A Startup Odyssey: From Concept to Launch in 30 Weeks.
“THIS IS A TRUE STORY. The events depicted in this article took place in New York in the summer of 2014. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.”
This is not the story of how we created the hottest start-up in 2014, far from it in fact. We’ve had a lot of success attracting the right type of people within a very narrow and defined demographic. The proposition “hire the best freelance developers” cuts through our potential user base like a hatchet with every word, and in very quick succession.
I do not expect to see my mother on hirable in the next ten years, unless of course she decides to take a crash course in coding and discovers a remarkable hidden talent. Regardless, she would have to be invited or apply for an account through the site just like everybody else, we make no exceptions!
While I’m sure it’s possible, assembling a team of people with the skills required to help you execute an idea with no money is extremely difficult. This assumes that all involved are convinced the idea could work and are willing to risk the investment of valuable time in the hope that it will eventually pay off. Fortunately, people are more forgiving when cash is being exchanged for services rendered, but we’ll get to that.
Naturally this all began with an idea. For months prior I had been working closely with various freelance developers. Casual conversation would often lead to the obvious: “where had they worked previously?” “Where were they heading next?” Out of these conversations the idea for hirable was born. You can read more about it here (link)
This idea remained exactly that for the next few weeks before I eventually committed to making it a reality, which in turn begged the question, now what?
Being a designer myself meant creating a proof of concept would be pretty straight forward. Building it would not, unless I was able to bank roll it myself, which I wasn’t. I pitched the idea to a friend and former colleague for a 50% stake if he agreed to build it, he liked the idea, we had a deal. Or so I thought.
We began to scope the project and I made a start on the design. The challenge being to express the company proposition in the simplest way possible.
For companies, this meant being able to easily follow new developers for updates on their availability and developers, a simple way to aggregate their online presence in one simple and easily scannable profile.
Perhaps blinded by my enthusiasm for the project, I failed to take into consideration the huge gap between design and development time. What would take me 1-2 months would most likely take my friend 6 months or more. Though he remains involved to this day and continues to vet new user requests, we decided to part ways on the actual build. I was back to square one, admittedly with some pretty pictures.
A decision needed to be made. I could abandon the project entirely or pursue other avenues. I decided to pitch the idea to potential investors in order to cover the cost of development. I thought the project was doomed.
A key turning point came during an unrelated conversation with a former business partner a few weeks later. We had co-founded a previous startup together, a search and bookmarking tool for job seekers. I decided to run the concept by him and showed him some preliminary designs.
he was intrigued but wasn’t able to foot the bill, another false start. A few days later I get a call back. He had a friend who was looking for a small project like this to invest in. Amazingly, it was back on.
Things were finally moving along again. The design phase was complete and money set aside. The company we’d previously worked with would build it, but the modest budget certainly wasn’t helping our cause, we’d need to get creative. A tech lead in the u.s would manage a group of offshore developers to keep costs down. The band was officially back together, admittedly with a couple of well paid roadies carrying the equipment.
In addition to this, there was zero room for error. Every last detail was meticulously mapped out in a highly detailed plan, every dollar and dime accounted for. Any alterations to the design would be met from that point onward with the same predictable response “sorry out of scope, that will cost you” and did it.
Starting a business online has never been easier, or more affordable. In addition to sheer man hours, we were dependent on some great free, or reasonably priced applications and software. All of which, given our budget would have made completing the project almost impossible without. These included:
Dropbox (Pro Account)
Platform Solutions & Plugins
Ironically, hirable was developed by the very people it’s intended for: freelance developers. This helped validate the concept as we progressed, and allowed us to continually refine and evolve features to best suit the needs of our users.
We eventually launched but it was a slow crawl to the finish. There were no press releases, T.V profiles or launch events. Hirable, like many others before arrived at the party inconspicuously, relatively (link) unannounced and nobody took our coat, but hey, that’s not what this story is about.
I once heard somebody say “in the 80’s and 90’s everybody in L.A had an idea for a script. Now everybody has an idea for an app” and it’s true. Approximately 1.5 million startups emerge globally every year, it’s even parodied on TV shows like Silicon Valley. It’s easy to become swept up in the vernacular and x that surrounds any industry or scene but If you stop to think for a moment, perusing a vision for a startup is really no different from most creative endeavors, whether it’s recording an album or writing a book. They all begin with the belief in and passion for an idea, followed by the will to execute on it with any means necessary and tools at your disposal.
With more and more companies emerging daily, the odds of success are slim but that isn’t deterring people, and understandably so. What could be more motivating than ditching your day job and becoming your own boss? This account was written for anyone who may abandon an idea in light of the challenges that lay ahead. It certainly doesn’t require an army with an unlimited cash reserve, far from it in fact.
As Marc Kohlbrugge from beta list was kind enough to say when we featured his company in our last article (link)
“Thanks for the shout out and best of luck with the rest of the journey”
We couldn’t agree more, a journey it certainly is.
John White, Creative Director, Hirable.