14 9 / 2013
These past two weeks I rode a 24/7 coding roller-coaster Night and day, hacking away on an idea that flooded my mind and body. The idea came to me while driving to a coffee shop to work on a contract. That ten minute drive caused that contract to be put on hold for “the day”, which in turn put it on hold for two weeks….
The first startup I built as an engineer took over ONE FULL YEAR to develop, only to have a handful of customers. I am not making that mistake again.
I have wanted to create something for the baby boomer demographic for a while, but couldn’t quite put my finger on a product for them. Here’s my “aha” moment:
Mom and all her friends have hundreds of pictures on their smartphones and want the ability to easily get them printed to have and send to family and friends, but the idea of acclimating to another “app” is frightening. They do however, already feel comfortable sending picture messages via text. What if they could just send a picture message along with the name of the recipient and I would print and ship it? Booyah!
I used ruby on rails (obviously) to build everything out quickly. Here are the api’s I used. Each one crucial to the end result:
I used Lob to do the physical printing and shipping. They are a Y-combinator startup that has a sweet api for just that. https://www.lob.com/
I began using Twilio (which was an obvious choice for integrating text messaging for me). I soon realized Twilio does not allow MMS (picture messages) in the US, so I searched and quickly came up with Mogreet. I got pretty much what I needed from them (they also have really great customer support and nice people). http://www.mogreet.com/
Paypal had two major components I needed: micropayments, and pre-approvals. If you have transactions under $12 micropayments have a smaller fee. Pre-approvals allow me to send a pay request without the user confirming each time (necessary for a “text transaction”). I used their adaptive payments gem which was super easy to integrate.
Lastly I used AWS S3 to store my images. Prior to storing them in the cloud, I needed to trim them down to 4” x 6” which I completed fairly easily using imagemagick.
So after I launched this product I had more orders in the first 24 hours than I did in total with my startup that took over a year to develop.
I am not sure where this product will take me, but I did learn a valuable lesson so far, and that is to get your product out to your customers as fast as possible. Even if your site is buggy, fuck it! If your demographic does not like your idea and won’t use it, who cares if your login page doesn’t redirect to the correct page. Just get your shit out to customers NOW!
Here is the product. I will be happy to share source code with anyone interested.
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