Discover more from Fount
Goodbye Fount, Hello Bit & Dat
What We Build, What We Learned, and What Comes Next
Three years ago, we started with nothing but a rough idea of a problem we wanted to solve. We were looking for a tool that allowed us to save thoughts from various sources seamlessly. Be it Twitter, Kindle, Medium, or other sources, we were tired of being stuck in silos. Beyond the possibility of just curating for oneself, we were lacking a way to easily share these curations with the world. This idea transformed into Fount, a consumer application for both mobile and web platforms. It was an attempt to build a playful tool-for-thought, letting users not just save bookmarks like other tools but gather consumable snippets of information, such as Tweets, Kindle, and article highlights. We called these snippets Insights and considered them the fundamental building block in Fount. But it wasn’t just about saving; it was about structuring these insights into playlists and fostering a community where users could discover new content by following others. A Pinterest for a world of ideas, if you will.
The pride we feel looking back isn't just in the product we built, but in the team we became. Through moments of optimism and second-guessing, difficult conversations, and loads of laughter, we realized that we, as a team, are here to stay. That being said, this is unfortunately not the case for Fount. Despite our efforts, we failed at growing and monetizing Fount. With a heavy heart, we now announce our decision to shut Fount down. We are incredibly grateful to our early users, who believed in us and provided invaluable feedback all along the journey. While this might not be the outcome we were hoping for, we learned a ton along the journey. Surprisingly, much of these learnings can be distilled into some of the standard startup 101 advice, things we thought we were aware of. Yet, while many of these concepts are easily understood in theory, they are hard to apply in practice, and fully embracing them often requires experience.
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In hindsight, many of our mistakes stemmed from losing focus and sacrificing pace. Focusing on a single persona instead of three could have been more effective, letting us zero in on one pain point only. During the product planning, we got caught up in adding features to our MVP, making it progressively more complex at the expense of time and quality. Being victims of the "Silver Bullet Syndrome", we kept on arguing that the next feature would be our breakthrough. All the while, we were perfectly aware of the trade-offs we made, explicitly addressing the "Silver Bullet Syndrome" in our discussions. But we did it anyway. There is one product decision to highlight, which was introducing social features early on. Looking back, this decision was most likely premature. It wasn’t strictly necessary for our product to work and as we didn’t yet have the saving part quite right, the social flywheel did not gain sufficient traction.
When acquiring early users, there is a popular saying: “Do things that don’t scale”. While initially this seems crucial, it’s easy to overlook the importance of a Go-to-Market strategy. We were highly selective in our user acquisition process, mostly relying on outbound contacts, friends, or creators where we saw a fit for our product. We onboarded everyone personally and maintained regular touchpoints, which took away most of our time for anything else. While this approach made sense to some extent, we missed the chance to broaden our funnel and generate high-quality inbound interest, which would have simplified feedback collection and testing.
There is another aspect that is quickly forgotten. Early-stage startups never just sell their current product, but always need to convince users with their vision of what the product could be. Personally, we noticed how easy it is to get bogged down by day-to-day operations and lose sight of the bigger picture. In our user interviews, we had to remind ourselves continuously to not only present the product at hand but to compel users with our vision. Conversely, when selling the vision, expressing interest and excitement comes at zero cost for the user. While it’s nice to hear this feedback and all too easy to fall for it, the only metric that ultimately matters is product usage.
The final and potentially most important point in our decision to stop building Fount was the limitations in our set-up. When the idea around Fount first started to crystallize, we thought that the type of product we wanted to build would be compatible with a part-time setup, where the team either worked or studied full-time. Assuming that the product was challenging but didn't include major technology risks, we thought we picked a sweet spot. What we realized about a year in, however, is that it is hard to maintain the feature development and community-building pace for a social consumer product with only a few hours of time each week. We felt like we were constantly playing catch-up, having to trade off bug fixes with putting time into new features. On the community building side, we realized that bootstrapping early users before product-market fit is like building castles on the sea - once you stop shoveling, they disappear. So we would pour our time and hearts into Fount, return from our day job, and feel like we are starting over every time. Add to that the cost of context switching and coordination and we felt couldn't maintain this way of working.
As disappointed as we are to shut down Fount, we are equally grateful for the incredible journey and our learnings. And for putting us on the path to what is next: Bit & Dat. The one thing that stood out to us the whole time was how lucky we felt to be able to work together. We love the team and the time spent building. And we realized we are really good at complimenting each other. So when we thought about our next steps, we all had the same vision: Continue working together. Not just for a product, but for the long term. To solve difficult, intriguing problems. To create landmark technology, in-house or for partners. And to build a company together that can shapeshift and is the umbrella for all these exciting ideas. It's a little bit of everything. Its Bit & Dat.
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