As many of you know, I was the community evangelist and one of the co-founders of Shizzow, a location-based service designed to help you find and hang out with your friends. Last week we made the difficult decision to shut down the company behind Shizzow and let it live on as a side project for Mark Wallaert while Ryan Snyder and I officially moved off of the project. The sad reality is that the number of users were dwindling, and we had little time to devote to Shizzow, so we thought this was the best option for everyone involved. I wanted to spend a few minutes reflecting on Shizzow and what I learned from it.
First, I want to make it clear that I do not regret a minute of the time that I put into Shizzow. It was an incredibly fun project, and Mark and Ryan were amazing people to work with. We had an amazing community of users here in Portland, and I met so many new friends as a result of my work on Shizzow. I also learned quite a bit throughout this process, and the time that I spent on Shizzow was worth the education I received as a result.
There are a few things I would do differently if I had to start over, even if some of these things go against traditional business advice:
- Spend less time and effort focused on the business during the early days. Having a business model, financial projections and a VC pitch isn’t worth much without users. Focus on the users first, and then spend time on the business after you’ve fully validated that you are going to have enough users to turn it into a business. Spending too much time on the business in the very early days leaves less energy for the product. I know this goes against much of the traditional startup advice, but this is critical for people with limited time who are starting something in addition to their regular day jobs.
- Start small and move up. Shizzow was set up with heavy corporate processes from the start. For example, we were a C corp, which involved a lot more paperwork, effort and legal expenses when we could have started as an LLC and moved to a C corp later only if we needed it. Starting with the minimum effort needed to get going and growing as needed would have been a better choice for us.
- Fast is better than perfect. Shizzow was built to scale to hundreds of thousands or millions of users, which made for a rock solid product, but it also took too much time. As a result, we entered a little too late in the game. In the future, I’d focus on getting something out early and worry about scalability later as needed. Don’t get me wrong, the product should be built on an architecture that is capable of scaling to large numbers of users, but you don’t need to start optimizing for them until they start to materialize.
- Have better plans for growing the user base. We definitely underestimated the difficulty in growing our user base outside of Portland. We should have spent more time on outreach to people outside of Portland and making it easier for new users to get started with Shizzow.
There are also a few things that I wouldn’t change:
- Start with great people. I love working with people who are smart and fun to be around, and I had a great time working with Mark and Ryan. I learned new things and have new friends as a result of Shizzow.
- Focus on community. We had a great community of users in Shizzow, and we spent a lot of time fixing bugs and making changes based on the community feedback. We also had a great community of developers who spent countless hours hammering on the API and attending our regular developer meetups over drinks at the Green Dragon.
I thought it was important to spend a few minutes reflecting publicly about my experiences with Shizzow in the hopes that other people can learn from it as well. While it’s always a little difficult to let go, I think it was the right time.
A heartfelt thank you everyone who used Shizzow and supported us over the past year. Finally, a shout out to the person who created this video. I love it!
As the community evangelist for Shizzow, I am really excited to announce the public launch of Shizzow! Ryan, Mark and I have been working our butts off on this application in addition to all of our “real” work (jobs that pay the bills – consulting, in my case). We planned this launch right before SXSW to give people a week or so to play around with it, but I think that people will really be able to see it’s usefulness when a few thousand geeks descend on Austin next week.
In addition to the public launch, we are also opening our API up for public beta testing. We’ve had some developers working on it for the past couple of months, so we even have some alpha applications starting to hit the streets for testing.
I’ve covered the details of the launch over on the Shizzow blog, so please feel free to visit Shizzow to read the rest of the launch details.
Don’t forget that we will be talking about Shizzow and SXSW on Friday at Beer and Blog and again on Strange Love Live!
Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:
The entire Shizzow team, including yours truly, will be lounging on the Strange Love Live couch for the podcast this Friday evening (March 6th) around 10pm. We will be talking about some new happenings on Shizzow with a focus on our plans for attending SXSW and how you can use Shizzow to find the best parties and sessions as well as getting together for meals with friends. We’ll also be giving some general tips for attending SXSW for any newbies in the audience.
I encourage you to tune into the live video stream and chat room at 10pm on Friday, but don’t worry, you can download the audio podcast later if you miss the live version.
We’ll also be at Beer and Blog prior to the Strange Love Live appearance for more talk about SXSW.
Today we have a couple of announcements about Shizzow. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Shizzow, Shizzow is a social service that was built with the goal of making it as easy as possible to find and hang out with your friends in the real world for happy hours, parties, nights out on the town, co-working sessions in coffee shops and much more. Shizzow provides the technology for you to find nearby friends on a map, get a list of people currently sitting in your local coffee shop or pub, and find specific friends. We want you to spend more time hanging out with your peeps and less time trying to coordinate bringing them together through phone, email, SMS and IM.
Shizzow is currently a labor of love that is entirely bootstrapped (in other words, we have no revenue, and we are working on Shizzow in addition to our full time gigs). I still do online community and social media consulting to pay the bills, but I spend my free time managing the Shizzow community. We have talked about getting VC or Angel funding, but part of the announcement today is that we are going to continue to bootstrap Shizzow. Bootstrapping gives us more control over the company, and allows us to focus on the product rather than having to focus on courting investors.
The first wave of the Shizzow private beta was only open to people in Portland, OR. Today, we are sending invites to people in the Bay Area, CA, so the second part of our announcement is that people in the bay area can now get invites to Shizzow. If you live in the bay area and would like an invite, just send me an email: dawn at Shizzow.com.
You can find all of the details about both of these announcements on the Shizzow blog.
On Friday night, Mark, Sam and I spent a couple of hours with Cami Kaos and Dr. Normal on the Strange Love Live couch to talk about Shizzow. We talked about how it works, interesting things people are doing with Shizzow and our plans for the future. You can listen to the podcast, download it or subscribe to their feed if you want to hear more episodes of Strange Love Live.
Here’s what Cami Kaos had to say about Shizzow (expressed via Toonlet):
A huge thank you to Cami Kaos and Dr. Normal for having us on the show!
Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:
As you probably heard, we launched Shizzow into private beta today, and we wanted to invite people to celebrate with us. On Wednesday, August 13th at 5pm at the Green Dragon, we are holding our first of what we hope to be many Shizzups.
If you like Shizzow, you can come buy us a drink to celebrate. If you don’t have an invite yet, show up before people buy us too many drinks, and we’ll set you up with an invite to the service. To learn more about Shizzow, you can visit the Shizzow blog.
You can RSVP on Upcoming to attend.
Some of you know that I have been working on a stealth side project for the past month or so, and we are excited to announce that it is launching in private beta today! Right now, the beta invites are limited to a couple hundred people living in Portland. I’ll be sending out invites today along with the rest of the team. If you want an invite, and don’t hear from me today, you can get one from me at Lunch 2.0 on Wednesday.
Shizzow is a location-based social web service that we built with the goal of helping you build quality relationships through face-to-face interaction. Shizzow provides the technology for you to notify your friends of your location, with as little effort as possible, so you can spend more time hanging out with your peeps and less time trying to coordinate bringing them together through phone, email, SMS and IM.
What does this really mean? You tell your friends where you are and what you are doing so that you can meet up with people and do cool things.
Shizzow was created by Mark Wallaert, Sam Keen, and Ryan Snyder. I feel honored that they asked me to join the team to manage the community.
Since we are still unfunded and without revenue, this does not impact my consulting practice. I will continue to help companies build online communities while also working on Shizzow.
If you want to keep up with us, you can read our blog or follow us on Twitter.