Michael Bates and Blake Seufert already had their hands full with their Melbourne-based technology and design company, Quinella, and their first product, iNewsletter. Never shying away challenges, however, they decided to use a holiday break to attempt building and marketing an iPhone app, Onme, in 5 days.
Yes, just FIVE days – and they filmed a mini-documentary of the experience to give others a sense of what it’s really like to build an iPhone app. Read or watch everything that happened and find out what lessons they learned on The Bootstrapped Blog.
No spoiling the fun, but rest assured the duo is still hard at work on iNewsletter, “The Next Generation Online Newsletter.” iNewsletter takes the entire process of creating and distributing newsletters online, with a focus on improving school communication. Author tools make it easier for schools and organizations to publish quickly throughout social media channels and to email subscribers. Their newsletters are photo-oriented and have responsive designs. Both qualities help engage the audience no matter what device is used for viewing. Michael Bates tells us more:
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
Blake is the creative mind behind the company. Finding a name is really hard, especially one that is catchy and short. I strongly believe Snapchat wouldn’t be as successful today if they named their app ‘Short Picture’, for example. Our company name (Quinella) took us almost 1 year to find.
What was your first computer? How old were you when you first got on the world wide web?
My first computer was a Packard-Bell. I don’t know the exact model, but it was a grey thing. My parents hated when I went near it because I would so often restore it to factory state. I can’t remember exactly when I first got on the internet, but I think I was about 9. Back in the Windows 98 days. I was planning on starting a company called ‘Computer Software and Things’, and began writing a website in Microsoft Word. I also began writing a Microsoft Access database to store all the stock that I was going to sell. I’d told my parents that I’d use the front lounge room to store all the stock.
What time do you usually start work each day? How many hours a day do you usually work?
Blake and I don’t work full time on our products. We work our day jobs (IT Department in a school), and then usually go back to Blake’s house after work to continue our projects. Blake came up with the idea for this [app in 5 days] project while traveling in the US with his wife on his honeymoon. He said that while spending countless hours on the plane, with nothing else to do, he came up with the idea. After reading execute where Drew Wilson wrote Spacebox in 5 days, Blake thought we could take this a step further and make a documentary out of it.
When’s the last time you went on vacation and where did you go?
I last took a holiday to Torquay last January. Torquay is a beautiful place on the coast of Victoria, Australia. I go there every year with my family.
What’s the very first thing you do at work every day?
I either tidy up my desk to clear my head for the day before me, or I fill up my water jug.
When do your best ideas come to you? In bed in the morning? During dinner? On your third beer?
Usually when I’m by myself, so that means when driving to work, in bed at night, or in the shower. Sometimes I lay on my bed, and listen to some Armin van Buuren to try and come up with some ideas.
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually go after yours?
We’re both young (Blake – 29, me – 21), and we both dream big. We both also don’t want to be dreamers and not doers. We figure that if we fail miserably then we would have learned a huge lesson – a lesson we can apply to our next project.
Remember the early days of starting up? Describe the struggles you went through.
These are the early days of starting up! The biggest struggle is money, because we’re bootstrapping. Another struggle is time – with both of us working full time it makes it hard to meet customers, and sit down and nut out big problems. That being said, with every problem are many solutions!
How do you handle frustration? What has been your biggest professional frustration?
I’m naturally a very calm person, but as everyone does, I still get frustrated. I find that when frustrated or stressed, the best thing is to not let it get to you, because if you do, you won’t be able to concentrate. If you can’t concentrate and think clearly you won’t be able to find a solution to the problem – leading to more stress! So sit back for a second, take a deep breath, and then try to solve the problem at hand.
What’s your office environment like?
I wish we had an office! We work from Blake’s home office, which is a relaxed environment. We usually listen to music while working; I find it helps keep me motivated.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
We both agree that we want to remain as lean as possible. We don’t want to hire people unless we absolutely have to. We also believe in as little technology [as possible]. Some people love using technology in their app for the sake of using technology. Not us. Unless it’s critical to the app, it’s not going to be part of it. We hope to find like-minded people who share our passion and who want to help our company grow. Not because of their pay, but because they are as passionate about it as we are.
Who or what inspires YOU?
I’m inspired by challenge. If I start something, and it proves to be challenging, I might stop it for a while. But I will always come back, because in the back of my mind is that challenge which hasn’t been solved. I’ve tried learning the Scala programming language numerous times now, but it still looks like black-magic to me. But I will learn it!
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowdfunded?
We are a completely self-funded startup. We’ve paid for everything out of our own pocket.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
Remain as lean as possible. Don’t aim to be a bank, with hundreds of staff sitting at their desk, doing busywork. Only use resources if it’s absolutely necessary, whether that be staff, technology, even paper – go paperless!
What other advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get started?
From time to time, step back from your venture and think “is this actually a good idea.” Try to be your worst critic, and pick the faults in your company. Then fix them. That being said, always be positive about anything you do for your company. Work in a positive environment, and with positive people. You don’t want a pessimist telling you how all your ideas aren’t going to work. You want someone who is positive about your good ideas and can see the value in them.
What would you do if you had a year off and $500,000 to spend (on something other than work)?
I’ll admit it – I’d probably buy a nice car and a house. I know, it’s not exciting, but a house is kind of essential in life!
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur? If not, what’ll make you feel successful?
I don’t consider myself successful, but I think I’m curious. I want to one day look back and see myself as successful, but at this stage I’m not sure what the definition of successful is. I’d love to see people using our software, and using it because they’ve chosen to, and want to.
Top 5 websites you couldn’t live without and why?
- Trello – The best task list I’ve ever used.
- Amazon Web Services – Seriously, I’m in there almost every day.
- Gmail – Anyone that uses anything else, is seriously missing out. I love Google Apps (Docs, Groups etc), and anyone else who says Office 365 is better needs to have a chat with me!
- Stack Overflow – The community is awesome, and it has almost every answer I’m searching for. There’s a huge difference between SO and other forum sites.
- Django – I’m a python developer, so naturally I need the Django documentation at my fingertips.
Top 5 mobile apps you’re in love with and why?
- Pandora – Couldn’t live without music.
- Instagram – Love the implementation of the app and the simplicity of the idea
- Figure – Awesome app for making music that sounds cool!
- Kaching – For a banking app it’s leaps and bounds better than the others
- Snapchat – I’m 21, so naturally I use Snapchat!
What is your music streaming player of choice, and what are you listening to right now?
I use Pandora because I don’t like spending the time finding music. It also finds music that I love, so why would I do it myself? I’m listening to “Mansion” by Gareth Emery & Ashley Wallbridge
Three people (other than you) we should follow on Twitter and why?
- The Verge – Best news source
- Joshua Topolsky – Pretty much the same reason as above
- Abduzeedo – Best site for graphic inspiration
Where else can our readers find you online?