Refining the MVP - Build Log 5

Refining the MVP, building in public and From Here to Eternity!

If you're new here, you can read through old Build Logs here.

Refining the MVP

As I mentioned in the last build log, this week has all been focused on polishing and refining the product I'm currently working on. When I'm building (particularly before a product has launched), I tend to write code and get new features working rapidly, but often the first parse is hacky and doesn't deliver the user experience that I'm aspiring for. This week has been focused on tying up these loose ends, and ensuring that the product experience is as good as it can be. Examples of things that I've worked on:

  • Fixes for styling edge cases of the website at various breakpoints
  • Improvements to page loading; adding in loading states and rendering as much of the application on the server-side as possible (to prevent roundtrips between the server and the client)
  • Ability for users to upload images, to improve the styling and aesthetics of certain pages on the website
  • Configuration of the domain (that I bought last week)

Alongside this, I've tried to spend more time on the operational side of things. I don't expect the product to launch until early next year, but I want to ensure that all of the expected customer support pathways are automated - this is aligned with the thinking that I shared in Build Log 2, where I explained that I am aiming to build with as small a headcount as possible going forward (while not limiting scale).

Why I'm building a personal holding company

I've had a few questions about why I'm building a personal holding company, so I thought I'd try to address them, by sharing my thinking here:

Why build a personal holding company?

I have found over the past year that I operate best when working on a variety of things. There is clearly an upper bound to this, because I believe that focus is important, but I believe there are a few reasons for this:

  1. Diversification → reduced risk: I'm not worried about something I'm working on not working out. Trying to do something that's never been done before always poses that risk. I do worry about opportunity cost, and putting several years into some that doesn't work out. You also take on less financial risk - Michael Karnjanaprakorn explains a potential financial structure for a holding company here.
  2. Sunk Cost Fallacy: I think anyone is less likely to fall for the sunk cost fallacy when their entire identity isn't tied to one thing.
  3. Complete flexibility: I've enjoyed flexibility of how I spend my time much more than I expected this year. It's enabled me to take a few unexpected turns along the way, such as getting more actively involved in theatre, and ultimately founding my new production company, Positive Sum Productions.

Does starting a personal holding company affect the scale of my ambition?

Absolutely not. Traditionally, the majority of the largest tech companies have been venture-backed. This might remain the case going forward, but we're also seeing more examples of companies that start with distribution (such as the growing business empire of creators like Mr. Beast).

I would definitely consider raising venture capital again, for the right company. By building a personal holding company, it provides additional options to grow businesses that might not fit the mould for raising venture capital in the first place.

Growing my habit of writing and building in public

I've been trying to write more actively over the past few weeks, with several longer-form essays also in the works. I've always really enjoyed writing, but have mostly written in private up until this point. As part of my goal of sharing more actively what I'm working on, and giving a behind the scenes of building companies, I plan to create more content in 2023, including by launching a YouTube channel (which you can subscribe to already if you want to see the first video when it is published early next year).

From Here To Eternity Press Night

Earlier in the week, I attended the press night of From Here to Eternity, a re-working of the 2013 musical with music written by Stuart Brayson and Tim Rice. I loved the show, and the reviews that have come out since describe a similar experience. The show is on until 17th December, so I'd highly recommend it to anyone who is London based.


Interesting articles I've read in the past week

Aristocratic Tutoring

While running Stairway, I naturally spent a lot of time thinking about education; the challenges of the current system and how they might be solved. Over that time, I became much less optimistic about the current state of education, but recent innovations in artificial intelligence give me fresh optimism for the space.

  • Tick Tick Boom: this remains one of my favourite films. I wrote a few thoughts about how it relates to the founder journey, to mark one year since its release on Netflix.
  • The similarities between the business of theatre and technology: I've had many conversations with producers and creatives in the theatre industry this year, and found a lot more similarities between the business of theatre and technology than I had anticipated.
  • From Here to Eternity - Charing Cross Theatre: wrote my thoughts following the press night of FHTE.
  • A return to discipline: With the current market conditions, I think it will lead to stronger discipline within startups and a true unlock of the leverage that technology can provide when used strategically.
  • Avatar AI - Results: trained an AI model on images of myself, and was impressed with the results.

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