I’ve spent a decent chunk of the last year working on and off and on the new online platform for Tribewanted. My business partner and I decided almost two years ago that based on all the feedback we’d had from 5 years of prototyping crowd-funding and building sustainable communities that – despite the numerous challenges – we wanted to push ahead and grow the model. But we did need to ‘pivot’ as you say in start-up speak. Our financial model was not sustainable – it had been too reliable on eco-tourism markets to remote areas of the world (Northern Fiji, Sierra Leone…) – we needed a social business model that was more robust, reliable and much less fickle.
Our reflections and investigations led us back pretty much to where Tribewanted had started in 2006: crowd-funding and co-operatives. Except back then we didn’t call it that or structure it that way. Anyway, these trends – the waves – have steadily begun to swell to greater heights whilst we’ve been busy on the beach. So it was clear to us that if the vision to build a fully integrated network of sustainable communities in all parts of the world that a tribe of like-minded people could co-fund, learn from and enjoy would have a much better chance if one; each tribe member was more empowered to impact the project and two; the fundraising was subscription based and not just one-off payments.
Decision made we fundraised what we could to build our new platform and started to work on the legalities of founding a Community Interest Company and recruiting a board of experts and ambassadors to kickstart Tribewanted 2.0
A year later and dare I say it – finally within touching distance of the beta launch – and it feels like I’ve metaphorically been around the world and back to make this thing. I thought I knew a bit about building websites and this time round it would be easier, especially because so much more of what we needed is safely accessible in the cloud…I was wrong. It’s been a real slog. Way too much time alone at the kitchen table with an ageing macbook, its fan whirring so loudly that during skype calls people have asked I was in a hurricane! But as the new version slides into view, and I can finally sniff a launch, here’s 5 things I’ve learnt…
- Developers are an amazing collection of talented, hard-working, independent, diverse individuals who all approach the code in their own way.
- As a result – if you can’t stick with one developer (due to the fact they’re working on a tight budget/passion for the project/out-of-office hours/not sitting next to you etc…) then when you switch you often take one step forward two steps back.
- The proliferation of coding languages is maybe creating a more open web but from what I’ve seen this year it’s becoming increasingly chaotic. No one actually knows what’s really going. It’s hack and error. Master-plans don’t really work.
- I’ve discovered that you need a stupid amount of integrated software services to build a ‘simple’ subscription, content and booking platform: Heroku (host), github (code safety deposit box), zuora (subscriptions), paypal (despite my significant efforts to move on – payment gateway), community engine (content and user management), booking bug (booking trips), asana (project management), google drive, dropbox, twitter bootstrap, DNS made easy, UK Reg and that’s just the back-end!
- Everyone has a different opinion as to how many / how few features you should have, how quickly / how smartly you should build (build fast, release often is the increasing lean start-up mantra) – learning which bit of enthused advice to listen to is the challenge.
Has it been fun? Honestly, not really. The bits in-between have been fun – going back to school at THNK, working on our Sierra Leone project, getting married – but not all this time alone with the whirring machine. Next time I’ll do it with a team in person which I hope we can build when our beta launch starts to get some traction – but at £750 a day for a good developer in London my biggest learning is that I should have learnt to code.