Today is a very special day for us here at Second Bit. Today marks a year since our little company officially came into being. A year of hard lessons, hard work, and a whole lot of growth: for us, as people, and for Second Bit, as a company. Just over a year ago, Tino approached me and said "Hey, I see you are setting money on fire. Want to start a company and set more money on fire?" I promptly thought about it for a few seconds and said “I would like to not lose my house if someone decided to sue, yes.” And from these glorious roots, we formed a company.
Never Never Land
The canon of Peter Pan is very important to us as a company—so much so, in fact, it is one of the main driving forces behind our office politics and culture. It’s pretty appropriate, I think, given the mindset we had when we started this little company.
I was, I admit, rather naïve when this company formed. I had a very unfair position on paid software. It wasn’t that there was anything morally wrong with it… it was more a perception that asking people to pay for software was asking people to pay you. Which, as it turns out, is not necessarily true.
Our Biggest Pretend
I think the biggest pretend we had, in the beginning, was that we could provide a service for free. That we could somehow swallow the (sometimes prohibitively expensive) server charges and still make everything work. That, somehow, we’d be able to keep the server online with donations.
It has taken 12 months and hundreds of dollars, but I’m ready to throw in the towel. When you have recurring charges, it is hard to keep a server online. It took me a long time to come to terms with that; it wasn’t until I literally had to choose between keeping the server online at all and asking people to pay for it that I finally said “Enough” and tearfully bid farewell to Neverland.
Tino and I are big fans of Extra Credits. I really like when they talk about the relationship between the creators of games and their customers: they assert that it should be a partnership. This is, I think, the ideal form a business should have: customers and company working together to make everyone win. It was hard for me resolve the cognitive dissonance in a partnership that only has one partner paying, but I finally managed it. The breakthrough came when I realised we were offering a sub-optimal service and that, if we could stop worrying about how to make the service cheaper to run and how we were going to pay for servers, we could offer a superior service. That if we could convince our users to contribute less than the price of a cup of coffee each month, we’d be able to offer them a vastly superior experience. And that is what a partnership is: we’re willing to work hard and sweat and struggle and grow to create products that are a pleasure to use, but we need users to meet us halfway. We can’t do it alone.
Extra Credits gave us permission to use this image months ago, and I feel there is no better time than now.
The Window Must Always Be Left Open
In the last year, I’ve learned that I can’t live in Neverland. I’ve learned that to do business in Reality, I must actually live down here. But that doesn’t mean I’m leaving Neverland for good, and I don’t think it should.
Neverland is what keeps us moving. Neverland gives us crazy ideas, and Neverland gives us the courage and naïveté to create in a brazen, open way. Neverland gives our products personality, Neverland gives us openness, and Neverland gives us the audacity to stop, look at what we’re doing, and ask “Why are we doing this?” To shut the window and cut ourselves off from Neverland would be tragic; it would be cutting out the very soul of our company.
Our soul may be in Neverland, but that doesn’t mean our feet shouldn’t stay firmly planted in Reality. We’ve had a year-long fall from Neverland, but managed to land gracefully. Now that we’re standing on solid ground, we’re going to start reaching for that second star to the right again.
We hope you’ll come along for the ride. It has been an amazing year of growth, and we hope to put it to good use in the next 12 months.