It was March 2012, I was working in Boddy Music for Microsoft Imagine Cup competition. A friend of mine introduce me some guys that were looking for a developer to build a MVP for a idea they had.
At first, we talked a lot about their idea, after signing an NDA, of course. So they had a prototype built-in Excel. Yes, in Excel! So after a few days of talking about what would be possible for the system and so, they offer me to be part of their founding team.
Tinder didn’t were so popular back then, actually, they started in that year. Our idea was to allow a group of travelers to match with other groups in different cities across the blog. So four guys traveling to Barcelona can match with other four girls travelling to Barcelona as well.
Our idea was to show the top 10 places: bar/pubs/discos to go out in every single city. So on the main screen, you can see all the groups activity and the different places you can go to.
The product should be 100% free for the users, and they can buy in advance the drinks and food, so when they come to the place they should have a table with their beverage. By using the app you can have a reserved table for you and your group.
But, if you bought something to the place, you are going to be higher on the listing. So, if you and your friends decide to buy a lot in the place you decided to go, you are going to be first on the list, which means more chance to match with another group of girls/guys.
I really like this idea, we had a big ambition for the project. In the very first days of developing the app, we had the idea to launch globally in more than 500 cities. Then we figure out that it was going to be really really hard to do that since we need to do an agreement with every single place we list on the app.
During all this process I was working as a CTO and solo developer on the app. I didn’t know about the Lean Startup methodology at that point in my life. So I was working really hard to try to have a perfect product with lots of features. I was a UI designer, UX, tester, and DevOps. As many of you know, in the early days of a project you need to wear too many hats in order to survive.
After a few months of hard working, we finally had an MVP up and running. The project was crafted in PHP for the backend using a very unpopular framework called li3, I really liked that framework! For the front-end was vanilla JS with jQuery. And thanks for my previous work in a Microsoft competition I had a ton of money in credit for Azure. So all the infrastructure was hosted in Azure, in the early days of the product.
We didn’t have composer at that time. So, handle dependencies was a really manual process. So I had to download and past the dependencies directly on a folder called _sources.
A few days after launching we had a chance to apply for an accelerator and pitch our product to them. It was a super simple presentation, about 5 slides talking about the problem, solution and business model. They really like it and offer around $25.000 USD for 15% of the company. This was around September 2012. We decided to reject it because they want to take a big bite of your project, and for us seems to be a bad deal.
I was working full-time on this project after finishing with Boddy Music, the first three or four months I was working part-time, then moved to a full-time position without getting paid at all. One of the co-founders decided to leave the project to focus on other stuff. So in the middle of October 2012, we were a company operated by two-person.
We start losing our faith and hope in the project because we didn’t see any positive result. After launching we got featured on BetaList and we got around 250 new signups in a day. Having customer it was great because they help us to do the product-market-fit. But at that time we didn’t have any agreement with the listed places inside the app.
After not touching a single line of code for around three months I decided to refactor and start working on a new day. I was alone at this stage. From March to April I dedicated a lot of time improving a useless product without a single active user.
It was a really important lesson for me. I spent a lot of my time working on this project. First of all, I tried to have a perfect product with tons of features without having a clue about if anybody wants it.
Second, it was not my idea, but I ended working much much much more than my co-founders. They had a source of income (they had a job) and they had to be in an office at least 8 hours of the day, so normally if they work it was around 2 or 3 hours per weekday. I don’t reject this, and above all, I don’t blame them, it was my choice to work on that project and put a lot of effort.
Third, until this point, I didn’t have an idea about how finances work for a small company. We didn’t raise any capital, we didn’t inject any capital into the company, but Agustin, my co-founder, was really great with numbers and he had a Ph. D. on finance and worked in an investment bank.
Fourth and final, I didn’t know about the Lean Startup book as I mentioned previously. But I had a similar experience. After reading the book this point makes much more sense for me, but I learned to try to generate the same result without doing the whole process, try to validate my idea/product before deeply developing the actual product.