My 2016 year in a short review

Out of the comfort zone

Posted by Sammy Schuckert on December 31, 2016

Out of your comfort zone

In February 2015, I finished my bachelor studies and start studying for my master’s degree in strategic design. In 2015 I also set out to bring the app to life my former fellow students (David & Samuel) and I designed for our bachelor’s degree.

So the one-sentence summary for 2015 would’ve been: Find a team and funding to build thangs.

My one-sentence summary for 2016 is: I got out of the comfort zone and launched thangs.

Goal accomplished! ✅💪

This is a long post, so here’s a table of content in case there’s something you want to jump to:

2016 year in review

This year felt short even though I experienced a lot. A lot more than in recent years before. 2016 was a year with ups and downs, with a lot of new people I’ve met and friends I’ve made. A year with faraway places I’ve explored and awesome things I’ve seen.

The journey began in January when I founded my first company together with my former fellow student and friend David. It was an overwhelming feeling to know to start something new and unpredictable, to take the risk and money to start a company to actually build a product that got close to my heart for years. At the end of January, we also found our lastest and awesome team member Dominik. He joined as iOS developer to help to build our vision of an app for the sharing economy.

Me and David short before the notarial act and founding of our company.

In February I quit my studies at the end of my 2nd semester in the master’s program Strategic Design at the HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd for one semester. At this time didn’t know if I would come back. I took the chance of my new earned freedom to do something I’ve planned to do for years. I booked a flight to San Francisco on March, 8th, and a ticket back on April, 1st.

March then was the best month of my life so far. On March, 8th, I started my journey throughout California. It was my 2nd flight and my first time flying alone. I never traveled this far away from home before. The best experience of my life, I met awesome people, learned a lot about myself, learned to surf and worked remotely from three different co-living-houses from Outsite. I encourage everyone to do a trip on their own at least once. It hasn’t to be for long. In my case, it was 22 days — totally enough, even though at the end those days felt too short.

South Lake Tahoe

Back in Germany in April, I got no rest. My team and I started to prepare for the beta of thangs. We attended a bootcamp in Karlsruhe. David and I attended an exhibition in Berlin called AppsWorld and a LeanCamp in Cologne the day after the two-day exhibition.

In May we finally launched the beta. It was a stunning experience to see a product you’ve to build for the last month get into the hand of users. That month we got a lot of feedback and developed the last feature for public release. David and I attended the Ouishare Festival in Paris, an over all great event. We met a whole bunch of interesting people and connected with a lot of experts in the field of Share Economy. We learned a lot about Platform Cooperativism, the Blockchain and the so called New Work.

June started with me visiting Germany’s biggest rock festival Rock am Ring for the fourth time. In this month we finally launched thangs for both OS in the App Store and Play Store.

July, was an awesome month. The month started with a congress about the Share Economy in Karlsruhe. The weekend after the congress we got featured on Product Hunt on June, 9th. We got hunted by Justin Jackson, thanks, man! We finally landed got number six on the list and throughout the day we were climbing and falling between three and six. We ended the day with 160 upvotes and 23 comments. The feedback from the community was overwhelming. On July, 15th we got awarded for the second time from the State Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts Baden-Württemberg with the 2016 AppArtAward at the ZKM Karlsruhe. July, what hell of a month. 🙌

In August we tried new methods to evaluate our concept. We used the NPS method to gather even more Feedback. The outcome made us clear, thangs was on the wrong path. We thought we started with a MVP, but what we really did was developing a product that has too many features to gather feedback to the core concept. Fail, learn, repeat. We knew we must change something. On August, 31th I started to work on the thesis for my master’s degree. You can check out my progress here.

In September we had a whole day face to face meeting. We discussed our learnings from the past, our current situation and the user feedback. This meeting led to a deep change in our organization. We decided to shrink down our core team to three people — Simon and Dominik, our two Developers and me. At the end of September David, Simon and I attended the Bits&Pretzels startup conference in Munich. We had two awesome days and an even more awesome third day at the Oktoberfest. We sat down on a table with other entrepreneurs and investors, talked about our project and of course drank a lot of beer.

In October we started a new project called Dropsale. We set out to develop an easy method to set up a microshop to sell songs online. We developed Dropsale in a little more than four weeks. You can read more about Dropsale and our progress here.

At the end of November, we launched Dropsale. We started with our first artist MEMO1 and her song Parallels. You can purchase it here. She will donate her whole income to the United Nations World Food Programm. In the first test run and customer interviews we evaluated our first two assumptions:

  • We believe that fans (friends and family) of the artist will buy the song on Dropsale because they have read about it on social media. ✅
  • We believe that most of the customers buy the song because they want to support the artist. ✅

December was short and mostly filled with work on my thesis and a little bit of work on Dropsale and thangs to keep things moving. Also, I applied as a UX-Designer at a well-known software and technology company. This job hopefully will become my entry to a corporate design world next year. I’m excited for 2017 and can’t wait.

Happy New Year everyone!

Let’s make 2017 an awesome year.

