An Experiment in Open Startups

Last November I wrote a post titled Background Processing, describing how an idea for a new product sneaked up on me as I was thinking about something else. I didn’t describe the idea at the time, partly because it wasn’t what the post was about, and partly because I thought I might actually do something with it. But the holidays were closing in and I was busy with a few other projects, so I made some notes about the idea and filed it away.

When December rolled around the idea was still kicking around in my head, so I contacted a developer friend who I knew had been playing with Ruby on Rails and asked if he had time to build me a prototype. He said he did, so I put together a dozen wireframes in Visio (the only graphics program I know how to use), shared them with my friend via Picasa Web Albums and we dove in. And despite the usual holiday and end-of-year distractions, we actually came up with a working version of the app by New Year’s week and shipped the first rev to production on January 8. We’re still squashing bugs and adding in a few things we realized we forgot, but we should have a fully functional (though still pretty ugly and definitely not scalable) version ready for folks to use by late this week.

Because my idea was more about the product than the business (translation: I don’t have a clue how this thing makes money), and because I think it will make for some interesting blog conversations, I’m planning to treat this as an experiment in open entrepreneurship. As soon as we have a version that does (mostly) what it’s supposed to without breaking, I’ll publish an introduction to the product here. In that post, and in periodic updates from then on, I’ll also share what I spent to build it, what I spent it on, how user adoption is going, what kinds of problems we’re running into and what we’re doing to fix them. If you have questions about any of this you’ll be invited to ask them here, and if I have answers I’ll post them inline so anyone who’s following along can read them as well.

If this sounds like your kind of reading, don’t touch that dial; bugs or no bugs I’ll share where we are with the product by Friday the 18th (or sooner if we can get it cleaned up before then).