Flashback to May 2015:
Before we went through the process of software development, we had to confirm there was a need for the service. Cue a test market: Ben and Harrison rounded up some friends and a couple of beat-up pickup trucks set out to prove that everyone needs a friend with a truck. About two weeks in, they realized it was time to start app development.
As two juniors majoring in business marketing, they didn’t know the first thing about software. Their first idea was simply learning how to code and build it themselves. Ben remembers telling Harrison, “I’m pretty sure Apple has an online tutorial.”
It took about five minutes of Apple’s tutorial to realize they were in over their heads. Thankfully, Harrison knew of two brothers who had built a few apps before. A couple emails later, Bungii had real developers working on the project.
After three months it became evident that even though the two brothers had built apps in the past, they too were in over their heads and couldn’t continue the project. We were back to square one, arriving at our first make or break moment.
To build this the right way, Bungii needed a team of full-time developers. But as two broke college students, it was a hefty task. A few weeks later, they stumbled upon a development house in India. Through broken English, Bungii was promised building the app would be easy. It would take about a month and only cost $10,000. That night, Harrison and Ben celebrated over a beer after finally landing the right developers.
The celebration didn’t last much longer than that first drink. One month turned to two, which turned to four and six months later a functional app was nowhere in sight. They were left with a rough prototype featuring no security and more bugs than Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. There was no way they could bring it to market. Another make or break moment.
It had almost been an entire year since we originally had the idea. We had been telling our friends and family the app “will be done in a month” so many times that they stopped asking.
“Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.” – Guy Kawasaki
With many strikes against them, Ben and Harrison had to approach software development differently. They had to pour big money into it. There was one problem: they didn’t know anyone in the area with deep pockets.
After a few days and no resolution, something caught Ben’s eye as he was walking out of class. It was a wall covered with names etched in marble. The names were donors who had given a quarter of a million dollars or more to K-State. Ben pulled Harrison aside and whispered, “We might be onto something here.”
They took a picture of the wall and spent the next four days Googling names and contact information. They were able to scrounge together about 150 emails addresses. Those led to 24 investment meetings. 24 investment meeting turned into six offers. They ended up signing with a KC-based investment group.
A couple of weeks later, there were a few more zeros in Bungii’s bank account and a proven software development team building the app the right way.
Every startup is full of make or break moments that test the idea and the people behind it. Looking back, we’ve been in over our heads many times. It’s nearly a guarantee that we will be in over our heads again, but it’s in those moments that we are defined. We hear you, Ray:
“Jump off the cliff and learn how to make wings on the way down.” – Ray Bradbury