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.
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.
Generally, when we are inactive on this blog for a while, it is because we are hunkered down on some secret hush-hush project that is taking all of our time. That is true of the last two months of less than daily new blog posting as well.
Some of our projects will remain secret hush-hush for a while, but a few are on the verge of being released... and one of them is a little article about VIVA that will be going into the March newsletter of Museums & Galleries NSW - we will post a link when it is available.
I am super excited about MGNSW!
Museums and galleries have been one of our focus areas when we designed VIVA. When we examined things people enjoy doing and all the areas that are under-serviced, cultural events and art exhibitions were both highly enjoyed and far under-serviced, so we made it one of the priorities in our design. My personal liking for these events did have some part to play in our design decisions, but the analyses held.
This timing allows us to release one more version of the app before the end of March. Watch this space!
On the flight from Melbourne just now, I found a quote that someone put on a post-it note for me about a year ago:
"All great achievements require time."
- Maya Angelou
She was right.
I looked back at our work over the last year, all the little milestones we had along the way, all the advice and help we received, and I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I wish I had taken some more time over the last year to send thank you notes to people, to let them know how much they mean to us. I guess Thanksgiving is the designated time to remind us of those emotions, but that had slipped by without notice.
I had spent a couple of hours on two separate days during this Melbourne trip with Mark, one of the wisest friends I have. He had been working on his medtech business for about eight years, and it is on the verge of going gangbusters.
Eight long years.
I can barely imagine how many trials and adversities he faced; getting up each time, dusting himself off and continuing. The grit that he has!
One of the reasons I came down to Melbourne this week was to meet the academic at Ducere Business School. That happened in Camberwell this morning.
A couple of months ago, Jess from Collabosaurus set us up with Ducere to chat about how they might be able to help solve one of VIVA's big strategic problems. This was at the start of November, and around the time when five massive tech players moved into the same consumer space as VIVA - oh Nelly, that is a story and a half... and much too much for me to write about in one single blog post. I will start drip feeding details of this over the next few months as we work together with the MBA students at Ducere.
It was fantastic to meet Dom, one of the academics on the case, and Natalia, the coordinator for this project. I think this is going to be great fun as we try to figure out the what's what and why's why.
The coffee in Melbourne is better than Sydney.
Mark and I coffeed afterwards to talk about a different business opportunity. I will have to tell you about that another time as well... but that would be straying far off topic, and we will need a really good segue.
... they will come.
I heard that famous movie quote again on a YouTube documentary about a Noah's Ark creationist museum in America. (Spoiler alert: And of course, nobody came.)
I think that is a big lesson I have learnt about product development in the past year. Building something from nothing is a good first step, but if the project trajectory is off the target by even a few degrees... well, how much you miss the mark depends on how far away that target is. The lean startup mantra of iterating a product over and over seems to be a good guide on how to overcome the inability for people to make accurate estimations of where a targets is.
Steve and Evan are both big fans of iterating products.
Andrew of Hello.Television (and all-round champion) must be too. We had a beer yesterday to chat about what our respective businesses are doing this year. So far so good, in the 18 days that have passed so far... but we must now iterate VIVA again.
Syed and I are due to chat this Sunday about the next improvements... and I hope that will bring more people to use VIVA more regularly.
I have been a little quiet on the blogging front. Sorry. Also we have been quiet on the social media front... sorry for that too.
Most people are still on holidays. I have made use of the spare time to consider a few other ideas that fluttered onto my desk over the break - like having lunch with Steve and Tim discussing a potential new project.
I presented the forest of ideas to Evan over breakfast last week. He made a good point, one that a lot of others have made to me, "Dude, you have to pick one."
I think that's the difficulty - there are so many big ideas, and then sub-ideas under each big idea, and then sub-sub-ideas under each of those... looking at VIVA, we are already juggling about five sub-ideas, and about 40 sub-sub-ideas. Even doing one will take many hours. Most of our time in the past two weeks have been spent carefully looking at how we can better service Sydney Festival. New ideas are emerging from the analysis, and so I will have to share them with the team in the coming weeks. I want to first sketch the Photoshop mock-ups before sharing the ideas, since some of the implementation are subtle. There are a few big ideas on the horizon for how to make VIVA better, but I am not yet sure the best ways to tackle these ideas.
So far this year, I have made no mistakes writing the date, no inadvertent reversion to 2017, no accidental mixing of the years... and this bothers me. I always mess up the years for the first few weeks of January, writing "xx January" followed by whatever the year was before.
I find myself asking, why am I so comfortable slipping into 2018?
Work has been a mishmash of too many things...
When Tze Ting and I caught up for coffee yesterday afternoon, I had just come back from my morning's meeting with Webhaus. The boys were planning out their world domination plans, while I simultaneously counted my quickly diminishing free time. I was a little concerned about how I will sustain VIVA amidst the tornado of other opportunities this year.
I dislike the title "serial entrepreneur" - the association the title has and the people who self-profess to be "serial entrepreneurs". Eeek. Gross.
I am a believer in doing one thing and doing it well... and so this week has distracting me from the goal of making VIVA better. That is over for now.
Sorry for the absence friends, but I am back properly now.
I was up in Brisbane for a holiday, and I had a nagging feeling that I left my fridge door ajar in Sydney.
Spoiler alert: the fridge door was closed! Phew!
But we are back to work!
So stories like Leigh suggesting that we should take advantage of the hype around cryptocurrencies by launching our own VIVAcoin that can be spent in-app, or lengthy chats with Nick about the state of the world will have to wait.