Running a Startup is Bloody Hard

2120448461_ec7d4b3bb4My brain is all thunked out!

The last 24 hours of my life have been spent fixing a pretty big bug on Task.fm.  I won't go into details, but the longer it goes unfixed the more money it costs me (kinda not cool for a bootstrapped startup).

So writing this post is kinda of therapy for me - a chance for me to stop banging my head against the wall (for at least an hour) and share with you some of my experiences in running task.fm this past month.

Prepared to Feel Constantly "Swamped"

Every morning I wake up to an inbox full of emails regarding the app.  Most of them are support emails (I handle the majority of the support of task.fm), some are resumes and the rest are solicitations for various products and service my startup apparently should be using.

This takes a good two hours to deal with, which I do before even getting out of bed - I respond to every support email personally.   Waking up to people having problems with your app can be a bit of a downer.  But just one email that says "your support is amazing" or "i love your app" makes it worth it.

I also (whether stupidly or not) share my mobile number publicly.  This has resulted in calls at 3am (which I stupidly answered).  But I love talking with peeps about the app, its kind of addictive.

So be prepared to be constantly swamped with emails and phone calls.  No matter how many amazing tools you use to manage your inbox and calls - you will always feel swamped if you are prepared to offer such a personal customer service.  If you're not swamped after just launching a product something is probably wrong.

Be Prepared to Panic when things go wrong

Running a highly technical app that sends a bulk amount of reminders to any mobile in the world, interfaces with all email formats and encodings and understand natural language - is a bit tricky.  When everything is running smoothly its great, but things go wrong.

A reminder tools is useless if it can't send reminders.  Fortunately we have backups in place which keeps things running and we have yet to have a disruption to our sending ability.  But things have gone wrong in other areas.

The first time we had a major issue - I panicked and got fairly worked up.  The issue was eventually fixed, but at a greater cost than it should have, only because I rushed into the fixing the problem.

What I should have done, as I have now found out, is take a step back and evaluate before jumping in all guns blazing.  You're still going to go crazy when a major issue occurs - you just have to make sure it doesn't show and affect your work.

Be Prepared to Hit Your Head Against the Wall

You may feel as though you are going no where. But as long as you keep being pro-active and never let your startup just "walk along" - things will (hopefully) get easier.

I have to keep telling myself this.  At the moment, all I can see is a wall - but sure as hell im going to keep bashing into the wall until it falls over or I figure out a way to jump it.

Be Prepared to Change

Sometimes to jump over that wall, you're going to have stop, re-evaluate and change.  Maybe your business model isn't working, maybe your design stinks even though you think its amazing.  Learn to fail.  And when you do, don't just give in - find another way.

The best startups are agile - the ones that can see something wrong and then change it.  Take the Digg bar - Digg saw that it wasn't working the way they had hoped when it first launched.  So they tweaked it, made the community happy and probably increased its effectiveness 10 fold.

Don't be fooled - I love that running a startup is hard.  I eat, sleep and breathe my startup and wouldn't want to do anything else.

So now its back to debugging for me.  What are your experiences in running an early stage startup?

Update - ok so i've just finished fixing the issue i was talking about in the beginning of this post.  And i've validated my theory - if you keep pushing on it does get better.  The result a fist pump

Photo by Obo Bobolina

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