That's it, that's the blog post. Oh... you want more info? Fair enough.
BugHerd is an excellent product with a dedicated customer base that love it. Our NPS and PMF scores are off the charts. We're growing at a nice rate (40% annually) with repeatable scalable marketing efforts. It's all going swimmingly. But it's also...well... a complete product. We're still building out some features, and improving others. But by and large the product is what the product is and adding more things is sometimes a case of diminishing returns. But when we see an opportunity for growth, we jump on it. It means development and marketing ebbs and flows with the opportunity, and that's the way we like it.
If we were funded and had a deadline to meet an external expectation of a return, then maybe we'd do things differently. For right now though, we don't over invest, we try to maximise our revenue per employee and we don't over invest in things unless we're confident they're going to work.
The number 1 rule, of course, is to stay profitable.
But we also don't want to just pay out dividends, or sit on stacks of cash without thinking about "what's next". Right now BugHerd is our (Splitrock Studio) only real source of revenue. That means it's susceptible to competition, it will eventually stop growing, the nature of the web/apps could change dramatically, or one day we may even want to sell it and do something else. These are all risks that could prevent us from having jobs and a stable business. It's inevitable that one of these things will eventually happen, and then what? We just start again from scratch? No thanks!
We can do more, and we can do it today.
We have the resources, the time and the money. So what else could we be doing?
Splitrock Studio is a startup studio, but we're not just about making products, it's about much more than that (see our previous post on the why). Today I want to talk a little bit about how/what we've been working on.
Over the past 9 months we've been working through an iterative process to find our new product. Over a 4 month iterative process we investigate a problem space, generate some ideas, test them with customers, build wireframes and prototypes and then eventually a beta product before going to market. It's a tough process and the benchmarks we need to meet at each stage are challenging. We're willing to take risks, but we want to keep those risks as small as possible.
A bit about the products we've been working on:
1: Our first product (Product X) didn't make it out of that first discovery phase.
2: Our second product (Quix.app) made it to prototype, but is currently on hold (a better funded competitor launched the day we agreed on our MVP roadmap).
3: That brings us to our third attempt, Smidge (smidge.app). Smidge is currently in beta and whilst our first couple of attempts of a new product faltered early in the process, Smidge is ticking all the boxes it needs to tick. It's honestly very exciting.
The goal for these products is to identify an opportunity that is comparable in size (or greater) to BugHerd itself. We want a new product to replace that revenue and create ourselves a buffer. Once we nail that, we'll repeat the process. And then we'll do it again. All the while we get better and better at doing it. Eventually we'll have a fleet of BugHerd sized businesses, and hopefully some that are a magnitude or two bigger. That's the plan.
But why Quix and why Smidge? The answer is simple.
These are products that help us build better products.
Even if Smidge doesn't work for every other startup, it sure as hell is working for the BugHerd team. Even if no one ever buys it, it's helping us make our own products better. Each of these products helps us build a flywheel of momentum. By improving our processes, we reduce the risk of failures and increase the scale of our wins.
As we grow we're also on the look out for others to come in and do their own product. Some of our team have some great ideas already, and we're keen to support them (I'm also pretty keen to not be a founder any more, and excited about giving someone else a shot at it!).
We're playing the long game
The last thing to mention is that this is a 10 year project. We're largely self funded, we're profitable and we want to take our time. We have an amazing, dedicated team, and we're giving them the latitude to explore, experiment and take risks on these new ideas. It's early days, but we're already learning a heap as we go. It's exciting times!
Founder and CEO of Splitrock Studio