Building a startup: from darkness to light (may – september 2013)

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Last 5 months were so busy that I didn’t find enough time to write on this blog. As you understand, I put almost all my energy in Cozy Cloud. During that time we get our first traction: we were selected in startup events, to be a part of an accelerator, we were pressed and most of all our community get significantly bigger. Here is the story.

Startup competitions

We were selected to compete in several startup contests: Web2Day, LeWeb, ICT… That was a good thing: it offered us feedback on how to build our pitch for investors. The drawback was that it kept us from improving our product or making our user/customer research.
NB: Another good thing is that when you are looking for collaborators of any kind, it brings you credibility. People pay more attention and are more likely to do things with you.

Accelerator

After a publication in LinuxFR, some Mozilla community members spotted us and encouraged us to send our candidature to the Mozilla WebFWD accelerator. So we did! And guess what? we were selected! Since two months they have provided us great advice about how to reach our potential customer, how to understand and please them, how to build a great pitch and how to manage finance. With their insights, we decided to pivot a little bit to reach our audience quicker: we are now building partnerships with hardware manufacturers and hosting companies.

Press and community

We were featured in several news plaforms (Wired, LeMonde, LeFigaro…) and blogs (among them the famous Korben). Previously we talked about credibility, this is another way to get some!  This way people know more about us, we found new supporters.

The other cool thing is that it brought thousands of visitors to our website. People subscribed to our waiting-list and started to use and install our software, some of them even wrote new blog posts about it. Our IRC channel get crowded and we received several contributions on the source code (bug reports and pull requests).

New applications

Last but not least, two new applications joined the gang:
Kyou  A tool to build analytic from data stored in your Cozy. It’s a very interesting usage because it’s the first app that takes advantages of data from other application.
Cozic A friendly audio player (let’s say it’s a winamp/itunes in your cloud).

Conclusion

These last five months made us found a firm ground in the start-up ecosystem. We drew the first shape of our community. We learnt to understand our customer better and improved the platform a lot. It was really exhausting but the experience was awesome.  Now we still have to improve the product (the platform and its website are ok but we still have to improve the applications that run on top of Cozy).

NB : I have tried to apply the 37 signals principles. They argue that working too much is a little bit acting like a hero: you think you can always solve more problem by building new things and work more. This could become an issue because it leads to extra work for the other team members (who are already quite busy) and it prevents you to find the more elegant solution (when you are in hero mode you use brute force instead of thinking). It looks like I failed deeply at avoiding the hero mode. I worked a huge amount of hours and produced a lot of stuff. If you ask why? I think that I simply didn’t know how to handle outside requirements: startup events, community growth, press publication, clients and a productive team. When someone ask you something you can say no. But when an unique opportunity happened or when people around you accelerate the process very quickly, it’s very hard to say no. Getting lean looks easy on the paper but trust me, it’s definitely harder when things become real.

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