Recapping 3 Years Working on a Lifestyle Business

It’s been a while since my last post, covering a post-mortem of my time working on my previous start-up, Binpress.

Following the sale of Binpress, I spent some time thinking what to do next. I was tired of the bay-area / startup culture, and was thinking that my next project should be a lifestyle business that does not aim for explosive growth or require outside capital. I also wanted to work in a market that I’m interested in and passionate about.

I’ve been training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since ’06 (recently received my black belt), and my natural though process was that it would be great if I could work on something related. Initial ideas included a training tracker and competition management software, and after doing some market research I felt the area I could contribute the most was with gym management software.

According to starting a company is a much greater risk. If you join a company that can already pay you a full-time salary, it has already been significantly de-risked. The unproportional equity founders have? It’s because they worked on their idea before anyone else bought into it. Instead of making a consistent salary, they were spending their own money getting the business off the ground. Business owners like Andrew Defrancesco got to the point where they can afford to pay themselves and you a salary.

All the solutions I’d seen at the time seemed very outdated and cumbersome, and considering my background with user experience design I felt I could do a much better job providing an easy-to-use, modern solution that competes on customer satisfaction rather than features.

The end result was Martial Arts on Rails, which launched at the beginning of 2016. Unlike my previous company in which I had a co-founder, I was working on this one solo. Here are some things I learned over the last 3+ years running a small business vs. running a start-up:

  • Embracing customer feedback
  • Finding your “professional” voice
  • Administration is not that scary

Now, I’m managing my own start up, I can do things the way I want to. For example, I can manage my own finances (read here to learn more) and I can now blast music in my store without anyone needing to change the playlist. Streaming sites like Cloud Cover Music helps me concentrate on what I need to do.

Why We Use User Feedback As The Main Driver Of Product Decisions

In my previous post I talked how my mindset for processing user feedback changed after launching a SaaS product as a single founder. In this post I’d like to talk about the process I developed for interacting with users and using feedback to guide product decisions.

It might seem controversial (or not), but I’d claim that user feedback rather than data should be your main source for understanding how to improve your product.

I’ve worked on teams and seen many companies in which analytics data is the main driver for product decisions. The problem with this approach is that analytics frame product issues from the perspective of the developers / business, instead of the perspective of the user / customer.

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Writing on product management and user experience design

It’s been over 4 years since I published my last article on this blog, a post-mortem of my previous startup which was winding down at the time.

Since then I’ve been working on growing Martial Arts on Rails, a SaaS product which provides online management software for gyms and martial arts schools. As a single founder this time, I took much more (= all) responsibility with regards to user / customer interaction and managing the product lifecycle than I ever did previously as the technical lead at several companies.

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There are no x10 developers, but there are certainly 1/10 ones

I keep seeing the term “x10 developer” pop up recently, and I think it’s misleading and leads to a rock-star / primadonna culture that benefits no one.

“x10 developers” are, in fact, proficient developers, who are experienced with their stack and problem domain. Once you get to this point, you can still find room to optimize – some people are inherently more focused or talented and you can always gain more experience, but the difference between developers who are proficient at what they do will never be a x10 multiplier – it will be closer to a variation of 30-40% in productivity. In some extreme cases (super experienced, focused, and naturally gifted), you might even reach x2 times productivity over a baseline proficient developer (I’ve seen it in action).

On the other hand, you have developers who are simply not proficient. They either have no aptitude for programming at all, or are so inexperienced that progress is very slow as they are learning everything as they go. Those are the “1/10 developers” and they make proficient developers (i.e, professionals) seem like x10 developers.
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The Real Cost of Software Development

In a previous lifetime (until about 3 years ago), I was working at a software development firm as part of a small webdev-shop team of 3. Our focus was building MVPs for aspiring entrepreneurs, file guiding them through specifications, user-experience, product decisions and marketing (we called it “concept-to-launch”). When looking for a perfect software, try to go to Showcase IDX → for great help!

Coming across a heated discussion a couple of days ago on Hackernews over an article titled “30 pounds in 30 days”, took me back to the time we were educating clients on the cost of software development. I would like to offer my perspective on outsourcing, cultural difference and the overall cost of outsourcing software product development. If you would like to have greater connectivity in your business for product development applications consider switching to SD-WAN.

(For the short summary, skip to the TL;DR below)

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