The death of an idea

I pulled the plug on a project today. The project was the first Rails project I ever built, and my first, feeble attempt at getting some of all those free money I’ve heard is floating around the internet.

4 years ago, when I was still thinking PHP was a great language, I needed a real project to use for my experiments into Rails. At the time, I was getting into playing World of Warcraft along with a bunch of friends, and we needed a website where we could discuss tactics, organize events, and all the other small tidbits that go into running a guild.

I figured I could use Rails for that website, and hey, I might even be able to make a little money on the side by letting other guilds use the same application on a pay-per-month basis. Step 1: Build it – Step 2: ? – Step 3: Profit! As it turns out, step 2 is actually pretty important and harder than I thought.

Things I did wrong

Over the last course of the project, I’m sure I’ve made a lot of mistake. Following are a few of them, the ones, I think are most important. Writing them out here, shaming myself publicly, will hopefully result in me not forgetting the lessons learned.

Perhaps someone else might even learn from my mistakes.

I was not passionate enough

Probably the number one reason for the failure of Guildspace, was the fact that I did not take the project seriously enough. All the other problems can be traced back to this.

I built the application for myself and some friends, and the business part was just a stray idea. As long as we used the application, I was motivated to improve it. Consequently, when we stopped using the application, I lost the motivation to build the application.

Certainly, if the application had customers and was generating revenue at that point, I might have been motivated enough to keep it running, but the reality was different. Which isn’t surprising, because no one knew about Guildspace.

I didn’t tell anyone

I launched Guildspace with no real plan for how to market it. I invited a few friends and members of my family who used the application and were reasonably pleased with it, but other than that, I never really told anyone about it.

To this day, I am surprised by that fact. I have a weblog with thousands of visitors every month, yet I’d be very surprised if any of the readers of this blog knew about Guildspace. To be fair, I’ve never claimed to know the first thing about marketing. Yet, I could easily have done better than what I did.

I wasn’t prepared to invest

My lackluster attitude towards the project also resulted in my not wanting to invest any money in it. Sure, I could pay for a few domains, but that was pretty much my upper limit when it came to hosting. You know what? If you want to turn a project idea into a profitable business you need to invest money in proper infrastructure. And no, the cheapest hosting plan you can find will not cut it.

Hosting wasn’t the only piece of infrastructure I skimped on. I didn’t want to spend money on proper payment processing. I figured, as soon as the customers start flowing in and I actually have some payments to process, I can just use PayPal. They only charge a transaction fee, so if I don’t make money, I don’t pay them anything. Big mistake!

In order for PayPal subscription payments to work, the customer needs to create an account on PayPal – or if they already have one, log in there. This totally messed up the signup process, but I was too much of a scrooge to care. Not only would a potential customer have to sign up for Guildspace, she’d also have to sign up on a seemingly unrelated website.

Not surprisingly, the majority of new signups never got past the PayPal step.


The net result of all of the above is that Guildspace is no more. The life-support-system keeping it alive has been turned off. I’ve had fun building the application and I learned a lot in the process.

Rest in peace, Guildspace, we hardly knew you.