Start-up Life: Day 1 or Day 7,832

We shipped. Again. It was not everything I wanted to go into version 1.1 but we had four days to get it installed on all of the computers being used at our test site and one of those days was being taken by FedEx to get our flash drive to North Dakota and the other three were a three-day weekend. So we had to mail it to arrive by Friday afternoon. Yes, future updates will be done remotely but that was yet another thing we did not have time to do yet.

Splash ScreenHave we learned anything? Well, in addition to learning javascript, jquery, Unity 3D, webstorms, PHP storms, PHP and increasing our knowledge of SQL, CSS, HTML and Dreamweaver – yes.

In an amazing post that I am going to memorize, on Why Startups Die, Andrew Montalenti quotes Paul Graham’s advice to not do other things, don’t go to graduate school, have other projects. We’re decades past graduate school, so we’re good on that.

In fact, the Rocket Scientist retired to work on this project. I have quit taking new clients.  (I am keeping clients who still need us. We have been a consulting company for 27 years and I am a big believer in loyalty.)

Andrew advises not to be “scared of code”. Since we are technical-heavy in our founding team, that is not as much of a problem. As we ARE boot-strapping and paying the bills with $100K in SBIR funds plus money from our consulting projects, I do sometimes take a deep breath when I am writing something that I KNOW I will need to re-write later, but it’s a fact. Sometimes, you don’t know what you need to fix until you have a working prototype, shake your head and say,

“That’s not right.”

Andrew’s advice is right on target when he says, “Be persistent.”

I have had this idea for a game to teach math since I applied to the Ph.D. program in 1985. It was on my application for what I wanted to do for my dissertation – build a game to teach kids math. I did it, in BASIC, but not for my dissertation. The capabilities for what I wanted to do did not exist when I graduated in 1990.

Going back to Paul Graham’s original post, he says to find something at least someone really loves. We knew we were on to something when teachers at the school pilot site and parents of kids testing our program after school had to say repeatedly,

kids playing the game“You have to go now. Five more minutes and you really have to stop playing. Okay, you need to shut the machine down, I’ll give you thirty seconds.”

After sending off the update, the rocket scientist went to a physics lecture at UCLA to relax and I went to teach my class on Advanced Quantitative Analysis. We went out late, had a few drinks to celebrate and this morning were at it again.

Be persistent.

Here is some additional advice from me. If you’re tired and you don’t want to write one more line of code, edit another video, make another GIF file or whatever it is you’ve been working on, do some other part of the project. Do documentation. Work on a presentation for investors. Go to a meet-up. Read a book on programming or game design. Watch a video on a javascript library you might use. Read articles you could include in a grant proposal.

That is a lot of what I did today and will probably do tomorrow.

Curiously, this is something I learned from becoming the world judo champion. When I could not spend another five seconds doing arm bar drills because I had already done 10,000 of them, I would go to the gym and lift weight.

It reminds me of a line from a philosopher I read when I was in high school.

“The best is the enemy of the good.”

Maybe the BEST thing you could do each day is to write more lines of code to make your game dance, but documenting it, designing the next level, looking at other games to get new ideas, talking to the beta testers to get their feedback – those are all GOOD things. When you are burnt out from doing the best thing you can do, go do some of those good things until you feel a bit rested up, and then go back to your core function.

So far, it seems to be working for us.


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