Whither Shootsy, or, How I Tried and Failed a Startup

Did you know that at one point I had aspirations of being an entrepreneur? For the better part of 2010 and 2011 I spent every free moment I had trying to get a startup on its feet1. It was aimed at photographers to help them manage their businesses. We called it Shootsy.

You might have noticed that everything in that paragraph is in the past tense, and that’s for good reason. Shootsy is for all intents and purposes, dead. Here’s a little bit of the history behind what happened.

shootsy-broke.png

It’s a story that’s been told over and over: we simply ran out of time. My co-founder Carter (who is now a talented, in-demand freelance designer that you should hire) moved 400 miles away to Los Angeles in the pursuit of a woman who would become his wife. As soon as he found work out there, he promptly got overloaded. My day job picked up and I got overloaded with work too. At the time I had a bad feeling about this, but plowed forward anyway.

The math just didn’t work in our favor. If you have a 40 hour a week job, you can realistically2 expect to have anywhere between 10-20 extra hours for a side project. If you have a family, expect that to get smaller.

Both of our jobs started to demand 50+ hours a week for an extended period of time, and more often than not, I simply had no time, or was just too tired to work on Shootsy. So it sat there. And sat there. And then it sat there some more. Finally after not writing any code for nearly a year, we agreed to make official what we both had known in our heads: it was done.

There was no other way to cut it. I had failed at launching a business.

The part that really stings though? How close we were. We had a few people beta testing it. We had some advisors that were going to connect us with some important people once we had shipped. I felt that the competition was weak enough to carve out a niche for ourselves3. Some important photographers were interested in trying it out.

Despite the whole thing, I don’t regret trying. I learned some important things about myself in process. I don’t know if I’m cut out to run an entire business. I’m a pretty good second banana, but I can’t say with 100% certainty that it’s a good idea to have the buck stop with me. That’s a hard pill to swallow, and maybe it will change after a few more years, but it’s a reality I have to accept.

I don’t know if I’ll attempt a startup again. An app is easier. But an app is not a business. An app can be just for fun, which is kind of what Zartbonk is.

Dan Benjamin once said that you can’t create a business as a side project. At the time, I thought I would be able to prove him wrong. Now though, he’s absolutely right. I plan to make more apps in the future, but I don’t think any of them will become my day job any time soon.

Screenshots

A Shoot
A Shoot
Packages and Payments
Packages and Payments
Contacts
Contacts
Locations
Locations
A Specific Location
A Specific Location

These are some comps that Carter made. They aren’t actual screenshots, but the actual app was pretty darn close. If I could, I’d play some Sarah McLachlan over it.

1. I even took a 5 week leave of absence (some unpaid) from my day job to focus exclusively on it. 2. “Realistically” as in a sustainable pace. You simply can’t pull 80 hour weeks continuously without something giving. 3. I still do feel that way. You won’t ever be acquired for 9 figures, but there’s enough room to sustain a good business.
Tags: business

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