Is this what this is supposed to feel like? Am I doing it right? What do other people do on their launch day?
By Michele Spiezia (Founder & CEO, Bespoke Atelier)
I’ve worked really hard in the past few years to stop focusing on “should.” What things/relationships/experiences should feel like. Every experience you have is informed by your past, its own context, your particular mood on a given day, and how emotionally invested you are at the time. I’m human, so I’m subject to speculation, and still often find myself asking ‘Is this what this is supposed to feel like?’ So when I woke up on Tuesday, September 16th, 2014, our Launch Day, I immediately wondered:
Getting Ready for Launch Day
Bespoke was supposed to launch in mid July. “Supposed to” is right up there with should. Supposed to = expectation, and expectation sets you up for disappointment. Not that you shouldn’t have goals or milestones or measuring sticks for progress — they should just be made out of rubber instead of steel so they can adjust and bend according to reality and bounce back upon impact. (Because trust me, there will be impact.)
At Bespoke, we spent two months prepping for our expected launch. We met potential users, built our social media following & enticed investors with updates. We mapped out marketing strategies, batch tested our ideas, and held focus groups. We were hitting milestones on time, managing issues and road blocks, and feeling good overall. We knew there was a clear roadmap to align our marketing goals with our product timeline, and we were on it. The momentum was building. I was confident. It felt good. And… it was perfect — our launch would coincide with my son going to sleep away camp, so I’d be kid free — unlimited amounts of time to commit to making our launch successful, take meetings, network and think all of the hard thoughts you don’t get to have when you’re met with the task of managing another tiny human and their endless list of needs, desires and dramas.
It was now the third week of July. Instead of submitting to the app store, we decided to take an extra week to QA the app, especially since we needed to be sure that our iPad & iPhone apps as well as our web clipper extensions were all communicating properly. There were some design details that needed fixing. A few more bugs we could squash before setting sail. What was an extra week in the scheme of things? I approved the extension, and one week later we submitted to the app store.
This was our Minimum Sellable Product. Our ready-to-launch product. Our “we finally did it and are actually going to bring this thing to market” product. We cleared the app store very late on Sunday evening, August 3rd. OMG. This was SO EXCITING!! We were there. This was it. We were going to test the following morning and then send this baby out into the world!!
The Launch Day That Wasn’t a Launch Day
Everyone got into the studio early on Monday morning. At Bespoke, we have #mindfulmonday at the beginning of every week — we focus on an element of our team culture, and someone from our team does a presentation usually accompanied by a fun group activity or healthy philosophical discussion — and coffee. Lots of coffee. It’s a great way to kick off the week and stay connected as a team. We skipped it, of course, being way too excited to download our baby from the app store and give her a test drive.
Within minutes, we realized that something was wrong. Like, really wrong. There were bugs. Like MAJOR shit wrong with this app. iPhone wasn’t syncing with iPad. We were crashing like crazy. In 15 minutes we found at least a dozen things that were broken. WTF is going on?!? I blasted off an email to our dev team (two of which thought they were headed to bed in Taiwan). There was confusion. There was frustration. But most of all — disappointment.
On the same day our apps went live, we pulled them from the app store. We sat around the studio and pouted, commiserated and bitched for an hour or two before calling it quits for the day. We went home, binged on carbs, had some afternoon beers, and slept the whole thing off.
Buzz. Kill. Time.
It took us FIVE WEEKS to recover. It ended up that a problem with our production server caused a myriad of issues between the beautiful, sellable version of our product that we tested feverishly and what made it to the app store. We went back to the drawing board. We had to. It was hard. It was that awful feeling you get when your computer crashes and you didn’t save what you were working on and now you have to go back and do the same work over again a second time. It prompted me to write a letter to my future users and come to terms with the fact that what was ‘supposed to’ happen hadn’t. It forced me to share utter disappointment & frustration with my dev team for the first time since we met two years ago. What happened happened, and we had to suck it up as a team and move on.
Move on we did, and five (long) weeks later, we were ready. Submitted once again to the app store, we were in the game of waiting for approval. We tried to be patient. Every day would pass, and I’d peek at our iTunes Connect account. ‘Waiting for Review.’ Ugh. Then, on Tuesday, September 9th at 11:05pm, after having a truly crazy/shitty/wacky day (due to unrelated circumstances) we cleared the app store. I didn’t feel the same blast of excitement. It felt kind of dumbfounding actually. I mean, I felt it for a moment, but it was so much more tempered by a unique sense of conservatism and a healthy dose of skepticism. It was all under the guise of knowing that the real work was yet to be done. It kind of felt like another task on the list we could cross off, but it didn’t actually signal success quite yet. We would spend the rest of the week testing, use the weekend for any last minute fixes, take Monday to dust off our marketing & launch plan, and set this baby free on Tuesday morning.
Below is an (actual) account of what my day looked like.
Tuesday, September 16th, 2014
12:45 a.m.: Realize that I am not going to get a blog post written before morning, but be happy that our website is ready for launch, we’ve got a launch email to our subscribers scheduled, tweets buffered for the day, and an app that’s working well for iPad and iPhone. Give one last text out to the team, surrender to my heavy eyes, and head to bed.
5:45 a.m.: Wake up. Feed the cat. Walk the dog. Load the dishwasher, feed the dog, and start getting Ellis’ school lunch ready. Open my laptop on the kitchen counter so I can check email while I grill up Ellis’ quesadilla, and make myself a cup of tea that will be too hot because I left the water boiling too long because I was multitasking. Then, I’ll let it cool too long because I’m distracted getting the dog/cat/kid/husband ready to be out of the house by 8:10 that I’ll forget to drink it.
