A Product A Month

failed September 22nd, 2022

Lessons Learned

  • It's okay to quit
  • Aim high
  • Always get back up

The last thing I wrote on my blog was an announcement post. My partner and I were heading into 2022 with ambition. The two of us would spend every month building a new product. We'd stream every week, everything would be open source, and there was no way we would fail.

Well, nine months into the year, here I am writing about the projects failure. I won't go into the reasons we set out to do it; this is a postmortem.

I think 12products was actually going pretty well for us. We ended up building three things together (poke, War Room, cronicle). None of which are particularly active. Our original intention was never to build long-lasting products anyways so that isn't where we fell short.

We only made three things. I'm sure you're aware that there are twelve months in a year so it's pretty clear by now that we failed gloriously. I don't want to speak for Alice but I definitely had a lot of fun during those three months of hacking away.

Even with the momentum of three projects down, 12products wasn't working for me simply due to the time constraints. We wanted to launch products. We wanted to build for fun. We weren't launching good (see: polished) products. After a few launches this started to nag at me.

With poke we actually had a few users. We're talking double digits here. I remember grinding through the second half of February and getting an email from a poke user because we were erroneously sending them text reminders that they should go to the gym. Little did they know, we were just tracking them and I knew they hadn't gone so I thought they could use the reminder (this isn't true; poke is far more simplistic than this).

Knowing that we had released a product, it had users, and we weren't supporting them felt dirty to me. I knew we could do better. I wanted to. Alice and I started having the conversation. Should we keep going? Do we need to pivot the project somehow?

Just as we were starting to discuss alternatives, Alice had an opportunity to join the Redwood JS team as a core member. Open source was an important part of my developer journey and I encouraged her to take the opportunity. Redwood is a promising project and I knew she would get to work on interesting problems (she has!).

I also started having conversations with a coworker about founding a company. We would do a trial period and see how we worked as cofounders.

The timing of all of these things seemed felt serendipitous. At the end of the day we decided to stop building a product each month and focus on the opportunities that we thought would move us closer to our own individual goals.

Looking back, the first three months of 2022 were some of the best I've had in years. Alice and I grew a lot closer by working on things together. I got to see her grow as an engineer, we had a lot of fun streaming on Twitch, and even made a few friends along the way. There were so many positives gained from this failure. I guess that's how it usually goes in retrospect.

Alice is still on the Redwood JS core team. I'm no longer trialling the cofounder role. We trialled working together for almost two months before I decided to focus on other things (namely photography, music, and studying).

12products was about building. There are days when I wake up and truly feel like that is my calling. It's calling me right now as I'm typing this. I hope to always be building something in one way or another. At the end of the day, pushing unpolished products out doesn't fill my cup. I'm a craftsman. I want my work to be the best it can be given the circumstances.

There are a lot of fun ideas cooking in my head right now. I look forward to writing my next project post in the coming months!