I started the year an employee, and ended as a co-founder. This blog provides a brief recap of 2016 from the perspective of a young tech co-founder who got his feet wet with starting a cloud-based content management platform with a powerful JSON API at its core: Cosmic JS.
On January 2, 2016, I was sitting down to my desk at my old interactive branding agency. My role at the agency was to find and acquire new clients, scope their projects and subsequently manage them through to post-production. It was a good position at a good agency, yet indicators were not yet showing what the year had in store for me as a newly-emerging co-founder.
April 1, 2016
Today was the day. I was fed up, and more than anything, tired. I had been chasing my tail at my interactive agency for 2 years, which most will attest is like 7 years at a “normal job”. The notion of “working smarter” seemed to be lost in the agency mantra, and the frustration of continually counseling clients into a WordPress content management solution was weighing heavy. I’d worked up the courage to proctor my notice of resignation to start bigger and better things. While the resignation didn’t go well, this was the April Fool’s Day that would start my life shift.
Perhaps the most important tax day of my life, as my now co-founder (Tony) logged a call to me to tell me about an opportunity he had been working on in stealth mode after hours. My co-founder was no stranger as we had worked together at our digital agency, producing web applications for several years together. I brought the projects in, scoped and managed them, while my co-founder led the development charge with his team of front and backend developers. Tony and I had had a common problem at our agency: our interactive projects were time-consuming, bulky and expensive to execute. He had been working on a cloud-based content management platform that he felt would one day “replace WordPress”. The Cosmic Stack is a light-weight, cloud-based content management solution that simplifies your stack by only requiring the Cosmic JS CMS API and a code repository. Cosmic JS works by decoupling content from code, allowing developers to build slick apps and websites in whatever programming language they want.
We pulled the trigger. After reading a couple of books, hundreds of articles and even watching a couple of YouTube videos, we decided to pull the trigger and incorporate Cosmic JS as a Delaware C-Corp, starting our co-founder journeys with bright hopes and aspirations.
What are we doing? Same hope, same ambitions, same great product, but the messaging was off. Our stories didn’t yet match. We didn’t know where to pitch the product, in what fashion or what sequence. We wrote ad hoc blogs and tweeted about new example applications we had built, but cohesiveness was not yet our middle name. We spent May, June and the early portion of July sorting through the paperwork phase of incorporation, setting up payment gateways, bank accounts, retaining lawyers and updating our own social presences to reflect our new entity. We were gearing up for Public Beta.
We decided to launch our Public Beta on Tuesday, July 19th using Product Hunt as the go-to-market tool for our beta. Signups and traffic started spiking, as did our appetites for the clicks we were seeing. Starting July 19th of last year, users could sign up for the platform without having us approve their entry into the system. The payment gateway was hooked up but still being prepped to be set live on August 1st, 2016.
Traction, you evasive animal. Users flooded the system, signing up and reaching out to the Cosmic JS c0-founders for help locating blogs, tutorials, demos and just generally bouncing questions off of us. The “iterative feedback loop” proved invaluable to us as we began to build priority ladders for what users wanted, what pain points they were experiencing and what could alleviate those pain points most efficiently.
Did I mention we landed our first paying client?!
Landed second paying client. And third. And fourth. Began contributing to HackerNoon.com. Daily signup averages started increasing. Overall daily traffic was boosting. We gave demos 3 or 4 days a week as needed, editing website copy and formalized a more cohesive social media strategy. We started doing daily and weekly sprints based off of activity goals we would set a week or several weeks out. We started to hear from accelerators, VCs and angel syndicates. Cosmic JS Users Hit 500,000 API Requests. Options began to present themselves.
October / November / December
Due to external deliverables being requested by VCs and accelerators, we set out to anticipate objections about the company itself, which was a new front for us as we had mainly focused thus far on objections as they related to the platform, the tool itself. As we sought funding and advisors to help us take our startup to the next level, we realized that many vetting us felt as though we were just as crucial to the process as our product was. We overhauled our Home Page, started the Cosmic JS Community, pushed several new features sets live and started documenting the company and product through videos and our Developer Spotlight Series. Oh, and Cosmic JS Users Hit 1,000,000 API Requests.
Meet the Founders
The beginning of our first full year as full-fledged startup. Since incorporation, our general traction and trajectory is as follows:
Growing MOM revenue at 250% clip
Boasted highest signup rate ever in month of December
Landed first 20+ paying clients using 30+ paid products
Identified NYC-based advisor to come aboard
Enterprise demos and contracts solicited for Fortune 500 organizations
Platform being used in 80+ countries
Have doubled signups since incorporation
Partnered with AngelList Syndicate to anchor Angel Round
Cosmic JS Users Hit 2,000,000 API Requests
Thanks for reading a bit about our journey over the last 9 months. We know 2017 will be a huge year for our startup, and for us as co-founders. I’d appreciate any and all feedback and guidance from the startup community who has successfully scaled products into companies that made others’ lives better. Follow me on Twitter and check out my website.
Cosmic JS is an API-first cloud-based content management platform that makes it easy to manage applications and content. If you have questions about the Cosmic JS API, please reach out to the founders on Twitter or Slack.
Carson Gibbons is the Co-Founder & CMO of Cosmic JS, an API-first Cloud-based Content Management Platform that decouples content from code, allowing devs to build slick apps and websites in any programming language they want.
Hacker Noon is how hackers start their afternoons. We’re a part of the @AMI family. We are now accepting submissions and happy to discuss advertising & sponsorship opportunities.
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