Looking Back at 2020 and Goals for 2021 #3

2020 was a year of unexpected events. Globally there was the COVID-19 pandemic, and personally I was furloughed in April and officially let go in July. Strangely enough, the timing coincided with me being able to invest my time in something I started to believe in: Hookdeck. The stars aligned for me and it gave me the push I needed to grab the opportunity to work on a startup with a great friend of mine.

The Story

Hookdeck started as a problem that Alex had at work, where he found himself missing and troubleshooting webhooks. That obstacle then transformed into the idea for a potential startup. "Hey!" We thought. Here’s a problem we could fix.

We approached Hookdeck full of optimism but quickly learned that growing the idea into an MVP and having users depend on your product is a real rollercoaster. Sometimes our morale is high, other times we feel demotivated, but every time we talk to prospects or help our users it gives us strength. The idea continues to evolve today, and as it grows, we are starting to become more and more confident that we can help developers.

Timeline Recap

December 2019: Alex went on a huge rant about dealing with webhooks.

January 2020: We started to discuss the idea of a startup, and began working on it part-time.

March 2020: We finally had our minimum viable product (MVP).

April 2020: We begged our friend to be the first user.

July 2020: We gained our first user through organic traffic!

September 2020: We decided to commit ourselves full-time to Hookdeck. [Read September blog post.]

December 2020 : We finished the year with multiple iterations of the product and lots of willingness to connect with more developers.

Personal Growth

On the personal side of things, we realized that well...we didn’t want to be different people during work and outside of work. When I was a consultant, I was different during my working hours, so I'm still learning how to shed those habits .

Above how we act, work became one of the activities I enjoy doing, just like skiing or reading. A flow activity that motivates us. It's just another thing I do during the day that doesn't feel like work. Truth be told, there were many ups and downs as we tried to untangle what it means to blur the line between professional and personal identity. [I highly recommend the book [Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.]

We also have this vision, where it’s not only about having a consistent identity, but where working at Hookdeck should help us achieve a true work-life balance. To work on our terms without being forced into a 9 to 5, Monday to Friday schedule and above all, from wherever we want.

[This blog post by Sahil Lavingia (founder of Gumroad) is truly inspiring.]

It's great that Alex and I are in different time zones and allow ourselves to schedule working hours based on our lifestyle. The real challenge will be when we start adding a few members to the team.

I’ve also been working on actively communicating with compassion because let's face it, we suck at communicating. I learned how to do it at the age of 5, and thought that being a good communicator was showing the ability to be a better negotiator, to be clearer and demonstrate charisma, but those are all the wrong reasons I focused on to improve communication. It finally hit me when talking to Alex, especially in Slack, how bad I was at getting myself understood.

I'm reading the book Nonviolent Communication and I understand that I'm missing a key ingredient, which is being vulnerable and the ability to connect compassionately and with more empathy. Now, I try and think through these steps:

  • The Actions
  • The Emotion
  • The Need
  • The Ask

In the next year, I'm hoping to integrate the learnings in the book and practice compassion on my way to communicating. I truly want to improve how I communicate to better enjoy connecting with the people around me.

Business Learnings

The simple truth is that we were very naïve about the problem.

We came in ready to build a "simple" solution, but we quickly realized the multiple layers involved as we discussed the product with leaders in technologies (Alex P., Vlad, Alexis, Nebez, and Nick). We were lucky to be able to dive deep into the problem, and ultimately came to the realization that a troubleshooting product wasn't as simple as we had initially imagined. Our product evolved into an Infrastructure as a Service to offer simple and reliable message queues with tooling that helps with the full development life cycle when working with webhooks.

Just as we learned a lot while conceptualizing the product itself, we also gained a lot of insight into the other angles that are important to consider when building a company. Through our research and conversations with qualified professionals, we learned to use 3 interesting frameworks that guide the business and world-building side of Hookdeck.

1) Minimum Viable Company

In order to cultivate a minimum viable company, it is important to focus on a few elements and fit together the different pieces that we see into a bigger picture.

Value Proposition

According to Ann Miura-Ko, “Features [...] aren’t the product — they’re merely enablers of value propositions: promises of how the product will drastically improve a customer’s life.”

These value propositions must be extraordinarily compelling. To succeed, a startup must be at least a 10x improvement for their customer in at least one way. Without digging too much into it (I intend to write a more in-depth blog post), Hookdeck allows tech teams to completely avoid building ingestion and queuing services for the delay processing of webhooks. That's a lot better than spending a month setting up AWS and building a custom solution that needs maintaining.

Our intuition says that we can 10x the webhook development workflow by providing a tool that makes it coherent, which would allow developers to avoid setting up tons of tooling just to get started on development. That means we could offer a development workflow and the infrastructure that improves the experience working with webhooks along the whole development life cycle.

