At the start of 2013, we took a moment to pause and reflect on this first year of existence of 8th color (see Christophe’s post for the numbers). This was the opportunity to ponder the choices made, confirm some and update others. This was basically the base of our strategic plan for 2013. But more than that, it was for me the revealer of some "smart" moves we made to catch opportunities during this last year.
Life in a starting business
You read it everywhere, and we read it too before even starting: this is not about your ideas, this is about your customers pains. So, as believers in a “Customer Development” approach, we tried to get and listen to as much feedback as we could. This lead us to some interesting situations on various subjects.
About the customer segment, we started targeting large software companies with Sybil. We presented it at various occasions and events, and get a surprising feedback: smaller companies and teams did found the idea interesting. That looked like a “good thing”, as those companies were much easier to approach (process are a lot less complicated in a company of 10 than in a large corporation of 3000), so we refactored the message somewhat to also target smaller companies.
About the users, our objective was to create a tool that would be useful to developers, but progressively got more interest from their managers.
About the customer himself (remember, you never sell to a company, you sell to a specific person inside it), we started talking to IT managers, then got progressively interest from HR managers. Again, that gave us two possible points of entry, and we took care to update the message to make it pertinent for both.
As for the company itself, we bootstrapped it, while keeping an eye for possible investments to get rid of the time consuming consultancy business.
In the end
In the end, when we finally take time to pause and reflect (because all of this happened in a hurry of actions, event, code, customer contacts and other activities that looked to never end), two clear conclusions did appear.
First of all that we were getting somewhere, to find we did not want to be there - we started with a vision, and get lost along the way. I’m at ease with the fact that making 8th color a success means investing a lot of energy in it, but for this to have meaning, I need to believe in what we are bringing to the world - it cannot be just about the money, and there are much easier ways to be financially comfortable in IT. There is clearly a market for a HR Skills management tool using automated techniques. But this is not the company and tool we want to build.
Second, that it is about making choices, about closing doors, and we avoided doing that for a large part of 2012.
No amount of coaching, reading, support or mentoring will protect you for making mistakes - you have to do some of them yourself. The only requirement is to fix them when you realize it. So, what are we doing in 2013 ? We’re back to our roots.
We’ll make a product by developers, for developers. And we close doors. A lot of them.
About our new product, it is still a little early to speak about it, but stay tuned. And if you are (or know) a Ruby programmer using GitHub for some projects, drop me a mail or a PM, we would like to discuss our product with you (a quick Skype of 20 minutes would help us a lot).