Interview by Thomas Peham
December 2, 2015
Photos by Joe Sturgess
From launching a crowdfunding campaign for a social media management tool, to leading Tweet Rocket.
Kirk has found his passion for programming early in his life and shares his story from dropping out of college to starting his own business.
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Thanks a lot for your time Kirk. Could you please describe yourself?
Thanks a lot for having me, Thomas. My name is Kirk and I'm the Technical Director for Tweet Rocket.
We started Tweet Rocket over a year ago now. Back then, we started off in the digital marketing sphere with a company called Wonderlabs.
We were on all kinds of SEO, SEM, social media management projects. We quickly realized that we had skills in house to develop a product that other people could use to take care of their own social media management. Together with three other guys, we then came up with the idea of Tweet Rocket.
You then launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Could you share some lessons learned?
Yeah, sure. So once we had this idea of Tweet Rocket itself, we had to find a way on how to balance the marketing work we were doing and the new product we were working on.
Obviously, we started looking at usual investment channels first. Since we haven’t really had anything that investors can invest in, we became a fan of crowdfunding. Comparing Indiegogo to Kickstarter, we found that Indiegogo was probably a better platform for us to go on.
Then everything started on Indiegogo and we thought about ways on how to stand out. For about three months we had tremendous fun creating videos and coming up with scripts.
The outtake reel is probably much better than the final video. There was quite a lot to it, we really went deep on trying to create a perfect Indiegogo campaign.
That was a fun process and in the end we got over funded.
Which challenges did you face after you got funded?
When we launched the Indiegogo campaign we were only a certain way into the actual product itself. It certainly wasn't ready for anybody to use.
As the campaign was coming to an end, we were getting things ready and pulling it together as quickly as we could.
I think once the actual campaign went live, getting the word out about our campaign took a lot of efforts.
We also offered perks, things like t-shirts and lifetime accounts. So we had to sift through a database of hundreds of people trying to work out what size t-shirt they would want.
That became a bit of a nightmare to be quite honest with you. Some people didn't get a t-shirt, or some people may have got too many t-shirts.
Regarding the product itself, we had to ship the easiest version. So it did mean cutting out a few features that were promised in the Indiegogo campaign.
Managing expectations of such a huge crowd is definitely a challenge.
Would launch a crowdfunding campaign again after all those learnings?
I think there are more benefits to crowdfunding than just getting the money itself. I think the marketing alone has been fantastic.
Even if we wouldn’t have gotten any money, from a marketing perspective it was gold for us.
So many people have approached us since being on Indiegogo, giving us feedback, exchanging new ideas. This made our product so much better. Indiegogo is such a great platform for launching and communicating your ideas.
What does a typical day in the life of Kirk Fletcher look like?
I'm one of the back-end developers. Even though I'm one out of three directors I'm getting my hands dirty as well. A lot of my day is split between taking feedback from our users. That said, we've got a lot of users on the platform now, so feedback is coming in thick and fast.
Obviously when bugs appear, we've got to jump on those straight away, iron those out.
We also have a set of features that we're working on. As a team we’re working in an agile development structure. So there’s a feature set that we’re rolling out for the next sprint.
Basically, my day is all about balancing the unexpected bug fixes or tweaks that need to happen as well as trying to crack on with the next feature.
Has there been any special moments which brought you into software engineering?
Oh absolutely. It all started for me at a very, very young age. At the age of seven I was given an Atari 800XL by my granddad. I also read a lot of magazines on how to use Basics and how to create your own games. At the age of seven or eight I was sitting there copying all these lines of basic code and it really stuck with me.
I went on from there on and started jumping into every programming language.
I've always been a bedroom coder.
I went to Aston University where I studied computer science for two years, and then dropped out of that to go and work for NCL.
Is there any great piece of career advice you’d like to share with us?
I think the best bit of advice I could ever give anybody is that experience counts more than anything in the world.
It's pure experience in your own knowledge, it's working on real world tasks. Even as a bedroom coder you can go out there and get a really good job as long as you've put the time and the effort to really understand what it is you're doing.
What tools and workflows are you currently using?
We’ve tried a lot of different tools. None of it worked for us.
It was absolutely ridiculous and we ended up spending more time trying to manage these tools than we actually worked on the project.
The only tool we internally use right now is Trello. We use it for everything. If new bugs come in we'll drop them in there, somebody else can pick them up and move them along. It's the only tool we need, and it's the one that takes the least amount of involvement to actually use it.
Is there any tool or project out there which you’d like to explore more?
Since PHP 7 is just around the corner I think that's been grabbing our attention a little bit. Then there's a lot now going on with PHP 7 that could have really helped us a few months ago. I think it's one thing that we're going to be taking a look at very soon and possibly migrating our code base over to.
What’s your passion about building software?
I've always had a creative mind. When it comes to things like drawing or songwriter or any other creative outlet, I'm absolutely useless at. I have tried all these things and I've always been absolutely useless.
When it comes to programming I don't look at is as a structural thing like most programmers do, I see it as a creative flow. I see it as a creative element.
Most things are never coded the same twice when it comes to me. A lot of people probably would say you shouldn't do that, but you find better ways and you find quicker ways of doing things.
That's what I love about it, there's no end to it, no end to how good you can get.
What are the next few challenges when working on Tweet Rocket?
In fact we've just launched a big feature update of Tweet Rocket and a lot of features have actually came from our customer’s demand.
A lot of the challenges we've got at the moment now is balancing the demands of all our users and seeing which ones are actually beneficial to the wider user group.
Who would you want to see on bugtrackers.io?
I think Rand Fishkin from Moz actually would be really good. Obviously he's more on the marketing side, but in terms of startups he built some great tools for developers as well. I think he'd be a fantastic guy to have on this site.