August 26, 2017
One October night in 2011, I decided to start a software company. It turned out to be a simple bureaucratic process that involved a few forms and some manageable payments, and a few months later, Wolf Butler Art & Software officially existed. I'd written down that name on the form, because who doesn't want to own an animal company? The concept was that as a "comedy server," its digital infrastructure would automate my income.
When I released my first game, a speed-reading text adventure for Android called Diamond Find, Wolf Butler facilitated a way for me to get paid for the few copies I sold. After that, the other work I produced naturally fell under its imprint. The business continued.
But nothing saw big success. I didn't put enough into marketing. Didn't dream big enough. Didn't have a plan to "scale up."
This became more obvious to me when I started drifting around the edge of the Halifax startup scene, so for a while I executed off-the-wall viral marketing campaigns. Once, I procured actual silver and dropped it in peoples' mailboxes, including hilarious "clues" leading them back to my website. I ordered faux-gold rings from China, engraved with hashtags promoting my badger blog, and gave them away, but only one person ever tweeted about them. I bought banner ads, watching intently as the click-throughs increased, and even saw a few sales. But I was getting pretty broke after buying all the metals so I didn't have a very big ad budget.
Scaling, it seemed, was the goal of every startup I talked to. What would my business look like if I "growth-hacked" it to be an order of magnitude larger? I filled out a Lean Canvas worksheet at the behest of a dubious mentor, and it became clear that my business wasn't filling any immediate customer needs. Except the need for comedy books and software, I guess, but it's hard to make an elegant business case for that in 1/9th of a sheet of printer paper.
But that was fine. I was happy to continue producing comedy, selling only to those who found me at local conventions or met me in person. In fact, I became an expert in NOT scaling. NEXT →
But that time is now over. A startup can't exist in the current ecosystem without scaling up, and I plan to finally make this startup do just that.
Come back in a while to see how it birded down.