A Stupid Idea, One Year Later

iDoneThis had the humblest of beginnings, and in a year’s time, we’ve gone from a stupid idea to having helped people get over 500,000 things done.  It’s been an incredible year.

On December 17, 2010, Rodrigo wrote me the following email.  The title of the email was “stupid idea”.

A daily “what did you achieve today?” email. We send the email and expect a response.

Y’know there is this:

http://lifehacker.com/281626/jerry-seinfelds-productivity-secret  (he gets a big calendar and marks an  X on every day that he’s written jokes, the long chains of Xs get him to write more jokes)

Based on the emails that people send, we’d have some kind of graph/calendar like Seinfeld’s.

When we don’t hear from people we send them an angry email and show them their calendar with their string of Xs broken the next day.

I can likely put some rudimentary version of this together in a couple of days.

We called it “Attain Chain”.  And then we changed it because that’s a horrible name. Here’s one of the lists we kicked around.

dobait

rappio

donelick

donefuse

rappnag

donedrone

iDoneThis looks pretty good in comparison, huh?

Rodrigo, Peng (the site’s genius designer), and I started hacking on iDoneThis around Christmas time.  We made a push the weekend of the New Year to get a minimal viable product out by Monday.

And minimal it was.  We only sent email once a day, we only processed email once a day, we didn’t work with non-English characters, and we had to do unsubscribes by hand.  But we got it done.

On January 3, the first Monday of the new year, we put iDoneThis up on Hacker News, and it was glorious — 152 signups!

Barely anything worked right.  Rodrigo and I chatted at 1am at the end of a long day.

Rodrigo: i think we survived day 1

me: i need to go to sleep

Rodrigo: me too

good night

me: goodnight

made you a ton of tickets

Everything built slowly from there.  We kept working on iDoneThis as a side project here and there and soon we went from 1,000 daily dones to over 30,000 daily dones.

We initially hesitated to turn iDoneThis into our full-time gig because of how simple the site is.  A major deterrent was the incredulousness of friends and family that iDoneThis could become anything serious.

But we talked to our users who told us that they loved the service because it was so easy to use.  Our main learning from 2011 is that simplicity is power.

For one, simple services have a variety of use-cases which overlap with “legitimate” businesses and have an inherent advantage over those services merely for being simple.

We made up our minds to go at it full-time, got into AngelPad, and got things really rolling.

Now iDoneThis has helped people get over 500,000 things done and we have big things in store for 2012.

To everyone who works with us and to everyone who loves to use iDoneThis — I think we survived year 1.  Thanks for all the tickets.