Four score and seven years ago…scratch that…just five years ago we took one small step for ourselves into the great unknown expanse of entrepreneurship and started our own company. We’ve done so much in that time, it has really flown by and instead of doing a “State of the Union” this year like we usually do, we thought we’d dig a little deeper for a “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” recap of where we went, followed by a peek at where we’re headed next.
We are now going to force you down our own cute LunarLincoln memory lane. Come watch these photos of our vacation – or rather our development shop.
Year 1: Jennifer and Wiley conceive of the LunarLincoln brand, and Jennifer designs our logo in 2 hours (startups are nothing if not efficient, right?). Wiley sits at home in the same soccer shorts he’s been wearing since 6th grade, and lands LunarLincoln’s first client. Throughout the year he builds an app for festival goers, for our favorite email marketing company, healthcare startups, photo sharing services, and more. He talks to the cats. A lot. We get temporarily Internet famous! We build things, but sometimes want to build bigger things and need extra hands to do that.
Year 2: We staff up with the addition of Jennifer and Travis (you have to see Travis’ cover letter…pure gold). Jennifer freaks out about the lack of formal business “stuff” like…you know…getting around to invoicing your clients. We add design offerings and Jennifer immediately designs the worlds most complicated UI – though it does work really well for the end goal. Travis learns all of the ways to build mobile apps. We build apps for Magic the Gathering aficionados, innovative health data visualizations, gocarts you summon via app, real-time audio syncing, custom PDF display, and much more. We get a real, fancy office in Germantown. We give talks to college and middle school kids where we pretend we know what we’re doing. We add more people and sometimes have to fire people. We almost have to sue a client for payment. We fly a drone in the office. We are in the running for a local tech competition. We set up some snazzy internal tools like a build server and a service to pull invoicing reports from JIRA. Everything is new, and we are doing a lot of googling to learn how this business thing works.
Year 3: More people, more clients, more work. We have our first sales slump and start building some products ourselves in addition to having to have some “real talks” with ourselves about sales and failure. Then we get crazy busy again, leave those products to languish in their internal repos (sorry product babies) and throw ourselves back into the work. We build apps with Research Kit, with bots, with video streaming, app for kids, for shopping, for cameras, for speakers, for ticketing, for doctors visits, for mental health. We give even more talks to more kiddos and adultos. We start hosting Cocoaheads at our office and have to take our tv off the wall each month and screw its legs on and move it to the main room and then reverse that process. each. and. every. month. (why did we do this, we must really love you guys). We deal with a rollercoaster of work and being overbooked. We come to terms with the work-shortage-fear from Year 2, and learn that you don’t have to take all the work that shows up at your doorstep. We’re making money, but have no time to enjoy it (or sleep).
Year 4 & 5: We’ve got this. We have a proposal process, we know what clients are good fits, we know better how to hire and when to not. We are getting better at estimating and saying no and questioning assumptions. We build apps for real estate agents, for healthcare goliaths, for pesticide companies, for veterans, for mobile homes and a lot of those people from Year 1, 2, and 3 come back because they like us for some reason and want to build new things. But despite smoothing of some of the roadbumps through experience and learning, others just never seem to go away. Do we grow bigger and add more support roles? Do we focus on specific markets? Should we reach for more sales outside of the southeast?
So pulling back out to a 50,000 ft view. I don’t think we had any idea where we’d be when we started all of this. I know that starting out we had some initial desires/ideas: “This will be awesome.” we said. “We’ll get to build what we want, how we want it.” we said. “We’ll get to have a flexible schedule and a relaxed work environment.” we said. “NO. MORE. MEETINGS!” we said.
It didn’t exactly go that way. We did get to do a lot of this. We built things. All sort of things. We made new friends, met new people, helped tons of businesses. It was fun. It was interesting. We shipped apps! A lot of them.
But sometimes, it was frustrating. It was confusing. It. was. so. exhausting.
This isn’t to say we weren’t successful. We were. Very. We are even today (often in spite of ourselves). We ran LunarLincoln as we wanted to see an agency run. Lean, kind, trustworthy, and talented. But honestly, after 5 years of building other people’s dreams, we want to build our own as well.
Now, in June of 2018, five years after we started, we will commence a new era of LunarLincoln that is a bit more product-centric. We’ll be devoting 80% of our time solely to building our products and the other 20% to select client work. Wiley is jokingly referring to it as our Project Apollo Moon-shot.
Come along for the ride as I chronicle the search for the good product idea(s). See if we take our own advice, or stubbornly ignore it. And, for the first time, we’ll be giving you a detailed peek into what it takes to build a product from scratch (without signing up for an ideation engagement with me). I’ll be dusting off this old blog and checking in much more often with you guys. (You may even get tired of my gif-laden, terrible punctuation and inane rambling. Who knows?). I’ll be posting some signups for some weekly blog series on small business bootstrapping, as well as product ideation.
But. But what about your agency work? Can I still call you?
We’re not entirely out of the running for projects outside of LunarLincoln products. We will be taking a few select projects each year and are seeking clients that are a goldilocks fit for our skill set and size. We want to be more focused and purposeful and really look for those projects that are made for us.
To all of our clients, colleagues, family, and friends: We love you, like, so much. We couldn’t have done this without you, and we’ll likely be calling on you even more often in the future for advice and pep talks.
Commencing moon-shot in five, four, three, two, one…