First of all I’d like to apologise for my ratty mood as of late, hopefully this blog post will explain everything in more detail. Business is risky, we all know that, TinyGrab is incredibly risky too. When we started building the app we leaned towards annual subscription charges, but quickly switched to a fixed one off payment system in order to pick up stronger sales.
TinyGrab works on a voluntary basis, everyone who works on it does it for the fun of it and sees very little financial return. Times were tight in April 2010 and we decided to launch ads on the site to help pay for the server bills. Whilst the advertising revenue and fixed payments have been great to help support the service, for the past few months they haven’t been enough to cover the bills. Consequently my partner (Nick Cooper) and I have been covering the gap in-between revenue and costs for the past 6 months or so.
Our business model relied on getting TinyGrab 2.0 out, but after flaky developers and lack of financial incentive heavy delays set in. We came to a point where we couldn't promote the old system, because it just didn’t work anymore and we didn’t have the manpower to fix it and we couldn’t launch the new system because it wasn’t ready yet. Despite everyone’s best efforts we were fighting a losing battle. Add into this mix competitors with dodgy tactics, blackmail, sabotage and seemingly unlimited funds of capital.
We’d always gotten abuse with TinyGrab, a service which most people used in the world for free and started to see as a right, very much as breathing was. It doesn’t seem to cross our users minds that someone has to pay for all of the bandwidth, the servers and the development to keep going. However we carried on because of the love for a project.
I’d started TinyGrab whilst I was at University, using my student load to help build and fund it. When I graduated I quickly had to find a job, unfortunately it took me much longer than expected. In September I moved to Brighton and began working for an e-learning company unfortunately, due to reasons I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, I lost my job at the end of November 2010 and have been trying to get by ever since.
I had to begging searching for a job again, whilst still attempting to run TinyGrab and keep it ticking over. The Christmas period came and went without so much as a part-time job. Coffee shops were full, McDonalds turned me away (again) and no one was looking for freelancers. Every single month since November it’s proved a marathon task attempting to find £500 for my rent and bills just to keep living. I haven’t eaten properly in months, pinning my hopes and dreams on TinyGrab 2.0. Knowing that if it launched we could start up a massive marketing campaign to our 400,000+ registered users and see a significant pickup in sales.
Last week something awful happened. TinyGrab got attacked again, but this time it was so much worse. The original code base was effectively destroyed and unfortunately it was something that backups wouldn’t be able to restore. We’d been running two systems for a while, TinyGrab v1 and TinyGrab 2.0; we had to make the switch to the premature TinyGrab 2.0 just to keep the system running and just to keep the users up. It was our priority, no matter what, to keep TinyGrab going and try to have as little interrupted service as possible.
Everyone who knows me personally will know that I have been answering a barrage of support requests ever since we went down on Wednesday. I have gone the extra mile for EVERY single user, no matter what they’ve said, or done, or threatened. I had to sort out their issues. Today I snapped. I can’t take anymore. My parents have had abusive phone calls and letters through the post from users who have gone as far as to look up my personal details through Companies House and through the electoral roll. Users who haven’t even paid for the service are going ape shit because they can’t upload an insignificant screenshot of something funny their friend said in a Skype conversation. I really do understand that it can be frustrating when a service goes down, but I put my heart and soul into this service. It’s a thankless task. I haven’t seen any financial return out of this myself and neither have my business partners. Yet we still make sure that our team still get what they want out of it, whether it’s laptops, iPhones, cash, parties or even just favours; Nick and I do this all out of our own pocket because we care.
To get the kind of abuse that both Nick and I have had this week is incredibly stressful and upsetting. Luckily for Nick he’s managed to escape on holiday for a week, whilst I have to stick around and pick up the pieces. I don’t begrudge him for this at all, lord knows that he needs it, I just wish that I was there with him too.
Right now I’m penniless. My current bank statement reads that I’m £1,523 overdrawn (my limit is £1,500) and my credit card bill is at £556 (limit of £500). TinyGrab’s payment system is down, the current web developer hasn’t thought about building it into the new system. No money, no support, no food in the fridge, no way to pay off my phone bill for this month, no way to afford my rent in two weeks. In short I’m tired of it all and I can’t be bothered to run a thankless service for the amount of emotional and financial cost that it takes. I’ve done this for two years and I’ve had enough.
For all of those who will ask about the money for Pitchie that’s coming in from the TSB, it’s not my personal money. Again it goes to run a company and we probably won’t see any of it until mid May. What am I supposed to do until then?
I’m going to leave you to your thoughts as I lay down on my bed and stare into space for the next few hours. I’ve had enough, I want out. For now it’s goodbye but I shan’t do anything drastic without warning everyone first.