I Need That!
Visit the website here: https://ineedth.at/
I’m *very* behind on this blog, so I’ll start fillling in the gaps of the last few months. I figure this is a great place to start:
I Need That’s inception is still one of my favorite stories from this year. It’s an epic tale filled with all the woes of entrepreneurship and weekend programming competitions – two of my favorite things. There was a 5am caffeine-driven impulse-buy leading to a late-stage pivot, followed by a LOT of good times and hard coding.
The story goes something like this: Startup Weekend 2012 was to be my only hackathon of the 2012-2013 school year. I had sworn off participating in programming competitions after 10 hackathons in 12 months, many of which I both organized and competed in. Even when I made that promise, after my final hackathon of the 2012 spring semester, I allowed an exception for this. Startup Weekend is one of my favorite events of the entire year now. Its crunch-time programming, which I love, but with the added zeal of fresh ideas and passionate people from all perspectives. Right at the intersection of bussiness and software, with a little artistic flair thrown in.
However, after hearing pitches from over half the people in the room, neither I nor my friend at the event were feeling blown away. Nothing totally grabbed our attention that we wanted to work on. Both of us are game developers, so we crave ideas that are really, inherently fun, but we didn’t see any of those. Eventually we reverted to an idea he had come up with, and together we scouted (and *ahem* sniped) a team. We both liked the team, we had a front-end web artist/graphic designer and a handful of business minds, along with the two of us writing the server stuff. After a few hours of changing ideas half a dozen times, we gave up around midnight with somewhat of a consensus, but nothing that everybody LOVED.
So we all shuffled in at varying levels of awareness at about 9am when breakfast was being served. After grabbing a muffin and setting up my computer by another member of our team, a sleep-deprived Larry (my friend) wandered in. As he sat down he casually dropped a bomb on our plans: “Hey guys, I got this new idea. Let’s drop the Fantasy Football app completely [that was our grand idea so far].” He proceeded to launch into the details of his caffeine-filled evening after our group departed, which had led him to impulse-buy two URL’s, “because how had nobody bought these before?” In classic Larry fashion he said, “so instead of busting our asses for the next 30 hours and coming out with something OK, let’s just make something super small, but awesome, and get 1,000 users on it by demo time tomorrow.” We were still laughing when he got to that last part, but nobody could argue with that kind of logic – I knew how grueling hackathons already were, and at a more business focused one like Startup Weekend, 1,000 users would impress more than an app with depth – I’d seen it a dozen times. And who doesn’t want a 1,000 users? “Alright Larry – but only if we get 1,000 users, so let’s do it!”
I Need That was born as a sort of “hot or not for products” based on the URL https://ineedth.at which Larry had bought on whim after taking caffeine pills around 3 or 4 in the morning. The basic idea was locked down in an hour or two and then we each broke off to do our thing: there was a team out there grabbing us loads of awesome viral products from the web and writing clever 1-liners, while the server team spun up an amazon instance and got to work on some rails, and our designer started making graphics for what was essentially to be a 1-template website.
We slotted our first release for our 9pm that night, the app sounded so easy. Of course, this was horribly naive of us. My knowledge of rails got us off the ground, but as soon as we dug in, it proved to be wildly insufficient and Larry had never worked with Rails at all. The content and website design were cruising along, as well as a sweet logo which a passing friend of Larry’s provided. Hours before we were finished, the building had closed and we opted to annex a quiet study lounge for own purposes – mostly using the power of sick electronic beats and loud half-waking arguments to drive out its inhabitants. At 5am on that last day of the competition, we had a mini celebration as our website went live, and then we zombied off to our respective beds. In the morning the website had seen little traffic, but our designer had decided sleep was for the weak and soldiered on, cranking out some beautiful designs for landing page and all subsequent pages. With some minor tweaks, we pushed this gorgeous revamp out to every social media outlet we each had access to around noon. Once again our designer came through and put the word out on a popular clothing website – with the word out to HUNDREDS of people simultaneously through the entirety of our contact lists and this major outlet, we atch the numbers climb on Google Analytics. They were blowing my mind, in roughly 2 hours we were nearly breaking down the poor little micro instance with over a hundred concurrant users. I had to reboot the server and spread out some of the traffic for fear something would break.
When we thought our stats had reached a plateau, several hundred users below my goal of 1000, we headed off to the demos. Slightly saddened, but still having made a huge accomplishment, we watched almost every other team present prior to ours. Somewhere along the line we decided to check our analytics again, and much to our surprise, they had SKYROCKETED. The plateau was only momentary, and growth continued beyond that, we had leaped over 1,000 users and had almost 1500 unique visits by the time we got up to talk about our stratup with the judges. I Need That was HOT. Even with some serious technical and presentaton snafu’s the judges HAD to give us second with the amazing stats we had accrewed. Not to mention we were the only startup there with a live app – one that had been live for almost 15 hours by the time we got up to speak.
All in all Startup Weekend turned out to be a great event once more, and a made some good friends. The goal was to polish up a few things on the site and put it out to the world in beta (it currently sits in alpha). We actually had tacked on some Amazon affiliate links which even made us $5 in profit within a few days. Hopefully we’ll get around to that at some point as people clearly enjoyed the curated content (which has been updated from time to time). Even we keep in touch and we’ve had some great stories to tell afterwards.
Prompt: USC Startup Weekend 2012, open ended
Personal Goal: Get 1,000 users in one weekend.