This morning, going through the replies to the mobile readiness survey I came across this very disheartening comment:
Your users who don’t use the mobile or desktop version…
Reading that felt like a punch in the gut. To the question “what’d we forget”, the answer was “your users” [cringe]. This a much bigger problem than the recent emphasis on mobile and Desktop development. It sparked me to do a little soul searching. I’d like to share some of that with you in this post.
The Fall From Grace
When we first started Passpack, we had your support, because we supported you. We chatted with you in email, over twitter, and here in the blog. We were Tara and Francesco - two founders against all odds, working from the living room and building an amazing product for you. It was awesome.
Then something changed. I think it all started with getting funded… the money, the budgets, the board members… it all distracted us. We made rookie mistakes: the blog became an oddball “industry news” thing and eventually just dwindled down to the occasional product announcement it is now; we recruited folks to help out with chatting with you out there in the wild, which backfired and came off as spammy; we hired so many new programmers that development came to a near-complete halt as we tried to train them.
We basically made every mistake in the book. We messed up.
The Incredible Come Back
In December 2008, barely a year after funding, and with a big recession looming, we were close to having burned through nearly all the cash we’d raised. So we did the first smart (though hard) thing in a while: we let the entire staff go.
Product development resumed, even though Francesco and I were frankly exhausted. We’d put ourselves, the company, and you folks through the ringer.
But we were also really determined to turn it around. And we did.
Some of our investors stepped up to the plate with follow-on cash. We wanted it to last as long as possible, so I stopped pulling a salary, Francesco slashed his, and Passpack moved back into the living room.
It worked. In May 2009 we released Passpack 7 with secure sharing. It was a triumph of blood, sweat and tears. And we did it on our own.
Today’s Reality Check
“And we did it on our own.” That’s today’s reality check. It means we stopped paying enough attention to you: our users, our customers, our super-awesome beta testers and (sometimes even) our friends.
That’s bad news. As of today, I’m vowing to make it right.
The Naked Truth
Amazingly, Passpack is now in pretty good shape. Yes, we’re down to two full-timers, but we’re also nearing the much-sought-after break even point.
What does that mean for you?
For one, it means you guys are much faster at suggesting improvements, than we are rolling them out. We have to put new features in a very tight pipeline, doing just one thing at a time (the desktop/mobile juggle was an example of this). Sometimes it means we have to postpone really big projects until revenues grow further and we can invest in them properly (I believe in doing it right, or not doing it at all).
So are we as fast as lightening? No. But the good news is that we’re no longer distracted. We’ve learned our lessons. And we’re fully dedicated to you.
I’ve been setting up some surveys here and there, and have been closely following progress on the suggestions forum. I’ve added a known issues page so you can keep track of what we’re up to as far as bug fixing. And while I’ve slowed down on Twitter personally, I’ve also set up a @passpackhelp account that you can ping for… you know… help.
But I want to do more. I’d like to talk to some of you, perhaps set up a call or grab a coffee. I’d like to hear what you have to say about Passpack – not just features, but what challenges you face with it, or how it’s succeeding in helping you.
Are you willing to chat with me? Get in touch.
And thank you. Really, really thank you.