Saturday, December 11, 2010

The OtherInbox Pivot

We turned a sharp pivot this year at OtherInbox, shifting away from the product I initially built (now called Defender 1.0) to a newer, easier-to-adopt product called Organizer.  I had a lot invested in that product; I cut my teeth in the startup world while building it.  We worked hard to write the code and I even dressed up as a superhero at SXSW to promote it. I gave a lot of technical talks about the technologies we used, and I really loved the whole process, but the fact is we could not build a sustainable business with Defender.  

I'm really proud of us for pivoting to Organizer and don't feel the least bit bad about it (though I am sorry for anyone inconvenienced by the need to upgrade to our Google-hosted alternative, called Defender 2.0 - it really is a lot better for everyone in the long term, though).

Josh Baer gave a great explanation of how we reached this conclusion which I think really captures the decisionmaking and guesswork of entrepreneurship:

We had to pivot and focus our attention on Organizer, even though Defender was our first love.
It took too long
Nobody wanted to hear this. I certainly didn't want to admit that the "great idea" we started with was not going to be successful. We probably should have began this process six months earlier than we did but it was hard to swallow.
That put us in a situation where we had more than 500,000 users signed up for Organizer and less than 20,000 for Defender. Only about 1000 were paying $20/year.  Yet Defender was about half of our code base and 80% of our customer support issues. It was hard to put many resources into improving Defender because 95% of our users were using Organizer. Yet everyone on the team believes in Defender and uses it ourselves. It hurt the morale of the entire team to see a product stagnate from lack of attention. We needed a way to combine our resources so that all of the effort we put into the product can be benefit both Defender and Organizer users and so that we could deliver a more reliable service.

The good news is, Organizer is doing really well and we're making it better every day!  Check out the full post; it's a great case study!