To call the last quarter a whirlwind would be an understatement. Joshua and I are both proud to be a part of the cir.cl team and to have participated in getting the project to its six-month mark. We have finished two long sprints and have one more to go before launching our initial beta product. It will require a pretty intense summer but our goal is to have active users in the system in mid-September. This is a few weeks later than our original goal set in January to go live in August. For this large of a project I’m not beating us up too much for running a few weeks behind the original schedule.
Our first sprint was focused on core platform infrastructure. Our second sprint was focused on getting the API to a state of beta feature complete as well as getting to a solid state with frontend design and infrastructure. The third sprint, which we are three weeks into, coincided with the start of Q3. It is focused on buttoning up the back- and front-end of our initial production deployment which will target friends, family, and supporters.
Ups from Q2
- In Q2, three people have joined the cir.cl team to varying degrees.Talia Imbrescia joined us in April and is taking on front-end development and assisting with user experience. Robert Moskal joined us in June and is spending some time building front-end architecture so our API and web application can speak to each other. And last but certainly not least, Edwin Lim, also got here right at the end of Q2. Edwin worked with us on the Campaign and is spending his last summer before graduation working on any area we need help with. His first project has been automating our API testing… next step dive into template integration. I super missed working with him over the last six months, so it’s been great to have his energy in the cir.cl office. The team has been really fun to spend time with and to learn from.
- Carrying the full weight of API development has been no easy task, with many dark days, but Joshua has been amazing. Being at the end of the tunnel is super sweet. Anyone who has worked in software knows there is always more work to do–but this mountain was huge and lonely to climb –and Joshua has earned countless high fives, milkshakes, and chocolate chip cookies for not just getting through it, but also undoubtably coming out on top.
- We can’t say enough about how great it has been to work with our design firm. We love the look and feel of the soon to be released site. Thanks to the talented women from the language department, the process has been enjoyable, productive, and eye opening. I have to admit that I’ve been known to under appreciate design and branding, but going through the process with Jenn, Tanya, Lizania, and Urcella has helped us understand and articulate why we are building cir.cl. I, for one, also have a newfound appreciation for pixel counting, attention to detail, and copywriting… plus, it’s just pleasant to look at if we do say so
- There was a great piece by Jim Rutenberg in the NYTimes Magazine about some of the work we did on the campaign. The most exciting part: there were some really awesome cir.cl references in the article. Getting the name out there, on an amazing medium like the NY Times, caused beta membership requests to increase by 450% since the article was published. Yay, earned media.
Challenges from Q2
- Our number one challenge is accepting the reality of the task we have undertaken. The great thing about working on a campaign, even though the work is intense and the days are ridiculously long, is that you know exactly when it will end. Starting a company entirely lacks that quality. Joshua and I agreed to start a company in NYC. It has been great for me because, after 18 years of traveling to nine different cities for work, I’ve finally returned to my hometown. The tech scene used to be non-existant in this city (hence me being gone for so long), but now it feels like it’s on fire; it’s truly an exciting place to try and start something. We’ve had great luck finding talent to work with. We’ve been inspired by the communities living here, their variety and vastness, people we hope will embrace the cir.cl product. All of this doesn’t change the fact that Joshua is from San Francisco and moving here has been harder than he imagined. The scope of this project is hitting us both and it’s scary.
- At the end of Q2 we’ve spent 38% of our initial year budget. I considered putting this in the ups section because our burn has been slower than originally anticipated and that is not easy to do… but Joshua and I are living on an income level proven to affect happiness. Studies have shown that no matter how much more than $75,000 people make, they don’t report any greater degree of happiness; however, it is also shown that the lower a person’s annual income falls below $75,000, the unhappier he or she feels. We are both below that mark right now, living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. It’s hard and requires a lot of sacrifice.
- Like all projects that are built under the concept of iterative design and development, the initial feature set of cir.cl is missing some super desirable features. We want to get the product out there so we have some real user feedback, but it’s always hard to prioritize what will originally be included and what will not.
Solutions Planned for Q3
- For now, the plan is to keep plowing on and to contemplate some different options for working remotely. I’m leery about the thought of a CTO being fully or partially remote, but the only options left are to trust Joshua and to find the right balance for him and his team, or for one of us to take over the project alone. I think we both feel the need to help each other take the product live.
- We need to start pitching the product more, meeting more potential partners and actual users. At the end of Q2, we’ve spent over 2300 hours working on and, countless more, thinking about cir.cl. That is a lot of time in the cir.cl bubble. It has been a luxury in many ways to have no users and to be accountable to nothing but each other and our personal lives, but that time is quickly coming to an end.
- We need to keep spending time to learn from our peers. We continued with #gueststars this quarter. Anthea Watson talked to us about street marketing and grassroots organizing. Amanda Slavin helped us with deck do’s and dont’s and Dan Ryan was crucial in helping us evaluate and reconsider our Front-end strategy: particularly our decision to move from a mostly client-side application to a mostly server-side app. Jacqui Cheng visited our office for a week and talked to us about press and public relations. Clint Ecker and Anders Conbere, from our original campaign Narwhal team, also spent time with us in NYC in Q2. Both of them have an amazing affect of reminding us of our roots and how we got into this project together. The timing of their visits and their knowledge of us, as individual people and as a team, helped us get through some really tough times. A big, and I guess obvious, take away from this whole experience- talking through struggles and triumphs with other people is crucial for perspective, learning, and partnership opportunities.