#fail
townster.de

Tina Dingel
Failure is
the state or condition of
not meeting a desirable or intended
objective, and may be viewed as

the opposite of ...
WHY?
1) Culture of experimentation
Fail fast, fail cheaply
Failure is integral to
experimentation.
Failure drives creativity and
insight.
Fail for success.
2) A personal story about
failures you don’t need to
repeat
LET’S GO…
#fail
#epicfail
#epicmegafail
TAKE AWAY
• What would I not
do again?
• Do differently?
• Start doing?
EUR X.000.000
burned
THE MONEY
The Money:
• Betafabrik, Incubator, Cologne
My Deal:
• three-year contract
• Expectation: behave like a founder ...
THE ‘SPACE’

QUICK QUIZ
THE ‘SPACE’
•
•
•
•

Location-based service
Directory of businesses
Events
Reviews by users
THE ‘SPACE’
•
•
•
•

Location-based service
Directory of businesses
Events
Reviews by users

How to earn money?
-> Make bu...
THE APPROACH
Lean Startup Approach
Lean Startup Approach

Failure is the state or
condition of

not meeting a desirable or intended objective,
and may be vie...
‘Fat Startup’

IDEA

BUILD

PRODUCT

EXIT
‘Fat Startup’

IDEA

BUILD

PRODUCT

EXIT
Idea from 2007 - it was 2009
#fail
Idea from 2007 - it was 2009
#fail

Why did I not question this?
#fail
TAKE AWAY
Internet

- fast developing space
- complex space
-> you cannot plan for complexity
-> you need to test and adap...
Way too many features
Way too many features
Way too many features
Way too many features
#fail
Way too many features
#fail

Did we test? Speak to consumers?
#fail
TAKE AWAY
Customer Driven Innovation
– speak to you customers
- Test stuff
- Focus, focus, focus
- What’s the critical fun...
DEVELOPING THE
PRODUCT
• Townster:
•
•

Initially interns, freelancers (designer, product)
Berlin, Cologne

• Web Developers
•

External, Cologne...
Odd feeling - 'requirements doc' was
mentioned again and again.
#fail
Discuss your odd feelings!

Occasional visits to the...
TAKE AWAY
The only yardstick is functioning
code. Nothing else matters.
Use agile dev methodologies –and
stick to them- ev...
MEANWHILE AT THE OFFICE…
• Worked on use cases, wireframes,
content, branding, etc
• Got location data
• Got event data
• ...
MEANWHILE AT THE OFFICE…
Retail therapy
• Office, infrastructure, etc.
 fat startup, burn rate

#fail
Still no product… a...
TAKE AWAY
Question yourself: value
generating activity?
Spend time on understanding and
adapting the system
MEANWHILE AT THE OFFICE…
• Bought a coffee machine
– good!
TAKE AWAY
Coffee is crucial.
RECRUITING
EXIT

‘For an exit,
we need a two-person management
team’
EXIT

‘For an exit,
we need a two-person management
team’
Management team
@townster
Management team
@townster
Turned out to be

#epicmegafail
TAKE AWAY
Invest time, time, time in selecting a
co-partner.
That person is going to be your
‘work spouse’.
Go date…
MEANWHILE AT THE OFFICE…

Office Warming Party – nice!
Hiring a CTO
Hiring a CTO
Turned out to be an

#epicmegafail
TAKE AWAY
Developers are not ‘different’.

You need to work with them.
It should be fun.
If not – re-think this relationsh...
DEVELOPING THE
PRODUCT
CODE REVIEW

Externals reviewing externals
CODE REVIEW

#epicmegafail
No Code!
At least not usable one
TAKE AWAY
The only yardstick is functioning
code. Nothing else matters.
Face customers, deliver actual value
Start anew!
With one CTO & one junior dev
Web App
Way too many features
#fail
Way too many features
#fail

Let’s add another one…
Actually, let’s add a whole new product!
MOBILE – iPHONE APP
TAKE AWAY
Identify mistakes / failures.

Dare to speak about them.
Don’t repeat them.
MEANWHILE AT THE OFFICE…
Weird coding activity seemed to be
going on…
…but nothing to see.
MEANWHILE AT THE OFFICE…
•
•
•
•

Hired a marketing manager
Hired a product manager
Got a PR agency on retainer
Got a mark...
TAKE AWAY
As a Start-Up do your own PR.

