What I’ve Learned From Launching 8 Projects in 8 Months

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At the end of 2010 I had a pretty harsh realization. Even though I spent the year talking about, and working on, many projects, I never actually launched anything. It was this realization that caused me to set a personal goal to launch (or co-launch) one project a month in 2011 (referred to as 1x1x2011 from now on). 8 months have passed and I’ve launched (or been a part of a team launching) 8 projects. I thought now would be a good time to take a moment to pause and reflect on why I embarked on 1x1x2011 and what I’ve learned.

Y U NO LAUNCH?!

When I realized I didn’t launched anything in 2010 I spent a lot of time asking myself “why?”. Initially, I made a lot of excuses for myself: the ideas weren’t good enough, they needed more testing, I didn’t want to spend the money. Eventually I had to admit that these weren’t the real reason, the real reason was I was afraid. As creators, we put so much of ourselves into what we work on and facing the criticism can be difficult. I believe this is universally accepted with things like art and music, but sometimes with technology we try to pretend like it’s not true. Technology is viewed as (and sometime is) scientific and non-emotional. But I wanted to use technology as a way to express myself. I brainstormed 1x1x2011 as a way of forcing myself to face my fear.

What’s the Point?

8 projects in and I’ve done so much more than get past my fear of launching. By working with new technologies I’ve really expanded my skill-set. I’ve also developed some great friendships. The projects I’m the proudest of are ones I’ve built with others. I have wonderful friends and am thankful that through these projects these friendships have been able to develop and grow. Almost every project I’ve launched has been with some help from my wife, Hannah Robinett, which is a great treat as well.

It’s been an extremely humbling experience. In the past 8 months, projects I’ve been involved in have been featured on sites like Mashable and Thrillist. They’ve been talked about on a nationally syndicated radio show and featured in the iTunes Store. Other projects have been totally ignored. Everyone has that fantasy of one of their projects getting some press and then VCs knocking down their door. Maybe this happens for some, but it didn’t for anything I worked on. 1x1x2011 showed me that launching an app isn’t as scary as I made it out to be, but it also showed me that to be successful you have to do so much more than just launch. You need to iterate and make the idea better. You need to engage your users. You need to add value to their lives. That being said, I think it’s been a worthwhile experiment and I’m glad I did it. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who has a hard time launching things.

What’s Next?

Paraphrasing what a good friend said to me, “Your problem is you’re taking the whole concept of building a product and compressing it into a 2-4 week period. This isn’t how the real world works.” This is great criticism (and why I’m thankful for the friends I have), though I do hope to finish out my goal for 1x1x2011. For 2012, my hope is to settle on one idea and devote some serious effort to it. We’ll see whether that’s something that came out of 1x1x2011 or something completely new. Regardless, I know this experiment has helped me prepare for making that kind of commitment and (hopefully) being successful with it.