We started building nibl.com almost four years ago. The concept was simple enough – if you could create a way for people to pay-as-they-go on the web, we could create an alternative to the advertising and subscription models for web monetization that would both improve content quality and create new opportunities for content creators to fund their work. Having a single account that used one login to access premium content on the web would be a powerful tool that would allow consumers to access content currently behind paywalls or annoying without compromising privacy and without requiring long term recurring commitments to individual publishers.
Four years later, we have an awesome, feature rich product, but we’re still struggling with our market. As technical founders, this is a typical story. We get lost in the technical coolness of what we’re building and forget that the real goal is traction and revenue. We’ve struggled to build our marketing and sales competencies. Since we’ve done all of this without raising money, we’ve also struggled from time to time with focus. For all sorts of reasons, the specter of failure still looms over our efforts.
Having said all of that, I’m really proud of what our little team has built with the resources we’ve had to work with (check it out), and I’m very grateful for all of the ideas and effort that have come and gone through the organization as we’ve tried to fill the gaps in our core team’s capabilities.
After four years of struggling, there are times when we are ready to throw in the towel. We are definitely not on the “lean startup” path. We are not failing fast. It’s easy to fall into the trap of getting discouraged when you read about the latest startup of the day that goes from zero to $1B overnight.
Whenever I fall into that trap, I think about how much better off we are today then we were when we started. At the beginning we just had an idea. Our demos were Powerpoints and mock-ups. Now we have a product with a rich, deep feature set. Executing lean strategies from our current position is much more powerful than it was when we started. Should we have been more lean at the beginning? Of course. But dwelling on that now is crying over spilt milk. I’ve realized that every day we stay in the game, we’re in a better and stronger position to capitalize on opportunities that come across the transom.
So now I approach every day as a chance to start a new company. As we’ve become more market focused, new opportunities present themselves that we can develop from a much stronger position than we ever could before. We still struggle with some of the same problems, but we leave the baggage of yesterday’s failures behind and carry the lessons forward.