Wow. It’s over. First off — sorry that I didn’t ship this as soon it was done or as soon as we left Launch House. Both mine and Eli’s brains have been pretty much fried. We were really on a two-week sprint during our final two weeks there, and we started to feel it when we got back. Since we’ve left — our waitlist has grown 5x — 25 to 125 people. We’re now putting our referral/onboarding sequence to work and getting into the last talks with Visible Hands VC in Boston.
Ok. Time to be transparent. On Saturday, the first order of business was to do a team retrospective and reflect on how our ‘launch’ sprint went. TLDR; we were side-swiped by a server bug and styling problem on the pinboard that didn’t allow us to launch. Basically — we didn’t achieve the goal that we had for ourselves at launch house. After a ton of reflection and chatting with folks, I guess one month is a short time.
We had our retrospective, and two things led to us not launching on time. 👇
1. Mis-Alignment and Mis-Planning
2. Product Development Focus — 25%, Marketing Focus — 75%
Looking at this from a high level — It seems like we have no clue what we’re doing. Well, you’d be pretty much right, as is the case with many startups and founding teams. Throughout all of Launch House, it was pretty obvious that Product was where our focus should be. Starting with number two — We should have doubled down on Figma or finding a product designer. It was my call to focus on marketing: my thinking was, ‘well, let’s build up a waitlist to have ammunition, be a knowledgable brand that creators can trust, and build in public.’ It was absolutely a great idea, but the allocation and distribution of effort weren’t aligned to a. where we could provide value b. push our metrics.
Since we talked to creators and nano-influencers about joining our beta [ we have a group of ten people so far], we validated the idea and go-to-market early in Launch House… we didn’t need to over-focus on outbound. At the same time, we connected with 5 other creators interested in learning more and trying diffusion. (note: we, is me, Tony, myself- was focused on something else… numbers.) I wanted to pull levers which ultimately grew the waitlist. Well, that’s where the misalignment comes into play; as co-founder, I should have taken the lead on designing higher-fidelity mocks, evolving from low-fidelity, so that we could build something that would be functional, reliable, usable, and delightful — the core of an MVP. Instead, our storyboards are lists/cards that are formatted as a kan-ban board. Luckily, you can still add your perspective per content, but it’s summarized on the front. Ultimately — it does two things: it allows you to share your saved content and personalize your saved content. Still super far from where we need to be. [ see below]
Back to the bug — Elijah did the whole architecture to our server while we were at LH. He planned and figured it out himself while we were there. So, what? We had an MVP planning meeting a month and a half ago but never spoke more technical stuff. He told me he had it. If we had spoken more technical, we would have known that google firebase could have handled the server and made our lives easier. We didn’t even figure this out until we tried to deploy our lists. Excuse my language but fuck. It was a bummer as soon as we saw it. The hack above isn’t something we even wanted to do; we thought of it while we were in a Uber; “ dude, what if we had the content drop into a notion card; much like the notion web clipper; from there, people can add their perspective and share…. dude, yeah!” So it was overall big learning for us that hey, we made great progress, we have a waitlist, a small brand, a closed beta in ICP, and possible investors but no product, LOL. What kind of shit. So it’s time to get us from 60% to 100% so we can get a product into our early user’s life, nurture our leads, and boot this up.
So, what about Launch House other than not launching?
Okay, let’s talk, the positive stuff. It was amazing. I’m thankful that we went. There was so much learning and growth that happened. We both feel as we came back as 25-year-olds. It was super cool being around innovative, highly motivated, and open. We already miss it. I can tell you that there is just an energy in the house with the people that makes this absolutely unbeatable. I would be able to wake up and immediately get any stress off my chest. So if it was a product or strategic question, there was probably somebody at the kitchen or outside by the pool that we can brainstorm and figure out. That’s invaluable. Having the freedom of mind and spirit to adventure and let yourself be a ‘productive bum’ — at home, it’s a whole other definition of productivity; it’s weird. So let’s dive into our roses & thorns and put a pin in the Launch House story? I’ll be back ever so often, though.
