Thursday, January 5, 2012

Going on 6 months now...

Here is a bit of a status update for the new year:

We've been working full steam ahead on Voost, going on 6 months now. In that timeframe, Jeff and I have accomplished an impressive amount of work for just two people. I've been putting in 10-15 hour days, seven days a week, of solid coding and Jeff has been doing the same. When he or I are out of town, we sit on Skype all day (and night) long working through any issues we have and bouncing ideas off each other. It has been a hugely productive cooperative development effort.

I've become a much better UX/UI designer than when I started. It had been years since I had worked on this side of things and it has been a lot of fun picking it back up. I've also become an absolute expert in CoffeeScript, JQuery, Less and all of the other hot front end technologies that are out there. On the back end, we've integrated with BrowserID for secure sign in as an option to Facebook Connect. We've also switched to Objectify 4 which is the most advanced way to interact with the Google AppEngine database backend.

The sad face news is we have nothing public to show for all of this hard work quite yet. I could go on with a list of reasons, but they aren't really worth going over in detail. Suffice it to say, we just aren't ready to launch. I'd say that we are about 85-90% of the way there. Hopefully not more than about a month or so. For a few of my friends, what we have is enough and they are pressuring me to just put something out there, even if it is incomplete or buggy. I'm pushing back on them.

While I realize the cycling season is quickly picking up, I'm not in a huge hurry. Thankfully, after years of penny pinching, I have enough savings left to last me until we do launch. I really want to do this right. I want all of my cards on the table. I want people to wonder why nobody has done a site this good before. As cheesy as it sounds, I expect something close to perfection, even if it isn't absolutely feature complete. I think of how the original iPhone disrupted the cell phone market. We went from the clam shells and keyboards to touch screens overnight. It may sound silly, but I'm passionate about doing something like that with the event registration market.

Even without all of the features that other companies have, our application is light years more advanced than any other registration product out there. I know this because I've seen their systems, analyzed everything wrong with them and spent the time to come up with a vastly better designed user experience. This takes a lot of hard work and this will be a huge differentiator in the marketplace for us. I'm very proud of that fact. It will be very expensive and nearly impossible for our competitors to hire enough engineering talent to catch up with us.

A question I get a lot is: do you have any customers? Well, we don't. Not yet. I'm ok with that because I do have enough contacts and relationships to get the word out there to promoters. I think that people also really want this product, so when we launch, it will almost sell itself. I can't tell you how many times I've heard 'I hate XYZ's excessive fees!' and 'This XYZ registration site is so difficult to use!'

Besides, the cycling community, our initial target audience, is very small and I don't want to really start pressuring promoters to try out a system that isn't launched yet. I sure wouldn't trust anyone who doesn't have a live product. On the flip side, if I was a competitor, I'd be really scared of us right now. We are going to be very hungry for customers and it will be that much harder to compete when we have a better product with better pricing.

A bit of good news is that we are close to having a great company logo. We put a bounty up on one of those crowd sourced websites full of designers and got a number of excellent designs, out of over a hundred submissions. We are in the process of choosing the final one over the next couple of days. I look forward to announcing it.

Thanks for listening. Thanks to all my friends and family for the encouragement and advice. Thanks to my wife for putting up with me working all the time. Thanks to everyone who has offered to help. Expect another update soon. This is going to be a lot of fun!

2 comments:

Adam Monsen said...

Nice! Any chance you'll support payment via Dwolla? That's a great way to keep fees low.

Jon Stevens said...

Hey Adam, we aren't supporting Dwolla because they don't support credit cards. That said, our billing provider does support ACH bank transfers, just like Dwolla, they just cost $.50 instead of $.25. It is 2x, but really not a huge difference on a large ticket price and definitely less than a credit card purchase.

Also, unlike pretty much every other system out there, we don't show the participant the 'fee' associated with a ticket. They just get one set ticket price, don't feel screwed over by fees, and it is the promoter who factors the fee into the cost of the ticket. We feel this is a much better system for both the promoter and the participant.