Is Fair Remote A Failure Or Not?

Raul Popadineți
20 Aug, 2020 • 5 min read
Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash
Launching a new product is tough. Some never go through the whole startup hodgepodge because life is more comfortable that way. Dealing with failure is not for everyone.

From the outside, people might view our start as a failure. The service has been live for more than three months, and so far, we’ve had zero paying customers.

The reasoning behind all this is simple. When you launch a startup without the hassle of getting VC funds, but to have a calmer attitude and grow organically, you’ve got two ways to become profitable. You either build an audience, launch your product after you reach a decent number of subscribers, or go the other way around. Product first, audience later.

We went with the second approach. Why? Three reasons.

  • We wanted to build something that would resolve our problem first.
  • It started as a side-project initially to sharpen our knowledge around the tech stack.
  • We are still collaborating with a handful of clients, so outsourcing is our primary income.
The constant income gave us the freedom to move at our own pace. We did not overthink the need for profit in the beginning. If the service had brought money through the door, that would have been even better, but not a deal-breaker.

So we started crafting the product in a way that would make us want to use it.

First, we started building the brand. Second, we created a Basecamp and put together everything that we wanted to ship in the MVP version. Third, we set a hard deadline to force ourselves actually to do it.

We had an attempt to launch two products a few years ago. We never felt confident to buy the one-way ticket to “StartupLand”, so we ended up abandoning them.

It turns out we were wrong all along.

We will probably never consider ourselves ready as there’s always room for improvement, but that’s the beauty of the journey. We had to launch Fair Remote to see this. The learning process never ends unless you want to. It’s just like life. Suppose you want to learn more about yourself. In that case, you have to continually contemplate your day-to-day actions, analyze them objectively, see what can be done better, and do it. Without the final step, the action will remain at the ideal level. That’s good enough for our brain to trick it into believing we made progress and changed. After a while, it ends up in the drawer, long forgotten. Even improving the parts you consider yourself good at can prove you haven’t reached your maximum potential. There’s no perfect human, just like there’s no perfect software. It’s perfectible though.

With this idea on our minds, when we thought we were in a decent place with what we had, we set a deadline, opened up a Twitter account, and announced it.

The word was out, and we wanted to keep our promise. And we did.

On the 1st of June, we officially launched Fair Remote on ProductHunt. We had quite a run as we remained in the top 10 launches for that day. A decent amount of traffic came in, but no new job posts were published.

One day had passed, then two, then three. Before you know it, two weeks have passed, and the traffic decreased abruptly as we expected, but didn’t wish for.

We stepped back a bit and asked ourselves what we were doing wrong, but the signs were in front of our eyes. We’re not bringing a significant shift in the area. It’s still “just another remote job board”, but with a different focus. There are already plenty of other fishes in the tank that swim around the remote job topic right now. Some of them are quite big, backed by investors, and let’s not forget, they have the traffic that’s attractive enough to loom in remote companies. With the whole COVID-19 crisis, a lot of other players will join the party.

With only a handful of visits each day, on Fair Remote, the lack of trust is understandable. That’s why we offer a full refund if nobody applies for the job. People should never pay for something they don’t get.

So the question all this comes down to is, how long should we wait before we know this is a failure or not?

We can probably wait forever. The infrastructure that powers our app is cheap, and we can keep it alive for as long as we want because we still have other clients from where we get our income.

If we were only to do this, we would need to find another path and take our engines at full throttle to get remote companies on our platform. They have to meet our requirements to be eligible. That’s not so easy. We look for a remote-first culture plus transparency around the salary and interview process.

We derailed a bit, but let’s get back to our primary focus.

So how do you build an audience? Just as Jason Fried said in a previous Q&A on Twitter, you create a story around your idea. If people resonate with that, you build a service/product that resolves the problem, launch it, and people will come through the door.

Of course, there are many variables in this equation, but just for the sake of simplicity, let’s keep it at:

  • Write the story
  • Build the audience
  • Launch a product
If you come the other way around, things don’t change much except for the cost of manufacturing or keeping the service live.

For now, the best thing we can do is to open up to everybody about our journey and the lessons we learn. Some steps will be similar to what other startups encountered, while others will not because each product is different. It has a unique recipe out of which it was born. The Internet is full of “How to become profitable”, but applying them to your company never gets the same outcome, especially when you want to grow organically.

Patience, perseverance, and trust are the virtues we have on our minds and hearts. Without them, we would’ve thrown Fair Remote to the trash a week after the launch. But it’s just like a baby. When you figure out that you’re going to be her/his parent for the rest of his life, you can barely let go once you start. And as time goes by, you invest more time in the relationship. The bond strengthens. You put in your best you and hope it will flourish one day better than you expected.

We don’t consider this a failure. As long as we make our voice heard, and others implement what we campaign for, we will be more than happy. In the end, we’re doing this for the remote community. We have to learn to fraternize and put profit on the side until we fix this.

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