Carbonmade: A Year In Review

A lot can happen in a year.

This article was published on January 27, 2010.
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I initially thought about writing this piece for our company blog, but as that's mainly for product news, announcements, and marketing, I've decided to write it for the more entrepreneur-oriented audience that reads this blog. A lot happened behind the scenes for us in 2009, and I want to share it with you.

Carbonmade: A Year In Review

First Quarter

At the start of 2009 we had just around 85,000 members and were turning to Carbonmade full-time. As outlined in 100,000 Users And So Can You, while we were working on our company full-time by the beginning of 2008, we were also working on a separate product that we later abandoned in order to work on Carbonmade full-time.

We mainly spent that first quarter brain-storming and prototyping what we planned to do for the next iteration of Carbonmade. A lot of time was spent brainstorming and less time was spent actually building. But things would change drastically on the product front by the end of the first quarter. Dave began working on design comps and Jason began building out the code to support Dave's creations.

It was also around this time when we started to get involved in social media. We built out our Twitter and Facebook accounts. We started getting in touch with bloggers, holding contests for free upgrades, and generally getting more involved with our community.

Second Quarter

The biggest thing we did product-wise, which really only took a day, was introducing domain binding. That meant that customers could use their own domain to display their portfolio rather than username.carbonmade.com. The simplest of features, but fantastic for growth. We had an amazing quarter financially and continued to grow.

In May, Dave came to New York City to visit me and brainstorm. We went through a lot of the decisions we had made in the previous months and set aside a lot of them. We were over-complicating the entire process and coming up with too big of a vision for our next iterative release. We needed to bring something phenomenal, but a few features would be better set for the follow-up release.

Dave and I also did our first public demo by participating in the New York Tech Meetup Demo Pit. It was a fabulous experience. I think we talked to a couple hundred people, handed out an equal number of business cards, and got a few dozen e-mail follow ups. People were unbelievably impressed with Carbonmade, and it seemed like everyone in the room wanted to use the product or had a friend or family member could use it.

We were stoked.

Third Quarter

The third quarter involved a lot more development and design. There was constant brainstorming and back-and-forth about what to do, how to approach things, and where to take the company next. We were starting to see some massive growth both on the free and paid accounts, and things were really starting to come together. We had to make some serious company decisions.

I floated the idea of having our office in New York City and having Dave and Jason move out here. As I had spent the past three years building a substantial network in the New York City entrepreneur and investor circles, it made sense. They seemed open to the idea, so I asked Danny and Shawn if we could sub-lease under their office space opening up in September. They loved the idea.

In late September we moved in.

Fourth Quarter

Moving to a new office meant that Dave and Jason would have to move to New York City. Dave began coming here two weeks out of every month, beginning in early October. It was an interesting transition. Dave had been without a real office for many months at that point, and found working in one a big improvement. But there was getting used to the busy-ness of NYC and the shock of transition that we hadn't completely taken into account.

The first visit was mainly a wash work-wise, but during the next one we were working harder and better than ever before. Dave and I were able to go over everything in person, and it was an amazingly time-saving experience. Our conversations lasted half an hour, and we got more accomplished than we used to manage in our regular four-hour phone conversations.

We stripped back a lot of the features that were holding us back and generally got everything down to a more manageable amount of work and complexity. But it was still more than we could handle. Then one day in November, Dave and I talked about hiring someone to help us take on that task. Within 48 hours we had everything wrapped up and agreed that our new employee, Grant, would start on January 1, 2010.

Our next big decision came when we decided to put our new version on hold to re-design our marketing site. We started the re-design in the beginning of December and plan to release it any day now. The reason that we decided to put the app design on hold and work on the marketing site was that Dave was getting burned out on that, we wouldn't have Grant until January, and Grant's job is to work on completing our app with Dave. So everything just made sense. So now we'll soon have a fresh new marketing site and be able to devote the rest of the first quarter of 2010 to wrapping up our new app.

P.S. We also turned four years old in December!

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