This is a short series on my journey from “Hey, this might be a neat idea” to “Look what we just did.” (Hopefully, anyway. There’s always a solid chance that I fail gloriously and publicly.) Here’s Part 1 (with a fuller explanation), Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, and Part 10.
current day >>>
“With your combined reach, I bet you could crowdfund the rest really quickly,” a friend tells me at a party.
A tempting thought, that. And by “combined reach,” I know he means me, Jessica, the whole Gumshoe team, our audiences, our Facebook friends, their audiences. We’d like to raise a little more money to get to our firm goal of $75,000 and our lofty goal of $100,000.
The topic comes up again when my Android user friends groan upon hearing that we’re only doing iPhone to start. If it costs X amount of dollars to put together an iPhone app, it just about costs 2X or maybe 1.7X to do both iPhone and Android. There’s a lot of development involved on different operating systems, so an Android app, a web version, and all the cool bells and whistles have to wait until we see what kind of traction we get on first iteration.
Certainly, a few G raised on the internet would be helpful.
But I shake my head like I’ve done every time the words kickstarter or crowdfunding campaign come up. Lean against the living room wall next to a Spotify playlist blasting through speakers.
“Investors are putting in money and are hoping to get a big return on it. So am I. If someone puts in $20 via kickstarter, he or she isn’t going to get a $100 check someday. If it was a charity, maybe I’d consider it, but we’re hoping it turns into a real-deal business. A business with good, helpful intentions, but a business nonetheless.”
He nods his head and presses the buttons on the prototype version of Gumshoe on my phone. I’m hoping none of my friends text me bikini photos from a J. Crew fitting room. He takes a gulp of his drink and says he’s interested in investing. I tell him I’ll send him my investor deck and some screen grabs of the app.
Cool. Cool on the outside, sweaty on the inside.
I’ve had this investing conversation a few times. Sometimes the answer is a no; sometimes the answer is yes. I’m also, admittedly, doing a pretty poor job of reaching out to people and starting that conversation.
“Hey, I’m raising money for this app via convertible note. Investors are putting in a minimum of $5,000. I’m at $53,000 now, and I’d like to be at $75,000. Would you be interested in partnering with us?”
Emailing that line feels weird. Saying it in person feels more weird. More often than me pitching, however, it’s other people offering. From I’ll seed you, boo via text (which means “I’ll invest seed money” not “will you be our surrogate?”) to “Hey send me some info on your app, maybe I can throw some money your way” via phone.
Which is weird and really cool and I’m probably pretty lucky, but just like with everything else I’ve been faced with in the past few months, it’s something that I’ve just had to dive into.
And not everyone just has $5,000 lying around and is willing to invest it in a startup.
$5,000 is a half-bath remodel.
$5,000 is a dope vacation.
$5,000 is a large pizza every Friday night for six and a half years. These are the important conversions.
“We’re at $65,000 with a $10,000 business line of credit.” I update some of the Gumshoe team via a group text.
“Have you changed your mind on crowdfunding?”
My response is that emoji of the girl making an X with her arms.
“How about charging for the app?”
Repeat emoji of girl making an X with her arms. This is how I handle investor conversations. Truly, this is either a story for 2015 or I have absolutely no business running a business.
The app will be free to download. Hopefully, in a future iteration, I will offer some premium features at an upgrade, but ultimately I want anyone with access to a phone to be able to use it. Ideally, Gumshoe revenue will come from ad space (similar to when you do a search on Yelp) and brand partnerships.
“Nah,” I say, “I’d rather that people who are really into the idea be willing to beta test it and help us get content on there. And tell their families about it. And their kids’ teachers. And their playdate groups and their vegan friends and ask to put a little sign up on the counter at their library or the bulletin board at their pediatrician’s office.”
There’s plenty to do. We haven’t nailed down branding (I slapped together the graphics above), I’m still learning about the money side (vesting and valuations and conversion discounts are now a part of my daily vocabulary), we don’t have nearly as much content as we’d like (most of the screens are just product name, image, ingredients, and user comments), and there are still some bugs to work out. But then I’m reminded by the people around me that done is better than perfect and we’re definitely going to eff up a million times and that’s part of the process.
“There’s a saying that goes, ‘Always be shipping,'” Tom says. Reminiscent of Glengarry Glen Ross’s NSFW always be closing speech, “Always be shipping” has been popularized over the years by many, Seth Godin included, and the premise behind it is to just make it happen. Iterate as you go. Don’t get hung up on imperfections or tweaking every last detail.
I’m hearing this in my head as I move a 1 pixel line on the app screen three pixels south.
We’re ready to beta launch.
I’m so sweaty right now.
If you’ve been feelin’ this series or if you’ve offered to throw a couple crisp Jacksons my way via a kickstarter (emoji girl making an X with her arms) or if you think this is something people can benefit from and want to be a part, well, I’m honored.
what you can do now:
+ Got an iPhone? Feel like scanning boxes in your pantry and shooting emails over to brands? Love finding typos? Want to be a beta tester? We’ll be bringing people on (a few at a time while we gain our bearings) and chatting in our Gumshoe Beta Tester FB Group where eight of us are currently typing away and eating snacks. Email [email protected] if you’d like to be a part.
+ Own a food or beverage brand? Work for one? We’d love to get your products on our app (it’s free!) and have you be a part of our launch. Email [email protected] so we can chat.
+ You could also go to heygumshoe.com and drop your in email address. We’ll send you some updates (not too many) and keep you posted when launch happens and when we expect to roll out the Android version.
+ And finally, we’re on social. And we have exactly 0 followers. But we’ll start ramping up over the next months and would love it if you followed along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It’ll probably be me tweeting to no one or taking photos of the mug of pushpins on my desk.
Real-deal launch will happen in a couple months, and that would be a great time to start telling your friends / teachers / cousins / coaches / the person you took to junior prom.
“Hey remember the time you knocked over the punch bowl hahahaha BTW want to see an app?”