Apple Clears Haystack For Lift-Off

After all the build-up and anticipation, the approval from Apple for our iOS version of the app was a bit of an anti-climax. Just a two line email that arrived without any fanfare. I expected to hear some bugle music at the very least when I opened the email. The wave of relief was quickly followed by a mad scramble to lodge version 1.1 for approval. That’s the way it works with Apple. iOS developers always have overlapping versions on the go so that we don’t waste valuable development time as we wait for the Apple black box to work its magic. It’s just three days since we got the approval for the iOS app and I’ve almost forgotten my anxiety already as we move onto other things on the countdown to launch.

We held an investors meeting on Friday evening and one of the main topics was social media. Brian had insisted that we have another go at explaining our social media strategy to the investors because we were still getting lots of questions about it. Everyone has got an opinion on social media and our investors are no different. Conversation usually begins with a comment like “I was talking to my sister’s cousin and she does online marketing for Myer and she said …….”. Nobody ever asks me detailed questions about things like Android coding or database structure. Everyone however, has a view about our social media strategy and especially so when it comes to my blogs. On Friday I listened patiently to the feedback from the investors. Someone offers up “a friend’s viewpoint” that the blog seems to be going for the sympathy vote but nobody sympathizes with Mark Zuckerberg. Brian is not as patient as I am and I can’t help smiling when his somewhat robust response is deemed to be a ‘little on the defensive side’ by one of the investors. I am silently pleased though that there is at least one person out there that is starting to think that Haystack will be as big as Facebook. Over the past six weeks, I’ve received a lot of feedback about our posts. Some bad, some good, most encouraging and lots from experts telling me what we really should be doing. I’ve listened patiently to a digital marketer for a Korean car company who offered to tell me where we were going wrong. I tried to explain that developing a brand presence via social media for a smartphone App that isn’t even available yet is as far removed from marketing cars as you can possibly get. Back in the investor meeting Brian points out the fact that nobody in Australia has launched a globally successful smartphone App so the pool of Australian experts on App marketing is probably not that big and we should trust our instincts. I then move quickly to put up the slide that has some profiling of the 5,000 people who have read my blog so far. We also talk about the thousand plus pre-registrations for the App and I can see the penny dropping with the investors. They may not understand the methods but they understand the results. This is a lesson for me. We didn’t spend enough time explaining the social media stuff and it’s no wonder they have questions. Thank goodness they’ve had enough trust in us even if they didn’t really understand what we were doing.

The rest of the investor meeting goes for four hours into the evening and covers everything from international tax to planning for the launch event. I have brought along one of the new Haystack t-shirts and everyone thinks they look great. But I grabbed a female version size XS from the top of the box. I ask each of the investors if they would like one to wear at the launch. I am asked if we have any “fat b*****d” sizes and I have to admit we may not have catered for everyone. Maybe on Monday I will have time to order a few more. We all troop out late from the boardroom that we’ve borrowed and walk over to the Cru bar on James Street for a drink before closing time. We struggle to find any space to even stand together. This is the first time we have spent any time socialising together as a Haystack investor team and we resolve to do it a little more often when Haystack takes off. We won’t all see each other until launch night in ten days time and I receive lots of handshakes with encouraging words as we leave.

I woke up today knowing we have a massive 10 days ahead. On Thursday this week we have the final of the QUT Bluebox Innovation Challenge which has a $60k first prize and $30k for the runner up. If by some miracle we win, the cash will give us a little financial breathing space for the first time in three years. QUT is big in the innovation space and I know it will be massive publicity for Haystack if we take first prize. I still have to finalise and practice my presentation and so some of the Sunday I wanted to spend with my wife and baby daughter will now have to be spent on PowerPoint and practice. The whole team was elated when we were short listed for the Innovation Challenge but there is no denying it would be a lot easier on us if we didn’t have the final pitch night five days before our global launch.

I am aware that there are still so many things to do before launch on the 21st and so many things that can go wrong. One by one however, they seem to be coming together. A few weeks ago, we had no PR strategy, but now Kristie, our new PR guru has everything swinging into gear. Graham Quirk, Lord Mayor has kindly agreed to attend our launch (thank you Marty for organising this). One of the first things Kristie did was organise a photo/press session earlier in the day so that we can make the evening news cycle. Assuming next Tuesday has no other news, we might even be the lead story on TV and the front cover of all the newspapers (provided absolutely nothing else at all happens on launch anywhere in the country of course). Please let Oct 21 be the quietest news day ever.

I worry that we need more video footage for the media and the website but we don’t have a plan or budget for it. We need simple things like lots of quick media grabs showing how haystack works and longer commercial type segments. However the reality is that we just can’t afford any more video at the moment. The one commercial we did film for the QUT challenge cost us quite a bit of money and diverted our attention and at the moment we are short on time and money so will have to shelve any more video for now.

I’m also stressing about our customer support platform. It’s impossible to test properly with our beta testers. They have all been through the Haystack learning curve and put up with the bug fixes and now all become expert users so their demand for customer support is zero. I wonder what will happen at launch. Will our customer support be good enough, will the technology cope, will we even need it all? Who knows. And so we enter the final countdown and Nir and Matan work the impossible to include one last feature in the app. Th first real test of public opinion awaits us on Thursday at QUT and if you’ve read this far and want to help then click here and VOTE HAYSTACK !

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