Focus: Why I'm Killing My New Startup Before Even Launching It

I'm the founder of Beatrix, a social media marketing SaaS product.

1 year old. Bootstrapped, profitable and proud.

Monthly revenue from Beatrix has afforded me a year of digital nomad travel around Asia: in 2014 I took over 34 international flights and stayed in over 41 different hotels, enjoying life, meeting new people, writing code and answering only to myself.

It's the kind of life that many people dream of.

But if you're an entrepreneur... you always want more.

The New Beatrix

I love marketing (I even wrote a book on it) and I wanted to evolve Beatrix beyond being a social media tool. A good marketer needs to work with multiple channels. Email, paid media, social media, blogs and other forms of content, affiliates / referrals - the list goes on. I wanted Beatrix to be good at a few of these channels, not just one. In short, evolving Beatrix from a social media tool to a more holistic marketing tool.

Around August 2014 I started to work on a huge update to Beatrix.

It was going to be the big "2.0" release with tons of new features. I started coding, but with a new bigger scope, things got complicated.

The New Startup

Adding big new "flagship" features to a product creates a lot of engineering overhead. I think this scared me a little. I could see how complex things were getting in the codebase, and I became less confident that I could design an interface that would make sense of all the new stuff. I engineered myself into a corner and in my panic, came up with a way out: launch all these new features as a brand new product.

And if I'm totally honest with myself, I suffer from a common entrepreneur affliction: I'm always looking to start something new. Sometimes it's hard to remain focused.

Enter Inflowio. A brand new inbound marketing tool, from the makers of Beatrix (TM).

The Inflowio Marketing Push

In November 2014 I launched Inflowio with a campaign. Come and be my intern on the beach for a month, all expenses paid, for 2 interns. The revenue from Beatrix would support this, but it was still going to be a big chunk of cash factoring in flights, accommodation and misc expenses like transport, meals and booze to keep the interns happy.

The campaign was a huge success. 2.4k Likes on Facebook, loads of internship applications, hundreds of mailing list signups for Inflowio, multiple appearances in the tech press.

But I had a sinking feeling. This is a feeling that many entrepreneurs will have felt before. The feeling that the hype behind your product cannot be sustained by the quality of your product. At this stage, Inflowio wasn't a coherent product yet. It was a bunch of features that I pulled out of Beatrix 2.0. And early user feedback was lukewarm.

To put it in annoyingly vague product-guy parlance:

The product didn't "feel" right.

Killing Inflowio

Time marches on. The Inflowio internship began this month (January 2015) and we are currently all in Koh Samui working. Pressure was building from all directions.

(L-R: me, Gwen and Hendric the two successful interns from the campaign)

The goal was to launch Inflowio at the end of the month but the product wasn't all there. To Hendric and Gwen, the atmosphere was uncertain - it became unclear what they were working on since Inflowio at this point was a broken half-product with no clear value proposition.

And to top it all off it's freaking raining in Koh Samui.

I talked with my loved ones.

I talked with my interns.

I talked with my pen and paper, my mind, and the universe.

The answer became clear.

I had let my vanity and the challenge of exponentially improving Beatrix, trick me into launching a new product. The easy way out, the more glamorous way. When actually the right thing to do was to focus on what I already had.

Keep working on Beatrix. Keep improving. Keep growing.

The Focus: Beatrix 2.0

As of today we are 100% focused on rolling out a brand new Beatrix by the end of January. And you know what? When this epiphany was reached, everything fell into place. I looked at my wireframes for Beatrix 2.0 and what once seemed daunting and unfriendly, now just needed a few tweaks to turn into something beautiful and coherent. Inflowio by itself was weak - but integrated into Beatrix, it strengthens the whole product. The road ahead is much clearer. The goals for all of us have became more concrete. Everyone understands what they are working on and why.

And we've decided to head to Phuket where there is sunshine :)

I wasted almost half a year working on a product that I'll never launch. From the campaign, I got a ton of press coverage and awesome backlinks that could have been given to Beatrix. I neglected my main business due to my vanity, or my curiosity (depending on how nicely you want to label it).

This has been an incredibly valuable lesson on the importance of focus.

I will not lose focus again.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to work on Beatrix 2.0 :)

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