Everyone has a back burner project.
In the months before 500 Startups started, mine was Dashboard.io. It began with the innocuous "initial commit" and a pitch of "Let me peek at your traffic data. I promise to keep it private, and I'll anonymously show you how you stand up to everyone else on the platform."
It took only a few days and a little boost from Hacker News before over 300 startups were flooding Dashboard.io with their data and I found myself engaged in a constant struggle to stay online. Eventually, I admitted defeat and turned off the spigot. New signups were disabled and I asked the founders who had trusted me with their data for forgiveness as I shut down the service and turned my attention back to 500 Startups.
At the time, 500 Startups was only a few months old and itself experiencing the typical challenges and growing pains any startup can relate to: reach a product-market fit, scale our internal processes, and figure out how to bootstrap our firm. I tried to give Dashboard.io what it deserved, but the truth was, I was just too busy.
We used Google Groups internally at 500 Startups to bring our founders and mentors together, but it only worked for a short while. The community quickly grew by the hundreds, and the Google Groups became noisy. People wanted to help their fellow 500 family but couldn't keep up with the constant barrage of email that naturally occurs when hundreds of people are in a private community and eager to give.
The turning point came when a well known founder and mentor had enough and, frustrated and angry, handed in their resignation. They couldn't see through the clutter to mentor our community, and just like that, one of our best was gone. That same night I revived Dashboard.io with a renewed mission -- to build a better platform for the 500 family.
Starting with a mission to enable people to opt-in to the discussions that were relevant and ignore the rest, I set about to surround myself with the best people to grow Dashboard further. I was introduced to Rails expert Ches Martin, who joined the team as our first developer, and with contributions from Alex Baldwin and Alex Manelis we built up the product with a unified event calendar, private messages and office hours within weeks.
The response was overwhelmingly positive, and with the help of 500's accelerator cohort at the time we quickly iterated through their feedback. The Google Groups became quieter as discussions on Dashboard.io increased and engagement skyrocketed.
Nearly a year later, Fred Oliveira came on to handle UI/UX, Fabio and Pedro rounded out the development team and Hans Yeakel recently joined to lead content development. Dashboard is finally growing up, and fast. Once a neglected back burner project, Dashboard.io evolved into a platform for not just 500, but the startup ecosystem at large.
Today, thousands of startups around the world rely on us for their community. And that's just the start. Soon companies will once again be able to confidentially share their data with our platform in exchange for benchmarks and indicators of their performance.
As Dashboard comes to life, I make two promises:
- I will keep your information safe. I will never sell or share your data with anyone, including your investors.
- I will use that data anonymously to benefit our entire industry and move it forward.
We're startup people. We're those who create better products when there's nothing out there that fits our needs. We're those who see a problem and then build the solution. Dashboard.io is front and center, and I hope you join me.
Paul Singh, Founder, Dashboard.io