2015 started out weird at Wiredcraft. Our team had been around for about 5 years, hovering between 10 and 15 people. In all honesty, things had been stagnant for a while, mostly because a part of the team was working on building products of our own. We shipped a few, but only a couple found any real audiences.
By the end of 2014, things were actually looking pretty good: Wiredcraft had a few exciting things in the pipe, such as the Myanmar elections software, and the devo.ps team (me, Vincent and Juha) were invited to join Techstars. It seemed we’d try that “real startup” thing while leaving Wiredcraft in a good spot.
But, ultimately, we didn’t go to Techstars and we didn’t take on investment.
We had been through the whole process, registered a C-corp in Delaware, and were about to sign the last paper that would officially make us a part of the program. I told my colleagues we should head out and discuss it one more time before we jumped into this new venture.
Sitting at a bar a couple blocks from our office, we evaluated a lot of things. Some of it was personal, but there was also the looming fear that our traction and engagement weren’t high enough: we would most likely have to start the accelerator program with a complete pivot. And shouldn’t an accelerator program help us “accelerate” to raising a seed round rather than building a completely new product with no user validation?
So we stuck with Wiredcraft and worked. A lot. Up to the summer, we worked on many fronts, experimented with a few things, and started building out what is our strategy today. Revenue was starting to go up, we hired a few more folks, and started looking more seriously into our expansion into the US and Europe.
The few months leading to August had been pretty busy and everybody needed a break. We decided we’d send the entire team to Berlin and Prague to give them a chance to see what Europe was all about before we opened an office there (from what I’ve seen of the pictures, mostly beer and kebab).
Shortly after we got back home, a couple of our more senior folks left… Sh*t.
Every major issue we’ve run into helped us grow up. It’s hard to predict what will throw you onto the right path, but somehow it rarely looks (or feels) good. If somehow you manage to overcome it, you get stronger in the process.
I’m actually still organizing some of my thoughts around this, but I recommend you watch Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned: The Myth of the Objective by Kenneth Stanley. It was pretty eye-opening for me (I’d put it on the same level as Siddhartha).
Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned: The Myth of the Objective
The sudden exodus pushed us to build a larger, more resilient response to key staff departure. This forced us to improve our approach to recruitment with better processes, more thoughtful job ads (we write them like product pitches), and better promotion, which in turn led us to experiment more aggressively with marketing.
Things worked out pretty well in the end; the second half of 2015 ended up being even better than the first. Some numbers from the year:
We had some big wins, building the software running the Myanmar elections, winning a bid to rebuild the Open Data platform for the World Bank, and taking over the entire digital strategy of a major F&B company for the Chinese market, among (many) other things.
We also expanded our services with management/strategy consulting (helping other teams get their sh*t together and focus on what matters) and some hardware design (hello, Internet of Things).
We had to address a few things along the way:
Stick around, folks. Things are gonna be pretty fun in these next few months:
I hope to answer, at least partially, this question in the next few weeks. But it’s been bugging me for a while now. We’re increasingly applying strategies that we use for regular SaaS startups and have been experiencing a decent growth (both in terms of revenue and hiring). Does it qualify us as a startup or are consulting businesses not cool enough to wear that badge?
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