If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. - Carl Sagan, Cosmos (1980).
It started as a vague idea framed as a joke.
When we put our site out into the world on January 2, 2011, we only processed incoming emails once per day. At the bottom of every email, we wrote:
iDoneThis is a part of the slow web movement. After you email us, your calendar is not updated instantaneously. But rest up, and you’ll find an updated calendar when you wake.
Part of the idea was to put a positive frame on one of our most glaring shortcomings. But the reason why we believed that an MVP didn’t have to include real-time processing is that we wanted to build a site whose value-added was independent from the number of times that a user interacted with the site. With something as quick and simple as one email a day, a person could build up a whole record of her accomplishments.
As we’ve worked on iDoneThis, that vague idea and unfunny joke has coalesced into a mantra. At iDoneThis, we believe in taking it slow.
- Value, not addiction or lock-in. We’re not trying to make people hate themselves. We also can’t assume actual value creation based on engagement with the product. We have to connect the engagement to actual impact.
- Prioritization and pruning, not speed. Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke told us, “The thing about getting advice is that all of the advice is right”—the question is prioritization, not how fast you can do everything.
- Do things and tell people, don’t just do things. Doing things and telling people takes twice as long as doing things. Naveen Selvadurai, the co-founder of foursquare, told us early on that one of the biggest struggles of doing a startup is making progress among multiple fronts: “Your investors may want one thing, you may want another, users a third, and the servers are probably melting.” The importance of communicating what’s getting done to the numerous stakeholders is an important lesson we’ve learned at iDoneThis.
- Deduction, not induction. Induction is simply replicating spec, which is a breeze compared with inventing spec. The companies that we respect most at iDoneThis, like Shopify, foursquare, and Harvest have the mentality not only of inventing a product but of inventing the machine that makes the product from first principles.
- Behavior change, not growth. Behavior change is about improving the lives of others, scale is about ego. Getting scale after nailing behavior change is easier than nailing behavior change (and thus having a shot at durability) after hitting scale.
- Measured, not frantic. ”High time pressure over extended periods of time leads to both poor inner work life and poor performance.” History will probably laugh at our time’s attempt to impose a mentality of industrial production upon creative work.
- Friendship, not networking. Relationships based on friendship take time to build. We’re starting from scratch as first-time startup guys, so that means we don’t have many pre-existing relationships in the startup world and the world of our industry vertical.