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Joshua Wood for Honeybadger

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Ship it like Honeybadger

A long time ago, my friends and I were in trouble. An app we used almost every day to debug software for our clients had basically stopped working, and it was giving us all headaches. There wasn't really a viable alternative on the market at the time, so we decided we'd build one. Three months later, our appβ€”Honeybadgerβ€”was launched.

Over the next 5 years, we'd build Honeybadger into something we were really proud of, used by thousands of developers to debug exceptions and monitor their web apps for errors. We also built a company that we really wanted to work at, turning down a tempting acquisition offer at one point.

We did all of this on our own, with no funding and just 3 developers.

In case you don't believe me, here's a pic from a recent company meetup (we're all remote). If you're wondering why we're wearing blue, it was for Autism Awareness Month:

The honeybadger.io crew, wearing blue

πŸ‘‹ Sup, I'm the fuzzy one on the left.

When I tell other devs how small our company is, I usually get the same reaction: "No way, I thought you were like 20 people" (one time someone said 100 πŸ€”), "I would love to [do my own awesome thing] someday".

My response is always the same: if we did it, so can you.

Building Honeybadger was a lot of workβ€”and we got a bit lucky with our timing, tbhβ€”but we're not special. In fact, we're pretty average (I didn't even finish college 😬).

I can think of a few things we did right with Honeybadger, but there's one very basic thing we did that I blame most of our success on: we shipped a scrappy version 1.

It wasn't perfect, and it didn't do all the things our customers love us for today. That didn't matter, though, because it was enough to make us happy, and as it turns out, there were other devs like us out there. Had we wasted time trying to make it perfect, it would have never taken off, and I wouldn't be here to tell you thatβ€”whatever it may beβ€”you can ship it too.

Shipping doesn't mean you have to start your own app (although you certainly can). You may want to write blog posts, record screen casts, contribute to open source, or just kick ass at your job/career. You can do all of these thingsβ€”the fundamentals are the same.

In hindsight, it sounds too simple... "oh yeah, just ship it."

I know it's harder than that. There are all the times you don't start, because you don't know how, or don't believe you can. There's the paralyzing fear that drops in every time you think about finally executing on your plans. There's the cynical voice that whispers "this will never work" whenever you're nearing the finish line.

If you add up all of these excuses, you get what Seth Godin calls "the resistance." The 10,000 foot view is that most of what you know is holding you back, keeping you from creating your best work. If you want to ship, you need to overcome the resistance.

You can beat the resistance through small, iterative changesβ€”it's time to level up.

No matter where you are in your career, there's always a next level. Building software is easier when you make small changes over time (nobody wants a big rewrite). Habits work the same way. The more things you ship, the easier shipping becomes. Why not start today?

Pick the smallest thing you can do right now, and then do it. Send aΒ pull request. Share something you know with someone else. Investigate a new tool or technology. Read Linchpin, by Seth Godin (the book I mentioned earlierβ€”it's good).

Get in the habit of shipping small things; when the big one arrives, you'll ship that too. πŸš€


If you found this story inspirational, reply and let me know a) what you're shipping today, and b) what you'd like to ship in the future. There are no wrong answers. πŸ˜„

This story was adapted from an email I recently sent to our community newsletter, Leveling Up. If you liked it, feel free to subscribe.

Top comments (14)

 
wood profile image
Joshua Wood

Making it work with a small team and no external investment has forced us to come up with the most creative solutions.

Love this, same here. It's really cool to see how others are solving hard problems with creativity and automation. Thanks!

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jaffparker profile image
Jaff Parker

I just recently realized that I have quite a few ideas that still haven't come to life just because I'm thinking that to start them I have to sit down and write a bunch of diagrams and spend my vacation on shipping the first version. But it's true, if I just built a draft-kind version that just solves my needs, I could just deliver further incremental updates that eventually make it into an app. Thanks for the encouragement, wish you guys all the best in your business!

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wood profile image
Joshua Wood

Same to you, Jaff. Ship it!

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chrisrhymes profile image
C.S. Rhymes

I love your mentality. It’s so easy to bury yourself under a ton of excuses and never ship anything.
I’ve made a Jekyll theme that started off very simple, but released it, and now update it every few weeks with new features to enhance it. It’s made me realise you can start off small and build things up over time.

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wood profile image
Joshua Wood

Right on, Alex, that's awesome! Interested in how you sell that type of SaaS to the trade/service industry. Have you shared anything about that? I imagine you make a lot of phone calls. :)

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sven profile image
Sven Hoffmann

Pretty inspiring post!

I hope I'll be able to 'ship' my first post on this site today or tomorrow. In the future, I'd like to ship the new version of my personal site.

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wood profile image
Joshua Wood

Thanks Sven, glad you liked it. I see you shipped your first post. Nice work! πŸš€

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sven profile image
Sven Hoffmann

Thanks! :)

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ximerba profile image
Ximena

Great post, encouraging. Will set my mind in "ship it" mode from now on.
Thanks!

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molly profile image
Molly Struve (she/her)

WOOT!!! So glad you made it over to dev.to πŸ˜ƒ

Oh yeah, and this post is pretty great too πŸ˜‰

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wood profile image
Joshua Wood

yayay, happy to be here. :)

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rohansawant profile image
Rohan Sawant

Inspiring!

I have been trying to ship my React app, out for days!

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