TL;DR; Go to bottom
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” - Steve Jobs
Read more: http://stevetold.us
It was January 14th, 2011 I remember, I woke up in the morning, and suddenly a rush of thoughts hit my brain. I did not think that much. My head was pretty clear after a couple of minutes. I am going to quit my job TODAY.
I jumped into the tram, got into the office, and we went downstairs, and told my boss that I would like to quit my job. He was a bit suprised, but not that much, he said to me "I was expecting this". We had a nice chat, talked about the projects that I am responsible of. Made a plan, and executed.
I was reliefed and ready to start my journey. It took me almost 3.5 months to leave. Throughout the April, I worked for 3 days a week.
May 1st , 2011 - First day of total freedom(?)
After I've stopped working, investigated the visa options and decided to apply for the Entrepreneurship visa. Oh boy, that is THE worst decision that I might have made so far. I'm still pissed off.
- Asked existing clients and employers for references.
- Written 20+ page business plan. It sucked all my energy.
- Worked with a local advisor to review my business plan.
- Talked with a immigration lawyer about my situation, and he suggested I should stay as a knowledge worker, not to APPLY for entrepreneurship visa. Since I gave my decision, I would not work for another company. End of discussion.
July 17th, 2011 - Read to apply
I got my Visa appointment on July 17. Delivered my documents, got my temporary visa for 6 months. The normal time to get a reply is max 2-3 months they said. In total, I wasted 3+ months and spent around €7.000 to be prepared for my Visa application.
I was exhausted, and all my energy was drained before even beginning to my idea/product/company. I've decided to go to our summer house in western part of Turkey. I thought, sun and sea will help me recover, charge my batteries and let the ideas flow.
Me at the bottom of the picture, lying on the beach, half of my legs inside the sea. What a great feeling, and a great way to relax
During this time, I have this project in my mind. CashGenius. Hands on the computer, started coding.
Let's roll back time a bit, and see what I've done within that time. I was a .NET developer for 6+ years. I was done with .NET - Windows sh*t. Don't get me wrong, I like C#. I just don't like Windows. Crappy, bad looking, slow, restrictive,enterprizish. I had a Win Server + Win laptop, but I was in love with Mac. I did not really need a MAC.
I went back and forth between Ruby and Python, and decided to go with Ruby on Rails. I was reading quite a lot about RoR, and decided to give it a try. RoR + MongoDB was my game plan.
I said to myself, if you are not going to commit to this thing, you might return back to .NET. Linux wasn't that much attractive. And I wasn't going back to Windows, so I bought a 13" MacBook Pro. ( a nice way to convince yourself )
Glad I did. The most beautiful piece of computer hardware that one can own.
For the first two weeks of my vacation, I wrote fair amount of code, learning more and more about Ruby on Rails daily. After those 2 weeks, I felt like, I was stuck and decided to stop coding. Since I am in vacation, I need to focus on my recharge rather than expecting to produce results. There was no beta users, no customers willing to pay, communicating with me about their problems or simply I wasn't asking anybody about their problems.
August 29th, 2011 - Prototype on its way
After 5+ weeks of vacation I was back to Netherlands. Ready to go! Worked on CashGenius about a month more, the concept was pretty much done, I was ready to sell.
October 10th, 2011 - A Twitter Message received
A person that I was following on Twitter sent me a message ;
- Him: Hi Bahadir, we're kind of working on the same things. Let's have a coffee and talk.
- Me: Hi Cemal, I'm available on Wednesday.
- Him: There is an event on Wednesday evening, I am planning to go there. You might be also interested in. Let's meet up there or another evening.
- Me: We might meet up on Wednesday afternoon. Event is nice but I'm against technology talks these days
Why I was against technology talks at that time ? Because I've listened and read enough. It was time to produce. Write code. Build products. Solve problems and help people. My friends say I'm a man of choice and I agree with them. You need to figure out what you want and that's what I want.
On that Wednesday, we went to have some awesome burgers, and have a coffee afterwards. I showed all the cool stuff on Cashgenius. Shared our typical expat stories, had a nice conversation about an hour.
And we kept talking over our ideas. Cemal started to convince me that Cashgenius is a really hard way to go. We have also spoken wtih a couple of prospects and realized that they are not using computer to manage their financials. I was in a situation where I wasted again my resources for a product where no customer exists to start up the engines of my business. My game plan was gone. I was falling apart.
November 1st, 2011 - Time to restart
Cemal had a idea for businesses to monitor Social Media and I was started to get interested into Natural Language processing and web crawlers. We worked on our own and during the time we kept in touch.
