We went out to lunch in mid-October. I was a mess. I was learning Android development, had a ridiculous goal of shipping before Christmas. I had a lot of code to re-write. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas I averaged 15 hour days and took off only one afternoon where I was so tired I couldn’t do anything but stare at a football game. I have no idea who was playing.
At one point I couldn’t even tell you what we were doing anymore. I was completely lost. I was tying myself up in knots trying to describe the business while note using the word “calculate.” Calculate, of course, is uncool, and if we are uncool then how are we ever going to attract customers and attract investors.
It was mid-October and the development team was at lunch. I looked at the guys and said, help me. I can’t even describe the product anymore. I don’t know what we do.
They looked at me like I was nuts. We are writing a web and mobile app that makes it brain-dead easy to perform calculations.
But that’s nerdy, I protested.
Duh, they said.
So that’s it, I asked. We are writing an app that makes it possible to perform your calculations anywhere, the first time in weeks I could say what we do without hesitating, and the first time in a year I could sum it up in just a couple of words.
We are niche, I protested.
Sure, they said, if you think that “niche” is something that millions of people do every day.
Since then I’ve wondered if part of the reason I’ve been able to grind on something like calculation software for so long is because I picked something most people wouldn’t touch. If I wanted to write the next Twitter, I think I’d be drowned out by the amount of funding going into the space. But because I picked something out of favor, as most productivity software is these days, it affords me the ability to think about it and iterate on the ideas for a very long time.
Make no mistake, though, that lunch was a turning point for me. For the first time in ages I was okay with what we do. We like numbers, we try to make them easy to analyze and understand. Calculation is the name of our game.
Fine, we are uncool. I can live with that as long as I can find enough customers who think we are cool to make it possible for us to keep working on our products for years to come.