And do your own marketing – with a
great product.
BURN, BABY, BURN
Weird coding activity seemed to be
going on…
…but nothing to see.
Getting nervous…
Weird coding activity seemed to be
going on…
…but nothing to see.
Getting nervous…
No transparency on progress.
Weird coding activity seemed to be
going on…
…but nothing to see.
Getting nervous…
No transparency on progress.
Setting de...
Hiring external developers and
consulting.
Injecting SCRUM.
‘Definition of Done’
TAKE AWAY
You have doubts?
Nobody takes them seriously?
Are they serious?
Then start SCREAMING to be heard.
November 2009 - January 2010

Still no product live
Coding, coding, coding….
MEANWHILE AT THE OFFICE…

Fired the CTO –
finally
LAUNCH

ST
1

FEBRUARY 2010

- YEAR AFTER START THE FIRST PRODUCT IN MARKET
- ONLY THEN FIRST FEEDBACK
#fail
-> from here ...
Very slow
test & learn cycles…
…but at least we learned.
MOBILE – featured in iTunes Store!
MOBILE – featured in iTunes Store!
Downloads!
Yay!
Way too many features
#fail

Let’s add another one…
Actually, let’s add a whole new product!
Way too many features
#fail

Let’s add another one…
Actually, let’s add a whole new product!
MOBILE – Android App
PRODUCT PORTFOLIO

Too much stuff….
#fail
TAKE AWAY
Identify mistakes / failures.

Dare to speak about them. Don’t
repeat them. Learn from them.
And FOCUS!
HOW TO EARN MONEY?
Really not that easy in given space
So we didn’t make any fresh money
But we were burning through it li...
MEANWHILE AT THE OFFICE…

nd
2

GM was
‘let go’
FRESH MONEY!
EXIT

?
IN PRODUCT
MEANWHILE AT THE OFFICE…

Cost cutting:
• Marketing manager
• Sales manager

-> ‘let go’
FRESH MONEY!
EXIT

?

Investitionsbank Berlin Brandenburg loan
#fail
TAKE AWAY

Borrowing money from a bank is a
hugely time-consuming process
Is this a value-adding activity?
FRESH MONEY?
Alternative revenue streams…
‘Do some sort of agency business, hire
out your developers.’
IS THIS REALLY ME?
REVERSE
Investitionsbank Berlin Brandenburg loan
- Negotiate way out
Failure is integral to
experimentation.
Failure drives creativity and
insight.
Fail for success.
a LOT was learned!
A STORY OF FAILURE - INSIGHTS FROM A START-UP & WHY THEY MATTER IN AN ENTERPRISE ENVIRONMENT (TINA DINGEL) - LKCE13
A STORY OF FAILURE - INSIGHTS FROM A START-UP & WHY THEY MATTER IN AN ENTERPRISE ENVIRONMENT (TINA DINGEL) - LKCE13
A STORY OF FAILURE - INSIGHTS FROM A START-UP & WHY THEY MATTER IN AN ENTERPRISE ENVIRONMENT (TINA DINGEL) - LKCE13
A STORY OF FAILURE - INSIGHTS FROM A START-UP & WHY THEY MATTER IN AN ENTERPRISE ENVIRONMENT (TINA DINGEL) - LKCE13
A STORY OF FAILURE - INSIGHTS FROM A START-UP & WHY THEY MATTER IN AN ENTERPRISE ENVIRONMENT (TINA DINGEL) - LKCE13
A STORY OF FAILURE - INSIGHTS FROM A START-UP & WHY THEY MATTER IN AN ENTERPRISE ENVIRONMENT (TINA DINGEL) - LKCE13
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A STORY OF FAILURE - INSIGHTS FROM A START-UP & WHY THEY MATTER IN AN ENTERPRISE ENVIRONMENT (TINA DINGEL) - LKCE13

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Maybe you are thinking to do the start-up thing yourself – hear what didn't work and how not to do it
Maybe you just like a good story – and bad news are always the juicier news than good news ;)
Be there for a first (and probably one of) - haven't told it before, might not tell it again

