In 2012, my friend Ben Sperry and I launched our startup Codiqa, in Madison, Wisconsin. Since the year is almost over, I thought it would be fun to create a timeline of events that carried us through the year, as well as touch on what we are excited about in 2013.
In one year we went from just an idea to a three-person profitable software startup. Here’s how we did it:
Late 2011 – The Birth of an Idea
When we built Codiqa, we didn’t really have any plans to turn it into a business.
We built it because we were doing jQuery Mobile development through the standard mockup -> prototype -> end-product process, and we thought mockups were redundant when the end-product technology was known (in this case, jQuery Mobile). Why not have a simple interface builder for jQuery Mobile that could quickly build these kinds of apps?
There were a few visual builders for jQuery Mobile, but we largely put them out of our mind since we just wanted to build something that was ours. We started playing around with the idea late in 2011, but we hadn’t shown it to anyone yet.
Ben and I also had full time jobs at a local mobile game startup, Perblue, so we were juggling our 9-5s and our side project.
Jan 1st – The Landing Page and Initial Users
Before we had a working product, we threw together a fun landing page that had an interactive demo and a viral share option upon entering your email for our beta mailing list. We launched this landing page in January of this year:
Through this landing page, we grew to about 1500 interested beta users, primarily through Twitter shares.
February 1st – Private Beta
When we felt like we had a product that worked well enough, we started inviting some of our initial users into the beta. The biggest feedback we received was that this was awesome…but way too buggy.
Ben and I had just read about the Lean Startup method, and we were trying to apply it to Codiqa by releasing early and often, testing our ideas with customers, and tweaking them when we had learned what worked and what didn’t.
Over the next few weeks we took what we learned and the bugs we found and tweaked and improved it, releasing many small updates in a short amount of time.
February 20th – Public Beta
By the end of February, we felt confident we had something that worked well enough that we could open the product up to the public. We sent an email out to our beta list inviting everyone to the new site, and we replaced our landing page with a real site.
A few weeks before our beta, we started showing the jQuery Mobile team what we had built. We thought it was be an awesome way to give back by making an embedded version of our tool that would make it easy for anyone coming to the jQuery Mobile site to build an app and try it out right away. They agreed, and we tried to figure out a way to make it happen.
At the end of February, we launched an embedded version of Codiqa directly on jquerymobile.com, and started to slowly grow our user base.
A few weeks later we blogged about growing our user base to 10k users in a month, which coincided nicely with a rejection from YC a few months earlier. The post was #1 on HN for a whole day and drew us a great deal of traffic and interest from around the world.
At the beginning of March we started to talk about ways to monetize the product. We were just a two-man team that was starting to see that this could become a real company, and we wanted to be able to devote our full-time attention to it.
We threw up some “beta” pricing and slowly but surely the paid signups started coming in.
It wasn’t much, but we had proven that people would pay for this product, and that we were on to something.
May 1st – MVP
In mid-April, we decided to build out features that would better differentiate between individual users and teams of users, so we could offer different pricing plans based on their needs.
We released a new updated MVP at the beginning of May that offered user invites, media uploads, and themes. We also adjusted our pricing and had a decent revenue boost.
Unfortunately, we still weren’t making enough to pay ourselves to work full time.
June and July – Full Time
By the end of May, Codiqa was making enough for one of us to go full time and pay our living expenses. I decided to leave my current job and go full time in June.
Over the next few months we just focused on improving the product, experimenting with marketing, and figuring out where we wanted to go from here.
The Fall – Marketing
In the fall, we started ramping up some of our marketing efforts, and we ran some experiments including sales and pricing tweaks. We had our biggest revenue increase in August because of this, and continued to grow over the next few months. We were finally able to make enough for Ben to go full time as well, and he left his 9-5 to join us full time.
Additionally, we formulated some really interesting licensing partnerships with large companies this fall. It’s a bit early to reflect on this, but are excited to see how this impacts our business in 2013.
December to the Present – The Change
In December, things have really changed for us. Chalk it up to more experience, or just understanding our product more, or even just finally listening to advice we had been given over the year, but December has been a breakout month for us.
We even hired our first ever employee a few weeks ago. While he’s just acclimating still, we are really excited to have more resources to devote to Codiqa to make it way better than it currently is.
We’ve also had some great news come on the business development side, and we are looking forward to several amazing opportunities coming in 2013.
The theme for me of 2012 was risk. I did several things this year that initially felt risky, including quitting my 9-5 and throwing out my stock options to do some consulting on the side (a decision that was incredibly difficult for me to do), and then finally quitting that to go full time on my company.
In hindsight, the biggest risk was actually to not jump in on Codiqa. I would have thrown out several amazing opportunities that I would never have had the chance to experience at a normal job. I met so many great people from around the world, and learned so much.
The opportunity costs of leaving a job are quantifiable and potentially meaningful, but the costs of not chasing your dreams are even bigger.
With that, I wish you all a very productive and successful 2013. Things are just beginning for us, and have some awesome stuff in the pipeline. Stay tuned!
How was your 2012? Did you create anything new or improve something old? What are you looking forward to in 2013?