Getting back to the drawing board

What‘s next after Makeshift?

I’m leaving Makeshift

The idea of Makeshift was to try out many tiny “hacks” and turn the best ones into digital products that could become businesses.

Year one was all about invention — we sketched up about fifty ideas, and did twelve prototypes.

Year two was all about choosing what to focus on and converting the best of those prototypes into businesses, shelving the ones that looked least promising.

Entering year three, we now have three products that have succeeded through this process — Wrangler, Hire My Friend and Attending. Each has a passionate CEO / product person leading it, users, growth, revenue and is a startup in its own right.

Experiment complete

We’ve now hit a natural break point. There’s no room to make new products — all of our efforts have been going into these three ideas. Whilst I’d hoped to have continued the process of constant invention long-term with Makeshift, indeed that was my ambition with this venture, for me it’s time to say “experiment complete”.

I’ve learnt so much in such a short space of time. About building multiple things in parallel, about what does and doesn’t work in the startup studio model, about focus, passion, collaboration, attention, sacrifice, hacky code, product-quality code, design, pragmatism, constraint… Gosh it feels like I’ve been through some kind of high-intensity education programme!

I joked with some friends recently that there’s probably a book in all of this. “Yes, Stef, clearly there is, so please write it!” was the response. You know, maybe I’ll start putting some thoughts down in writing.

Attending to Attending

Of the many things we’ve made, Attending is the one you’ll find me hacking away on in my spare time, because I love the kinds of things it enables.

When I get (thankfully-infrequent) bug reports they usually look like this: “Hey! Did you know that this function isn’t working quite right for some reason? I really need it fixing! Love Attending, by the way”.

The high incidence of the word “love” in feedback is a strong indicator that I should keep on improving this little product. To date, it’s basically been my side project, because my time has been directed elsewhere during the week. In particular, over the last six months I’ve been doing a handover with a brilliant CEO and bringing on a new technical lead on Hire My Friend.

The ongoing development of Attending is largely limited by what I’m able to achieve as an individual. I’m really grateful for the contributions by the members of the Makeshift team who lent a hand for some short, yet very valuable stints of work along the way. Especially the “relaunch” month where a few of us took my little hack and moulded it into the beginnings of a beautiful tool.

I quite like the simplicity that a lack of time and resources has forced on this product. I think it shows through in the design and the usability of it. Simple. No time for anything complicated. “Sorry I’ve not got round to that feature because I can only work on what’s important”. There’s probably a post I should write: The Casio keyboard approach to web development?

Attending is going to continue being my bootstrapped let’s-see-where-this-goes project and I’m confident that it will continue to be a valuable tool for people who run meetups, talks, workshops and other events that support the startup scene. I’m excited about the features I’ll be releasing this Spring!

Opening up to new opportunities

Thanks to everyone I’ve had the pleasure of working with at Makeshift, full-timers, freelancers, all our “alumni” — such a talented bunch of people. Especially to my co-founders Nick and Paul. Paul will be continuing to invest in the Makeshift model and has a plan to instigate a series of ideas with a narrower focus in one particular industry.

I love it that I’m leaving with stories of people who’ve used our products to support their own projects. I’m pleased that Pact Coffee get so much value out of Wrangler, that a humble Linkydink group turned into the wildly successful Product Hunt and that events like Happy Startup Camp started life on Attending!

I’ve written in the past about how I oscillate between “let a thousand flowers bloom” and “have laser focus on one thing” modes. Right now I’m most definitely in the flowers mode. Over this next period I’ll be feeling around for the project that will be that laser focus.

I’m chatting to a few people about what my immediate project focus will be. Nothing is decided yet, so if you have something that you think could be an interesting opportunity, ask a friend to introduce us?

Makeshift has been one of those storyful experiences that I’ll probably only understand properly in years to come. Thanks for following along with it.

I feel like I’m in the most productive part of my life yet. Whatever I do next is going to be a distillation of everything I’ve learnt about hacks, code, design, product, marketing, people, passion and purpose. Here’s to the next.

If you want to hear about my future adventures, I have an infrequent mailing list and a much more frequent Twitter account.