- Survive a whole month at Launch House; made amazing friends, joined a community, and made progress on diffusion.
- It went viral on Twitter, resulting in a 5X waitlist, and reached a 45% read rate on the Diffusion Medium.
- Elijah and I were able to be candid about our failure and make plans to continue building out Diffusion.
- We didn’t launch our MVP
- One week sprint where we barely slept; health = wealth; we can’t operate a startup without taking care of ourselves
- Angels we’ve spoken to want us to pivot the product positioning. I don't know.
I’d say I’m really proud of how well we put it together the last week. On the content side, the communication side, and the collaboration side. It gave me hope of where I think we should be. We were able to put our heads down to create our brand and think like creators without our product. Every time there was a hiccup, we had a curiosity or question — well, we didn’t ask ourselves or each other. We crowd-sourced. My favorite thing to see the whole week was Elijah trying to work through our server bug, working with Aidan, Charles, Samee, and Tristan. Everybody only needed a heads up, the problem, and they were off their asses to help us out. Baller. We figured out that firebase is ubiquitous, and we should’ve used that. Like I mentioned before. If you stayed close to our brand — we were bumping out content on medium non-stop, which are going to be turning into Tweet Threads for people to consume and get a snippet of us. I’m thinking of it as a top-of-the-funnel tool. Which leads me to your biggest question — how’d you 5x your waitlist? I went twitter viral, baby. Here’s the recap below:
I know. Insane. My Twitter analytics looks insane — I went from 100 to 280 within the last month, which makes me feel confident about being able to a) extend the diffusion community b) reach for my personal brand.
So with this — we did our thing and grew. Pey from LH/ Viral Club had his goons blow it up — we had 17M views, 2M impressions, part him but mostly organic. I only wanted to leave a simple CTA, which was ‘ sign up for our waitlist to get paid for scrolling on the internet, sharing your bomb tastes, & saving posts like Pinterest! — diffusion. Me’. I’ll keep on tweeting to keep the algorithm in my favor while building our Twitter community and brand. Our early sign-ups are in our 5-day onboarding cycle — introduction to diffusion, following our socials, providing feedback through surveys, and incentives to refer friends to move up the waitlist.
I feel 40/60 on this — I really think we need to get a product into the market and quickly iterate instead of marketing for the sake of marketing and brand growth. People care about products more than brands. Once we have our product, we can create our community. It’s time to take this seriously. Through all of Launch House, I realized how difficult building in Consumer is. Start-ups are hard to start with, even for a vet like me. I need to become more product-focused, as I’ve mentioned before. That’s my priority. For Elijah, he’s committed to becoming more product and marketing-focused as well. He wants to take the lead in talking to users and getting in their shoes. We think it’s important that we move forward to try to build out-diffusion, learn about the creator economy, and learn how to do product. But we think going back to our first principles is incredibly important. How do we make a fun tool for you to share your content, help lower the bar of entry to creativity, and help creators monetize? Well, that begs the question if we’re better positioned as a marketplace or a platform. Maybe we start as a tool so we can a. help creators monetize b. a fun tool to share content. We start with substacker’s, streamers, etc., people who already have a community and allow them to monetize and create their community. A single-player tool that is a turn-key for them to operate their ‘business’ could be a good start. That would be supply-focused, in my opinion. We’ve got some insight into our demand, so eh. Inversely, we can take a money/subsidy side approach to it; one side of our users are price-sensitive, and the other side isn’t. So it could be like the Adobe scenario where they had rolled out pdf reader as free for users but charged creators since they wanted access to the pdf readers. Which I think still takes the single-player tool first before a multiplayer approach. It’s something Elijah and I have to talk about and figure out. We should create a single-player tool for existing creators to deepen their communities and expand their monetization.
To conclude — we’re making progress. Our product is around 60% done; we’ve got a closed beta, investor interest, and a small waitlist. It’s not much in my opinion ( I expect too much), but it’s way better than where I thought we would be one month in. I’m excited for you guys to see what we’ve been working on. We’ll be dropping a ‘What is Diffusion’ post this week.
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