On Crowdfunding and Burnout

Posted by Bjarni on August 18, 2015 ( Content may be obsolete! )

Being on fire isn't always awesome.

On fire and burnout are two sides of the same coin.

And to be completely honest with you, dear backers, I'm on the verge of burnout over here. I have been pushing myself too hard this summer, trying to make 1.0 happen. I'm cranky on the IRC channel, prickly with my friends. The smallest set-backs trigger overreactions: rage, sadness, or the worst - apathy.

I've been here before; it means I've been working too hard.

I've been on fire this summer, in the good sense. An amazing amount of progress has been made. But lately this whole thing has felt more like trying to burn a wet newspaper. No flames, just a soggy mess. I light the match and nothing happens. If I keep at it, I'll just burn myself.

So I need to take it easy for a bit. My July vacation in Iceland ended up being mostly work and I'm paying the price for that now.

The Dark Side of Crowdfunding

Crowd-funding has a dark side to it.

As wonderful as it may be to have a large group of people rooting for you, the more people backed a project, the more people will be let down if you fail to ship. The more people trusted your vision enough to give you money, the greater the pressure not to betray their trust.

Many startup founders buckle under the pressure of keeping a business afloat and meeting the expectations of their investors. Startup depression is a thing.

Crowd-funding adds another dimension to that; investors understand risks and they accept they may lose their money. But when the general public backs a project, that isn't necessarily the case. They're not pros. They're a bunch of really nice people who decided to support your vision.

You really don't want to let them down!

Mailpile may not be a startup in the normal sense of the word, but we do share many of the same issues. We - you, me, all the project's backers - are creating something new, something ambitious. Running out of money is always a concern; everyone has to eat. We may not expect to make millions of dollars, but we do hope to have millions of users. We're not out to "disrupt e-mail" for financial gain, but we do want to have an impact. Our reputations are at stake. And although we may not have taken money from investors, we did take money from our community of backers and supporters.

So when I read about startup founders struggling to cope, I know exactly what they're talking about.

I'm not quite sure what do do about it though. Except try and take it easy and try to keep making progress. One without the other doesn't seem to work, deadlines be damned.

The Weekly Report

This last week has been slow, for all of the above reasons.

I made some progress on the OTF grant proposal, but it's a tricky beast.

I finally implemented the auto-configuration tool that will try very hard to guess all your settings when you add a new account. It's actually pretty awesome, so that's something!

I got the Transifex source strings updated, so Mailpile 1.0 will exist in more languages than just English.

Most importantly, I decided to take steps to avoid burning out. Writing this has been cathartic. I'm going to get some rest. And I'm going to try and get more face-time with friendly people.

So see you at PyCon! :-)

Tasks for this week

  1. Not burn out
  2. Work on the OTF grant proposal
  3. Write some code


Please do not send mail to aardvark@mailpile.is