We're about to officially Launch Notifire and we've got to be honest, we've failed before we even launched. Let me explain who we are and how we screwed up in following sections.
Let's be honest, when you see a wall of text, most of the time you don't read it (at least I don't). So here's the gist. Feel free to read below to get the full scoop of learnings.
We're Niche Mates, a group of longtime Friends that want to build sustainable projects & companies that solve problems that we have ourselves, or our Friends have.
In the beginning we wanted to build Notifire to scratch our own itch. If you're a full-time employee that builds side projects, you probably have this problem too. We constantly struggled with being focused on the right things. For example, if I visited Github, I would see all the notifications for my main job AND my side projects all scrambled together. I always want that notification badge to go away, so I'd go through all of them together at the same time. Even though it probably wasn't the right moment to be looking at side projects. Or during the night wasn't the best time to worry about work.
Another problem (that I'm sure you also have) was keeping up with all the services I used for work. For my main job, I mainly use Github, Notion and Slack and Figma. For our projects, we use Github and Figma, but also Google docs.
Just to complicate things, I also have some advisory positions where I get pinged on Slack, Github, Gitlab and Trello. Hence the idea to build a place for all your notifications that you can easily sort by context was born. This was heavily influenced by Hey and their features. Like sorting into multiple spaces,
Paper Trail. But in Notifire you're basically segmenting your notifications by whatever you want.
You can make a space that fits your needs. I separate my work by the following:
Advisory Positions and within the side Hustle I segment by
Projects. We also have a book club we run using Github projects and that goes into
Miscellaneous. You get the idea.
More or less we went and successfully scratched our own itch. But we still failed. Why? That can be summarized in 3 points:
I'll go into more detail on those points in the next section
We wanted to launch this project within a 2 month timespan. We started chipping away on it in October and it took us until now to get it to a point where we consider to have built our MVP.
As a philosophy for our company, Niche Mates, we set out to launch 12 projects in 12 months but as you can see working for one project for 8 months will not make it very likely to get there 🙂
Let's examine the core things we did wrong, why it happened and what actions we've taken going forward to be better.
This is imo because you have low energy when you work on your side project during the nights and weekends. You seldom get a good block of focus time, especially while still building Notifire I struggled with the notification overload I described above.
We estimated the effort for this based on some vague estimate of how much time we would have each week. But life seldom works that way, I for example adopted a dog a month after starting to work on this project and while it was one of the best things I ever did, it definitely derailed my productivity.
When things move slow you tend to get dragged down (at least I do) by the lack of progress. What you could ship in a week going full time... takes 4 weeks as a side hustle. That makes me think I'm incapable of moving fast, which is one of the things I pride myself on and something that is crucial imo. It's one of the major advantages over bigger companies and/or competitors. This led me to spend more on another project that we're running together and improve that, instead of chipping away on this project. Leading to even longer delays and less progress. You could say it becomes a vicious cycle.
In the beginning of this project we did some initial validation but definitely not enough. We were too fooled by the narrative that we have this problem so others are probably likely to have it too.
This lead us to believe that it's fine to just go ahead and build this after talking to a couple friends that all said it was a good idea (Mom test anyone? 🤔)
We did do some outreach to people outside our circle and are also running a campaign on ship to collect emails to gear up for launch, but I still don't feel like we've validated it enough.
As touched on in the previous point we started our side project company with the goal to launch a bunch of projects in 12 months (12 to be exact) and we already launched one before that we put kind of in maintenance mode.
So when we started Notifire we split our focus on 1. Maintaining and extending the first project and 2. Building Notifire.
We did this by putting one person on Notifire as the lead and one other person on the old project as the lead but what we should have done instead is extend the old project and hand it over to Matt to grow then both shift over to Notifire as the next big project fully focusing on that to build some momentum.
When dragged down by the lack of progress, I even went ahead and tackled another project on the side scratching my own itch to show myself that I can ship stuff fast and that watered my focus down even more as I shipped it to myself and a couple friends and then had to maintain it.
In case you're interested it's a weekly planner called "Roles" that we're validating on Product Hunt ship in order to see if it's justified to put in more time. This helped me forget about it for now and focus on the other things at hand.
Let's be real, none of this stuff is new.
I've read about those mistakes plenty of times, especially not focusing on validation enough. I guess that makes us fools (if you believe what Bismarck is saying) but maybe that's what we are and where we stand and that is just a fact. I think failure is not inherently a bad thing, failure to learn however, is bad. And in my opinion we're trying our best to be better and we've already taken the first couple steps. First, to be self-aware. Secondly, to implement those learnings.
If any of the problems we're trying to solve with Notifire resonate with you, you can sign up for early access here
If you want to stay informed with where we're headed, you can subscribe to our (irregular) newsletter here.
If you want to get more insight into our process or anything else that we're doing, feel free to ping me. I may or may not ask you for $500 for my 12 step program to failure as described in this article. I also sell that as a course on Tiktok 💪😁🤙