In order to become an agile company, I'm convinced we need a culture that welcomes failure (quick & cheap ones). Let's all take a first step in that direction
Because the time is just about right – two years after the fact, it feels ok to share a candid look back
Because a colleague pointed me to a very interesting TED talk about the power of vulnerability

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A STORY OF FAILURE - INSIGHTS FROM A START-UP & WHY THEY MATTER IN AN ENTERPRISE ENVIRONMENT (TINA DINGEL) - LKCE13

  1. 1. #fail townster.de Tina Dingel
  2. 2. Failure is the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective, and may be viewed as the opposite of success.
  3. 3. WHY?
  4. 4. 1) Culture of experimentation
  5. 5. Fail fast, fail cheaply
  6. 6. Failure is integral to experimentation. Failure drives creativity and insight. Fail for success.
  7. 7. 2) A personal story about failures you don’t need to repeat
  8. 8. LET’S GO…
  9. 9. #fail #epicfail #epicmegafail
  10. 10. TAKE AWAY • What would I not do again? • Do differently? • Start doing?
  11. 11. EUR X.000.000 burned
  12. 12. THE MONEY The Money: • Betafabrik, Incubator, Cologne My Deal: • three-year contract • Expectation: behave like a founder - #fail Me: • 34yrs old, GM experience, Product Mkt at PP • no coding experience
  13. 13. THE ‘SPACE’ QUICK QUIZ
  14. 14. THE ‘SPACE’ • • • • Location-based service Directory of businesses Events Reviews by users
  15. 15. THE ‘SPACE’ • • • • Location-based service Directory of businesses Events Reviews by users How to earn money? -> Make businesses pay for placements
  16. 16. THE APPROACH
  17. 17. Lean Startup Approach
  18. 18. Lean Startup Approach Failure is the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective, and may be viewed as the opposite of success.
  19. 19. ‘Fat Startup’ IDEA BUILD PRODUCT EXIT
  20. 20. ‘Fat Startup’ IDEA BUILD PRODUCT EXIT
  21. 21. Idea from 2007 - it was 2009 #fail
  22. 22. Idea from 2007 - it was 2009 #fail Why did I not question this? #fail
  23. 23. TAKE AWAY Internet - fast developing space - complex space -> you cannot plan for complexity -> you need to test and adapt in short iterations
  24. 24. Way too many features
  25. 25. Way too many features
  26. 26. Way too many features
  27. 27. Way too many features #fail
  28. 28. Way too many features #fail Did we test? Speak to consumers? #fail
  29. 29. TAKE AWAY Customer Driven Innovation – speak to you customers - Test stuff - Focus, focus, focus - What’s the critical functionality? Shave off the rest, nobody will use it anyway.
  30. 30. DEVELOPING THE PRODUCT
  31. 31. • Townster: • • Initially interns, freelancers (designer, product) Berlin, Cologne • Web Developers • External, Cologne-based • Faux-agile w/daily phone 'standups’
  32. 32. Odd feeling - 'requirements doc' was mentioned again and again. #fail Discuss your odd feelings! Occasional visits to their office Nothing to see / click #fail
  33. 33. TAKE AWAY The only yardstick is functioning code. Nothing else matters. Use agile dev methodologies –and stick to them- even in the smallest teams.
  34. 34. MEANWHILE AT THE OFFICE… • Worked on use cases, wireframes, content, branding, etc • Got location data • Got event data • Busy, busy, bang, bang…
  35. 35. MEANWHILE AT THE OFFICE… Retail therapy • Office, infrastructure, etc.  fat startup, burn rate #fail Still no product… and no valuegenerating activity.
  36. 36. TAKE AWAY Question yourself: value generating activity? Spend time on understanding and adapting the system
  37. 37. MEANWHILE AT THE OFFICE… • Bought a coffee machine – good!
  38. 38. TAKE AWAY Coffee is crucial.
  39. 39. RECRUITING
  40. 40. EXIT ‘For an exit, we need a two-person management team’
  41. 41. EXIT ‘For an exit, we need a two-person management team’
  42. 42. Management team @townster
