General Solutions

As a creator it can be easy to get hung up on implementation details. Sometimes you can even get stuck on the implementation itself. But it’s important to not accidentally reduce your customer base with too narrow of a solution.

I did this with Static Website Manager, my first “startup”. I had an old problem and needed a way for less-technical team members to manage a complex website’s data. I also had this problem for a couple simpler websites, which already existed as static Jekyll website.

I then quickly got excited about the prospect of building a product around these static websites. I knew Github Pages existed, but I was confident that I could build a more complete product that included form-based user interfaces so that everyone could contribute equally. I focused on the implementation and even built a user- and branch-based preview and merge system around the underlying Git data structures.

But by doing so I had restricted my customer base to just those that had existing custom Jekyll-based websites with teams that included less-technical contributors. Combined with a “build it and they will come” attitude and I was bound to fail.

Shortly thereafter I began a job at Outreach and learned a lot about sales and the customer journey, but also learned the value of general solutions. Outreach‘s customers were overwhelmed with tool fatigue. Technology had permitted sales professionals to do their job more effectively, but the tools were scattered and narrowly focused on each problem and its solution. Outreach recognized this frustration and excelled at building a focus around the “operating system” of sales.

I'm working on that old problem again. But this time, instead of technology or implementation details, I see a big problem that requires an equally big solution. I believe that what I originally needed was not a website deployment tool, but a database that everyone can use.

I‘m not going to actually build a new database per se. I‘ll leverage existing technology, but I plan to build a user interface and service so that anyone can build and manage their own complex data. And for lack of a better name, I’m going to call it Notbase. Website coming soon.