06 October 2018

Week 17: An Indian Summer

It's been a wild couple of months. Still haven't launched.

Hanging out at Reason, my amazing incubator/pals

The skinny

It’s been nearly two months since my last blog post. Bad Jonny. Very bad.

I was sitting in the Reason office (the kind people who are putting me up with a desk) on friday, munching pizza and joining in with the weekly round-the-table retro. When it came to me, I couldn’t remember what happened this week.

That’s crazy, because the last two months (since my last post, when I launched my pre-order page and got a couple of orders) has been pretty eventful.

However, it hasn’t all gone to plan. My landing page still says the product is launching at the end of September. That didn’t happen. Unsurprisingly, the complexity and sheer amount of content in the product I’m creating has been fairly overwhelming. And the more I wrote, the more I realised how much complexity I would have to explain, which resulted in me committing a couple of weeks ago to building a UI (which I had hoped not to).

I’m just gonna make a list of some of the things I’ve done, because it’s midnight on a Saturday night and it’s pretty tragic that I’m sitting on my sofa watching some dude livestream code on twitch and writing, rather than either seeing people or sleeping.

The big list of things wot I’ve done.

1. I’ve done a LOT of writing

I’ve written (approximately) 25,000 words describing design skills, broken into a multitude of skill descriptions, levels and behaviours, to create the first draft of the content for the product. For context, this is over double the length of the next longest thing I’ve ever written – my university disertation. It’s been completely exhausting, and it’s only a first draft, but I had a great day on Thursday watching a design team assessing themselves using it. There’s something there.

The work-in-progress profile page

2. I’ve built the MVP of the software product

I’ve created a custom ‘website builder’ to allow design teams to create, brand, extend and host their own version of Progression Pack wherever they want. My first pilot customer’s hosted site is up and running, with another one going up on Monday. While this is far from how the final product needs to work, I’ve built the vast majority of it myself, which has stretched my technical abilities (and occasionally patience). Using this product, managers can add their seniority levels and team members, who can in turn assess their skills, match those skills against their current and future seniority levels and create goals to move forwards.

3. I’ve run a bunch of workshops and 1:1 assessments

I’ve created and iterated on a workshop format that brings design teams closer together, gets them thinking introspectively and assessing their skills. I’ve run this workshop with 30+ designers – it’s starting to work really well. I’ve also hung out with a bunch of designers 1:1 to test the framework.

4. I’m exploring partnering up with people

Solo is fun, but I’d love to find people to share this with. A month ago I met Ben, and immediately realised that he’d been thinking about all the same stuff as me, but for three times as long. We’ve since hung out a lot and talked through the problem space, which has been a huge benefit to me. I’m excited to see what we can do together in the future.

Listen to the podcast here

5. I started a podcast

Speaking of partnering up, I got chatting to Austin from AllxDesign and we realised we both wanted to mess about with podcasting. So in classic ‘done is better than perfect’ fashion, we decided to just record one. Sound quality wasn’t amazing, but we enjoyed it, and I soon realised that I had a list as long as my arm of people I wanted to talk to. Episode 2 was an interview with Andy Budd which was great, and I’ve already recorded episode 3, an absolute cracker, out this week. Check out the podcast here.

6. I started a community for design progression

I was a bit nervous about introducing yet another slack channel to people’s lives, but the community has been a really useful way to catch up with early customers and Pilot teams, as well as chatting casually to other fine thinkers and passers-by. It’s not mega active right now, but I have plans for the community, so if you want to join head to progressionpack.com/chat and sign up.

7. I’m trying to build in the open

I really want to keep sharing what I’m up to, so I’m testing out live streaming parts of my work. You can follow me on Twitch at twitch.tv/jonnyburch (today I live streamed for nearly 8 hours!) or on Shipstreams. Someone managed to capture a small segment of today’s stream.

OK, so this is all a bunch of work. The fact is, I go to India in just over two weeks and I need to get these first pilot customers set up, send out the first version of the framework to my (incredibly patient) first progression pack customers and get several other ducks in a row before I go. This is going to be a sprint finish, and then I get to hang out at an amazing wedding, a Yoga resort in Kerala and the Andaman Islands for three weeks. Bring it on, I’m pretty burnt out right now (hence blogging at midnight on a Saturday).

The Good

  • I’ve made a bunch of progress, not only in creating stuff but in my thinking. I have more respect for the complexity and nuances of the problem, but I’m more confident that there’s a place for a great product in the middle of it.
  • I’m still absolutely loving the lifestyle. I have to say, I love my Pilot customers but being in offices right now also reminds me of why I chose to leave. I’m sure this won’t always be the case, but seven months into this little adventure, the novelty hasn’t worn off.

The Bad

  • I’m working too hard at the moment. I don’t care what people say, I still don’t think you have to work yourself to the bone. I’ve put this pressure on myself, and I need to take some time in India to think about how I can not be spending weekends working in November and onwards.
  • It’s becoming clear that I’m going to need to work out how to build some not overly technically complex, but fairly robust products in the coming months. This will require a co-founder (which I don’t yet have), or money (which I don’t have) or time (which I’d rather not spend). Head scratcher.
  • I’m frustrated that I’ve been shy of releasing things. There’s always a good reason, and the product has needed this long to get to a level of stability and usefulness, but surely I could have been learning in more ways than I have by getting feedback on iterations. There’s so much to share, and I haven’t, partly because I’ve been worried that the content is too valuable and may be stolen if I don’t get legal docs sorted. I need a good (but cost-effective) lawyer…
  • Perhaps unsurprising, but after the initial page share, traffic and sales have dipped on the landing page. Not bad per-se but it would have been cool to have seen that line rise organically.


  1. I need to ship something to my first few customers before I go. I’m getting on for three weeks late now.
  2. I need to see my two pilot customers over the line, ready to line up some more in November and start sharing these first stories.
  3. I need to release the third (and possibly fourth) Podcast episode.
  4. I need to put together some explainer videos and improve the landing page before I go. It doesn’t explain the product well enough.

OK cool. Brain dump done.