  43. 43. Management team @townster Turned out to be #epicmegafail
  44. 44. TAKE AWAY Invest time, time, time in selecting a co-partner. That person is going to be your ‘work spouse’. Go date…
  45. 45. MEANWHILE AT THE OFFICE… Office Warming Party – nice!
  46. 46. Hiring a CTO
  47. 47. Hiring a CTO Turned out to be an #epicmegafail
  48. 48. TAKE AWAY Developers are not ‘different’. You need to work with them. It should be fun. If not – re-think this relationship.
  49. 49. DEVELOPING THE PRODUCT
  50. 50. CODE REVIEW Externals reviewing externals
  51. 51. CODE REVIEW #epicmegafail
  52. 52. No Code! At least not usable one
  53. 53. TAKE AWAY The only yardstick is functioning code. Nothing else matters. Face customers, deliver actual value
  54. 54. Start anew! With one CTO & one junior dev Web App
  55. 55. Way too many features #fail
  56. 56. Way too many features #fail Let’s add another one… Actually, let’s add a whole new product!
  57. 57. MOBILE – iPHONE APP
  58. 58. TAKE AWAY Identify mistakes / failures. Dare to speak about them. Don’t repeat them.
  59. 59. MEANWHILE AT THE OFFICE… Weird coding activity seemed to be going on… …but nothing to see.
  60. 60. MEANWHILE AT THE OFFICE… • • • • Hired a marketing manager Hired a product manager Got a PR agency on retainer Got a marketing agency to think about marketing #fail
  61. 61. TAKE AWAY As a Start-Up do your own PR. And do your own marketing – with a great product.
  62. 62. BURN, BABY, BURN
  63. 63. Weird coding activity seemed to be going on… …but nothing to see. Getting nervous…
  64. 64. Weird coding activity seemed to be going on… …but nothing to see. Getting nervous… No transparency on progress.
  65. 65. Weird coding activity seemed to be going on… …but nothing to see. Getting nervous… No transparency on progress. Setting deadline – to no avail.
  66. 66. Hiring external developers and consulting. Injecting SCRUM. ‘Definition of Done’
  67. 67. TAKE AWAY You have doubts? Nobody takes them seriously? Are they serious? Then start SCREAMING to be heard.
  68. 68. November 2009 - January 2010 Still no product live Coding, coding, coding….
  69. 69. MEANWHILE AT THE OFFICE… Fired the CTO – finally
  70. 70. LAUNCH ST 1 FEBRUARY 2010 - YEAR AFTER START THE FIRST PRODUCT IN MARKET - ONLY THEN FIRST FEEDBACK #fail -> from here to April 2011
  71. 71. Very slow test & learn cycles… …but at least we learned.
  72. 72. MOBILE – featured in iTunes Store!
  73. 73. MOBILE – featured in iTunes Store! Downloads! Yay!
  74. 74. Way too many features #fail Let’s add another one… Actually, let’s add a whole new product!
  75. 75. Way too many features #fail Let’s add another one… Actually, let’s add a whole new product!
  76. 76. MOBILE – Android App
  77. 77. PRODUCT PORTFOLIO Too much stuff…. #fail
  78. 78. TAKE AWAY Identify mistakes / failures. Dare to speak about them. Don’t repeat them. Learn from them. And FOCUS!
  79. 79. HOW TO EARN MONEY? Really not that easy in given space So we didn’t make any fresh money But we were burning through it like mad
  80. 80. MEANWHILE AT THE OFFICE… nd 2 GM was ‘let go’
  81. 81. FRESH MONEY! EXIT ?
  82. 82. IN PRODUCT
  83. 83. MEANWHILE AT THE OFFICE… Cost cutting: • Marketing manager • Sales manager -> ‘let go’
  84. 84. FRESH MONEY! EXIT ? Investitionsbank Berlin Brandenburg loan #fail
  85. 85. TAKE AWAY Borrowing money from a bank is a hugely time-consuming process Is this a value-adding activity?
  86. 86. FRESH MONEY? Alternative revenue streams… ‘Do some sort of agency business, hire out your developers.’
  87. 87. IS THIS REALLY ME?
  88. 88. REVERSE Investitionsbank Berlin Brandenburg loan - Negotiate way out
  89. 89. Failure is integral to experimentation. Failure drives creativity and insight. Fail for success.
  90. 90. a LOT was learned!

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