Beyond the One Man Act
Thinking about what I’d like to write about this week whilst strongly ignoring the fact that I didn’t write a blog last week, the thought crossed my mind that since it might interest some of you, and bore quite another few, this time round it would be nice to chronicle the story of how MyRoute-app went from a one-man-act to the small company it is today. You’ll read about the challenges we faced and overcame, how we did it and what challenges we’re facing today.
Act one, the one man act.
As you might know already, MyRoute-app is the brainchild of former TyreToTravel co-owner Michel van Hagen. For those that are unfamiliar with this name: TyreToTravel was the commercial enterprise that sold the premium version of Tyre, a free routeplanning software conceived and built by Jan Boersma. Michel foresaw that as time moved ever onwards there was room to reinvent the traditional routeplanner with contemporary design. Tyre was conceived and built in an era where the Internet, connectivity, digital sharing, smartphones and social media were neigh non-existent. This next project would be built to move along with changes in the digital world. Thus, the idea of MyRoute-app was conceived.
In late 2013 Michel met freelance programmer Daniël Luthra who had just finished making an app for a shared acquaintance. After they discussed the idea, Michel gathered funds: particularly through the VIRP program. As funds were secured the necessity of a concrete visual design became adamant. That request for a visual identity and design was put forward to, you guessed it, yours truly. I designed banners, chose the now familiar blues-on-white color scheme alongside several visual conventions and drew up visualizations of what this MyRoute-app should look like. At that time Michel was still working from home and “the office” that Daniël worked in was a converted spare bedroom in his parental home.
From 2014 to 2015 we started turning dreamy ideas into tangible features. Joris joined our team, recruited by Daniël while giving a voluntary IT class on our old high school. The beta version of MyRoute-app WEB was launched, followed by a mobile app. The office that Daniël and I worked in moved from that spare bedroom into a spooky vacant office building where a tiny room was rented. We had a stand on a large national fair, shared with an affiliated group. We gathered our first few business partners and had our first big end-of-year sale in December. We gathered tens of thousands of users. Had frequent meetings on what feature would come next as design and development symbiotically moved together. Challenges were crushed like traffic cones under a tank and our dreams glimmered like unexplored stars whizzing past the rocket of our enterprise. A lot of that momentum carried on throughout 2016 and well into 2017.
What made 2016 and 2017 unique was that it was the first time where we realized that while we were crushing cones and whizzing past stars, we were also unable to brake safely. Each individual was working hard, but by doing so became ever more isolated. As we recruited more people in the form of Christian, Anthony and Corjan we didn’t change the entrepreneurial “just hit the accelerator as hard as possible and don’t mind the RPM” mindset. Michel and Daniël were at risk of becoming seriously overencumbered, getting ever more responsibilities and taking work home and on holidays. By adopting a better grip on projects and eventually getting relief as the new crew gained experience, we were able to slow down the pace, albeit minimally. Because of this, milestones such as the route-planner in the app, expansions on the route planner in general and social features such as events, groups and the travel blog were achieved.
Reinvented and reinvigorated
Eventually you’re going to realize that beyond those traffic cones lies a steep cliff where the road ends abruptly. Eventually, as the stars whizzing past become fewer and fewer, you realize that you’re heading into the infinite darkness of deep space. Eventually, you’re going to have to brake or face an inevitable doom.
I personally think that this is an experience that all successful start-ups have to overcome at some point. Like a great filter for embryonic companies, at one point in time you’re going to have to restructure yourself, move your key players around and redistribute responsibilities. You can’t be dependent on single persons, so you create redundancies for tasks and knowledge. If you don’t do this, your players are going to burn out, your responsibilities won’t be upheld and your tasks risk incompletion. Some start-ups might be better prepared for this than others, but everybody eventually has to change from an oversized one-man-show to an undersized company.
That change came to fruition in 2018 and early 2019. We spent more time on polishing whilst still keeping new features coming at the same time. With the launch of Navigation (and subsequent updates), tackling the great big change in the way Google invoices Maps licences (which by the way, indirectly killed of several other companies) and spending more time on how new members will experience the learning curve of MyRoute-app (which we always want to keep as low as possible) we achieved that developmental goal. Today we eagerly look forward into the future with a new roadmap, once more crushing cones and passing stars armed with the knowledge of yesterday.
@Timo-Martosatiman-MRA Well done team MRA.
@Nick-Carthew-RouteXpert Thanks Nick!
Con Hennekens last edited by Con Hennekens
I did not find this a boring story!
Nice to see the team growing, but please always remember the small roots you came from. It is a pleasure doing business with a small company that takes customer comments seriously. For me personally that is a VERY big benefit over the big names in Navigationland. And it is also the reason I take effort in commenting and replying to questions on this forum. I try to be an ambassador for MRA, but do not need the forum-title. I don't want it to become an obligation
It is really amazing to see how much MRA and Navigation have matured in such a short time! Congrats on that!
@Con-Hennekens Wow Con, that's great. We feel the same and reactions such as yours only improve that feeling. Thank you!