‘Ok let’s do it, Deepak’.
I buzzed with excitement as our Facebook chats transitioned into a phone call and then a face-to-face meeting.
We sat there in All Bar One in Uxbridge preliminary discussing going into business together.
Finally, there was someone I could potentially work with and rely upon to build a tool that would solve a direct problem I had faced for some time and I knew others were facing.
I’d known Max since I was 4 years old; we’d been in preschool together, and had grown up in primary school at St Matthew’s together and then again for a short time at Bishopshalt.
He’d come to my house share in Northolt where I’d been living several years ago and he and his wife Joanna before they had their little girl Eva to have dinner with Daniela and I.
We hadn’t exactly been close growing up – but the trust was certainly there and we knew each other well enough to not have any problems relating to the trust.
I’d seen Max transition over the years from being an unhappy pastry chef into a developer all through his own effort and desire to progress, do something he loved and then so with myself potentially build a sustainable company.
This was the discussion of the day, and what would become the anchor – this meeting of minds as we together decided to lead the charge into developing Wordpigeon.com – a tool that helped content creators move their blogs from Google Docs (what I’m writing in now) onto their blogs without losing any formatting at all.
We discussed the idea of working together as well as this idea amongst several others for a few weeks. If we, and mainly he was going to do this – we needed to be sure that this was the right move for both of us – and particularly Max.
He had his mortgage, his daughter and a family to support.
He had a holiday booked in the Philippines where his wife was from, and used the time to deliberate and think about his next steps
And so the summer passed as Max and I went back and forth discussing how this could work, finessing our ideas and speaking of what might be.
So upon Max’s return, he decided he would take the plunge as he always wanted to be his own man, run his own software company and felt that in me he had a reliable business partner he could work with.
‘So Deepak I told my company about my plans to leave….and they offered me a £10,000 salary increase to stay!’
‘Wow mate, that’s incredible! What will you do?’.
‘Well as you know, £10,000 extra is no small sum of money and I totally didn’t see that coming at all, so I was chuffed, and you know it does make you stop and think of course’.
‘I agree mate’.
I could hear my heart beating.
I looked at Max.
‘Then I thought about the idea of working for someone versus working for myself, and the thought of it just killed me’.
‘You know I’ve always had the ambition to build something for myself, and it’s not going to get any easier as I get older and the opportunity is here now – so I’m still moving forward’.
I finally breathed as Max gave me the news, and smiled and said ‘yes mate, work will always be there, it’ll always be something you can turn back to, but running your own thing is something it makes sense to give a good go!’.
And so began our journey into the abyss of development.
Max continued to work his notice period, and in that time we took the opportunity to grow based on his availability.
Outsourced coders were hired from India and Pakistan with some success, then we bought in designers from Eastern Europe, and eventually, we were to settle with a Portuguese lady Madelena who took the design over and in time was able to develop the Word Pigeon site you may well see today
That was not before however there were several other iterations.
All the while, Max served his notice period, went full time, worked from home and got to the business of coding as I awaited launch.
Word Pigeon was originally named Docsify, and as the tool slowly developed time passed and my interest in the project began to wane a little.
Months had gone by, and the energy and fire that I felt for it diminished as I awaited a working MVP for the tool, and my mind was occupied predominantly with my day job at Pearl Lemon. At that time WordPress themselves released a major update that vastly improved the ability to copy and paste content from Google Docs to WordPress
In that time as well, it became clearer and clearer that we had a very specific marketplace of customers. Agency owners, affiliates and anyone who was writing tons of content. They needed education about our offering as it wasn’t something that people were aware of a problem, and nor were they necessarily aware there was a solution.
As we got closer to having an MVP and we shared our tool with several product launch companies, a good friend of mine Udit at Pitchground noted that ‘Docsify’ was already the name of several existing software companies. Max and I took a look and immediately baulked at what we saw.
How could we have missed such a thing?
How could I have missed such a thing?
‘I’m meant to be the marketing expert here and I can’t even bloody name the tool correctly. Improper due diligence had led to this mistake, and no one in the team questioned it because how could I make such a mistake?
The SEO team had already been doing work against the brand name Docsify and alongside this our social channels were semi-active. As Max continued to finish coding Docsify was ultimately renamed to Word Pigeon and we underwent a necessary rebrand to ensure we’d have no issues upon launch.
And launch we did on Pitchground and with their support.
We would ultimately go on to see 121 purchases through Pitchground for our lifetime deal which equated to be around $8,000.
We would pocket around half, which went straight into Max’s pocket so he could continue development.
The launch on Pitchground although impressive from an outside perspective was muted. It hadn’t gone well and all around me the advice was ‘this tool has such a small total addressable market – why not expend the same energy launching a tool that could make a million?’
Other SaaS product owners I knew told me there wasn’t much money to be made with this tool and so there was not a lot to do.
Max was putting his heart and soul into it however, and I left the launch to the devices of several team members I bought in to assist with the launch.
Cold emails didn’t work as we envisioned, LinkedIn outreach didn’t work as we envisioned and ultimately we never got around unfortunately to launching Google Ads for the product – despite multiple promises I made to launch on Google Ads.
I’d got so used to delegating for Word Pigeon that I didn’t get close enough to the product to really appreciate that the only way this was going to work was if I was close to it and putting the work in.
It had been a yea, and I’d grown tired of waiting for it to launch, and whilst my SEO team and marketing director shuffled to put steps in order to launch the tool…
The truth was, was that Max was running out of money and we didn’t have any recurring revenue.
Next came a Stacksocial launch which we hoped would give us some new users and further runway for Max to keep improving the tool.
Over 2 months this made a grand total of 9 sales and again proved to be another failure, which disappointed us all.
Max was pretty much almost out of money now, and as my interest in Word Pigeon diminished, I no longer kept watch over the work of the marketing team and there were some days where nothing was happening.
SEO was not working as I’d hoped or expected and the SEO team had no good answers as to why, and so continuing to plough forward with the tool would take more personal time and effort than I saw I ultimately wanted to give.
The relationship between Max and I – which centred around the growth and hoped for success of Word Pigeon waned as quickly as it had waxed with the inception of our partnership.
In those last few months, the tension and angst between Max and I grew. We both had big plans for the launch of the tool and what it could do for our future, and mainly Max’s future to start, but in reality the tool was failing.
Max became unhappy with my labour, and I had long since been unhappy at the slow speed of development which led to the death of my enthusiasm and desire to put the work in necessary to make Word Pigeon work.
I last spoke to Max a few weeks back when he shot an email across complaining that no one was checking our chat support messages and that people were asking questions. I followed up saying that it was true it wasn’t being monitored all day and that we were still committing resources to growing Word Pigeon (via SEO) but that my budget wasn’t unlimited.
I say spoke – it was in an email.
Max was since doing some painting work as a means of making money and had been tidying up his resume in preparation for a return to employment.
I’m not sure if he’s found that employment or quite what is happening as we haven’t spoken.
And yeah, it sucks.
The project failed, and marketing it was much harder than I expected.
But I should have tried harder, I should have run the Google Ads, I should have figured out how to make it work.
Or were my friends right? Were they right when they said ‘ditch this tool it won’t make the money you want/need from it – even in 2 years from now’.
Either way, I’m not sure, still I’m not sure.
Still every now and then I’ll fire off an email to the marketing team to ask them to check in on Word Pigeon.
Is there something we can do?
Something I can change?
I’m not sure. But hey; here I am.
Still trying to work out if I failed Max Carroll.