This is how you build a business of 130k users.
Peter is the founder of Brickflow, a web application that analyzes Tumblr profiles, and provides photos and videos that will suit the poster’s tastes.
Here is his honest, candid take on what it takes to build a digital idea to a business with tens of thousands of users.
To be honest, my founding partners and I were pretty clueless when we started Brickflow. After more than two years, I can confidently say that we know how to validate and get initial traction for your startup, and we know what it takes to build a business. Moreover we have learned how to build a product and manage a team. Since then, with more experience and deeper integration of best practices, we can move faster to build our business.
Back at the beginning Tamas Kokeny worked at Prezi as a junior developer, Mihaly Borbely was a hobby-geek and photographer, whereas I worked at a Harvard founded ArtScience Labs incubator in Paris.
We had a lot ahead of us in terms of customer and product development. We did our homework by learning about lean, agile and other methods, but we were not successful implementing these practices.
At first, we built Brickflow in a typical waterfall way without any real validation. But we had passion and courage to learn and do it better. Much better. This is what Startup Wise Guys and Startup Chile realized, so they gave us a chance. SWG was like school with a vertical network of mentors, whereas SUP gave us time to build the product and connected us to the world’s biggest horizontal startup network. These 8 months in Estonia and Chile gave me more than my undergrad studies ever did when it comes to the foundation I needed to build a business.
We launched the first version when SUP ended, but we were not satisfied with user engagement. We realized that we need to test and iterate more, moreover that we need to improve execution significantly. This was the time, when we realized that we have not been applying the best practices that we have been thought. Facing this changed our mindset, and helped sharpen our focus to finding something that would work to build our business. After iterating the product for 6 months, we found something that really works. We arrived at product-market-fit and since then grow our active user base day by day.
But not only our user base grew but the team itself too. In one year we hired 6 people, so we have tripled the team. It was yet again a great challenge to integrate new people into the team and find our own roles as real executives. This is the first time when management and company culture become crucial to the building of our business.
Today, we are agile, we work in strict weekly sprints and do daily stand-ups. We use kanban boards to manage development. Getting used to estimating each task and giving them business value made management smooth. Moreover, we experiment every week with defined assumption – KPI pairs. Each modification of our design, copy and features is based on these experiments. We do not build or change anything without having it tested and validated. Backing everything with metrics made decision making faster and less of an emotional or hierarchical argument.
Being data driven makes our life easier and serves our customers much better.
Being data driven makes our life easier and serves our customers much better. Besides the quantitative experiments we have weekly in-person UX tests too. It is key to listen to the users. If there’s one thing you want to take out of this it’s this: find your users. Make sure you’re building something they want.
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