Visit Your Musers

It’s hard to build great technology products without a muser. The muser not only adds emotional motivation to the developer’s work ethic; she serves a cognitive function of focusing his mind on the one thing that truly matters: what using the thing is like. Without her, projects disintegrate into scattered bundles of individual features, appealing to the intellect but not the heart.

- Jakob Lodwick, Elepath.

Hands down the most inspired we’ve felt as a company has been our excursions to visit our musers, see first-hand how they get down with iDoneThis, and chat about the vision and direction of the company.

From San Francisco to Ottawa to Learn How to Startup

It started serendipitously.  In February, we’d started corresponding with a guy named Tobi at Shopify about a support matter who turned out to be the CEO.  The more we talked to Tobi and read about Shopify, the more enamored we grew with them — they do things their own way and on their own terms, and they’ve been wildly successful.

our muser shopify

When the iDoneThis crew was sitting around chatting one night about Shopify, we were struck with a brilliant idea!  We should get to know them, see how they use iDoneThis, and learn how they’ve built an amazing company.  It was a bit forward, but that night we invited ourselves up to Ottawa, Canada, to hang out with them at work for a week.

The next day, Tobi wrote back:

That sounds really cool. Cody Fauser ( our CTO ) agrees that iDoneThis is working really well at Shopify. There are a few things that we definitely have on our wishlist  but once there is an umbrella company account type all the really important things are there.

Send over some dates and also Laura from our office can help set this up.

- tobi

CEO Shopify

A month later, we flew into a frigid Ottawa winter from San Francisco and New York, and we arrived to incredibly warm and hospitable company. They gave us office space to work for an entire week, and the exec team, developers, and all staff took a ridiculous amount of time out to give us feedback and talk excitedly about what iDoneThis could be.

Tobi later told us that he was thrilled by our visit, and he wished that when he first started Shopify (over 6 years ago) that he’d spent more time getting out of the building and talking to customers.  He shared his vision for not only disrupting e-commerce software, but for re-imagining software development around creativity and craft, not hours and grind.  Everything became more meaningful because they believed in what we believed in.

We’re eternally grateful to Shopify.  Their enthusiasm for iDoneThis made us feel as if we deserved to exist, even though we still haven’t justified it based on profit.  We continue talk on a regular basis with the Shopify team and they’ve remained our customers and friends.  (Walter now plays Starcraft with Shopify data analyst Jesse Lung nearly every day.)

Waking Up in Vegas

A few months later, we started corresponding with a fellow named Will who’d recently started using iDoneThis with his team at Zappos.  It turned out that Will was Will Young, director of engineering at Zappos Labs in San Francisco and partner in the Vegas Tech Fund, a $50 million fund to bring startups to downtown Las Vegas (part of Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project, a $350 million project to revitalize downtown Las Vegas).

Will loved the product and told all of the Downtown Project team about it, including Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.  Before long, Tony and the Downtown Project crew were on iDoneThis, and we found ourselves in Las Vegas getting feedback first-hand from the Downtown Project cohort and in Tony’s apartment watching him play around with iDoneThis on his email client of choice, Pine.

our muser tony hsieh

Zappos is amazing company because they look at seemingly everything through the frame of culture and that thought process pervades the entire company.  To Zappos, culture is everything — it’s product, customer service, PR, etc.  We were humbled that they chose to use us to positively affect their culture of collaboration and feedback, because that’s something we hoped would be possible.

To Shopify, Zappos, and All of Our Musers

We were our own muser to start and that was effective but lonely.  Visiting Ottawa and Las Vegas to meet our musers tapped a deep source of motivation that imbued us with the sense that we weren’t alone and that we might be on to something.

Connecting to the people in those companies re-sensitized us to the feeling of using the product — a sense that can get numbed after using the product so many times.  Chief Design Officer at Shopify Daniel Weinand spent over an hour walking through everything about our onboarding process that sucked, and it physically hurt us.

Before we heard back from Tobi after inviting ourselves over, we were terrified that he’d laugh in our faces.  It turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of working on iDoneThis that gave us motivation, empathy, and food for thought.

Have you visited your musers?  We’d love to hear whether you were as inspired as we were.