Launching: First Week

(Bugs anyone?)

by Adi Hillel

I woke up on the morning of May 6th, and my coffee tasted like hope. Everything seemed possible. It was a big day for us; the day our venture was to be born and take its first hesitant steps in the real world. Like any protective parent, I was nervous about its first encounter with the world — what if nobody likes it? What if it doesn't like anybody? Funny, how we project our biggest fears on the objects that surround us; or on web-based products, in my case. At that very moment of inner terror I decided — as soon as I raise some seed funding, I’ll start seeing a therapist! Yes I will!

But in the meantime, there we were my coffee and I, sharing an intimate moment before it all began. I started writing my list in bed, before I got up. Lists are my number one technique of pretending I’m in control. They usually help.

An Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, re-arranged in lines

Number one on the list was:
Make Hubitus public.
Number two:
Face the results.

So I went to do some yoga instead.




Eventually, after another hour of highly creative procrastination (I suddenly became very interested in female figures in the bible), I went to my desk, and wrote a FB status.

It started with:

Hi friends!
I’m very excited to announce that after a very long journey,
Hubitus is airing today!

And ended with:

Thank you in advance and from the depth of my heart
(I will be eternally grateful)
and see you on Hubitus!

The middle was composed of too many sentences that could have been summed up in three words:

please be patient.

And then I logged into Hubitus and stared at the admin board, unable to move my eyes off the surprising drizzle of users into the site. People actually READ my post, and a small yet sustainable portion of them took our call to action as, how to say it, A CALL TO ACTION. Gosh, I really didn't expect that to happen. I was only trying to make a symbolic gesture by saying — ”I’m ready to play the game,” but I didn't imagine you guys were really up to it.

I was just joking with you

And then, from nowhere, it began: THE ATTACK OF THE DEVIOUS BUGS.
Now, I’m only an arachnophobic screenwriter and my technical knowledge begins and ends with Microsoft Word. I have never downloaded a torrent in my life, not in the name of copyright protection, but only because I've never understood how to actually do it. For me, programming is witchcraft which is performed in my messy kitchen by the amazing sorcerer — Nami the mighty, our CTO. So as you may imagine, I wasn't mentally prepared for what had just happened. I panicked.

Back away. Please…

I called Nami. He came running, sat down with his laptop and made no sound for the entire day, which was OK, because I made so many sounds, that there was no room for more. I mumbled to myself; I screamed at the computer; I snorted impatiently; I chuckled hysterically; I choked; I cursed; I swore to take revenge; I begged for mercy; I pretended to be fainting, with all the needed gestures, as one can expect from a melodramatic creature like myself; I called Ella. It was her teaching day at school, but she answered. I heard kids shouting around her.

Me: Ella, I’m shutting Hubitus down. I’m going to ask our lawyer to close the company. That’s it. We had some fun, we launched the goddamn product, we can call it a day.

Ella: Don’t talk nonsense. Everything is going exactly as we planned.

And I must admit, she was right; it actually was. Soft-launching our premature product was deliberate; it was a conscious decision — to build Hubitus WITH our users, using continuous feedback loops.

So here are some of the things we encountered during our first three days:

The Duplicator Bug

Thought that if you double-click on a Muse it will activate & deactivate your choice? Think again.

Ella, it’s not funny!
Nami, do you mean to tell me that none of you SIX CTO’s can fix it???

The There’s-a-Ghost-in-Hubitus Bug

Apparently, most of the Muses in this picture don’t really exist; these are just traces of their past activity. It makes you THINK you’re not alone in the world, when you actually ARE.


The CEO-Just-Turned-Into-a-Teddy-Bear Bug

This is what happens when I try to have a personal life, while maintaining presence on Hubitus.

The pressure is getting to me…

But with all due respect to BUGS, which can be fixed in a day, or two, or three weeks, we knew that in order to make a product that people actually want, we must optimize our value, not only fix what we've just broken. We needed to collect enough effective data, to analyse it and iterate accordingly. And as first-time entrepreneurs, we had to invent methods that would enable us to do so efficiently enough, so as not to be caught sprawled out on the ground, gasping for breath.

So this is what we did:

We tracked our users’ activity during the week and collected insights on retention and engagement levels. This chart also reflected activation issues — the green cells indicate users who did not activate their webcams, while sky-blue means their webcams were on (and that they provided increasing value to others by being Muses).

We also made immediate contact with most of them. Some were our closest friends, some were friends of friends, but some were complete strangers (you can’t imagine the joy). We asked all of them about their first experience, and each one of them gave remarkable feedback, which we added to this table:

At the end of the week, Ella and I mapped out this information. We began with writing every single remark on a different note, until the whole dining room table became pink.

Then we divided the post-its into clusters; each cluster focusing on a different subject like: privacy issues, goal setting, landing page messaging and so on.

Who’s idea was this?

Only then, did we go back to the computer, and place them all in a new chart. We wrote for example: 8 users didn't understand what Hubitus does, 7 users wanted the option to chat with others or 5 users forgot that their camera was on.

After facing the issues that were raised, qualitatively and quantitatively, we had to think of solutions and make decisions — what to cut, what to add, where to shift focus, which feature should be next, or in other words: what iterations should we make?

This required Ella’s magic box and a printed paper prototype:

We started sketching:

And then, back to Google docs we went. BUT, writing down a list of iterations is hardly enough; to turn these items into ACTION ITEMS, we needed to prioritize them. And it’s not that easy. In each category there’s a natural evolution — we must activate the writing clock BEFORE we freeze it, and we must freeze it BEFORE we provide users with their net/gross writing metrics. That’s obvious.

But, when dealing with limited resources, we had to come up with a crosswise layout, and take various variables into account. To do so, we copy-pasted the segmented list into an arbitrary checklist on Trello, so that we have the option to drag-&-drop the items and rearrange them on a daily basis, after much negotiations.

Nevertheless, running a startup is not only iterating on the product itself, but also on the practices we utilize, the team dynamics and the company culture. The metrics of the product might be retention, referrals and conversion rate, but our personal metrics as co-founders are everlasting learning, constant adjustment to the unknown and flexibility of the mind. Our methods of measuring and drawing conclusions may change; they MUST change, to become better. And how WE define “better”, is also a matter of perpetual discussion.

I think I’ll go back to yoga after all…

So now, we are left with NO EXCUSE. We have no other choice but to keep moving down the list and make things work. No wait, I found one! It’s called Game-of-Thrones-Season-5-Episode-6.

Hubi what…? Can’t hear you; Khaleesi is MY MUSE now, go find your own or come back in one hour.

Now seriously, leave the dragons be and come join us, we write beside you.