Ecosystem

It is also important to consider the ecosystem into which we are delivering our product. There are 3 main actors in our particular ecosystem:

  • Webhook sender
  • Company consuming webhooks (developers we help are in this category)
  • Customer

By helping developers in the second category, we also help webhook senders by removing the pain of having to build tooling (dashboard, CLI, etc) and reducing their resources (retries on dead endpoints, timeouts, etc).

We improve the development and monitoring experience of webhook integration for developers by allowing them to deal with only 1 tool that diminishes the complexity of dealing with webhooks at scale by protecting from spikes in traffic, among other benefits (for example inspecting and replay features).

We also spend lots of time considering how to improve the experience of our product and keep customers satisfied. Missing webhooks leads to frustrated customers, as webhooks trigger an event which completes an action for these clients (an email, a payment, a fulfillment). As these webhooks get used and integrated more, the need for more webhooks and more integrations grows even stronger. The constant here is "more webhooks needed," and with Hookdeck we make it so simple and reliable that developers can tackle more projects and release them quicker.

Business Model

How do we get our product to customers? We are still working on it, but the axis of reflection is  Hookdeck benefits when developers build and release more integrations. The goal is to help as many developers as possible deploy their integrations production through Hookdeck.

This is a win for the ecosystem, because webhook senders have clients that are more deeply integrated with their product, developers can improve the experience of their product with more features, and customers are the ones to enjoy the benefits of a better experience.

2) Product Mission and Three Bucket Model

At this point, Hookdeck had become a product. We wanted to clarify who we were building our product for and what needed to be built. We landed on the product mission:

“Enable technical teams to quickly deliver reliable, testable and debuggable applications that are dependant on processing of asynchronous events from independent platforms.”

With our product mission in place, it was time to focus on our gamechangers and showstoppers

Game changers:
  • Visibility of events processed and pending processing
    • Filtering by payload and metadata
    • Retention of request and response
    • Surface errors (ingestion + delivery)
  • Consolidation and customization of processing rules
    • Manual retries
    • Automatic retries
    • Bulk retries
  • Plug and play for high throughput use case
    • No infrastructure to deploy
    • Supports high throughput and spikes
    • Throttled delivery
Showstoppers:
  • Reliability
    • Multi zone availability
    • Decoupling of ingestion and delivery services
  • Security
    • Encryption at rest
    • GDPR compliancy

3) Founder’s Marketing Playbook

We figured out why Hookdeck would be viable, what we wanted to build and for who, but there was a critical next step we needed to work on. We needed to be able to clearly communicate who Hookdeck is, what the problem we are solving is, who and how it helps, and how we will deliver on our promises. 

We subscribed to The Founder's Marketing Playbook and formed a close relationship with Raechel, the founder, that helped us through the process. 

Some things we considered were:

  1. Brand Positioning
  2. Personas
  3. Jobs to be done
  4. Product positioning and messaging

2020 Wrap-Up

2020 was an exciting year for us. We launched a startup that we truly believe can help developers with handling their webhooks. There are a lot of things we learned along the way, both professionally and personally. I fully expect this to continue in 2021 because we're in the business of growth, and our momentum is only improving!

What's next in 2021?

Pre-seed

We've landed pre-seed funding. With that money, we want to validate that there is a real interest from developers for a product that will allow them to deploy their webhook integrations in production in less than 5 minutes.

Collaborators

We knew that moving forward, we can't do it alone and need to be surrounded by amazing people that also believe in the vision of Hookdeck. We started recruiting for the three following roles: founding engineer, technical writer, and developer advocate.

A founding engineer will help us deliver features that conventionally require quite a bit of engineering development in a click. As a user, you can expect our product to be even more reliable.

A technical writer will help us share knowledge about webhooks in general. We believe that there's a lack of quality documentation for developers to rely on when they want to learn about how to handle and work with webhooks .

A developer advocate is crucial to help us create a grassroot movement and make developers aware of what Hookdeck has to offer.

We'll see where this ends up. We want to keep a flexible mind and find the right person for each role that will work with us to push Hookdeck to the next level.

Personal

What we are looking for in 2021 is to continue to figure out how to blend our dedication to building Hookdeck and our own personal lives. It will take a lot of balancing, but we believe that as long as we are open minded and listen, we can overcome and adapt to make it work.

Conclusion

As you can see, a lot has happened in the last year and a half. From the inkling of an idea to a full-blown viable service, we have put our ideas into action and now we find ourselves on an adventure that keeps on growing. It’s been a lot of work, and we are learning more about the product, the business, and our own relationships with the job along the way. 2021 is all about building on this momentum as we continue to expand and integrate new ideas into our company.

The Founder's Journal was an idea I had to keep track of our progress on a monthly basis but since I've started writing, the workload has been increasing. Thus I've decided that I won't be as active in my role of writing the journal. However, I will definitely take the time to give updates when I have the chance, or when there's something I think is really worth sharing.

Best,

Eric, Co-Founder

Deploy production-ready webhook integrations in under 5 minutes.