As you can see from the date of this post and the date of the previous post (about 5.5 months between them), my goal of getting AuditShark to alpha status at the end of July was, needless to say, a bit late. In fact, I wasn’t particularly thrilled by the sound of that self-imposed deadline whooshing by. Looking back at it now, I realize that it was inherently unrealistic to even attempt the end of July to get to Alpha.
The thing is, I’ve only ever been able to dedicate about 5-10 hours/week to the software. I’ve taken a couple of weeks off here and there which really helps with productivity, but it takes a lot longer when you’re only squeezing 5 hours of coding each week into a product. But extrapolating that back to July, that means that I likely did around 110 hours of coding. That would be 5.5 months * 5 hours/week =110 hours. There were two weeks I think where I spent about 40 hours because I took time off from consulting, so it was closer to 190-200 hours total. Had I been working on it full time, then I would have met my goals rather handily.
But I wasn’t. And I knew I wasn’t working on it full time. Perhaps I felt I would get more time into it, but with all of the other things I’ve been doing, such as the Micropreneur Academy, working on MicroConf 2012, my podcast, other products I’ve been putting maintenance time into, various work and family obligations it just wasn’t going to happen. Again, I should have known better, but I was trying to push the envelope of time and that was just unrealistic… or dumb, depending on your point of view. I’ve discussed this to a large extent on my podcast, Startups for the Rest of Us and have provided some sporadic updates via Twitter so it’s not a big secret or anything. I haven’t blogged about it because blogging takes time. It’s a lot more time consuming to write a blog article than it is to just talk about it on a podcast for 45 minutes. There’s one problem with this.
However you look at it, the result is the same. Developer Fail.
But there is a bright side of things.
As of last week, I finally reached my goal. AuditShark is far enough along that it has reached an Alpha stage, or MVP (Minimum Viable Product) as I referenced via my Twitter feed. In fact, I’ve got it running in my lab environment full time and piping data back out into the cloud so that I can do reporting. I also have a volunteer who has offered to put it in his lab environment as just as soon as he gets back from vacation, which I expect to be January 2, 2012.
No income yet, nor do I intend to try charging people until after I get through some sort of alpha testing. In fact, I will be relying on manual billing for the time being until I get enough customers where automating it is necessary. The current problem I’m wrestling with is that I haven’t reached a solid conclusion about what I consider to be the success criteria for a successful Alpha testing phase. Probably just that nothing really major breaks. I need to get some feedback from my Alpha tester to establish what they view as necessary for them to make full use of the product. But I think this is a problem that every software entrepreneur must address.
The question becomes: when should you convert from alpha to beta, and from beta to paying customers?
I have some ideas in my head, but if you have any thoughts, please leave them in the comments.