I’m starting a company and I’ve been wanting to write about it for months now. But, as it turns out, starting a company is very time-consuming (who knew?!) and most days haven’t left me with enough brain-juice to feel up to the task of writing about it while also building it. But, fortunately, our workload is becoming a little more manageable and I’ve now been able to settle into enough of a rhythm that I finally feel capable of transferring some of the content in my head to the screen.
What I’m really excited about doing is deep-diving some of the biggest things I’ve learned so far, sharing details about how we work, etc. But first, I’ll simply introduce the company.
Laying my cards on the table
First off, starting a company is truly something that I never thought I’d be doing. It’s just something that I never had much interest in. Actually, it was something that not only disinterested me but acutely repelled me. The idea of having the livelihoods of employees depending on me and the business decisions that I make seemed, if I'm being completely honest, rather terrifying.
Of course, who knows when or even if our company will have employees (here's hoping that we do). But when sharing my fears with a very entrepreneurial friend of mine, Emory Cash, he shared some thoughts that made me feel more excited than uncomfortable with the idea of having other people depending on my company. Essentially, he talked about how, yes, it's possible that the company could go under and your employees could lose the job you were supplying them. But the fact that while the company is alive, you're able to provide someone with a means to provide for their family outweighs the "what-ifs" by a ton. As obvious as that might seem to many people, it was an eye-opener for me.
Secondly, I couldn't care less about being a unicorn or being the next Facebook in terms of revenue or valuations. I enjoy having the means to buy food and pay rent as much as the next person, but I have no overwhelming desire to own a gold-plated Bugatti. So, for me, building a company would have to be something interesting. The product would have to be something that I would want to build, period - regardless of whether or not it lead to untethered financial success.
Enter MailSnailMailSnail is a web application geared towards taking the hassle out of creating and managing direct mail campaigns. Currently, the avenues for reaching customers via direct mail are almost as unchanged as mail itself. We aim to fix that.
How did MailSnail start?As I mentioned earlier, starting my own company was never really on my radar. For me, MailSnail started with this tweet from Marty Bauer:
That's right, MailSnail was already featured on Product Hunt before I was involved in any way - before I'd even heard of it, in fact. MailSnail was actually the idea of my co-founder, Matt Bertino. He'd started casually working on it months earlier. After he'd shared what he was working on with some folks in his co-working space, one of them liked the idea and decided to submit it to Product Hunt as one of their featured apps.
Based on my 7 years of experience working in the direct mail industry, I knew better than most just how antiquated the avenues for utilizing direct mail really were. But I also knew first-hand just how effective direct mail campaigns can be - a surprising fact to many people. The app was something I could actually be excited about and I was. This was an area that was ripe for change and I knew that MailSnail was approaching it from the right angle. At this point, I still had no inclinations of being a co-founder. I simply wanted to offer Matt any feedback or insight if he wanted it, since I had years of experience in the field. The conversation began here:
During our meeting at Methodical Coffee, the essence of the conversation was something like this:
I’ve got an idea for an app that I’ve been kind of working on. But now that it’s sitting on Product Hunt, I guess I actually have to build it…
Matt asked if I’d like to get involved and after a few days to consider it, I gladly jumped on the opportunity. It’s been an awesome partnership. We’ve been working on MailSnail in earnest since around late July, early August of 2015. We incorporated MailSnail in October, launched the app in Beta in February 2016, hit our first exciting milestone (100 users on the app!) in April, and we’re slated to do our full public release in May.
P.S.If anybody has any questions about MailSnail, I’d love to answer them in another blog post. Please feel free to ask away in the comments.
A few of the topics I already have on the list to cover are:
- How was MailSnail built? What technologies are being used?
- What are the biggest things I’ve learned in building my first startup?
- How do we get work done? What are our structure and toolsets for managing productivity?