Welcome to “Procrastineur”, a newsletter about struggles and successes in modern entrepreneurship.
It’s Thursday, April 29, 2021, and this week’s founder is John Williams:
John’s interesting journey
Building out a suite of products
He struggled mightily with APIs
What makes a founder?
Ask John Williams that question, and he won't have an answer for you. He “has no idea” what he's doing.
Take a look at the trajectory his life has taken, though, and you'll come to a different conclusion.
In the interest of full disclosure, I've known John for more years than he would like to admit. We lived next door to each other during our freshman and sophomore years of college, and my first meeting with him went about as anyone who knows him well might expect: we pulled a prank on a friend of his.
John came from humble beginnings, deep in the Mississippi Delta. He earned his way into The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science as a teenager and later attended Mississippi State University, where we became friends.
Throughout school, John worked to come up with his breakthrough idea. One of these was a box subscription service called Amenities Box that was starting to take off when John encountered his first true entrepreneurial lesson: the supply chain is hard to control. That effectively ended his efforts, but didn't dampen his spirits. John has continued to spin out projects, from a t-shirt company to WorldVue, an innovative idea meant to help the blind and otherwise impaired get around campus buildings.
John worked during college as well, then afterwards as a manager for ServiceMaster, a restoration company specializing in water, fire, and mold damage. To say he is a well-rounded individual might be leaving a bit to the imagination.
John quickly worked his way up the ladder. His efforts to fix problems he saw as a manager earned him a promotion to business operations at ServiceMaster.
From there, John leveraged his experience to earn his way into a role at Deloitte as an executive coordinator. Following that, he moved to Citi as an Assistant Vice President of Service Delivery Finance, and now works in a dream role as a channel manager at VaynerMedia.
During all of this, John continued to work on projects of his own. He has not given up on the idea that he can, and should, run his own company.
A new Solar System
Today, John is working on Astronomical Studios, building out a series of “planets” - tools for gamers, streamers, and content creators.
His “Mercury” is a product called VSME – vsme.io – making “scheduling gaming sessions as easy as clicking 1 button.” The product is simple and straightforward, tying into Discord seamlessly.
VSME became our “intro” to Astronomical's universe because John had learned from his other projects to focus on one thing at a time. He had a few goals in the process: first, to test whether he can make a pretty, well-functioning mobile app with NoCode.
Bubble was his tool of choice. The drag-and-drop solution made it easy to get started, and built-in API connectors and plugins handled nearly every issue he confronted. Bubble's workflows are, like any technology, hard to finagle at times, but John has successfully worked his way into a beautiful product.
The Bane of his existence
None of John's success has been easy, however. He couldn't build out the products he does today without having navigated his way into positions at companies that pay well. Finding the time needed to build a product is a sacrifice, too.
To top it off, John was not versed in product development. Creating workflows that run well takes a lot of time and plenty of iterations. Making a product visually appealing is hard. JSON, a key coding language for web applications, is tough to read when you aren't versed in it. He had never worked with APIs (put simply, an API is tunnel that allows one application to view data from another). In fact, John told me that he had basically given up on his product over the Christmas holiday, thanks to the difficulty he encountered. Then, of course, he had an epiphany – as we often do when we let the problem sit for a while.
John has failed more projects than I've dreamed up, but he hasn't let that sway his determination to build out a successful array of products. Each time something didn't work as he hoped, John learned something new.
Much like his career led to a dream job at VaynerMedia, I am confident that John's products will “take off”, and we'll watch him soar through his new Solar System with ease.
Watch out for his next project, code-named “Venus”, which ties into a Twitch streamer's account to help them grab clips to share on platforms such as Twitter and Youtube. It will benchmark success against high performers in their industry and help users develop strategies for content creation.
You can connect with John through Twitter as @LifeAsJohn, on his website, LifeAsJohn.com, or follow his work on AstronomicalStudios.com.
“Procrastineur” is a newsletter about new business, modern founders, and other entrepreneur-adjacent topics, written by Will Whittenton. You can connect with me through my website, Twitter, LinkedIn, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you enjoy the newsletter, I’d really appreciate it if you would share or forward it to others.