The Startup Serial 9: Change of Plans, Again

I guess a straight path just isn’t gonna happen for now (Photo by Jamie Street from Unsplash)

So this probably isn’t much of a surprise, but we’re making some changes again out of necessity.

Early this month, James, MJ, and I had a conversation. The gist of it was this: based on the resources available to us, was our plan of completing a website as well as a mobile app a reasonable plan? Was it doable?

We laid it all out on the table, where we were at, how much more we needed to get done, and most importantly, whether we had the resources and time to meet the September deadline..

So here, let’s take this opportunity to thoroughly assess our tech capabilities. I can do frontend web development fairly decently. I can be pretty good with HTML and CSS, as well as a bit of JavaScript given enough time. I coded the entire frontend when we did the beta, and I practice here and there as well.

As the CTO, MJ is obviously the tech strong-arm in our group. Our site is built upon Node.JS, and he handles the backend as well as the front end, though he is still learning a lot of stuff as he goes.

Between Mina and Chelsea, we also have additional frontend capacity, but we need them to focus more on design. Also, after the end of August, they won’t be with us anymore.Around the time when James was bringing this up, it was early August.

Ergo, it was impossible with the manpower and the time we had. We had to give something up.

We decided to give up the app. We chose instead to make a mobile responsive website.

I didn’t really feel comfortable with this.

The first reason was that it was another delay. We promised a mobile app, and we were delaying that. I didn’t want us to fall into a pattern of making promises only to delay that promise. The re-launch was our big statement to people that we could do this, and we could do this better, and that it was going to be a great experience.

Now that we had decided to wind back on that promise, I felt a bit fidgety on how this was going to dampen things.

Another thing was that I personally wanted that app. It’s the kind of experience that I myself want to see more of. The whole point of the app was that we wanted to give a nice mobile experience. Both James and I had seen what mobile webtoon applications could do and we wanted to replicate that more or less.

It really made my shoulders sag.

Then we recently had our last and final trip out to Toronto. The contract with the designers were ending this month, and we wanted to have a wrap-up session. We had told the designers early on that we would have to focus on the website for now and delay the app.

Before we made that trip out, the four of us, MJ, Mina, Chelsea and I, had long Skype discussions on what to do based on this new set of circumstances. Suddenly, there were so many things that we needed to do. They hadn’t thought of what the mobile responsive site would look like because we weren’t going to make a mobile responsive site. It was deemed unnecessary because we were going to have the app. We needed a new plan.

First, Mina and Chelsea had to come up with new designs for mobile optimization.

Also, the previous designs from them, as we were beginning to find out after coding them, were looking very inadequate. This was something we all agreed on, and the change of plans became a catalyst toward improving the existing designs. So until the date of our arrival in Toronto, Mina and Chelsea focused on getting the new designs out, and once we got there we put our heads together for the weekend in this effort for establishing everything into place so that we could finish the website for mid-september.

We came on an early morning bus and arrived in Toronto some time after noon. Right away, we got down to business. We were there until the Sunday. As we were continuing our charge into each task, it just kept unwrapping, like an onion. Each thing we tried to tackle brought 2 or 3 other problems with it once we had our hands on it.

Mina and Chelsea are trying their best to hide their faces while MJ is his usual ‘idgaf’ mode.

On the third day, we were looking at this huge monster of a task list. It was disconcerting, and the situation wasn’t at all that cheerful to start.

I mean, this was daunting even if I was going to redirect all my attention toward the dev process, and I commit a lot of hours toward Tabulit in general.

So that is when came the next inevitable realization: we had to delay it. There was no way we were going to be able to finish all of this by mid-September.

Therefore, the final decision was this. We would get the website’s basic functions done by September 15th, and put them all to test. This would be our testing period, allowing all the writers, artists and publishers to try out the site. Then, for the following two weeks, we would fix the bugs and add the extra functions that we wanted in. The official launch date would be set to October 1st.

Here I’ll just say it out loud. I’m very frustrated. I don’t know if it takes this long for anyone else, but I just can’t shake the feeling that we’re basically miring in this unending loop of stagnation. I’m frustrated that our capacities can never come remotely close to what we want to actually accomplish. I’m tired of always having to roll back on our promises, as well as having to discover that we always have to pick what we can do, not what we want to do. It’s been like this since, well, ever.

Perhaps, the conflict is always this: do we want to get something out there as quickly as possible or do we want something out there that is decent and meets a certain level of quality. The former, I find, is easier to do. You can literally get anything out. The problem is, is it good enough?

People say all this stuff about lean growth. I’ve had advice that we should just push out even the most primitive version of anything as quickly as possible because at least it gets out there.

Then again, we don’t want to put something crappy out. We already did that actually, back in February. Only that at the time we were deluded into thinking that it was fantastic. If we want to tell people that we are special snowflakes in the industry, then we have to be special snowflakes ourselves, and that means striving for as best as we can do with what we have.

So maybe all of these delays and disappointments, it’s inevitable. We don’t have any money. We don’t have any geniuses or celebrities on the team. We don’t have some spectacular piece of knowledge or idea that is guaranteed to just take us off into the stratosphere. We’re just three guys that love comics and books, who happened to luck into certain fortunes on the way, like the designers, and Isabelle.

Perhaps also, I could imagine that if we only had money. If we had some kind of funding, this would all be okay.

But obviously, I’m not going to think about that. There’s absolutely no point in thinking about money that we don’t have. Maybe James will be able to score funding somewhere, but my priority is not there.

At this point, I want to focus wholly on is how to get this idea out there. It’s fucking due. We formed Tabulit to prove to the world that fiction novels and comics can be a contender in the mainstream content market, without breaking the backs of creators. We’ve talked about it enough. It’s time we put it to action.

So if these changes will let us get there, I’ll take it. I’ll make those compromises. I’ll swallow my frustration.

I’m just crossing my fingers, that this time we won’t change our course anymore. This time we’ll make it to the finish line.