Startup Story: Charlie Kindel on Leaving MSFT, Rolling Out MileLogr

3/19/13Follow @curtwoodward

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find anything. No one had built the abstraction layer that abstracted away access to all of these calendars. And in fact, most of the people building calendar integration solutions were doing it purely on the client.

So one of the things that we ended up building as part of MileLogr is the technology stack that allows you to have a single piece of code that can access any calendar, no matter what provider it’s on. We think that’s a core asset that we built that’s very interesting, and we are continuing to invest in that.”

“One of our principles from the early stages was get it bootstrapped—don’t spend any money. See how far you can go without spending any money. And immediately, you run into conflicts with that.

As I started doing the first prototype and really thinking deeply about the problem, I realized there was some fairly deep intellectual property involved and I had several very strong, in my opinion, patentable ideas. You can’t really do patents for free. You’ve got to spend money if you want to file patents. And you’re talking generally, to get them filed, probably $10,000-plus a patent.

I was running another kind of thought experiment as I did this whole thing, which was: How much can you get done based on barter?’ I’m a firm believer that there’s an ability to exchange value between professionals without it always being monetary.

In the patent case, it turns out I had a friend—an ex-Microsoft IP lawyer who’s out on his own, has been for quite a while. We had coffee together and I kind of brought this topic up, and he sounded sort of interested in it and he wanted to work with me.

He was looking to try and find a bigger role somewhere, and so we kind of bartered. I said, `Listen, I’ll use my network and I’ll hook you up, and you do the IP work for me in exchange.’ And as a result of that I ended up having to pay the patent filing fees, but I didn’t have to pay the money you typically spend on a lawyer to get the patents written.”

“Something that I think I knew intellectually, and I’ve always known, was you’ve got to build something quickly and get it in front of users. I know that. I know that! I tell that to people all the time.

But in this case, because I had built this myself, I’d built the prototype myself and it was going to go out there and be publicly in front of other people, I fell into the trap of `It’s not quite good enough yet.’ I was surprised by how I was blinded by that.

And so last spring, we had a (minimum viable product) that we could have shipped. And we could have put it front of users and learned a whole bunch of stuff that would have changed our direction in really substantial ways and made the overall effort more productive.”

“We’ve built only a fraction of what our dream is. And we have moments of doubt; we have moments of elation. When you have put something out there and you get a New York Times article written about it, you’re fantasizing about how many users are coming and seeing that and going right to your site and converting to paid customers.

And it’s a little bit of a cold wake-up call when you actually look at not only the amount of total traffic generated from something like that, but the conversions. You’re reminded again that stuff very rarely sells itself. Stuff is sold to people.

I joke about this a lot: Ideas are worthless, execution is everything, but getting people to pay for something is more everything.

This is just a perfect example of that. It’s much harder than most entrepreneurs think it is. And the more time and energy you can put in up front to truly understand how you’re going to sell something, the better. It’s not business model, it’s how you’re going to sell it.”

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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