Doing a start up is hard. Let’s get that out of the way. I think it’s well known that it’s hard as well. There’s just so much to do and so little time to do it. I find myself having to split my time between coding the game, preventing the server from exploding, responding to community feedback, technical support, managing business queries, following up on all the administrative stuff, and sometimes trying to live my life. I was fully expecting that part of the difficulty, though, and in the end, I do less coding than I’d like, but it all gets done.
The part of doing a start up that I wasn’t expecting is how emotional it can be. I might just be a baby when it comes to this stuff, but in general, I’m not a remarkably emotional guy. It’s funny because one of the biggest reasons that people do start ups is that they want to be in control of their own destiny. They don’t want layers and layers of people above them to override their decisions or to make decisions that they’re ultimately going to have to do the work for. The other side of the coin, though, is that when the power is in your hands, you feel the responsibility for each and every decision that’s made.
Launching MonstrosCity made it all real. I hated the period before launch when I would have to talk to people about what might happen or what we expected or what we hoped for. There’s simply no emotion tied to the nebulous pondering of what could be. Now that we’ve launched the game and we can see how it’s going, it’s great. Once you have something concrete, you can start thinking about how to improve it, no matter how good or bad it is. From an emotional perspective, though, having something concrete amplifies everything by an unbelievable amount.
I’ve often said that the biggest mistake a person can ever make in life is to assume that human beings are rational machines. People often take that as a statement about other people. They believe that I’m saying that I’m rational and everyone else is irrational. I could talk about this forever, but fundamentally, I think logical thoughts and data are things that pull us in directions, but the way that the human mind overshoots, undershoots, misinterprets, oscillates, and gets stuck in local extrema is astounding.
The other day, I was working on a new feature for MonstrosCity with YouTube in the background on a video of the gymnasts that just tried out for Britain’s Got Talent and suddenly I just found tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t really put a finger on what was going on. If I had to put my emotions into words, it would have been something like “Look at the beauty of truly accomplishing something great. This start up is your performance. Do you have what it takes to be great?” It’s funny because all at once, I felt completely inspired to do something great, but in the instant so small and powerless to know if I ever would.
When I look back on it, it seems so absurd. Did I just cry from watching some gymnasts? But it wasn’t about gymnasts. It was about everything that was in my head. It was about whether or not we’d recover from the small hit in daily active users we took from our server host going down while we slept. It was about a brand new feature that I had just started on not being amazing after an hour of work. It was about if the vision of one day creating games that appealed to a universal audience is an impossible pipe dream. It was about it being Monday and our game mysteriously monetizing poorly on Mondays.
On the other side of things, there are so many experiences that I’ve been absolutely elated by. The first time other than our friends bought something, I exploded into the other room to hurry up and tell my girlfriend about the $.40 we just made (even though Facebook takes 30% of it). I got ridiculously excited I got when a friend linked me to a review on Inside Social Games and it was our game. One of my happiest moments during this start up was when I won a free copy of Flash from a poker tournament to save our company £600.
If I counted the number of times I’ve been absolutely devastated and the number of times I’ve been ecstatic in the last month and compared it to the rest of my life, they’d probably be relatively close numbers. If there was any one thing that reading the blogs about doing start up didn’t sufficiently warn me about, it’s how emotional it is. Sometimes when I’m working on my own, I put Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels on in the background. At the end, Big Chris (Vinnie Jones) comes in and says, “And there’s one more thing. It’s been emotional.” I think that line punctuates my start up experience thus far.