This is one we really can’t get away from. An old (1998) 42ft sailboat, no matter how sturdy and well built, needs love to keep it going.

The refit was extensive, expensive and an intense amount of work. We also had a pretty narrow time window to complete it.

If we’re going to eventually be 100% based on her she needs to be ready.

However, we can probably better plan what we need to do and get help to free up our time. This way we can make sure things are still happening while the boat is getting it’s much needed love.

I’ll go into more depth on what a refit looks like another time.

Product instead of promotion

This is literally one of the biggest traps startups make.

As a product person I should know better than to let this slip. However, in the absence of a strategic plan it’s often easier to focus in on what’s comfortable.

Our initial customer development work was amazing. We talked to founders of some awesome businesses, some of whom were really keen to get their hands on what we were building.

What we found however, was that in the absence of real progress, it took us about 9-12 months before we started building, it was hard to keep them engaged.

So there’s some better balance that we need here.

The reality is that a couple of hours in the evening or morning isn’t enough to propel us forwards here so we’ve hired sometime to help keep this moving forwards.

Tracking goals properly

  • When we worked together to get onto the career paths we wanted. We relentlessly tracked goals.
  • To pay for the boat and get into financial security we relentlessly tracked goals.
  • To get the boat an quasi wreck into a fully functioning offshore vessel, we relentlessly tracked goals.

They we kind of stopped. It was like a big exhale. After four years of really pushing hard we kind of stopped.

We knew that we wanted to start building the product and have been working on that but without enough strategic clarity…

This is literally something that I’ve consulted on with clients and trained them on. So a few hours of work later and we now have some clear OKR type goals for June.

They are:

  • Get four clients who would be happy to pay for the product;
  • Talk to those clients and better understand their problem;
  • Get the product in a ready to ship state;

We will relentlessly chase these down as we have our past goals.

More face time

Remote working on a project is great. I’ve always found teams are more productive and happier when they can work the way they want to.

That said, I’ve also always felt that having some time together each quarter is essential.

It helps solve problems faster, get better aligned on goals and builds stronger relationships.

I’ve been putting this off for a really stupid reason. The weather.

For some reason I thought that time together should be on a sunny weekend. Probably one of my shortest sight ideas so far. I can’t control the weather.

We’re working on finding a good weekend for everyone over the next couple of weeks…

Get this far? Thanks for reading…

Sign-up to our ProductHunt pre-launch page….you can help support our launch and we’ll try to make sure it’s worth your while.

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