WTF is B2D? If you’re one of the 3 readers of this blog who know me in real life, you know that I’m starting a progress bar company. I learned this week that this category is called B2D – B2B businesses that sell directly to developers / tech people.

Given the inevitability of failure here and my deep inner need to attract negative feedback online, I thought it would be productive to write the postmortem of the business now, a few weeks before launch.

To really get myself in the mindset I’m writing this in past tense.

Reasons it failed

OSS replicates what it finds useful. Or a common variant: a bigger player can build this in a weekend after it starts to succeed and eat your lunch, or buy you at wholesale after competing a little. Cloud vendors, stats vendors and the splunk clones are all capable of this. ‘I’m small enough that it’s easier to buy me than copy me’ wasn’t a good moat.

Your potential clients all already have in-house versions of this. Every sales call I made ended with he’s already got one, you see. And their progress bars are better-integrated with their app, both API-wise and visually (see ‘graphic design’ below).

Your graphic design is not the best. Preach.

Developers don’t spend money. See ‘in-house’ above.

Costs too much. And / or: you didn’t charge enough. Crazily, given how price elasticity works in a market used to freemium, it can be both at once!

Unclear value prop. I sat somewhere between tracing and logging for the developer market, and the B2D2C version of my product doesn’t matter because end-user value doesn’t matter to in-house buyers at corporations.

You’re not as smart as you think you are. I.e. I didn’t construct a good enough argument for why this should exist. See also ‘value prop’ above and ‘market fit research’ below.

You misunderstood the market size. I thought success was far away but actually it was just small. Or I didn’t do enough product/market fit research before committing to a spec. Or this will never grow large / fast enough to attract funding.

You’ll never make more than your salary. Given where developer salaries are at, I could have invested this time in getting a maximally overpaid day job in my sector and used the extra dough to gas up my champagne-fueled outdoor shower.

You should have raised money. Given the different dimensions on which I needed to compete with established players (scalability, look and feel, breadth of product offering). Also consider the related problem, I didn’t show fast enough growth to raise money.

You blew up your career. Nobody wants to hire a mid-career tools / scalability dev who spent the last 6 months building a tool that didn’t scale. (See ‘didn’t scale’ below).

Your architecture won’t scale you moron. After initial success / demand, I couldn’t get past N users / M messages per second. New customers stopped joining, loyal ones decamped, and eventually a larger player built this as a feature.

I’m launching anyway

If it succeeds I’ll get to write a cool rebuttal and if it fails I get to say I told you so. Wish me luck and sign up for the waitlist for god’s sake.