Our first month

As we put the finishing touches on our very first monthly investor update, it reminded me: we just survived our first month.

Something that every startup team can relate to: the to-do list never gets shorter, a lot of them are things you would have never done before, and the only way to work through it all is by being organised and pace ourselves. So for our first month, our focus has been on the following three key buckets (not in any particular order):

  • The boring (but unfortunately important) things like finalising our legal documents, applying for a business bank account (which we have discovered is now a very long and painful process in Hong Kong), and setting up an accounting system;
  • The more fun stuff like working with our new UX/UI designer to design a brand new website landing page that better reflects the spirit of pebblar going forward – simplicity and utility; and
  • The super exciting work of finalising the design for our very first full app (pebblar 1.0) and getting the development process started! We definitely got our work cut out for us as we work towards a pre-Christmas release deadline.

Unmistakably, our daily lives are increasingly centred around the mobile and it is only logical that we plan our trips on our mobile while sitting on a bus or sitting on the couch watching TV.

Whilst there are plenty of “trip planning tools” out there, almost all of them focus on suggested contents and inspirations (as opposed to simplifying the trip planning process). In addition, almost all of the mobile trip planning apps out there are direct 1-1 conversions of their respective web platform.

Pebblar 1.0 will seeks to streamline and simplify the DIY trip planning process rather than providing inspirations and recommendations.

Pebblar 1.0 will not be a simple conversion of our desktop tool but rather a mobile app designed from the grounds-up for mobile trip planning.

In designing pebblar 1.0, we are following two guiding principles with the uttermost discipline:

SLC not MVP.

There have been many articles and discussions on MVP (Minimum Viable Product) vs SLC (Simple Loveable Complete). As a team, we didn’t wanted pebblar 1.0 to be a MVP with lots of half-baked, incomplete features, we wanted to deliver a SLC – a purposefully simple, genuinely useful and function-wise complete product that delivers true utility.

To put it simply, we rather give people the best skateboard there is rather than a crappy car that falls apart.

Source: Hackernoon (https://hackernoon.com/mindset-change-mvp-vs-slc-d087a7f87be3)

Utility. Utility. Utility. (pebblar translation: Simple, Practical, Useful.)

Our core focus is on delivering real utility to our users. So, with every function we include or not include, we always ask ourselves (and each other): is this something useful to a DIY trip planner on the go? How is that need being fulfilled right now?

We want pebblar 1.0 to be a truly practical and useful trip planning app but still simple to use.

So, for all the DIY travellers out there, who don’t want automated “inspirations” and actually enjoy the process of working out what to do, where to eat and what to see, we have designed pebblar 1.0 specifically for you. We hope to enable you to create your own unique trips with your own notes anywhere you are, with ease.

The pebblar story starts today

As most of you may know, up until now, pebblar has been somewhat a hobby project for Andrew and I. The journey started a couple of years ago out of pure frustration with having to use excel/docs/email to plan trips.

Over the last several months, we have reached a crossroads – without any paid marketing, pebblar now has almost 3500 subscribers and that means Andrew and I had a decision to make – keep pebblar as a side project or go out there and really have a go at making this tool which we both love and now rely on for our travels into a real business. After months of brainstorming on the possible paths forward, we chose the latter.

Deciding to have a real go at this wasn’t a decision we made alone – we have tested the water with friends who are users and/or potential investors with a business proposal we have spent almost half year to put together. The amount of support and positive feedback we received was both overwhelmingly encouraging and humbling.

We wanted and needed outside validation so we decided to do an angel round capital raise. We reached out to close friends who we knew, aside from their financial support, would also be great mentors and partners on this long and difficult journey we are about to embark upon. The most amazing part of this was, ALL OF THEM said “YES” (one even introduced a new strategic investor to us).

So, I quit my job and ended a 10 year career in finance. In the same week, we found our CTO – a position Andrew and I have kept vacant because we did not want to just hire any one and we knew when the time comes, the right candidate would appear, and he did. Introducing to you all our third founding member: John. Now the founding team is complete.

As most people would tell you, investing in startups, especially early stage startups, it is largely investing in the founders and their abilities to execute and adapt. So, I want to take a moment and thank all of our investors for taking that giant leap of faith to go on this journey with us.

Our official start date is 1 October 2017 and it has been a super busy 10 days – from trying to open a business bank account and being told it is a very difficult and painful process in Hong Kong, working up legal documents while trying to minimize our legal expense, to working on delivering our development goal of releasing our first fully editable app by year end. Things are definitely getting real and moving fast.

While Andrew, John and I are all super pumped, I am not going to lie, it is also a tad scary. It is our first startup and we are trying to create a tool that really has not been done before in a segment of the travel industry where, for better or worse, no one has managed to gain real scale.

So we decided to keep a journal and record every step of our journey – the pebblar story. Different to most development blogs you may have read before, we are not going to write about “lessons learned” or“advice to startups”, we just want to keep a diary of our progresses, keeping it real and genuine. You are all invited to go on this journey with us to read about our challenges and growth first hand and in realtime and if you are willing, share with us your advice and experiences.

Wish us luck!

Nan