Milestones, working for others, and committing to side projects

Week 75 & 76 Retrospective

It’s September! 2018 is officially more than 2/3 over.

Despite my best efforts to believe otherwise, time relentlessly progresses forwards faster than I expect.

Monthly transitions are always a good opportunity to take a step back and re-orient, so have decided to do that now.

The month past

August 2018 breakdown

August 2018 Time

August was busy! Almost 170 hours of sponsored work meant very little time for anything else. But it’s been fun and good. I don’t often talk about the work I do for other people, but thought it might be interesting to provide a little window into that since it made up the bulk of my time last month.

At Dimagi, I have two main projects:

  1. Helping build/launch a product that helps organizations managing a fleet of mobile phones. Dimagi’s software is widely used for mobile data collection and one problem that organizations have in executing these projects is keeping tabs of all the devices they have out in the wild. So this new app we are building helps them get a handle on that problem and provides visibility to what those devices are doing. We’re hoping to start by launching it to our existing partners, but are building it as a completely standalone tool so that if we’re successful we can launch it to anyone managing a fleet of phones.
  2. Trying to piece together a strategy for the future of reporting in CommCare. This is a very hard technical and user experience problem. Because our software lets users define their own data schema we essentially need to provide a completely generic reporting solution on order to meet their needs. I’ve been researching data warehouse architectures, building mock UIs and PoCs, evaluating existing reporting and business intelligence tools, and trying to map out how all the different pieces of the puzzle will fit together in some idealized future state.

Outside of Dimagi, I’ve been helping a friend on an early-stage startup. They are still in stealth mode, so I can’t say too much about it, but it’s also been solving some interesting data problems. The product is heavy on data extraction and geospatial information, and has involved getting ramped up on a lot of new tools, including Airflow for managing pipelines and Tesseract for OCR.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a bit about Place Card Me.

Last month was a major milestone for the site, crossing $1000 revenue in a month for the first time! For comparison, last year at this time the site had an all-time revenue of $3 (which, I was admittedly still excited about). I vividly remember a conversation with my wife around this time last year where I was trying to predict what I would “happy” about in terms of revenue in a year. At the time I said that if it was making $100 a month that would be great. Needless to say, I’m thrilled to be at 10x that number.

Sep 2018 Revenue

All time historical monthly revenue for Place Card Me

Of course the scary thing about a trend like this is that at some point it inevitably has to end. I remember knowing that revenue would take a dip last January, but still feeling really down and frustrated when it did. So—while I’m thrilled about the current revenue trajectory of the site—I’m also trying to maintain caution about expecting this trend to continue.

The month ahead

If last month was the month of working for others, then this month is the month of place cards!

Seriously. I realized that I haven’t worked on the project for more than 8 hours in a month since February. And while it’s been all fun and good to get those high hourly rates on my time each month, I’ve decided that it’s a good time to stop leaning back on this project and put the pedal to the gas for a bit.

So I’m planning to make Place Card Me my main side-project for the month for the first time ever in 2018. How novel.

A couple different things I’m doing to try and drive this:

  1. I enrolled in YC Startup School, in hopes of getting ideas, inspiration, and accountability.
  2. I created a roadmap and am in the process of prioritizing it and making my commitments for the month. Am hoping to do a combination of revenue tests, product improvements, and marketing/traction work.
  3. I’m setting a target of 4-8 hours per week of work on the project this month (2-4x my historical timespend).


Current Place Card Me roadmap (a work in progress).


T-minus two months until the ticking time bomb that is a human child explodes on our lives and forever changes them for the—hopefully better, but probably more complicated and hard?

Either way, realizing that my carefree days might be winding down and trying to make the most of it, both professionally and outside of work.