A day in the life of an early-stage tech startup

Update: this startup failed, and we’ve documented the lessons we learned here.

Startup life — it’s not all late-night coding sessions fueled by pizza and Moutain Dew. In fact, we eat healthy, drink green tea, and leave the office at 5:30 to go home to our families.

Startup life is tough, real tough, and don’t let the media’s glamorization fool you; most of us won’t make it.

So what does a day in the life of a startup look like? For me it’s a balance of product development, building a social media audience, and fine tuning conversions on our website’s sign-up form.

Wake up and check my phone. How many new Twitter followers did I get overnight? Only 25... damn. Last night it was 37. How many people signed up on the landing page? Only 3!

Arrive at the office. Put the tea on. Fire up the computer and load up SocialBro. Unfollow all the people I followed yesterday that haven’t followed me back. Search for new people to follow who are tweeting about startups. Maybe tomorrow I’ll look for people tweeting about #growthhacking. I really hate that term.

Sometimes you need to make remedial tasks a but more interesting

The follow-backs are rolling in now. Every time my phone beeps a rush of endorphins gives me the hit I crave. No wonder I’m obsessed with this. Time to retweet last night’s tweets and think up something fresh to post today. I’m not feeling all that creative so I might steal someone else’s popular tweet.

Ok Twitter is done. Time to get through my email… Lawyer wants to make a time to meet to go over stakeholder agreement. What pain, just give me something to sign! Meeting Friday. Done. Now to mass delete all the auto-DMs from people I’m following. No, I WON’T like your Facebook page. Jeez, do these get results for anyone?! I really need to get into my settings and turn these off.

Too many people asking me to Like their Facebook page

Jump on Unbounce.com and check how the landing page A/B conversions are performing. Ok, test A is converting 12% and test B is converting 4%. I’ll scrap test B and see what I can improve on test A to increase that rate. Maybe I can move the sign-up form above the video and make it more visible.

A/B testing helps tweak design and content to increase conversions

Time to check Adwords and Twitter Ads. Ok, we spent $60 over the last 24 hours and got 10 new email subscribers. Wow, that’s $6 per subscriber and maybe one of them will convert into a paying customer. That’s just too high. Do I pause the campaigns until we launch the product and hope for a better conversion or shall I just swallow the cost because we’re generating interest in the product? I press the pause button, but 2 minutes later unpause it. I do this almost every day as I watch our spend steadily rise. This is money coming out of my pocket after all and I’ve spent over $280 for a grand total of 43 subscribers. Perhaps I’ll do some more A/B testing of ads to try and increase click conversion.

Woah, look at the time. It’s the busiest time on Twitter right now so I need to go retweet my best tweets and maybe look for something to retweet. I just don’t have time to read all these blog posts and articles. Most of them say the same thing anyway.

My head of development wants my opinion on changing the field type “plain text” to just “text.” I say “plain text” and he says “text.” We have a debate on whether HTML links can be considered “plain text.” I say yes, he says no. The conversation trails off and we don’t come to an agreement, so I’ll assume he’s going to change it to say “text.”

It’s not even noon yet but I need to eat. I’ll use this time to read some articles about growing your social media presence.

Oh here’s a good one. I’ll link that on Twitter.

One of the stakeholders has sent through his feedback on the internal beta. I’ll need to write back and tell him all the features he wants will be part of the live beta. Wasn’t he listening at the MVP meeting?!

Need to see how the usability tests are going on usabilityhub.com. Ok good, people are getting it. They know where to click on the landing page. Should I do a 5-second test on brand trustworthiness? I think putting a trademark symbol on the logo would add credibility. D’oh, I don’t have enough “karma.” I’ll need to take some random tests myself to build up enough credits.

usabilityhub’s heatmap shows where people are clicking on the site

Oops, I did more tests than I needed. Doing this is addictive.

I need to finish the image upload mock-up and send it through to the devs.

Photoshopping design ideas for the devs to turn into code

I’m having a moment. What the hell are we doing? No one is going to want to use this product. Are we wasting our time? Should we have done more market validation before we started coding? When are we going to start making some money from this? I need fresh air and coffee.

Oh look, someone just signed up to the email list. My faith is restored. People actually are interested in this. Yes, it’s going to be awesome! Am I bipolar?

Argh, it’s been a few hours since I tweeted anything. Better go re-post something. Oh, no one favorited or retweeted this morning’s post. That’s embarrassing. Better delete it.

Just had an idea for a blog post. This one will definitely be a winner. I can see it now. It will spread virally on Twitter and thousands of people will sign up on our website and then one day I’ll write a blog post about how we got 10,000 beta sign-ups overnight. Better get writing.

Argh, this post is terrible. What point am I actually trying to make? No one’s going to want to read this. What a waste of time. I’ll pick up on this in the morning. It’s nearly time to go home.

I’ll just check how that new ad on Google is performing… What?! My ads aren’t running? I thought I unpaused the campaign? Oh, my bids are too low. But I have auto-bid set, that’s your fault, Google, not mine. Don’t you want my $100 a day??

Oh, I forgot to check the blog stats today. My post on investor capital has only had 8 views and only 5 read the whole thing. Damn, I spent a whole afternoon writing that. I thought it was good. Why is no one reading it? I’ll just re-post it on Twitter and try and drum up some more views.

Medium’s stats tell you if your blogs sucked

I’ll just check on how that brand trustworthiness test is going. Ok, the consensus is that the TM makes it more trustworthy. I better get all the logos updated.

Usabilitityhub’s preference test on two designs

Damn, it’s nearly 5:30 and I’ve only spent an hour and a half on the actual product today. Am I spending too much time on social media and blog posts? Will this audience I’m building up actually be interested in our product launch?

I’ll just quickly check the latest beta release and make notes of any bugs to fix.

Oops, look at the time, better head home before I get in trouble with the wife.

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