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Diary of a Startup - Obstacles and freak-outs

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by Startacus Admin

In part 3 of Vincent Haywood's Startup Diary Vincent Haywood talked about the tough decisions you have to make on how you continue to raise capital for your startup.

In this week's Startup Diary Vincent returns after a troublesome few days of obstacles, freak-outs, pivoting, and hopeful solutions...

"We hit our first major obstacle this week. Should have realised it earlier, but nope, only just realised it now.pivoting

As you probably know, Google is shutting down its reader in a few days time. I’d been following this for a while, even throwing in my support for Feedly and what they have done to replace it. AOL and Hootsuite are on the case too. Which was great.

Braqes depends on Google alerts. Many users in the PR world use Google alerts to collect their online coverage. From this we designed a component, a big component, to allow users to add their Google alerts to Braqes and let it do the work for them.

Thing is, Google alerts are RSS feeds, generated by Google reader. Shit.

In short, one of the main functions of Braqes is going to stop working in the next few days. Of course, I’ve spent the past few days freaking out. (Probably why I was late on delivery of this post)

It’s a horrible feeling when you think things are doomed. Maybe I’m a bit dramatic. Thing is, Google alerts are what started the Braqes solution. Plugging into habits PR folk are used to we try to make life easier for them and save them time. Now the very thing we sold Braqes on is gone.

The past few days I’ve gone through the usual pivot thoughts. Do I move on to the next Braqes tools, is this a sign that this tool shouldn’t be built? Do I shut it down and start the next projects? Granted Braqes still has its press release monitoring functionality, although that was setup as a secondary option for users. (Users can upload a press release and Braqes scours the web for mentions using another API) So that’s still there, but its not going to be the tool we envisioned it to be without the Google alert functionality.

I should have seen this coming a while back though, silly.

Once I’d calmed down I had a brief chat with my co-founders. Smart blokes, this is an opportunity. Not a disaster. I had planned to build an alert builder in version 3 of Braqes. In other words, users wouldn’t have to venture over to Google, set up an alert, copy and paste then run a campaign. The plan was for version 3 to have its own query builder. (and an amazingly simple one at that - you’ll see) The reason it was planned for version 3 was due to income. I figure crawling eats into bandwidth and didn’t think we would be in a financial position to pay for the amount of data Braqes will be pulling in.

startup diarySo, I’ve been doing a bit of research, I’ve come across a few alert replacements - most supplying an email of collected coverage. I’ve found a couple replicas of Google alerts too - being offered for free. So we have two options, either redirect users to these new services so they can copy and paste feeds back in - or, the better option, we build one ourselves. I mean if other sights are doing it, and not charging there must be a solution.

I’ve just sent an email to our developer to get his thoughts, just to see what new setups we would need, server structure and other specs. From here we revisit our P&L forecast, change a few slides and get back on it. Although, this has made the fundraising even more crucial. Not only are we building in all the cool features of version 2 - we are repairing the main functionality of the site

Whilst writing this I’ve been calming down even more, these things will knock the wind out of your sails - you’re only human. Once you’ve had your freak out, step away, talk to your partners, friends, family - even current users. There is always a solution. Really.

We had the same thing when we first started Braqes, I specced out tech that would pull data from Alexa. Thought I knew what I was talking about - halfway through development we realised Alexa would not provide the data we needed. This was a critical section of Braqes too. Enter yet another freak-out, calmed down, had a Skype call with the developers and a few Google searches - past page 10 - and we discovered not only great solutions, but better ones.

I think what I’m trying to say is what most startups go through, obstacles. I read a great quote once that was something like “Obstacles are just tests to see how bad you want it” - There are numerous horror stories from successful startups that hit walls, wanted to give up yet persevered on and are now out there doing their thing. That’s what this week was, and now we are sorting it. Making Braqes an even better tool.

Now, off to remove any mention of Google alerts off the site. See you soon." 

Cheers Vincent and thank you for allowing us access into your startup journey too. If you need to read some more tips posts on Pivoting your business then you might want to read this previous guest post Pivots...Making mistakes, & Learning - An Entrepreneurs Tale and if you need to consider a google reader alternative then we have an article for that too! 

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Published on: 28th June 2013

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