One thing the three of us struggle with on a daily basis over here is time. RoastLog is a real business with real customers paying us real money. However, the money we earn from RoastLog isn’t enough to pay the bills for one person, let alone three. This means that all three of us have day jobs to feed our families, pay the mortgages and buy new iDevices. This is both good and bad.
It’s good because we don’t have to struggle to make ends meet or push some half-baked idea simply because we need the cash. We get to take our time. I suppose that’s where the “good” part ends.
The bad parts…well, working on RoastLog on nights and weeks is more “frustrating” than bad. There is never enough time to rev the software…we have a gigantic list of TODOs which seems to be ever-growing. There aren’t a ton of bugs, but there are several little annoyances that I wish we could address sooner rather than later. There are tons of optimizations and small features that I’d like to get done but it just seems like there are always bigger fish to fry. If I can sneak 2 hours of looking at code in a particular day, that’s a really good day.
Currently, the “bigger fish” that we’re frying are our inventory tracking system, multi-channel Data Bridge, supporting our current customers and interacting with potential new customers. Of course, I always go off and starting thinking about new things we could be doing, which is probably the last thing I should be doing about right now. Still, Coffee Informatics (which is our actual business name) will be more than RoastLog eventually, so it’s natural to have ideas about different channels we should explore.
I’m sure there have been other start-ups operating in this bootstrap mode going through the exact same pains. Some days, it just seems like it’s near impossible to make any progress. Given, rarely a day goes by where I don’t do *something* RoastLog related, whether that’s shooting an email, catching up on coffee blogs or thinking about some type of design or implementation detail. Some day, the goal is that RoastLog grows to a size where it can be our full-time jobs, allowing us to build all sorts of awesome tools for the coffee industry. I’m sure that day is still a ways out, but it’s nice to think about.
In October when I went to Startup School, Tom Preston-Warner from Github gave a great a great talk titled Optimize for Happiness. In a nutshell, the take home message was: start a company so you can do what you want and run your company the way that makes you happy.
This is what I mean by optimizing for happiness: I’m a hacker; I’m happy when I’m building things of value, not when I’m writing a business plan filled with make believe numbers.
There are other really great things you can do when you optimize for happiness. You can throw away things like financial projections, hard deadlines, ineffective executives that make investors feel safe, and everything that hinders your employees from building amazing products.
I’m sure many of you in the coffee industry can relate to this…coffee usually isn’t something you get into just to pay the bills, it’s something you love. Since staring RoastLog, I’ve pretty much given up all hobbies I had and have little to no free time to do any type of “relaxing”. But, when it’s 1:30 am on a Wed. night and I’m shooting off emails or coding something up, I try to remember the happiness thing. Some day, Coffee Informatics will be a standalone company and will be feeding our families. The best part is that it’ll be our company, and we’ll be able to run it any way we see fit. That sounds really nice…we still have plenty of work to do before we get there.