Moodeet has been archived since 2014, after 2.5 years of operations, and this is my epilogue 1.5 year after the end of that venture. I needed some time to be able to share that experience publicly, and I think this is the right time to do it, just before launching my second try in the world of startups.
It all started with a very common question back in 2011… why couldn’t we build a better social network than Facebook? Being young and naïve might seem the perfect combination to join the world of startups, but then everything else is f***d up…
Finding a friend who accepts the challenge and starts working with you is a bless and a curse; together with Michael Petychakis we started exploring different ideas. After some weeks of brainstorming, we came up with a simple idea: why not expressing simply with emoticons, to say directly what we feel for things around us. Then people will understand what each other means through their social media posts, and there will be no need of special sentiment analysis and NLP systems to understand what people say, like on Twitter. We needed “only” one think: someone to build a nice application, fast; we had the logic, the rules, the scenarios and we could build the backend. But we hadn’t developed an end user application before.
Then I made the first mistake: I just contacted the first guys I had in mind, who I sympathized (I still do) but I hadn’t collaborated with them before to know their skills and their state of mind. They liked the idea, they joined equally in the team, and we started a phase of exploration for the perfect idea, as they did have their own ones too. So we discussed every idea, but we ended up with the more complete and mature idea: Moodit, which would become Moodeet (mood+tweet) because the domain was not available.
So I started reading books about startups (i.e. this was one of the best choices I have ever made). And we started looking for the best technological stack. And we found a designer among various propositions. And we started building our vision: an application where you choose anything around you (place, product, event, other people etc. coming from other services), and you put your mood on it. And I built a mobile application on that idea, ugly, huge in size (20MB) and laggy; I had learned also AppAccelerator in those early months, to build the app “faster”. We applied to some competitions, we won some of them, and we booked some tickets for SV; we knew that we were far away from investing, but we had to start networking and SV was the perfect place for that.
There in SV we started realizing the problems of our idea… They “didn’t get the concept”, it was “too complicated”. They wanted something simpler (I love and hate Americans for that). So we came back in Greece , and we “sacrificed” our summer to change everything, building from scratch. We needed a new idea. But we would also present Moodeet on TEDx Academy 2012 and we had to show an application: the perfect product launch! In the while the designer was part of our team, because “the design must be part of the business and technical team”.
As you may guess, again nothing went according to the plan. One member of our team “couldn’t make it what he promised “, and we voted to outsource it to another developer; thus a new member joined our team before even launch (6 in total). He would do it in one moth (it took him 4 to build an incomplete prototype). So, we created a nice story and we presented it in TEDx. After months of tensions, when a member of the team left because “he couldn’t perform”, we launched the first application on the App Store on February 2013; how anxious it was for me that users might not like it… Then I realized everything I had read about a unwanted product: at the end you don’t care how crappie it is, as nobody likes it or uses it…
Still we didn’t quit, we started collecting feedback. We were lean, even if we didn’t have the required money. We designed a new version with the feedback in mind, and it was fantastic in mockups, so we started implementing it again. But we betted on our skills only, we didn’t have any cash left, and we reached the burnout point sooner: we wanted to be Lean when we didn’t have the financial resources to support ourselves. Soon the team wanted funding to “work for Moodeet exclusively”. And we started seeking for a fund, on a social media application with 2,000 users, in Greece… you can imagine the outcome, nobody wanted to invest in a social application. So, the team continued to burnout, while milestones were even harder to reach. Deeply inside everyone knew that we were tired.
Then a new option came up: we had been selected in the final 10 teams in i-Bank competition by NBG and we had been offered full scholarships for the iMBA of AUEB. Based on theory MBAs are not for startups, but I knew that I lacked some basic knowledge in financial and economics (at least)… so decided to join and follow a dream I always had, to move into business. I haven’t regret it, I still believe that an entrepreneur should have a holistic view of doing business and an MBA program is perfect for that. On the other hand, my sleeping hours were reduced, the day was full. I was tired and anxious, but still it was one of the best periods of my life.
As you may guess again, the team went apart 4 months later. I was too tired to discuss for the third time what went wrong and try to fix it, and I quitted my role of leading the rest of the team. After two months we stopped working on Moodeet; The team couldn’t continue working as it was already tired as well, even nobody else had expressed it openly before. It took me some months to understand that I was trying to continue something that was broken for some time.
To summarize, it was the best period of my life in a professional level. I read some of the most influential books in my life, I met may interesting people, I met investors for the first time and then I realized how they think and how they behave, I travelled a lot, I was the owner of myself and my life, I fought my fears to present publicly, I faced many other fears in general, I inspired people who believed in me, I felt sorry for arguing with people that I previously was friend with. I collected experiences even if I didn’t collect any money. I was close to lose one of my best friends. But I learned each team member expects different things from a startup, that not everyone has the same energy, visions, expectations and risk-ignorance as me.
I do collect all these memories and I continue my ride to the world of entrepreneurship wiser and stronger… for the next step (to be continued).
Note: This blog post is a documentation of facts from my perspective. I have analyzed the situation, I have learned many lessons and I have ended up with my outcomes on what we did right and what we did wrong. Still the reasons that Moodeet did not find the tipping point of success are multiple and complex, so an enumeration of them would still be my personal opinion. The way I highlight parts of a 2.5-years period is quite subjective already; I only want to remind to anyone who wants to start his own venture how difficult such a process is, but still I will call him to accept that challenge definitely!