Wahooly’s Failure to Launch

Posted on February 5, 2012

I’ve been carefully watching a new startup called Wahooly.

The idea behind Wahooly is for startups to give a % of equity to early members, which Wahooly would facilitate. So for example, say you launched a new startup and wanted to quickly get a few thousand people using your site. Well, you’d go to Wahooly and you’d say, “I’ll give the first 5,000 members that you send me 5% share in his new startup”. Wahooly would email it’s member base and would say, “hey, first 5,000 members to join this new startup gets a portion of the 5%”. So that’s the idea.

I signed up for Wahooly’s pre-launch email list months ago. Since then they send me emails every few weeks updating me of when they will launch (I think they wanted to have like 200 startups ready go by launch). Well, launch for Wahooly happened a few days ago, and since then they’ve been experiencing some pretty serious technical problems. People can’t login, others can’t use the core service.

Today I get an apology email from them stating that they rushed things, rolling out a less than read site. They are planning on freezing site activity until they can make things more stable. Here’s the email: http://eepurl.com/iZNeP

Takeaway

I can’t blame Wahooly for the failure to launch. Launching a startup is hard. There are issues of scalability, security, weird bugs, weird users… things you just can’t fully anticipate without people actually using the site. Wahooly would have been much better off if they implemented a Lean Startup approach.

What is lean startup?

Learn startups is a methodology taken from the Japanese system of lean manufacturing. The idea is to launch your core product as quickly as possible, get users to start using the system in day one, and iterate based on those early users feedback. We launched Triberr this way, and I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.

The downside of the lean startup is that things are usually pretty ugly at first. Here is some proof. This is the earliest video of Triberr’s interface I could find. It’s 10 months old, which is about two months after the site launched:

Pretty ugly huh? It’s ok. There’s no denying that it was. However, we have come a long way. Check out the site’s current design:

Much better, right?

The point is that we could have held off on releasing Triberr for 6 months or a year to get all the bugs out, give it a pretty design and launch a completed version of the site. But if we had done that, it wouldn’t have incorporated any feedback or features from our members. We may have spend a year building something that nobody wanted to use. Or we may have launched, and then had to un-launch because we weren’t battle tested, like Wahooly.

My Advice

If you’re considering starting a company, project or app, consider shipping your product as soon as possible. You may not have sites like Mashable and Techcrunch building buzz for your big launch day like Wahooly, but that might actually be a good thing. Your first year as a startup is usually a pretty ugly and difficult time. Why would you want a public spotlight on you work your way though fumbles and glitches.

Launch early and iterate often. Keep expectations low, and get users on the product as quickly as possible. Start monetizing the site as early as possible, and focus on building relationships with your early users. You’ll make a lot of mistakes that first year so you’ll be asking for a lot of forgiveness. Members are much more likely to stick with you when they’ve seen your platform grow over time, as opposed to an email list with high expectations on an anticipated launch.

I wish the guys over at Wahooly the best luck. I’m sure they’ll get things figured out soon, and when they do I’ll be first in line to register on some of these new startups.


4 Replies to "Wahooly's Failure to Launch"

  • Dino Dogan
    February 6, 2012 (1:12 am)
    Reply

    Im right there with you, buddy.

    I’ve been wondering whats happening with Wahooly. And technical issues makes sense. Lord knows we’ve had our share…

    Feels little redundant to say that I agree with lean startup philosophy but ya, launch yesterday and iterate, incorporate feedback, then iterate, then repeat :-)

    • Dan Cristo
      February 6, 2012 (3:00 pm)
      Reply

      I remember reaching a chapter in “Rework” that basically said, “Don’t worry if Mashable and Techcrunch don’t write about you early on. It’s better if you’re not in the spotlight the first year”. 

      I honestly didn’t believe them. But now I see how Wahooly had all this press and attention slathered on them pre-launch, and now they’ve left a bad first impression in the minds of a lot of users. With the startup environment being so difficult anyway, you certainly don’t want your first public appearance to be a fumble.

      For us, we didn’t really have a choice with Triberr. When building a community powered site, you kind of have to just build something and let the community decide how they’re going to use it. I know for sure if we had built something for 6 months it would have been the wrong thing. 

  • Aaron Biebert
    February 6, 2012 (2:59 pm)
    Reply

    Good advice.  Refinements, yes, but at least Triberr was working in a general way and added value.  

    Love how far it’s come.  

  • Moe
    August 15, 2012 (9:24 pm)
    Reply

    Just happened to come across this entry…and they still haven’t ‘Launched’

    I signed up in December and still don’t have access. Anyone doing business with them should really reconsider. 


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