Bootstrapping in Bali — Pivot 1

The anatomy of a bot

When I moved to Bali to work on my business, I wanted to believe that my initial idea was perfect and didn’t want to admit, not even to myself, that I was in fact secretly hoping that I’ll figure out how it could be improved; I’m used to committing to things and ideas and pursuing them even if and when they no longer make sense, which is both a blessing and a curse.

The first month was hectic I was stuck in my old ways of working, feeling mentally drained, anxious, and guilty whenever I wasn’t working— after all, I moved here to do just that, right? In a sense, that helped; because I’ve had lists over lists over lists of things that were in progress, things that I still needed to learn, things that I haven’t even started thinking about, and things that were slowly taking shape. I started talking to people about what I was trying to do and everyone seemed excited at the idea. Although not many knew what a chatbot was, they were still interested in having a piece of software working for them, to help them to find jobs, to prepare for interviews, etc. I also started talking to people about the technical challenges I was facing and realised that I was focusing on the wrong things — specifically, I focused on the things I didn’t know rather than the things I knew, but at the time that seemed smart — after all, focusing on what you don’t know is the first steps towards learning it, right?

What’s changed?

I’ve realised a few things over the last couple of months, with many of them being things that I thought I already knew. I remember telling myself with a smug face that I will not fall into the same traps that everyone falls into because I’m aware of them, but that’s exactly what happened. Specifically:

  • Perfectionism — I am at a point where I don’t mind if my chatbot is being held together by two racoons with a bag of marshmallows (that’d be so cute, right?), but for a long time I worried about the look and the feel of it, as if I was going to launch it to 1million people. I doubt that anyone would care about it at all outside of my immediate group of friends, and that’s a very calming thing.
  • Success theatrics — I read this expression in ‘Lean startup’ and I’ve been thinking about it ever since, especially every time I catch myself trying to appear busy. Firstly, I always hated the idea of being ‘too busy’, although for a very long time I was. Secondly, there’s no one that I’m letting down or trying to impress, so whether I fail or succeed will affect absolutely no one but me (yes, and the amazing people who would benefit from my product, but they don’t know they need it yet so it’s ok 😛).
  • Idealism — Trying to fix a problem that can’t be fixed just with tech, with tech. I think it’s in all of us to try to find simple and elegant solutions to complex problems (for me it was improving diversity in companies), but I will put my hand up to admit that I have absolutely NO IDEA how to do it. I’ve read countless articles, books, blog posts, etc. on the subject and didn’t come any closer to something that feels like a solution. I know that there are companies out there working on it, and I hope that they come up with something actually useful. For me, getting involved in it felt like adding to the noise unnecessarily and I’m definitely not about doing that.
  • Guilt— For a while, especially at the beginning, I felt guilty every single time I wasn’t working because I felt like I’ve had to give up a lot of the things I loved (like my job, flat, and to an extent, London) to do this. I’ve managed to get over it, especially since I realised that some of my best ideas came to me while I was doing something completely different, and some of the best conversations that pushed the product further happened in social settings.
  • Procrastination — There were definitely times when I should have been working on the actual idea, but instead decided to either chill, or focus on the non-essentials (the colour palette, the fonts, the name, etc.). Fortunately, with a colour palette that works (it’s pastels, btw 😛) and other things and accessories that will probably never get used, I managed to go back to the idea and refine it.

The idea:

It has changed, as I was hoping, and it will probably change again before it gets built. It does very similar things on the candidate side, but the focus is not to quickly help someone to find a job, but rather to take the time to really get to know them before making suggestions for jobs. It’s a slower, more personalised approach, because I realised that many people struggle to find something that they feel they’re very good at. I’m also taking the concierge approach from the ‘Lean Startup’ and only building it for one person — once I finish helping the first person, I will move on to the next, and so on, and only automate it once it’s too difficult to do it manually. By then, I will have some data to train the chatbot and a better understanding of what people actually want.

If you need some help figuring out what you want to do next and want to get involved, get in touch, I promise it will be amazing! 😊

Overall, I decided that whatever it will look like in the end, I want it to be useful. I don’t even care so much about it being successful in the traditional sense of the word, which was something I couldn’t even imagine I’d say when I started. I’m excited to keep building it and figuring things out, and also looking forward to my ‘Pivot 2.0’ Medium post 😅.

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