Week Seven: In which I call the whole idea into question.

The things I did not do

So in my last blog post I said that I would get FutureTales in front of some real users this week.

I also planned to launch the app on ProductHunt this Friday. Look, I wrote a tweet about it:

Did I do either of these things? I did not.

Why not?

Well, in my defence, FutureTales is looking a lot sexier than it did at the start of the week.

A sexy pile of CRUD

I’ve nailed the basic CRM aspects of a reading list app. Last week, it recommended books to you, and you could see a list of these recommended books, but that was it. Now you can save these books for the future, record when you’ve read them or when you intend to read them.

I think this is pretty much required functionality. Users need some way of interacting with the books that you’ve recommended to them (eg dismissing or saving these recommendations).

Finding the competiton

I also feel a lot better about FutureTales this week, having stumbled across 2 sites that do something similar:

These are both websites that make specific recommendations for kids books based on their age and interests. They seem to earn all their money based off affiliate links. However, they lack any of the exciting functionality that FutureTales offers (like tracking and sharing reading progress) and their recommendations are all made (presumably) by a team of humans typing. Very old fashioned.

I’m pretty confident that I can get FutureTales to offer a similar, and in some ways better, service without too much more work.

So, is this a problem?

Part of me feels guilty about doing more development work this week, rather than launching to a wider audience as intended. But actually, I’ve had a really productive week, the product has moved on a lot, and I don’t think it was ready to launch it more widely. However, I’m faced with just 1 more week working on this project before moving on to something else. This seems crazy.

I have decided that the task I’m setting myself here, of 12 projects in 12 months is too ambitious.

Whose idea was this anyway?

The 12x12 idea was made famous by a successful founder Pieter Levels (@levelsio) who tried it in 2014, and managed to ship 8 propducts. Jon Yongfook, another successful solo founder, (@yongfook) tried it in 2018. He managed to get to 7 projects before (it seems) one took off and he canned the rest of the ideas. After doing some research, I’ve actually struggled to find anyone who has met this goal (I found quite a few sad medium articles of unsuccesful attempt to complete the challenge).

Now that I’m really thinking about it, I think I launched myself into this project without considering it in much detail.

What does it take to launch a product?

What does it mean to launch the product within a month? Here are some of the things you need to do to launch a money-making app:

  • Research and develop the initial idea
  • Speak to people who might be your users about the problems that they have
  • Design the product
  • Learn any new technologies required to build the product
  • Build the product
  • Launch and market the product
  • Do user research with users of your product, take into account their feedback and iterate.
  • Take any holiday/sick/childcare days

This is a lot to get done in a month. In fairness, I think the @levelsio/@yongfook approach was to launch after a month of development. If the initial launch was successful, iterate on the idea after that. However, continuing to pump out new products without allotting time to maintain/support your existing products seems a recipe for disaster.

The Line of Insanity

I already face this challenge with TodoBot, which I still think is a promising idea and could benefit from more work. todobot.ai had 148 visitors over the last week, with zero marketing and an imperfect implementation. I’d be keen to do more work on it. As it is, I haven’t touched it in the last 3 weeks while I’ve been focusing on FutureTales.

A decision

Therefore, I’ve officially scaled back my goal to 6 startups in 12 months. This is something more like a project every 8 weeks. I’m also going to be more conscious and explicit, about which products I’m going to keep alive, and which ones I’m going to abandon if they aren’t getting any traction.

Currently the two alive projects are:

  • todobot
  • FutureTales

So, there, I made a decision, and I feel good about it. I’m going to aim for a launch of FutureTales on ProductHunt by the end of next week. I will then split my time in June between FutureTales and TodoBot.

See you next week!

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