Pete and I caught up for a coffee last week - yes, this is indeed another post delayed by a week - at Jones Bay Wharf. The excuse this time is the same as the last - there has been too much work for me to blog... which makes me think that we must create a more efficient way of blogging.
Pete has been working on a fascinating new FinTech idea - which I cannot share on this blog. What a pity! I love bouncing ideas around with people. The unpredictable ricochetting of conversations sometimes create the best ideas.
Winter is my favourite time for generating new ideas.
We have been workshopping a few new ideas internally, and we think we have our next six months planned... so we will have to start executing!
This photo of Caitlin and me was taken more than a week ago. She helped us review and refine the copy for this website about nine months ago (before I took the reins and butchered her work - sorry).
It used to be that I would find the time to blog an update, but the time I used to devote to blogging has diminished over the past few months, eroded by various and unexpected demands on my time. It happened in creeps, barely noticeable each day, until - this blog has been inactive for two weeks.
Anyway... no longer. We are going to be back, and we are going to give you more updates on what VIVA is going to be doing in the near future!
While Syed and Hassan take a short break from upgrading VIVA, I am spending a lot of my mental energy on defining how to better service customers - both event organisers and event goers.
(An aside: I still dislike the word "event" in describing the content on VIVA. They are broader than just events, but it seems that "event discovery" is an industry term from which no one has departed. I suspect it is because no one has found a better word yet. Can we make one up? A portmanteau of entertainment plus leisure activites... leisurtainment?)
Ultimately, VIVA is nothing more than a platform. It is the content that keeps people returning, and so the selection and presentation of content are key to this. More and more, I feel that the way we are presenting information on VIVA needs to be improved... show me less but show me better. And though we know this, the move towards better and more relevant recommendations runs us into a selection problem.
So, we keep mulling.
Melissa moved to Mr Tipply's about a week ago. We hadn't caught up in person in about a year. I have been wondering - where did that last year go?
When Mel and I last caught up, she was working for Harlequin Inn at Pyrmont and VIVA was just about to launch. We had no users and no event organisers... in hindsight, we barely had a product.
The team used to joke about how it took more than 30 seconds to download and rank all of the events. Now, about 5 seconds flat... and with a much improved interface. I say "joke", but it was more like a coping mechanism - and thankfully the combined tech genius of Syed and Hassan fixed that.
Over the course of the last year, I have come to learn a lot about consumer behaviour and product management. Almost invisibly, I think I am nearing competence... nearly. And with the process also comes exhaustion ~ the feeling that because all progress is imperceivable, there is no progress at all. It is thanks to Melissa and people like her that I can reflect on how far we have come... and how far we may go still.
So I remind myself ~ keep going. Push. Push. Push. We are doing it so people can find things they love to do. We are doing this to make the world a happier place.
Ian and I went to the final day of the jam-packed AWS conference in Sydney today. It was an astonishing turn out. I had not seen so many engineers and technicians all together like this in a room before. It was awe-inspiring to think that everyone here was creating something.
Somehow, I have also become wrapped in this world of creation. I am simultaneously fearful and excited... how will I ever keep up with everything that is happening? How will VIVA ever do well going up against so many other things?
It felt a little bit like that old saying, to run is to stand still.
So we run, and we keep on running.
We ended the Easter long weekend with a shareholders' meeting in our new offices at Jones Bay Wharf, and so working on VIVA received less attention that it needed this weekend. Adam is probably going to be disappointed at my lack of work... and I am too.
Sam messaged last week volunteering to help, but I am somewhat disorganised at the moment, so I have not called on his time as I know I should. This will also disappoint Adam, probably.
There were also QA tasks to be done, and I have not attended to those either...
But... new office! Yay!
All through the Easter long weekend, I was stressing about exactly how to pitch the "pivot" of VIVA. A part of me wonders if this is going a little too niche... but if Peter Lord and Nic Wright are right - and they probably are - then going niche is actually the best thing that we can do with VIVA.
There is a startup mantra, "do one thing, and do it really well". So this pivot is about doing that one thing really well. What worries me is whether we can do this well enough...
We are a little behind on releasing the next version...
Syed and Hassan have been working hard on the next version of the app for iOS and Android, and they are getting closer every week. We are a little behind schedule, but the result will hopefully be worthwhile.
The long weekend and the near-total shutdown of the business world has given me the rare opportunity to take a small break to enjoy lunch with the fam.
"I don't get it," Pete said over coffee last week.
"What do you mean?"
"Who is going to miss VIVA if it disappeared tomorrow? No one, that's who. You need to create a product that people will miss, and will pay you to bring it back."
It wasn't the first time I heard this product design philosophy. I read it in a book once upon a time, and Nic Wright had told me exactly the same thing on more than one occasion.
"Right now, you are talking to nobody."
"Because I'm talking to everybody."
"Exactly, and so nobody is getting your message."
Peter Lord is one of Matt Vickers's friends. Several years ago, he created Money Brilliant, which was then purchased by AMP. Pete is now creating another startup called The Green Room.
We spoke a while about VIVA's strengths and weaknesses. Internally, I thought about all the difficulties we have had trying to solve different consumer use cases with one uniform design solution, trying to market one solution to all consumers, and trying to pitch the nebulous and ambitious idea of VIVA to investors. It was going to be much easier if we focused on a narrow application.
"I love the design of the app, you have put a lot of love into it, but you are talking to a hundred people with it, and maybe five people love it. You should try to talk to ten people, and have eight people love it."
It made a lot of sense... but I wondered how best to tackle this pivot. Is it to focus on P.A.L.S.? Performances, arts, and live shows?
My gut says yes.
Progress feels so slow in the days before releasing a new version of VIVA.
We have had some tech hiccups getting to this point... but we are edging closer every day. Every day feels like the eve before the release of a new version, but not yet! The user feedback from the last few months have guided us to focus on making improvements to VIVA - small tweaks for big wins.
They may not be enough though.
"So I guess you aren't doing an overhaul just yet," Adam wrote in an email to me last week.
If we reduce VIVA down to its core, there are only three components:
Our tech team has been split along those three paths, trying to divide and conquer. Since our team is lean (read: small), we have had to prioritise certain things above others, even though they are probably equally important.
There is a jigsaw puzzle of possibilities...
John and I caught up last week to talk other business. These meetings serve as a good distraction from VIVA, so that I can turn away for a little bit, gain some distance, and tackle problems afresh.
We are close to the new version now... and with the benefit of the distance, the progress feels too slow and the changes feel too insignificant. I feel like we are the tortoise in the race. I hope the fable comes true, and that maybe we will win the race in the end.