My name is Jean-Dominique Nguele and this is my blog. FLVCTVAT NEC MERGITVR
You may remember that underwhelming post I made a few months ago. I wrote it while high on entrepreneurship. As you may not feel like reading it I’ll sum up. I hinted at a side project that could become something cool, something potentially big. I read a lot of blog posts from people who had that illumination on an issue they could solve. People building a solution that could change lives for the better. I think my first mistake was thinking I could force that. I write decent code and designed a few solutions but it was always driven by someone else vision or convictions. All I had to do was find an idea that could make people’s day to day life easier.
One day after work, while having dinner I had a sparkle while my girlfriend was complaining about her work. At least I thought I did. She works as a nanny during the day and goes to uni to study languages after work. Back to the topic, she complained about how her boss is constantly micromanaging her when she prefers to be more in charge due to her extensive experience. Back then I thought how cool it would be to have a website or an app that would allow her to have reviews of other nannies, babysitters on families they work with. Something that could have prevented working with someone incompatible with her. A Glassdoor of sorts for nannies and other childcare workers. I didn’t even bother getting in the legal implications of such a product. I just started designing around.
This is how I have spent a good few weeks writing user stories, picking colours that would send the right sensation to potential users. Putting post-it all across the living rooms based on how I would want people to perceive that system. The main idea was to create something that would allow people to have the bases to access someone else’s home through a relationship based on trust and empathy where all the parties would feel safe. This is how Hestya as an idea was born. I picked the name both off the Greek goddess Hestia and from words matching what I wanted users to feel. Home. Empathy. Safety. Trust. You (I really grasped at straws there). Access.
Once the basics were there I went on to read even more entrepreneurship related blogs, picking tips around. Reading stories on people whose sole purpose in life became to create that great product. From there, I created the kick-off website to try and see if there were interest. Later on, I set up a Facebook page that I never shared with anyone. I wanted the web app to be ready before I share anything. I even ordered business cards I could use to exchange contact with other entrepreneurs at meetups. Technically I did follow the first steps of startup creation. Create a prototype, talk to a few people working in that domain, know your target audience, validate your idea with a kickoff site.
Then I went on to read even more entrepreneurship related blogs, picking tips around. Reading stories on people who managed to turn an idea into a product and made it successful. From my readings, I could follow one of two paths: quit my job to focus on Hestya or to those kill off my social life by working non-stop. With luck maybe Hestya could take off within a few months if it becomes viral but it still seems unlikely to this day. The most likely thing would be to build it in a marathoning way over a year or so making keeping my job the most reasonable option.
No social life, no gaming, no blogging, nothing. For about three months I spent all my free time on Hestya. Eventually, by mid-December, I finished building the API and 90% of the web app. All I had to do was write a few more hundred lines of code and I would have my minimum viable product. Yet, something was wrong. I contemplated the mountains of work ahead of me and keeping the same working rhythm but with stuff, I know nothing about like marketing and brand growth. All of which would have been fine if I had not reached a point of mental and physical exhaustion. I needed a break, badly.
My original Christmas holiday plan was to take my laptop to keep working pretty much 24/7 but keeping a few hours here and there for family and friends. The tiredness was such that I decided then to take a real break and assess why I started working on Hestya in the first place. Which is, now that I think about it would be some sort of Glassdoor for childcare workers with some more stuff.
My first step was to figure what it would achieve to build this tool. Turns out there are a few laws in the UK that would make it a skewed product as some honest comments from nannies (applies for any work actually) towards the previous employer could be followed by disciplinary or legal action. As shown with Mrs Plant’s case, comments made online whether it is on Facebook or Hestya could end up in the employer sight who can then take action against them.
At that point, I pictured other scenarios where someone trying to change employer by contacting a family might end up fired upon the current employer finding out thanks to screenshots. Digging further you can even find childcare workers complaining about their on employers food preferences being part of work constraints in a way that could be seen as hate speech at least in the UK. It seemed like an additional risk I did not have a safety net for. What would have been the central focus was already off limits. I like to think that had I taken a few hours to research this before putting in so much effort I would have saved some time.
But then knowing how blind I was I probably would have talked myself into going ahead anyway. I did do some research but in the end, I only picked what would fit into the vision I had and was not looking at it objectively. Every time I would find a flaw I would find another excuse to keep going. As long as it felt fresh and different it was fine. Back at work I felt underwhelmed kinda stuck in a routine.
Indeed, it had a been a few months that my job consisted of stabilizing and documenting our platform. In my mind, pushing the next release or fixing something was as casual as washing dishes. I need to do it because I commit to it but it is hardly the most satisfying or stimulating activity. Just the same thing day in and day out. Coming in, writing some code, going home. Not only I did not have anything to be passionate about work-wise, but I left aside anything that would passionate me.
Yet I repeated that with Hestya. Yes, the first couple of weeks designing a product showed every stimulating. Plus it would look great for me as an achievement. However, once the excitement past, I realised my day actually became worse. My life was just me balancing a job that became less interesting with a side project as passioning. All while getting very little time to myself and even less for my loved ones. At last, I decided to stop.
It was not worth trying to force myself into entrepreneurship with a project that doesn’t passionate me. It is not just true for coding, it is true for anything that requires passion like Pewdiepie said in one of his recent videos. If you are passionate about something, even if it gets hard you will keep going until you make it. If your only interest in what should start as a hobby is not you enjoying it, just stop it.
Since I was a kid I was always branded as the guy for whom everything comes easy. The guy with a huge potential who can do anything he wants. Year after year, I keep setting myself higher and higher goals in terms of personal growth and achievements. Take on more responsibilities, work on something that will make an impact. Sometimes I even think to myself: “Dude where is your Facebook? Where is that potential there was so much noise about?”.
Now that I think about it further, I got into that whole side project maybe turning startup thing right after failing to get a promotion as Tech lead. I remember thinking before we got the results that almost all the candidates were more qualified than I. To be fair they all had more experience and I believe more maturity than I do. Yet I kept thinking about that potential I was not able to express fully in my day-to-day work. So I rushed things, went with an idea I did not fully believe in. An idea I was not able to hold onto when I got tired. My mind was just gone.
Had I fully believed in Hestya I would definitely still be on it maybe I would have even released the v1 by now, sharing it around. This was my first attempt at entrepreneurship, which I see as a complete failure but definitely not the last. At least through that venture, I got to deepen my knowledge of React and Node.js so all is not lost.
What now? Well, I’m just going to keep on learning by working and reading while trying not to get myself another burnout. I have plenty of time ahead of me. I will turn 27 in about a month yet it will be ten years I have been coding. Eight since I started working, I have plenty of experience and when the time comes to build something great I’ll be ready. All I need is to keep picking projects I am passionate about and everything will work out.
I like to think of that experience as a lesson. A lesson I will use to keep moving forward. I’m done setting myself goals based on that “potential” I lived with for years. I’m done setting myself goals based on others experiences instead of focusing on passion. What makes me enjoy writing code. We all have our own paths and rhythms. All we can do is try to get better day after day, ignore the pressure and enjoy the ride. I will have another shot at entrepreneurship but with something that actually passionates me.
As you might expect I will get back to blogging regularly as it is something that does passionate me. Also I would like to thank everyone coming to read my stuff every now and then. My audience grew tenfold over the past year and it is very exciting. Definitely, the best part is that about 99.6% of you readers are not part of my sharing circle on Facebook or Twitter. I’m glad you like my content and will spend more time improving it. Thank you.