13 Nov 2011

End Game

A friend asked me the other night - “What’s your goal with SpeakerText / Humanoid? Are you looking to eventually sell it?”

I thought about the question for a moment and was completely surprised when I realized that I hadn’t even thought about it in a long time.

I have to confess - I used to think about this a lot more. Before we set the wheels in motion for the pivot that became Humanoid, we had some interesting things going on with SpeakerText, but it never felt like the kind of company that could become truly huge or disrupt industries in a big way. Our technology could provide the cheapest audio transcription across the internet if we wanted to, and we could have spent years refining the product, optimizing conversion, growing the customer base. But when we ran the numbers, the potential returns didn’t justify it. Sure, it could have made money, but it would have been a local maxima, not a thunder lizard.

Stepping back even more, before these market realizations came about, I was having fun and loving what I did, but deep down I always felt like the motivation was the payday at the end, rather than the satisfaction of the work for its own sake. I’d constantly project figures in my head - “If we sold for ‘x’, how much would I make?”. Day-to-day we were enjoying ourselves, but I never felt a deep tie to what we were doing.

So why does this time around feel so much different? I wouldn’t say that we’re guaranteed success, but we’ve taken everything we’ve learned about ourselves, about building a product and creating an organization over the past year and used it to up our game with Humanoid. We’re taking a more customer-focused approach to build product, we’re attacking a much more nascent, potentially much bigger market, and we have real competitors to worry about this time around.

The stakes are higher, but we’re better at the game.

But the real reason why I don’t want to let go of Humanoid for a long time is that I’m personally more excited about the role I’m playing in this company than I ever have been before, and the work I do is an integral component of our product. This is probably the subject of another blog post entirely, but over the past six months or so I realized that being a co-founder doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to be a manager, or attend every meeting with investors. Personally, I’m contributing the most when I’m building things. Recently, I’ve even started to expand my design skills, as that’s an area that’s lacking in our organization, but an area which I’ve always cared about.

I’ve always considered myself an extremely fast learner, but the truth is that when I co-founded SpeakerText I had very little web dev experience. My skill set has grown immensely over the past year, in tandem with my confidence. I took it upon myself to come up with the front-end interface to Humanoid, built what was in my head, and have received extremely positive feedback so far. I’ve taken more responsibility for our product than ever before, and I’ve realized that my reason to exist in the company is to make sure customers have a good experience with our product

Bottom line: I’m happier than ever. I’m learning more than ever. I feel like I’m doing bigger things than I ever have before. I don’t want to stop.

I feel more like a ‘founder’ than I ever have before.

So…onwards, upwards, forwards. I haven’t bothered to speculate where this could end up, and it no longer drives what I do. I would be less happy on Monday if I had money in my pocket than if I could go back to the office and work on building awesome stuff. I finally understand why Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t yet sold Facebook, even though he received many outsized offers. Because his end game is to build a company. So is mine.