Justin McGill
September 9, 2014 1 Comment AUTHOR: Justin McGill CATEGORIES: Behind the Scenes, Entrepreneurship, SaaS

Seems no matter what I do, what I plan for, and what we are developing…I am always two weeks away from launching Workado. I have been thinking, and even saying, this for the better part of 3 months now.

This goes against what I would tell most people, which is:

just get it launched and figure out the rest later.

Luckily, this hasn’t come back to bite me in the rear yet. Alex Turnball from Groove documented how this hurt his reputation with some of their clients when he tried to provide release dates for upcoming features. I don’t plan to put a time frame on things once we actually do get launched because of that story and my own realization that it is almost always wrong.

That all being said, I do believe I am legitimately two weeks away from launching my first web application. Quite a different story compared to a service based business, like the one I was able to launch last week after 7 days.

Here is a run down of some things that haven’t exactly gone according to plan. My hope is that someone out there, somewhere can learn from my experience to circumvent some of their own delays.

Finding the Right Developer

Workado was a system I had built for my team at Upswing Interactive to use. It had been in use for 3 years, but late last year I decided to make this a stand alone tool that would be publicly available. Logically, I spoke to the original developer about being involved and he was interested.

What we came to realize though, was that this tool was going to require real-time updating and more of a client-side interface which meant I needed someone skilled in Javascript. He was a Ruby on Rails guy, so that wasn’t going to work out.

While all of this was being worked out, I was preparing the content and marketing strategy. I then had to switch gears and find a worthwhile developer who had SaaS experience as well as being an expert in Javascript. I tried to find this person through local channels and my network, but I wasn’t having any luck. I was initially hoping to find a partner/cofounder that would be interested in this for equity, but it was becoming clear that wouldn’t be the case.

Eventually, I resorted to oDesk.I found a great Canadian based developer who really knew Node.JS (backend) and Angular.JS (front end). I was going to be paying a premium price, but I felt his experience and know-how were worth it. In the long run, I’m hoping this pays off in the sense that I didn’t lose any equity.

It was February, and the initial build was expected to take about 5 weeks.

Launched a Beta

Sure enough, the development was on schedule. It was 5 weeks and we had a functioning tool. I switched my whole team at Upswing into this environment.

It was apparent though that we weren’t going to be able to launch the tool at this time though. It took WAY too long to get clients in the system with tasks (we didn’t have task templates yet). Some things just didn’t work like you’d expect (scrolling campaign list). We had to revise several sections to make the tool more intuitive, needed to include an onboarding walkthrough, etc.

The challenge here is that my developer had already lined up his next gig that would take him through the end of April. He has his own priorities and bills to pay so I understood, but that didn’t mean it didn’t suck.

Challenges with a Freelancer

When my developer’s time freed up in May, I thought we were going to be launching in the middle of May. This was my first “two weeks until launch” moment.

However, he was only free for a week and had another commitment through the first week of June.

It was during this time I began searching for an additional developer. I managed to hire three different developers during this time that didn’t work out. One of which I knew well, but he took another job so he didn’t have availability. The other two were freelancers from oDesk, but didn’t work out because they didn’t have a linux setup and the onboarding time with them took too long.

Luckily, my developer had someone else in mind that did come in and started helping out in the middle of June.

Embarrassing Bugs

I was planning for a launch on July 7th. However, the next milestone didn’t get pushed to the server until the middle of July and introduced some new bugs, opened up some others and we were still experiencing server down time that would last days.

startup quote

I have this quote on my cork board and there was still no way I felt comfortable launching the tool in this condition.

I had a guest blog ready for SEMrush, but I had to put it on hold since we weren’t launching in July. August 5th was the new launch date!

Except it wasn’t.

Here we are September 9th. I am happy to report though that there are only four outstanding tickets that need to be completed in preparation for launch. Here’s a screenshot of our launch milestone from Codebase:

open tickets

This means I really do feel I will be launching this come September 23rd.

Conclusion

The longer it takes to develop, the less likely it is to launch.

– Jason Fried (37 Signals)

This quote has been front and center for me as I know I am getting to a point now where things are “dragging out”. That said, I have learned a tremendous amount during this time. I have enjoyed most of the experience (bugs and delays aside) and I know going forward this experience will help me with future SaaS app launches.

When this does launch (in a couple of weeks…), I am planning to document what I did the day before I launched, the day of the launch, and the day after I launch. This will be available as a mini-series here on this blog, so be sure to subscribe by entering your email to the right to be informed when that mini-series goes live.

1 Comment

  1. Dave Schneider 3 years ago says:

    you and me both!

    Reply

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"Justin is the proto-type of a 21st century business leader. Unmatched skills with evolving technology, combined with the social and emotional intelligence required to handle an increasingly advanced consumer." ~ Michael Lambourne of Blend.