November 21, 2019

100 Subscribers in 10 days


Not going to lie, I'm a little excited. I quit my job back in July to take a crack at creating a documentation product to fix all the issues I had been having while using Confluence at work. I immediately proceeded to make every mistake in the book including but not limited to:

  • Focusing solely on engineering - I talked to no one
  • Designing the product in Sketch to way too high of a standard - I have a complete style guide with a very fleshed out color palette
  • Trying to make the most scalable sexy codebase I've ever made
  • Decided to use Elixir and GraphQL even though I had zero experience in both of these and a decent amount of experience in NodeJs and REST
  • Taking on part time work that turned into near full time work but at a significant pay cut to what I had while working

Thankfully I had a holiday pre-scheduled to help me clear my head and take a step back. I took the time to read books like "The hard thing about hard things", "Traction", and "Indestractible" which opened my eyes to everything I was doing wrong. I decided that I wasn't going to write another line of code until I had at least one potential customer. Now I just needed to figure out how to get my customer...

After arriving home I scheduled meetings with my previous boss, a friend of mine who is running a successful fintech company (Fresh Equities) and a manager of a 50+ person team inside a bank I was previously contracted to. Only thing is I wanted to show them some/any progress. So I decided to write an article detailing everything I disliked about Confluence and how my product to be (Scribe) would go about fixing it. This was surprisingly quick to write.

Now I just needed to get it in front of people, so I posted it to hacker news, on my linkedin, all twitter accounts, and just shared it around to friends as well. To my surprise it did alright on Hacker News getting around 37 upvotes and even more comments. It was even on the front page for an hour or two, but unfortunately plummeted unexpectedly.

TIP: If your comments are growing much faster than upvotes your post will be knocked down many pages. I'm not certain but I was replying rapidly to every comment which may have contributed.

From what I can tell Hacker News drove around 6-7K views on the article. The rest of the views mostly came from when I turned on the paywall so it would be recommended internally. The Startup publication reached out at this point, and after publishing with them I saw another 1K or so views. All up it's now sitting on 9.4K views. Out of those 540 clicked on my landing page (In the first hour of being on hacker news I forgot to include the link to my site in the article which may have affected things). Of those 540, 101 gave me their email.

I'm now taking the time to contact each person on that list asking for a 10-15 minute interview to understand what their pain points are, how much they cost them and what they don't like about current products in the market. So far I have scheduled 3 interviews after contacting about 40 people.

Once I can answer who needs my product, why they need it, how badly they need it, how many people like them exist, and why my product is 10x better than existing products at solving that problem I will continue development. At that point I will move heaven and earth to have an MVP out in 3 weeks.

Lessons learned so far:

  • Finding product market fit is soooo haaaarrrdddd
  • Be scrappy - I made the landing page in 1 hour with Mailchimp which made me gag a little (I'm a web dev) but no one cared.
  • Surround yourself with people that have been through this before - they will keep you honest
  • Talk to all the users - you need to understand the market and the problem better than anyone else
  • No one cares - If you don't put your work out there no one is going to come looking for it

If you are interested in what I'm doing have a look at the landing page. I plan to post regularish updates about the direction and progress of Scribe to those subscribed:

Here's the article as well. My views have changed a little (I'm considering focusing more on software development instead of being a general purpose wiki) but it's still pretty on point:

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