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Sacha Greif
What Do You Do With A Failed Product?

(Note: I know it's not Sunday, but I'm trying to get back into my writing groove… so for now, I'll just write whenever I feel like it :)

Today I'd like to talk about the new Folyo homepage, which I just pushed live.  
 
Two years ago, I went to San Francisco for the first time. I had already worked with startups from the area, but actually being there was a completely different experience. 
 
Instead of the big fancy companies I had pictured, I realized most startups consisted of just two or three founders, or sometimes even just a single person coding away in a café.

So it's no wonder I started thinking that maybe I too could give this whole startup thing a try. After all, being a freelance designer was nice, but you were always working for others. I wanted to build something I could proudly call my own. 
 
The Idea
 
When it was time to find a startup idea, I came up with two concepts. The first one was called Talkbee, and was pretty much the same idea as Clarity. I ended up ditching that idea when I realized its scope was too big for me to build alone. 
 
The second idea was Folyo, and it's the one I picked. If you're not familiar with the product, Folyo is a design job board that connects companies with a community of hand-picked freelance designers. 
 
The Launch
 
I did everything by the book (or so I thought at the time): I launched an MVP to validate the concept, then hired a developer to code the app, pushed out a couple blog posts (a few of which even went viral), and then waited for things to take off. 
 
They didn't. Two years later Folyo still doesn't have momentum. There are weeks when not a single new customer occurs. 
 
I wish this was the part where I explain what I did wrong, and how A/B testing the homepage's call to action from "Start Now" to "Get Started" tripled conversion rates and finally brought Folyo the success it deserved.
 
But sorry, I don't have any key insights to share. In fact, I don't think I did anything wrong. 
 
It's just that for these past two years, Folyo has existed in a mediocre middle-ground: some people love the service, some hate it, but most people probably just forget about it quickly and move on. 
 
I suspect this is what happens to most projects anyway. The traditional "failed startup" tale usually implies the startup succeeded at some point: they raised money and then squandered it away, or attracted users but then lost them. But I never even got that far. 
 
A New Beginning
 
So what do you do with that kind of project? Do you simply let it die? Do you sell it off? Do you repurpose the code and user base, pivoting to something that works?
 
Nothing so dramatic in my case. After considering all these options, I decided to look at things in a different light.
 
Sure, after two unsuccessful years maybe it's time to hang up the gloves and move on. But then again, it's the "me" from two years ago who's been unsuccessful. The "me" from 2013 has yet to give it his best shot. 
 
That makes a huge difference. In two years of failing (with Folyo) and succeeding (with some of my other projects), I've learned a ton about coding, design, and marketing. 

A Different Approach
 
So I've decided to give it one more try, and here's what I'm doing different this time around:
  • Concentrating on making a good product, instead of "validating ideas" with half-assed MVPs. 
  • Working with a co-founder instead of trying to do everything myself.
  • Plugging existing holes in the funnel before worrying about drumming up traffic. 
  • Seeing competitors as validation that a market exists, but not being distracted by them. 
I've started this new development push with a few direct improvements:
  • I rethought the message from the ground up to really explain what Folyo does, not just pretend to be one more cool startup. 
  • I overhauled the homepage and refreshed the app's UI (flat design! yay!).
  • I refactored most of the CSS and made the site responsive.
  • I implemented automated emails with Vero to re-engage users. 
We'll see if these steps have any impact on the site or not. In any case, seeing how badly it's currently doing, I doubt it can hurt!
 
So take a look at the new Folyo and let me know what you think! And I'd love to hear any feedback or ideas you have on giving a failed startup a second chance. 

In my next email, I'll dig in deeper into the redesign and examine my design choices. 

Sacha

P.S. thanks to the guys over at Startup Edition for their feedback on this!