In the nearly three years since we started Iodine, we've been a tiny team, never more than 10 of us. That has been one of our greatest blessings so far, and you'd think that because of body count alone, we'd tackle only one thing at a time.
Yet staying focused has certainly been the biggest challenge of our startup life so far. Frankly, in the beginning, we weren't rigorous about saying no to extraneous or distracting projects; in our early months, especially, it wasn't always clear what road we wanted, which meant following two or three paths at once.
But since last June, we've zeroed in on a single product, Start, our app-based program for helping those who suffer from depression. We built it, we hammered on it, we've worked on making it more useful for more people. That focus has paid off. Judging by our user growth and retention metrics, we've made something that actually works.
And now we have real customers--largely insurers and employers who want to provide better, more efficient care for people with depression--eager to pay us for what we've built. So: Success!
That's the rub. Ironically, success requires chucking focus out the window, because our customers don't want to buy an app. They want a service, something that helps them care for thousands of patients and saves them time and money while doing so. Our app is definitely core to that service, but its true commercial value comes only when it's bundled with other stuff. For starters, other software, including a dashboard that lets doctors and insurers look at who's using the app and what they're doing. They'll need analytics services, too, to assess how their larger population is faring and to help identify high-risk patients. Before we can connect our service to these customers, we need to comply with federal law governing patient privacy, a rigorous process that involves building storage tools and putting our team through a security review.
In other words, life has suddenly become a lot more complicated. Just like that, we've gone from having two products--a website and an app--to having four or five products, with all the customer support, technical maintenance, and overhead that each requires. Somehow, our very small team needs to act very big, very fast.
Acting big, it so happens, isn't out of the question. For one thing, we've found that being small lets us move much faster than larger teams, and get more done than might be expected of us. With fewer hoops and processes to go through, and more immediate feedback, we work in two-week sprints rather than three-month quarters.
We've also gotten pretty good at what you might call midair engineering: building a bridge even as we're crossing it. It turns out that between the time when a contract is agreed to and when it finally makes its way through the maw of a corporate machine and back to us, we can get a tremendous amount built and done. So far, the bridge has continued to support us.
Still, in many ways, we're at our most challenging juncture yet, a constant test of our skills and, yes, focus--except now our focus is not on one task but on several. We're straining to balance competing priorities, to hit various deadlines for a number of partners across the country, and to make sure everything not only works but works as well as the products we're known for.
Being small is what got us here. But acting big is what will allow us to thrive.