Three things I’ve learned this year 🙃

  • 👍 What valuable feedback means: There’s no user feedback to a prototype or user testing which gives you the same valuable feedback as if the product is out in the wild and is used by people you’ve never met, in contexts you’ve never expected and you are not there to explain anything.
  • 🚫 The fear of failure holds you back: Fear is holding you back. Fear holds you back from making progress. Fear lets you dig in the dark always guessing what’s the right way. Put yourself, your product out there. Don’t let fear hold you back. Even the worst case scenario isn’t as bad as not showing your work and guessing if you are on the right track. Fear is the only thing that often stand between you and progress.
  • 🔄 Read, try, learn, repeat: Reading and trying to accomplish things you’ve just read is the best and cheapest possible way to learn and grow.

Some places I’ve traveled to this year

  • 🇩🇪 Germany: Berlin, Dresden, Cologne, Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Munich, Augsburg, Frankfurt, Schwäbisch Gmünd
  • 🇧🇪 Belgium: Brussels
  • 🇳🇱 Netherlands: Amsterdam
  • 🇫🇷 France: Paris
  • 🇺🇸 USA, California: San Francisco, Mountain View, Sacramento, South Lake Tahoe, Yosemite Valley, Los Angeles, Encinitas, San Diego, Santa Cruz

Things I’ve done this year ✅

  • 📜 Co-founded a company: thangs GmbH
  • 💻📱 Launched two products: thangs — stuffsharing with friends and
  • 🗣 Gave three talks:
    Two talks about the Share Economy at universities and a talk about
    marketing opportunities for startups on Product Hunt at Google on Campus
  • 👔 Attended nine conferences, camps, meetups: Sustainability Maker Convention Munich, Boostcamp #7 Karlsruhe, B-Corp meetup San Diego, Digital Nomad Meetup at the Vault San Francisco, Ouishare Fest 2016 Paris,
    Code_n Festival 2016 Karlsruhe, Bits&Pretzels 2016, 2nd LeanCamp
    Cologne, 5th LeanCamp Stuttgart, AppsWorld 2016 Berlin, ShareBW congress
  • ♻️ Attended two workshops: At the Umweltbundesamt Berlin about Share Economy.
  • ✈️ Traveled one month and worked remote: My Laptop and I, March until April, throughout California.
  • 🛠 Planed and facilitated a week long hackathon: The topic ‘use things together’ at the HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd with bachelor students from IoT and Interaction Design.
  • 🏆 Got awarded: My team and I got awarded for our sharing economy app thangs with the AppArtAward Category Sharing form the Ministry of… and the ZKM Karlsruhe.
  • 📲 Brought thangs to life:
    I’ve once said: It would thrill me if the app thangs, we (Samuel, David
    and me) designed during our bachelor thesis in late 2014 and early
    2015, is live in both app stores on my 26th birthday. The biggest
    birthday present I’ve ever got. thangs went live in late May, one month
    before my birthday. 🎉 🙌
  • 📖 Read some books:
    Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of
    True Inspiration, Sprint: How to solve big problems and test new ideas
    in just five days, Marketing: A Love Story: How to Matter to Your
    Customers, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind
    Extraordinary Results, Made to Stick, Start with Why: How Great Leaders
    Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest
    for a Fantastic Future, Rework by Jason Fried, Marketing for Developers
    by Justin Jackson, The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman, Zero to
    one: Mutig denken. Neues wagen. Zukunft bauen.
  • 🔊 Listened to a lot of podcasts:
    MegaMaker by Justin Jackson, At your Service, Product People by Justin
    Jackson, Seeking Wisdom by Drift, Nice To Meet You by Tobias van
    Schneider, User Defenders, The Start, Startups For the Rest of Us
  • 📑 Read a whole bunch on Medium:
    I’ve read 355 stories by 242 different authors. That’s 912 minutes
    spent reading, which is equivalent to 1.7 Lord of the Rings marathons.
  • 📝 Got active on Medium: 1,674 people read my stories and responses. That’s 2,243 minutes spent reading.

Things I will do next year❗️

  • 🎓 Finish my master’s degree thesis: On January, 31st… uhh just 31 days to go… 😱 #panic #calmdown
  • 📚 Read more books: On my shelf (unfinished): LeanUX, From Impossible to Inevitable, Scaling Lean, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Jolt — sell more by standing out — Justin Jackson, When Coffee and Kale Compete, Atomic Design by Brad Frost. Books I want to start reading: Meaningful products, remote from 37signals
  • 🤖 Try new methods and tools:
    Starting a new project with a Lean Workshop using MURAL. Using the
    HEART Framework in a project to measure UX. Trying out methods like Lean
    UX Canvas and Lean Canvas.
  • 🗺 Travel to at least two places I’ve never been before.
  • 🚀 Launching two new products: Together with my team at thangs.
  • ✍️ Write journal more frequent.
  • 👔 Get employed as a UX-Designer at a design driven company.
  • ⌨️ Write at least one blog post every third month.
  • 👻 Use more emojis: Because emojis are fun.

Or Discuss it!