So Frank and I have been working on a product that we’ve been researching and pitching at the construction industry for a while – project Flinders. There is a big dream we call the ultimate end-game, which somehow we figured incorporated a rather complex, tangental step to attain. We assumed that to build our solid end-game, we needed a critical mass of users and the only way to get those users was by creating stickiness with something of significant utility that solved a serious problem. It started looking and smelling like a big-company product. No problem, we’re professionals.
We spent months developing a prospectus, carefully crafting our pitch, researching the market and speaking with industry stakeholders and prospective foundation customers in the hundred-million-plus turnover range. We took the audacious path of ‘give us money to build this great idea.. you won’t own it, you will go through the pain of implementing it, but we will cut you a great deal and we will all benefit’ We mailed our final offer/prospectus/pitch to the Managing Directors of four companies we had been courting/stalking and followed up for an ‘are you in or are you out’ discussion accompanied with a bespoke licensing agreement that came from a real software IP lawyer, not a google search result. We had a deadline to sign-on of end of September. We thought it was all very clever.
We waited patiently, pen in hand with index finger gently pointed at the dotted line. We waited for quite a while. October.. November. Nothing. Surprised?
Unperturbed, we pushed on, planned the execution, lined up the ruler on the left hand margin, created to-do lists, built infrastructure code, provisioned cloud particles… then santa came early with the penultimate poo-sandwich for the Christmas party lunch. A company of three – just like us, two developers and one construction industry guy dropped their product on the market late December. We found out because the most-likely-first-client director forwarded us a marketing shotgun email with a question mark in it.
They built the EXACT product we were about to smash six to twelve months or more of our lives into BEFORE we could even start on our end game – and they nailed it. They even had exactly the same style of promo website as us with the SAME banner image. It even had a long scrolling page with a nice little iPhone in a fixed position just like ours. It was like stepping across to the fifth dimension.
Cue the thought bubble that goes something like this: I’m going home to get very drunk. Hang on… They did us an enormous favour. We were about to create a product, to create a product. Huh? Scratch that. New agenda: Take a risk. Build the big idea now. And so we are, and in doing so, we’ve gone through what in start-up parlance is known as a ‘pivot’. There is virtually an entire vocabulary of terms in the start-up lexicon but that’s a whole post in itself.
So it was a Christmas Present from Hell, but in the end, the box it came in had a silver lining. Hook turn off Flinders’ and into Spring.
-Hamish & Frank (www.melbournemade.com.au)