I’ve Left FeedLounge

As posted on the FeedLounge blog, I’ve left FeedLounge.

Here are the quick bits:

  • Last Wednesday, I sold my share of the company to Scott and he is continuing to run the service.
  • I am no longer involved in anything FeedLounge related (except in a historical sense).
  • Scott and I don’t hate each other and never got into any screaming at each other or mud-slinging or anything juicy (sorry rumormongers), we just couldn’t agree on how to move forward from the status quo. I consider Scott to be a friend and continue to tout him as one of the smartest and most capable engineers I’ve ever worked with.

For those who want more details, read on…

A Brief History

When Scott and I first discussed creating a feed reading service (in January 2005), we decided on a simple and proven model for the business: offer a basic free version and upsell a portion of our customers to a premium version that has a monthly fee.

Along the way, we discovered a whole mess of challenges in scaling the service and eventually decided to go live with only the paid service to start. This was a tough choice, and it annoyed a number of folks who were anxiously waiting for the doors to open.

In retrospect, I don’t know if this was a good idea or not. Once we were live as a paid service, maintaining the service and trying to scale it became job number one (slowing down our ability to innovate and execute new features). And even so, we struggled.

Reality

Sometimes life gets in the way of what you want to do. Scott and I both had to take some time away from FeedLounge over the last year and a half. We both have mortgages and Scott just recently became a father, giving him a whole slew of new responsibilities.

When you’re making your living as an independant developer, you’ve got to make sure you get your bills paid. While we had attracted a number of loyal users, FeedLounge was far from paying 2 salaries plus operating costs.

Trouble Moving Forward

About a month ago, I approached Scott about changing the FeedLounge status quo. I didn’t feel that we were providing the level of service necessary for us to attract and retain users, and we were continuing to struggle with a variety of issues. I didn’t feel like we were moving forward as much as we were treading water.

In fact, I proposed a number of options that included temorarily halting billing, turning off registration and even shutting down the service entirely to allow us to address some of these issues.

I felt that we needed to:

  1. Fix the bugs
  2. Improve stability and uptime
  3. Move forward quickly (and perhaps in different directions on the back-end) to offer a free version as originally planned

I believe that the little guy can beat the big guy, but has to do so by delivering a superior product and user experience. Small wins born from execution provide momentum, and you can grow from there. Failing to execute is something the little guy just can’t afford, and ultimately I feel it is where we came up short.

Unfortunately, Scott and I had a fundamental disagreement over where our major failings (as a business) were – and as a result, what needed the most attention. The more we discussed things, the more they boiled down to this single point of disagreement. If we couldn’t agree on how to move forward, how were we to move forward?

While I was willing to shut things down, Scott believes he can get things turned around with time. I hope that he does. FeedLounge is the best user interface and user experience I’ve ever built, and I’ve got a lot of blood, sweat and tears invested in it.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the choice for me to leave was very hard, but one I felt had to be made. Despite hard work and the best of intentions, the level of service we were providing to our FeedLounge customers was just not something I was comfortable putting my name behind.

Looking Ahead

For the time being, I’m going to concentrate on making the Tasks Pro™ 1.7 and Tasks 2.7 releases the best they can be (folks love tagging!) and get them out as soon as possible. But I still believe that the RSS/Atom/Feed space is one that is ripe with potential. I’m discussing a variety of possibilities with a variety of folks and weighing a number of options – don’t be surprised to see me playing in the RSS space again at some point. :)

This post is part of the project: FeedLounge. View the project timeline for more context on this post.