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Blog by Dana Severson • Posted on December 14th, 2012
If you’ve been following Wahooly from the start (roughly October of 2011), you probably have come across some of my earlier posts on G+, documenting the history of our growth. My original intention was to provide an unedited, un-fluffed account of the ups and downs of launching a startup, which I aptly named, The Startup of a Startup. Between all of the hype you read on the tech tabloids and the BS that people share, you never seem to get the real stories. These are the lessons that I was always in search of, but could never seem to find. I thought, well, if I was interested, I’m sure others were as well. Turns out, I was right.
Somewhere between our own hype, raising money and launching our product, I lost touch. Most importantly, however, I found myself slipping into the rose-pedal garden where all the duckies and bunnies go to play. I’ll tell you why it happens — fear. Fear that people will lose faith in your ability. Fear that investors will run for the hills. Fear that if your challenges leak, they’ll be viewed as catastrophic. Fear that if you say the wrong thing, you’ll be chastised. Fear is debilitating and often leads to the fluffy bunny syndrome. Everything is comforting there — you play it safe and you can avoid fear. But, that place is crap and it gets you nowhere.
Every startup has ups and downs. Every startup makes wrong decisions. Every startup founder has fear. Every startup worries about … everything. It’s just that not that many of them talk about it.
We’ve had our fair share of criticism (and still do). It used to bug the shit out of me, and still does to some degree. The thing is, there are battles worth fighting and others worth ignoring. Embracing criticism takes time and a bit of self-control. The fact is, if you want to be a leader, you’ll need to grow a pair. Every great leader (be it a company or a person) has supporters and detractors. It comes with the territory. If it weren’t for the two sides, you wouldn’t have discussion. Without discussion, you have nothing.
I’m all for looking forward and moving ahead, so I’m not going to dwell on the past. However, there is an elephant in the room that needs to be dealt with.
I’m going to talk about it now, get it out of the way, and put it officially behind us. For all of you who were with us for our February launch, I’d like to provide you with some context …
Before I go into it, I want to lead with a quote from LinkedIn founder, Reid Hoffman – “If you’re not embarrassed by your first product release, you’ve released too late.”
Our first launched sucked. Other than the fact that we were a trending topic on Twitter, nothing about our launch was fun. And, that’s a shame, because it was supposed to be the complete opposite. It was an absolute shit storm and the only thing we could do about it was go offline.
Did that mean that we died? Absolutely not. Did that mean we fucked up? Not really. Would you do it again the same way? Probably.
Sounds crazy, right? I mean, why would we repeat history knowing what we know now? Because we had no other choice, we had to launch.
From the very beginning, it was always our intention to launch a product at the time that we did. And, under normal circumstances, everything would have been just fine. However, our circumstances were anything but normal.
In most cases, you build a product, iterate amongst a small base and hope for momentum. In our case, we were building a product, but couldn’t build it as fast as the momentum we were gaining. Don’t get me wrong, it was an incredible (first world) problem to have. When only 5% of startups receive any kind of media attention, we were extremely fortunate. I’ve heard second-hand that we were one of the most hyped startups at the time.
So, why did we give a launch date? Really wish we wouldn’t have. Lesson learned the hard way. However, that was early on, back in September. This was before we knew that anyone even cared. It was literally a snowball effect. Before we knew it, it was out of control and the date appeared to be set in stone.
Naturally then, why did’t we postpone the launch? This is seems like a logical solution. From the outside looking in, this seems like an extremely easy decision. However, when you have 26,000 social vocalists and over 400 companies pounding on your door, the decision gets a bit more difficult. Do you risk losing all of the momentum you’ve gained by delaying what we knew to be months, or do you launch with the product that you have and hope you’ve done enough? Also, each day you delay, the expectations grow higher. If you have the magic answer, I’ll give give you a cookie.
So, you know the rest of the story, we launched, crashed and went into quiet time.
The development process has taken us awhile, but it’s for good reason. We’ve gone from what would have been version one to version four. Unlike our first launch, where we had trepidations, their is nothing but excitement this time around. It’s seriously awesome.
While we’ve been building out the platform, we’ve been criticized for our lack of communication. This is certainly justifiable criticism. We’ve been quiet. There are really two sides to this argument. While you satisfy the need for those who want to hear from you, you also annoy those that don’t want to hear from us until we launch. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. I can tell you this, as we are now approaching our relaunch, we’ll definitely be making up for lost time.
So, there you have it. We are officially moving forward. The past is the past and the future is now.
We can’t wait to have everyone back on the platform. I’m more than confident, that you’ll love what you see.