The Making of a Software Productivity Company: a founder’s journey
The Pain Point
Back in 2016 we first got the idea for Wolf Flow when I was working as an Account Manager for an ad-tech startup out in Los Angeles. At the time I was managing 12 clients who I spoke to daily and each of my clients required different resources and frequent meetings. For one of my clients for example, I would need (1) their website (2) a Google sheet of their campaigns (3) relevant Zendesk tickets opened (4) an email draft (5) meeting notes/agenda and (6) our customer platform. So for one of my clients, I would need a minimum of 6 resources open at once. When it was time to jump onto another call, I would have to minimize or close out of everything I was working on and open resources for my next task. This context-switching occurred at least 5-10 times a day and it was wearing on me. Sound familiar?
One day when I was experiencing this issue after switching quickly to put out a “fire” for a client, I realized how much time I was wasting having to switch between my client’s resources (and not to mention annoying). I had to switch between my shifting priorities quickly and frequently, why wasn’t there something to support these transitions? I brought this pain point to my now business partner and we began looking for a tool we realized didn’t exist - there was no obvious solution for the pain point I was experiencing multiple times a day. And this is what stemmed the making of Wolf Flow.
We started with Googling desktop management tools and productivity software and came out with a few “competitors” that solved pieces of the problem, but not one cohesive tool. We also began looking into market size and figuring out who specifically would need a solution for this problem (other than ourselves). Two resources I would highly recommend when trying to define your business model is the Small Business Administration or seeing if your city has a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) where you can meet with someone for free to discuss your idea. We still visit the SBDC in Madison, WI every few months. In the early stages of Wolf Flow they pushed us to interview almost 100 individuals to validate our idea and help us define who our target market is.
Leaving a really comfy job to plunge into the great unknown of starting a company was daunting. Luckily, I had the right partner to pick-up the confidence that I lacked and speak the language of technology I had yet to learn. Finding the right partner to start a company with is by far the biggest decision and advantage you will have (in my book). You will need to balance each other out and keep each other sane. Without the perfect partner, I know Wolf Flow wouldn’t have come as far as it has.
If you choose to go it alone, I would recommend trying to find a mentor program and advisors by attending meetups or networking groups. We are lucky enough to have a program called Merlin Mentors that matches you with mentors in areas you need help with, and Doyenne that offers free business coaching to women and minority founders. Google what’s in your area and take the jump.
Wolf Flow first and foremost was designed to help people be more productive by decreasing the amount of time spent switching between priorities. I use our software daily and I wish I could have had it when I was working as an Account Manager. We worked through numerous iterations of the concept talking to a handful of development agencies trying to determine how our product would look and work. After about 3 months of iterating and discussions, we settled on an implementation. Our software creates one-click transitions letting you jump between your clients, projects or activities with just one click. No more sorting through your messy desktop, minimizing windows, and re-setting up your desktop to continue a project you were working on last week. Wolf Flow allows you to separate or group your task’s resources like windows, tabs and applications into different “Sessions”, save, close, and return to whenever you need. Everything is saved right where you left it - no more shuffling and no more do-overs.
The Hurdles & Setbacks
Wolf Flow was almost a year in the making before we were ready to release the first version of our desktop productivity software to the public. We found quickly that creating a new software takes a lot of time and patience. One of the biggest hurdles we have had to face and come to terms with is that software reacts differently to everybody’s computer. (Both co-founders are on the same exact type of computer and Wolf Flow interacts differently with each). This is really frustrating! It’s easy to say that the Wolf Pack has a new found empathy for software companies. We now release product updates every 2-3 weeks and are excited to announce that we will be rolling out a few brand new features in the coming weeks like time tracking, hotkeys and the ability to mute notifications in different Sessions. These features are all focused on helping people stay focused and in the end, increase their productivity.
With the hurdles though it is extremely important to celebrate your wins. From day one we created a running list of dates, milestones and wins that is great to look back on when we are facing an uphill battle. It helps to remind yourself how far you have already come.
Taking an idea and making it into something tangible is a journey I never really imagined going down. But when you experience a pain point that frustrates you just enough (and you find others that share this pain) it can be the motivation you need to jump into the wild ride of entrepreneurship. For every up there is down, and it is the most trying thing I’ve done. But it is by far the most rewarding as well. Seeing an idea evolve into a wireframe, become a prototype, and turn into a product people anywhere in the world can download, is an experience like no other (shout out to Greg in Australia!).