Startup Diaries Week #8: Excitement & Distraction

March 8, 2016

I’m excited.

I get excited a lot, it’s why I do what I do. But now I’m really excited.


Because the idea that Adam and I fleshed out on the train just a few weeks ago is turning into something really, really powerful.

Having pivoted and gone through that extremely tough process of decision making it’s almost weird to think that just a few weeks later, we’ve fleshed out what could very easily be the next five years of a business, and beyond.

And if we do this right, we could be the first to break into a brand new space. Heck, we may even create an industry.

Sadly, I can’t tell you too much about the bigger picture because well, we need to pad it out more, but what I can do is introduce you to Pip.

Pip, is our pivot. Right now, as a minimum viable product (MVP), it’s a solution for all of us busy entrepreneurs who simply struggle to remember the important things in life.

Moving forward, wow do we have some ideas and plans for Pip, but as any good startup founder will tell you: we have to focus on solving one, simple problem first.

And so, we’re solving birthdays.

As of today, you can use Pip completely free to get personal recommendations for birthday gifts, experiences and more for those who mean the most to you.

Try Pip for free right now (UK only)

The best part?

With no hassle, Pip will also BUY those gifts for you and charge you back the exact amount – no markup, no profit.

Just help for busy people like me.

One day, I’m going to tell you the full vision for Pip – just give me a while to really dial it in, won’t you.

Sellotape and Blu-Tack

It’s hard being a tech geek sometimes. One of the things that makes us so geeky is that we like building things.

And when we’ve built them, we like taking them apart again and re-building them bigger and better.

Pip doesn’t have any of that. We haven’t built anything other than a simple two page website.

That’s it.

And actually, that’s a huge part of the fun, exhilaration and energy that flows through the business right now. We are truly bootstrapping it – we have used existing online systems such as Zapier and IFTTT to string together a sequence of events that WORKS!

I almost feel like Dr. Frankenstein… “It’s alive…”.

I’ve talked about it in several of the previous Startup Diaries, but it’s only this last week that we have been able to really get down and dirty with cobbling together something that not only technically functions, but that has actually allowed us to completely arrange special occasions for the loved ones of our customers.

We did nail Mothers’ Day here in the UK and have busy entrepreneurs some stunning experiences.

I mean, just, wow. A few weeks ago, this did not exist.

It’s the typical startup story – prove it, THEN build it – do not do it the other way around.

Challenges this week

Professionally, we didn’t face any big challenges this week.


I feel very odd saying that because of course, there are the little obstacles that invariably present themselves, but on the whole it’s been a week of creating.

With no workshops and only a week since we were in the U.S., the team at Ignite have given us space to dig in to some tangible shit; to do what we need to do to set up for the run up to an investment round.

And so, Adam and I have spent the week building: Adam the cobbling together of a more robust version of our SMS messaging to Slack system; me re-creating the MVP of the website and some small scripting to make sure we get notified of the right things at the right time.

It’s been a “quiet” week of laser focus – and it’s been a delight.

Having said that, my oh my… my coding has gotten a little rusty. Wow, that was an eye opener! But, after an hour or two of feeling my way around once familiar territory, my aptitude came back and I was coding away happily.

Happily-ish. I may have exchanged a few curses with my internal voice.

Don’t tell my mum.

A distraction

Something else happened too. With Cavalry.

But, I can’t tell you much about it, because frankly I don’t know yet if it’s genuine or not.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Come on Mark, why bother mentioning it then?”

Simple: whether it’s genuine or not, there’s going to be a story there – and I will share it with you, when I can. Consider this a reminder to myself, and to you to kick my ass if I don’t mention it again.

Bear with me, please.

Real life: How the co-founders are doing

To be completely honest with you, it’s been a hard week personally.

You know about my Grandfather passing away from last week’s post, and this week has been a real mixed bag of emotion for me.

Specifically, I’ve felt terrible about going about my usual business when it felt like one really important part of my world had simply stopped.

And, I couldn’t reconcile that in my head for a while but then I came to the understanding – almost an agreement with myself – that it’s ok to still be excited and happy even when feeling sad and lonely.

Given I said I’d be honest with you, I will say this too: the latter part of that statement, about being lonely, is a real hard thing to deal with.

Working away from home, from my family, has been hard during this time. I seemingly took for granted the 30 minute cups of tea with Mrs. A; the impromptu “nip out for a cheer up” to see my niece or one of my 35,000 nephews (it feels that way at Christmas!) – I didn’t realise how much I leaned on that until it wasn’t there in a time of distress.

I miss that. I needed that.

And so, the real challenge for me this week has been simply getting through it unscathed. And you know, I think I managed it.

Lessons learned this week

  • A few days of intense focus can yield results that you never thought possible.
  • It’s ok to cobble a solution together, it doesn’t need to be perfect. Just make it work, prove it and then learn what you need to build on the back of it.
  • Get out there and get people using whatever you’ve created, quickly – and then listen to what they say. It does not need to be perfect, see above!
  • Create manual automation (I know, it sounds weird): templates for repeating content; process maps and systems to help you stay focussed when people do start using what you’ve created – this is vital for keeping semblance of a brand and semblance of consistency throughout these early stages. However, the biggest single reason for doing this is so that you set parameters that can be measured.

Next week we have a little more distraction in the form of Cavalry and some real social proof to pick out from this week’s work on Pip – we’ll have some more real-life jobs being done and I’ll be able to share what worked and what didn’t.

Let’s see what breaks, shall we.

Don’t forget, the more you expect from yourself, the more you WILL excel!

Mark Asquith

That British podcast guy, Mark is co-founder of, the world's only growth-oriented podcast host. A Harvard, TEDx, Podcast Movement and Podfest speaker (amongst many more!), he's a wildly approachable Brit and Star Wars/DC Comics geek.

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