6:59 a.m. ‘Ping!’ I glance over to my phone while inhaling a boiled egg (because I typically forget to eat breakfast). Campaign Sent.
Whoa… woo hoo! Oh yeah — we’ve launched!
I look around. The dog gives me a somewhat congratulatory look, or one that could be interpreted as such. Everyone else is still asleep.
Crap. I was supposed to go to the studio early to be ready for all of this. Whatever ‘this’ is. Oh well. Sit down at the dining room table with my laptop and phone. Tabs open — mail chimp, twitter, facebook, iTunes Connect, App Annie, GrooveHQ.
7:10 a.m.: Ellis emerges from the hall, sleepy eyed and naked. “I’m hungry.”
Francesco emerges (luckily, not naked). “I thought you were going to the studio with the dog?”
“Well good morning to the both of you too!” I say.
In the next 50 minutes, I get “woo hoo!: texts from my team, tweets, retweets and congrats emails from my friends, family and even a potential investor. This is awesome! Wait, I’m still in pj’s and haven’t brushed my teeth!
It’s pouring, so I elect to have Francesco drive me to the studio with the dog before he takes Ellis to school and heads to his workout. There are backpacks, and lunches and dog toys and umbrellas and iPads and tae kwon do bags. I wish I had a photo to insert right here because we actually stopped at the front door and looked at each other, laughing —
8:15 a.m.: I’m in the studio, alone (save the dog). I’m tweeting. I’m emailing. I’m putting together cinematography timelines for our Films by Francesco shoot this weekend and sending a contract for an upcoming job, making sure the blur of excitement that is our new venture doesn’t overshadow the existing venture that will pay the rent this month.
9:15 a.m. Jomi and Christina arrive to the studio. I think there was a group hug and some high fives. We recapped the prior night, and Jomi told us he braved a really sketchy McDonald’s just to get Wi-Fi (to prep our launch day tweet) since his wasn’t working at home. We monitored our social media accounts — Respond. Post. Retweet. Repeat. We watched new accounts come through one by one.
10:30 a.m. Francesco arrived from the gym, and we had #mindfulmonday (yes, I know it’s Tuesday, but we made this a special Launch Day edition!). I presented the topic History of a Vision, mapping Francesco’s journey from birth to Bespoke, telling the tale of everything that led to this moment. We watched Steve Jobs announce the Mac in 1984, the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010. We listened to the sound of the dial up modem and he and I recounted to our (younger) team counterparts what it was like to experience the first pager, the first cell phone, Francesco’s Apple Newton, the first Web boom (and crash) and everything in between. I reminded them that today marks the tip of an iceberg that lives long and deep beneath the surface, and that every triumph and tragedy, be it infinitesimal or enormous, led us to this moment. Together. Sigh.
Things are rolling right along, and the studio is strangely calm. I went to the gym. The team held down the fort. Ten minutes into class, my mind is all over the place. ‘What if we don’t get users? What if it’s a flop? I can’t possible believe that it’s just going to take off. There’s so much work to do. We need to raise money. What if we don’t raise money? Maybe we shouldn’t raise any money. How do we reach more people? What will we do tomorrow? I wonder what the open rate is on the email list. I should have checked it one more time before I came down here to work out. Is this what launch is supposed to feel like? Shouldn’t I be more excited? This feels weird. Surreal. I’m tired. Why did I decide to work out today? I could have totally skipped it in honor of Launch Day. Omg how many more pushups are we going to have to do??’
Luckily my class (mostly) beat the monkey mind out of me. I headed back up to the studio.
1:00 p.m. “We’re going out to lunch.” Francesco announced. Don’t have to ask me twice. The rain had stopped. The sun was shining. We had to stop staring at our laptops and phones for a minute. Let’s blow this joint. But bring your laptops and phones!
Sitting outside we had a beer, ate burgers and had a great conversation about what’s next and how to get there. Like in the next 24 hours or so… we’re taking everything in small, manageable bites. My phone died (I have one of the shitty iPhones with the shitty batteries — but my new phone comes tomorrow!!) at which point I had a bit of a panic attack about how I was going to keep up with Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Email in the next hour and a half while I played Uber for my son to and from school and his activities.
We walked across the street to our fave coffee spot, Bwe, and were met with wild congratulations from our friends there. Got lots of hugs. Had our picture taken as a team. Imbibed triple shot flat whites.
3:00 p.m. Francesco and I picked up Ellis from school, walked the dog, fed the dog, took Ellis to Tae Kwon Do. Tweeted. Sent promo codes.
5:00 p.m. Made dinner, ate dinner, had homework and bath time, did the dishes, started some laundry. Tweeted. Sent promo codes. Made a to do list for tomorrow.
8:00 p.m. Got Ellis to bed, walked the dog, brushed my teeth. Crashed.
For most of the day, I couldn’t put my finger on what the feeling was that I was experiencing, and then it dawned on me. Launch Day felt like when it’s your birthday — you wake up knowing it’s your birthday. You’re expecting a few emails/calls/texts from your usual suspects, and feel good when you get them. You’re politely thankful for the well wishes. You walk around all day knowing it’s your birthday, wondering if you’re supposed to feel differently today than any other day. And you don’t really, except for knowing that you’re crossing a threshold that should be commemorated, acknowledged. A place from which you can’t go anywhere but forward, taking with you everything your past has given you, knowing little about what’s to come except your ‘should’s’ and ‘supposed to’s’. Letting go and holding on, preparing for what’s to come and surrendering to what it’s meant to be.
Here’s to making another tiny step in Bespoke’s history. Today we launch our iPad app. Tomorrow the real work begins. We hope you’ll join us on the journey.
This post originally appeared on Medium.