I've been working on a construction QA startup called #conqa for the last few years. It started with an immutable centralized distributed parent pointer tree using Firebase for messaging/storage (everyone has replicas, and entries are signed, but final consistency is guaranteed by us, not a blockchain/DHT), however we've mostly moved to CouchDB to help scale. Now that the company has become established, my plan for the next few years is to gradually become unemployed and live off-grid on passive income!
One of the directors wrote an informal history for the team (we're at about 30 people now), reposted below. There are few other people with startups & exits on SSB - please share your story too sometime!
The ride so far (Barney Chunn)
Like the beginning to most stories, we didn't really know that the beginning was the beginning.
In late 2014, Peter messaged Dan & I to discuss an idea. An idea he'd be working on, an idea that we'd happened upon as well.
So we met up. Before we did, I'd said to Dan 'this has been going nowhere for 4 years now, let's give him everything we have and try keep 5% or so.' To me, that was a small passive income while we went wherever our lives would go.
So on Jan 30th 2015 we met on a sunny afternoon at De Fontein in Mission Bay. Someone suggested beers and so we had beers and once we'd had beers, we decided instead of handing over everything to Pete, we'd work together. And that was where it started.
To take a step back, in 2012 I had finished university and having studied Philosophy and English, I was unemployed. Moving back from Wellington to Auckland, I went to a friend's birthday dinner. At the dinner, a school friend ours made a somewhat auspicious entrance, as at 22 he was behind the wheel of a brand new Ferrari.
I don't give a shit about cars but it did have a certain appeal to the me that was on the dole and living with my girlfriend (guiltily) rent free.
The day after, Dan and I had breakfast and I said to Dan 'Man, we need to get into software,' He said 'Awww yeah'. So we did.
The idea itself was triggered more from the era than the industry; it was a time in which truly new, valuable and globally impactful businesses could be started, and we knew that was something we could be a part of. We just needed to solve a problem, so we went looking for one.
We dove into market research to discover which market had was globally significant, had inefficiencies, and genuine pain points that could be solved by software. Daniel and Peter both being engineers, the construction industry was high up on our list to investigate.
After interviewing hundreds of people from directors to cadets, the quality assurance process in the construction industry presented itself as ripe for a software solution.
So circling back to early 2015, our back of the envelope business plan was to build the product in a month, grow to profitability by, say May/June that year, and then Dan could get back to travelling, & Pete and I could live however we wanted.
By March 2015 we put out the notice for a developer.
As it turned out, some one replied. Not just someone, but a fullstack Node developer with a couple of start ups under his belt.
We met Nef in a pub (I'd love to remember what he ordered; he normally drinks no or low alcohol beers now), and he impressed us immensely having already created almost exactly what we'd hoped to build (turns out he hadn't but we thought he had).
So after a few formalities, our little business grew by 25% and we started work on developing.
After spending a few months in cafes and the engineering library using Pete & Dan's old student IDs, my Aunty mentioned she had some space in a little room in Britomart.
We loved it when we found it; a shitty shed on top of a beautiful brick building, up 4 flights of steep stairs with no elevator. It was intensely hot in summer and freezing in winter. You could crawl out the window and hang out on the roof; you could dangle your feet off the edge of the building 4 stories up and watch Takutai Square below.
We had nothing but debt but for some reason, we took it.
If there was one thread that has helped weave the Conqa tapestry, it has been optimistic naivety. We had scoped a one month build time for the MVP, with an aggressive growth forecast thereafter.
After 3 months however, what we had wasn't quite an MVP. That, and we had no money.