Howdy, folks! Posting this publicly is a bit of an experiment for me. A couple years ago I would’ve been much better off if more early stage founders shared their updates publicly or I somehow had access to see what it’s really like in a startup. In an attempt to perhaps pay it forward a bit to other founders, and to let our users in on what we’re building next for them, here we go. Let’s give it the old college try.

For all you newbies who may be reading this, let me quickly catch you with a bit more general context on where we are. This context should help you better understand where we are and why we’ve done what we’ve done this past month. 

Ready… Set… Reset?

September was a big reset month for us and was a bittersweet anniversary as well. In September of 2019, we launched version 1.0 of Ryze to overwhelming fanfare from like three total people, one of them being my mom. 

It’s been a very, very, very tough grind of a year since then and on October 22, 2020, Ryze will officially turn two years old as a corporation. It’s amazing we’ve made it this far as a still bootstrapped company.

I know very well that on the surface it doesn’t seem like we’ve accomplished a lot in these two years of existence. What you can’t see is that we have been solving many very hard technical and business problems behind the scenes and laying a solid foundational culture that I’d wager makes us more resilient than any other early stage startup team in the Midwest. We’re playing the long game. It’s okay if most don’t see or appreciate that now. 

This month, we had four main focus areas. From my last update, which I did not share publicly, those focus areas were: 

  1. Remaining to stay close to the large investment firm we have been negotiating term sheets with despite their timing to actually invest being uncertain. 
  2. Aggressively pursuing other financing options. 
  3. Designing a lot and beginning work on development of Ryze 2.0. 
  4. Locking our three founders up in a little cottage somewhere for a work sprint. 

Here’s What Got Done

First, we are still very close with our lead partner at the firm and sharing updates daily via text. Can’t say much more right now, but I hope I can share the full story sometime soon. There have been so many tough lessons learned that I’d be so happy to share with other young founders when I’m able to.

Secondly, we’ve had a number of conversations with other investors this past month. Some totally new to us and what we’re building, and some old contacts coming back in for an update and to re-engage. We’ve also developed a plan among our founding team where we wouldn’t need to take in any outside capital right now. That’s always my favorite option and I’m super pleased we found a way to make that path continue to work for us. 

Third, I’ve basically lived inside Figma this past month and we’ve started our first development sprints with an awesome new group of contractors I’m very happy to be working with. The name of the firm we’re working with is Nuclius, and their founder Pace is someone I’ve known and wanted to hire as our CTO for almost a year now. It’s great to be working with him and his team finally. They’re helping us accelerate much of our behind the scenes progress so we can start making more of that fun obvious public progress everyone seems hungry to see from us. That’ll come soon.

Lastly, we ditched the beach cottage idea for now. Logistics just didn’t make sense. It’s still on my work related bucket list, though. 

Additionally, we bumped up in priority writing and sharing more about why and how we’re building Ryze. Published posts on our blog this past month included: 

Phil: Q4 Public Product Update: Changed Plans, New Insights, & What’s to Come This Fall and Winter

John: When You Fail Your Writing Exam But Your Co-Founder Still Asks You to Write a Blog Post…

Tom: Here’s How Ryze Can Help You Earn Serious Money Towards Your Student Loan Debt

Focus for October

First, on the development front, we’ll be grinding to finish the 4.1 through 4.4 in our current development cycle. We should be able to accomplish 4.5 within the first two weeks of November and launch Ryze 2.0 soon thereafter. 

4.1 New Ryze 2.0 User Interface

4.2 New Merchant Categorization System and Search Logic

4.3 New Pending and Earned Reward System & Logic 

4.4 New Internal Analytics and Link Logging Systems

4.5 New Payout Method Integration for Student Loans

Secondly, sharing more content (written and potentially video) as we continue to experiment with this more transparent way of building a company and reporting on progress in public. We’re still thinking about what, when and how to best share more detailed business metrics, or if we should even do that at all. Thoughts appreciated on this. You can email me at Phil (at) ryzerewards.com with your thoughts.  

Third, We’ll be finishing first version designs for our merchant web interface, getting that in front of prospective merchant customers, and iterating rapidly. First sneak peek below. Our main design goal is simplicity. We want the merchants who use Ryze to offer rewards and build a loyalty program to spend as few minutes each month in our web app as possible. Campaigns, data, and payments all at a glance. Because time is money.

Wrapping Up

This whole building in public and sharing updates transparently is new to me. If you have any feedback or advice for how to better structure these updates, what information you’d like to see, or any questions you have about how/why/what we’re building, please feel free to shoot me an email. I’ll answer questions in the next update for all to see. 

Thanks for reading. Hope you have a lovely day. Maybe eat a banana and get some sun on your face. Love ya, 

-Phil 

PS: For those of you reading on our website’s blog, you can subscribe here to get my monthly company updates delivered straight to your inbox.