Ten years ago, The Alchemist changed my life. It was more than a book to me at the time. At the time, it was an affirmation of my brand of life living entirely. From the Alchemist I learned a lesson that would guide me year after year, play by play: To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation.
I would learn that lesson well.
The Art Of The Start
To be frank, I didn’t set out to sell product at all. I was planning to just write and contribute to open source projects. I kinda just fell into the Business Intelligence market.
Just not the kind of fall where your sprain your ankle. It was more like the kind of fall you take when you meet the love of your life for the first time.
Know what I mean?
The kind of fall you take when you finally realize what you’ll do for the rest of your life. That was our start too.
Three years ago, on a seemingly ordinary Friday night, I told a group of friends I could digitize one of their car dashboards in a day. One of them said, “Impossible. You’re full of shit.” He bet me $100 I couldn’t. I bet him a date with his girl if I could.
I was always a betting man. It’s in my blood. Pretty sure I got it from my grandfather - It’s served me well when it counts. It served me well that night.
I won that bet.
What happened to the girl? Well, let’s just say she’s not his girl anymore. My old friend learned a very valuable lesson that day: Never bet against a lion…Best case is you lose your money.
The First Thing We Sold
Building a prototype is one thing. Making the leap to selling product is a whole different story. Initially, we gave 1.0 away for free. The money is good, but it’s never been just about that for me.
Even today, I charge enough so we can be there for our customers when they need us. It’s my duty to make sure we charge enough so we can always be around to make our customers (the only Investors that matter) look amazing for making their bets on us. I’ll always guard that duty with the highest of care.
We have a lot of open source tools and products, so I initially thought this would just be a cool tool developers could use in their apps. A throw away. But, it wasn’t a throw away.
I’ve been writing on TechOctave for over three years now. When you write, the traffic increases, then recedes. That’s the normal state of affairs. But, not with our gauges. The interest simply never went away.
Week after week. Month after month. The interest was still there. Even today, our initial release of 1.0 is still the most read article on BI Dashboard Gauges.
Even with its tight coupling to jQuery and unnecessary use of CSS, developers still loved 1.0.
I Stood. Breathless.
Then I set out to do what any red blooded Starter would - I filled the need. I put together a small support team. I offered product tiers. I answered presales questions. And I sold 1.0.
You know what the hardest part was? I didn’t believe in 1.0. To me 1.0 was awful. 1.0 wasn’t the product I wanted to use. It didn’t meet my standards. But, I shipped it anyway because that’s the Start. Unpolished. Unfinished. Unapologetic.
Things got serious when I sold our first Fortune 500 customer. Mike (Let’s call him Mike) was building an executive dashboard for C-Level executives of his company.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Our 1.0 looked amazing and the API was simple without being simplistic. Those two aspects came to form the first 2 of 6 Core Principles we use to guide our products today.
We learned a lot from 1.0, but it was static, the ticks weren’t configurable, the colors weren’t configurable. The needle moved to the correct value and that was it.
I talk to every customer who joins the TechOctave family. If I didn’t help them through the sales process, I make sure I at-least thank them for their business and welcome them in.
Things were no different with Mike, I talked to Mike, welcomed him in and took his feedback back to the team. Mike was conservative, but I could tell he wasn’t happy.
Mike needed quicker control so he could make the perfect gauge in his image. Mike needed to not have to be a Photoshop master. That day, I understood that Mike and all the other Mike’s to come.
Mike was our first of ten developers on our Customer Feedback Group. Mike loved 2.0. Mike loved 2.0 so much he nearly lost his goddamn mind configuring the Gauge. I loved 2.0 as well.
Mike built his executive dashboard in-house. His looked better and out performed commercial off the shelf solutions. Mike’s executives loved his solution because it was specially made for them only like a custom solution can - with care.
After his launch, Mike got a raise and a promotion to Lead Developer. But, aside from that, I like to believe Mike got something even more valuable - He learned he’s a courageous developer.
Three years later, Mike and I are still close. He’ll never admit it, but he’s a betting man. He took a chance on a scrappy startup and won big. He learned that he doesn’t have to settle for inelegant interfaces, overly complex APIs and clueless customer service reps.
I learned something too.
I learned that part of the Start is your 1.0. That’s just part of the evolution because you have to start somewhere. And somewhere is better than nowhere.
Where We Are Today
We built 2.0 from the ground up to be cross-browser/cross-device compatible, 100% vector based and beautiful:
We then revisited the photorealistic qualities of our Gauges 1.0 and recaptured all it had to offer. This time with the configurability and power that only version 2.0 of our Gauges API could deliver:
Thousands of customers later, Hundreds of bug fixes, I can wholeheartedly say Gauges 2.0 makes me proud of the work we’ve done. The spirit of innovation is alive and well in the heartland. I’m proud to be apart of that and you be should too.
But innovation doesn’t rest and time waits for no man. Out beyond notions of right and wrong, fear and doubt, is a field. I’ll meet any man on that field. On that field is where challenges live and innovations are birth forth into this world.
Our customers are on that field. Waiting for us. I don’t intend to keep them waiting for long.
Looking Ahead To The Future
Shortly, we’ll branch out from the Data Visualization market and enter the Military Simulation & Training market as well.
The field is wide open. We’re seasoned. We have our processes in place. We’re closers. We’re hungry. We’re ready. Hoorah!
We will succeed on the quality of our products and our relentless pursuit of best-in-class solutions. And we will live as we always have, with strength of religion and unwavering focus of purpose.
You don’t need a 100 page business plan for that. You don’t need a bajillion dollars either. All you need is a little patience, some gumption and a penchant for side stepping the status quo.
We’ve got that. We live that. We breathe that.
All I ask is you grow with us.