I can't tell you how many times I've had an idea for a product, bounced the idea off some trusted friends, gotten pumped for my next big project, maybe even made some big plans for it, and then never built it. Okay, I actually can tell you. 14 times in 3 years. Yikes.
I don't know if you've ever done that, but it's basically been my life. My good friend Jordin (great programmer, even better guy) and I had chatted about this before, and we both had the same problem; it came down to having too many "good ideas" but not having the commitment to see the ideas through for all the long months of architecting the solution, building the core product (or having it built), coming up with the perfect revenue models, and on and on...
A while after Jordin and I bonded over our massive shortcomings, I shot him a text on a whim to see if he had any interest in trying something out with me. I wanted to focus on just launching the minimum viable product (MVP) of a product— any product. It didn't matter so much to me what it was, it just mattered that we actually released something for once in our miserable, little lives.
Coming Up With a Business Idea
We started brainstorming in a Google Doc any ideas we could come up with or had ever had. None of them were amazing, but it was okay. It was less about the idea and more about launching our first product.
This is me being (pretending to be) super organized. That meant a whiteboard checklist, of course.
On February 3, 2018, we got together to talk for our first time and figure out what to build. We decided in the course of a few hours that we could combine a few ideas from our Google Doc and build something for students (a demographic we cared about), but also something for YouTubers (a market I have always been very passionate about). The result was the conception of Rocket Note— this Chrome extension for taking notes on YouTube (and a vision of making it way more). Cool idea, huh? Well, again... I didn't care so much about the idea. It was the launch that I set my sights on!
Even though our vision for what Rocket Note could eventually become was HUGE, we had to scale down to what that MVP would look like. And it looked like an MVP. It meant minimal features. It also meant we were going to build our worst fear— a product we would launch that wasn't actually "ready" for launch. After some debate, we decided on the most essential features that we could hack together in under 24 hours of total development time.
Actual footage of Jordin hacking Rocket Note together.
We both live incredibly busy lives— we're still students, we both do freelance work, we both have a wife and baby at home, and I also have a separate full-time job! It wasn't easy to cram more into those schedules. We knew what we wanted to do though, and we knew we would have to sacrifice to achieve the goals we were reaching desperately for.
Getting Crap Done
We got together two different days for mini hackathons after that. Once for 10 hours and once for about 6. Each time, we got a huge amount of work done. Time was extremely limited, but we did what we could. Jordin got really busy for a couple weeks, but we kept in touch, and I worked out the remaining kinks in the UI during that period. I was also slowly letting friends and family use it.
Rocket Note has liftoff! 🎉
AND IT WAS WORKING! In fact, it was working so well that one day I found myself using it in my day-to-day work to timestamp out a few spots in videos I wanted to go back and rewatch important points from. It was a miracle! It was my first complete and working product; I had finally made a product that "scratched my own itch!" We had quite inadvertently done everything we've always been taught to do and read in 1,000 different blogs.
We will be running a soft launch and subsequent "hard" launch through the next couple weeks. If you'd like to test it out in its current Alpha version (that we built in less than a month!), go ahead and install Rocket Note by clicking here.
Our goal now is to get acquired by YouTube as quickly as possible. Things are looking great, since they are laser-focused on "education, education, education" in 2018.