December 1st, 2011 - Let's find a place to work together
We believe each other's experience, passion, and ideas, so it was time for both of us to move a place where we can work together to build a product. We have started to look offices, considered WTC Amsterdam where Cemal was working, but did not like the price vs value, Spaces was really expensive and there were no place to rent in Herengracht. We kept on looking and found Science Park Amsterdam where tenants are only Life Science and IT businesses. The rent was affordable and half of what Spaces was asking, direct connection to our ISP, next to the University of Amsterdam campus.
January 1st, 2012 - Time to move in. Start working on
We signed our contract for a year, and started to work on our project; SocialMeter. SocialMeter was a product for businesses to monitor their Social Media appearance. It took some time for us to realize that we are in a bad position. First of all, we don't want to deal with the whole sales cycle of big brands. Second, we want to solve our own problem. Third, there is already a big competition going on and we'll be a very small fish in the ocean.
February, 2012 - Time to pivot. FolloWords born
SocialMeter wasn't the idea that we were looking for. We decided to pivot into consumer space and fix one of the biggest problem of the current state of the internet.
The way we consume information. News - articles - social media. A bigger problem.
As Paul Graham describes in his writing on which problems they would like to invest, The #3 - New news is what we're up to. We are not in the space how the content is created, neither we would like to change how the publishing works. It's not yet-another-social-network. It's neither an exact match what he described.
After some refactoring of the existing code base, and re-doing the whole interface, our first version were ready. Showed some friends, got some feedback, and keep on working. We decided to go to the Next Web Amsterdam, and was going to buy 2 tickets. After a while, we realized that the cost of the 2 tickets were same as renting a startup table and join the conference for 2 days 2 people. Plans revised; Our target was the Next Web, 26-27 April 2012. We would definitely want to get some feedback from the people that we don't know. More coding and bug fixing.
April 26th, 2012 - The Next Web Amsterdam - First sign of value
This was a great event for us. We've talked with a lot of people, asked a lot of questions, learned how they read news, and how their company valued news. Met with a VC, seed investors, fellow entrepreneurs, journalists, people all around the world and a cow. Yes a cow.
We told our story, our product, problems, got their contact info, business cards. I think, The Next Web is a one of the best way that a startup can spend money for marketing ( €1,250 ). Don't buy advertisements; talk with people, listen them, ask questions. And be FREAKING active. People don't stop by on your table. They just walk by. I brought them to our table one by one by simply asking questions. After a while things started to warm up. People started to come themselves when they saw the crowd.
What an event that was. Free coffee and lunches are great as well :) We were really exhausted after standing up and talking for non stop 7 hours. Great speakers, great audience, great entrepreneurs. Next year, we will be definitely join the Next Web conference again. You should do as well (Infographic).
June 12th, 2012 - Posted FolloWords to Hacker News
I woke up that morning, feeling a bit confused. We were getting better and better everyday with the product, but the biggest part of it was missing. I've decided to post FolloWords to Hacker News to get more private beta users and more opinions. And I did.
Show HN: F*ck it, I am releasing. 6 months, 1dev. Looking for beta users was my original post.
In 6 hours, our website got visited nearly by 9K unique visitors. I felt anxious, overwhelmed with all the comments. Just before NY & SF woke up, Hacker News moderators decided to change the title into Show HN: I'm releasing. 6months, 1dev. Looking for beta users which lost all of its power. As I was just expressing the exact thoughts of mine. We're on the top 2-3 of Hacker News for almost 4 hours. I've also written a aftermath post about the experience
While we're preparing our product, website and help documents, currently more than 500 people are waiting in the Beta List.
For me Followords is a masterpiece of our own, a product of my lifetime learning and hard meaningful work. A form of art covered with love and passion, handcrafted and painted with thousands lines of code, HTML tags, millions of database documents, and the private beta users who are making it real. It's a small addition from us to make the internet a better place.
The beauty of the entrepreneurship and the life is MYSTERY and CHALLENGE. I'm not sure if we're going to succeed on our dreams or not. I'm hungry and like the challenge. I would like to be the captain of my ship, my life course.
Happiness is not external. Happiness is a perception. Happiness is within. It's up to you. You either choose to be happy or not. Yes, that simple.
I'm greatful that I've met with my co-founder and dear friend Cemal. Quiting my job was the second best decision of my life so far. I'll be keep on failing, and trying.
Good luck with your dreams my friends. Be very passionate about them and make it happen!
Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish - Steve Jobs