Recently passed five years since the beginning of Smarkup. It's a good time for a retrospective.

In this post, I'll compare our original plan with reality.

If you would ask me five years ago about where I thought we would be in 2021, I'm sure I'd give you a prediction that would end up being very far from reality.

Original plan:

  • Budget: €70K
  • Team: 2 (designer, full stack developer)
  • Tech stack plan: Electron, React, Elixir. We planned to put together the text editor, collaboration engine, and file system from existing open-source libraries.
  • 3-4 months of development to MVP (minimum viable product) in 2017

Reality:

  • We spent: €500K+ to this date. Our current spend is ~€200K+ per year. I still work for free and CTO for a "discounted" rate.
  • Team: 5 (designer, CTO, 2x frontend developer, 1x backend)
  • Tech stack: still Electron, React, Elixir. But we had to build a custom editor, custom collaboration engine, and custom file system. All from scratch.
  • 3.5 years passed, and MVP is still not ready yet (Feb 2021)

Where are we right now with the product?

We have a Mac app. It's great already, and I've been using it for more than a year.
You can create a workspace and invite people to it. You can create pages (and folders) and collaborate on them with others in real-time. The editor has nearly all the basic formatting features (headings, bold, italic, lists, etc.). Though images and tables are still missing.

Now we are working on adding the web browser app and Windows app. Then these two things:

  • Add ability to add links.
  • Implement a simplified business model.

Once that is done, we will be ready for a public release. No fireworks, though, just a soft launch.

Why does it take so long?

Because it's way more complicated than originally anticipated.

You could laugh at us and call us rookies. And I would laugh with you because it's true. At this level of complexity, we are all rookies. Most people in tech startups are rookies because they sail into uncharted territories.

The stuff under the hood is very complex, so the technical challenge is enormous. It requires a lot of research and prototyping. There is no guide on how to do this. Some of the tech stuff we do was never done before, so there isn't anyone you could ask for advice.

In the beginning, I was afraid of the competition. I'm not anymore. It's not just about the idea, money, and manpower. Sometimes it only takes time to figure things out.

Addendum

After I published this post, few of people wrote me stuff like "don't give up". Just to be clear: I didn't mean to complain. I enjoyed every bit of this journey. Still, it's funny it's not the first time I did such a bad estimate. Nor second, nor third... haha!