The Beginning.

Back in 2012, I became determined to build a tech company. Full of naive optimism, I was one of many who believed that Mark Zuckerberg’s success with Facebook was replicable. The internet was fertile grounds for easy success.

Drunk on the inspirational stories of successful founders (and the occasional glass or two of whiskey), I set out to create the next big thing.

In order of attempt, the “next big thing” was…

  • an app that would allow restaurant/bar patrons to follow their favorite bartenders and servers
  • an app that would make it easier to plan events with close friends by moving the discussion from text message to an organized app interface
  • a service that would allow restaurants/bars to subscribe users to SMS notifications for upcoming events
  • a Twitter application that would automate tasks in order to gain more followers.

These were sobering experiences.

But, the work that I’ve put into these endeavors has been quite rewarding. The Twitter startup was lucrative enough that it allowed me to quit my full-time job, at least for 8 months. More importantly, it renewed my ambitions and reframed how I thought about starting a tech business.

Unfortunately, building an application that is dependent on Twitter is not a formula for long-term success. I had known this since starting the project, but the reality of the situation made itself apparent in September when 70% of the company’s MRR evaporated in one day. It was time to move on.

Packstack: The next project

Earlier this year, I met with Chase Wackerfuss and Rob Louie — two developers that I knew were interested in working on a tech side project — to brainstorm ideas.

Initially, it really didn’t matter what we decided to work on. When you haven’t directly worked with people on a side project before, the most important thing is to see if you can work together. Is everyone doing their fair share? Is quality work being produced? Is it easy to communicate and resolve conflicts?

In retrospect, things worked out very well. Usually, one person is constantly having to re-motivate the team, which isn’t a sustainable situation.

Our idea was to create software that would allow travel bloggers to easily embed packing lists into their blog posts. Recently, we released a beta:

We’ve identified a few problems with this idea:

  • The market is relatively small
  • Individuals in the market usually live on a fairly tight budget and look to cut costs as much as possible
  • It is a difficult market to advertise to because there is no existing precedent for it

We started this blog to document the next stage of our journey.

Packstack is going to become a “generalized list management system.” If this sounds confusing, it’s because the concept is still new to us too.

Each step of the way, we’ll be posting sketches, marketing ideas, setbacks, feature considerations, team decisions and whatever else comes up as we gently pivot our product.

We’ve decided to make this a candid, open discussion of our efforts rather than sugarcoat it. This stuff is hard, but it’s also fun and interesting. We want to share our process, and we’d love hear what you think we’re doing right and where we’re getting it wrong.

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