Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash
Starter Reports have gone away. If you are a Starter Report customer, thank you! And I’m sorry. Check out the US Census Bureau’s Narrative Profiles as an alternative.
In 2009, my co-founder, Anthony, and I quit our day jobs to build a web app for environmental engineers to pull demographic data. But after spending over $10,000, months of development work and cold calling over 1,000 environmental engineers, we came to the painful realization that the engineers didn’t want the app that we had built.
So we ran a small experiment.
We’d been getting a lot of web traffic to some city and county landing pages that we’d put up on our website to attract engineers. We were trying to introduce ourselves, like new companies do, using our (data) expertise. We didn’t want to build something that no-one wanted again, so this time, we put up a Buy Now button connected to nothing so we could measure if our visitors were even interested in paying money for demographics.
And you guys clicked the button. A lot of times.
So the next day, we added a price next to the button. Every time a person clicked on the Buy Now button, they’d get a “We’re Sorry” message. But you kept clicking. We added and changed small details until we figured out people were looking to purchase a report with demographics for a city or county. We called those reports Starter Reports, because they were a good start in looking at demographics for a geography.
In the beginning, delivering Starter Reports was a manual process. Whenever someone bought a report, Anthony would rush to his computer to generate the report and then manually email it out in 5 minutes. After he had enough of waking up the middle of the night to send reports, he automated the delivery of these reports. And there it was: Cubit’s first successful product. We’ve updated the Starter Reports with new Census data and sold them for almost 10 years.
I tell you this long story to explain why it was a difficult decision for Anthony and me to stop selling Starter Reports. It wasn’t because we made a lot of money from them recently. Years ago, we discovered far more of you guys need spreadsheets with demographics for lots geographies (e.g. all cities in Texas) rather than a report about 1 geography (e.g. the city of Houston).
You see, Starter Reports took us from dew-eyed start up founders to business owners. Yes, they were our first successful product and that initial success gave us permission and courage to keep developing other data products. But more importantly, that Buy Now button taught us HOW to develop products. That is, don’t go build the thing that you want. Instead figure out how to sell a product and what the product is at the same time by interacting with customers. Some better-marketers-than-us call this process Lean Product Development, and this is the book about it that I still carry around with me in my laptop bag today if you want to avoid our mistakes.
But in continuing to talk to you over the years, we’ve got new ideas for products that we’re excited to develop. As a tiny team, we have to say no to something (that is: Starter Report development, updates & support) to free up our time to pursue the biggest opportunities. You know, the ones that make us excited to get out of bed and get to work on Monday mornings.
So Starter Reports will no longer be available for purchase. To everyone who bought one in the past: thank you. Truly. Your vote of confidence was at least as valuable as the money that you paid for these reports. And if you check out the Census’ Narrative Profiles and they won’t replace Starter Reports for your purposes, email me back and we’ll brainstorm other options.