Beginning with an End

Author: Dave Cassel  |  Category: Entrepreneurism

In April 2007, I started work on what became, a site to help people lend, rent, and buy stuff. On August 19th, 2009, I threw in the towel.

I think my first lesson came even before I got started on this idea: the value of an honest friend. I’d previously worked with a guy, Greg, who was a good enough friend to shoot holes in my crappy ideas before I sunk time and money into them.

In 2007, I was working my way through a PhD program. When my advisor died suddenly, I took a break. I whipped up a prototype of a site to keep track of books, movies, tools and stuff that I loaned out and a way to find out who I could borrow stuff from. I knew I wasn’t the only person who could use that, so I told Greg about it as a hobby idea I was playing with. He told me, “No — this one is the business.” We worked through a business model based on not only sharing, but renting and some other activities, and suddenly I was working on my first side business.

The trick was that I couldn’t work on the idea full time. I maintained my full-time job and worked on my side company one night a week, plus mornings and wherever else I could snatch some time. Over the 2 1/2 years I worked on Trovz, I recruited a number of other people to help me, also part time. In all I recruited two CEOs (one moved away), a UI designer, a Scrum Product Owner, a sys admin, and 7 developers. We went through a couple name changes (,,, and a couple major user interface overhauls.

The company was entirely bootstrapped. We decided early on that we wouldn’t get a fair deal going to a VC while we were still in the idea/prototyping phase. Unfortunately, we never got to the point where we felt the system was ready to start advertising.

What did I learn from all this? Lots. I’ll put all these lessons to work on my next try, but right now, it’s time reflect on how things could have gone better. In this blog, I’ll share what I’ve learned in the hopes that it will help another budding software entrepreneur.


3 Responses to “Beginning with an End”

  1. Productivity = Skill * Commitment * Tools « David Cassel Says:

    […] David Cassel on Software Development and Entrepreneurism « Beginning with an End […]

  2. Jason C. Says:

    Your comment “we wouldn’t get a fair deal going to a VC while we were still in the idea/prototyping phase” reminds me of something I just read on another site regarding startups. Not *exactly* the same idea, but it definitely is a good point:

    “Too many startups feel like they need to have the “perfect” product before they can begin charging for it. That’s almost always a mistake. Charge early. Once you start charging money, all sorts of good things start to happen (for example, customer feedback starts to happen, because you actually have customers).”

  3. dcassel Says:

    Jason, I think I read that same post, and it’s an excellent point. In the case of Trovz, the early revenue model was based on ads and referrals to Amazon, both of which were included from the beginning. Eventually, we were intending to add rentals and collect a piece of the rental fee in exchange for facilitating the transaction, and the lesson from that other post would be to collect that fee from the very first rental. As it turned out, we never got near that aspect of the site.

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