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Why We Killed Our Latest Startup

Miles Burke
Miles Burke
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Ever had that “I’ll create his product but I’m unsure about relying on a third party so much” feeling? I have. I’ll tell you about our meteoric (huge exaggeration) and subsequent decision to kill it.

To set the background, we’re always working on side projects here at Bam Creative. They work for us, because we like to push ourselves in areas we don’t normally get to work on with traditional agency clients. Some have worked really well, and others, well, they fail.

That’s to be expected though, we use these as lessons in creating and closing ideas quickly. That old adage; fail fast. We currently have around five tech products in various stages, and whilst we don’t spend a lot of time on them, we do like to be involved in creating products or ideas, something we’ve been doing since 2002.

We’ve decided to shut down a recently created product, with genuine interest from customers, because of a number of reasons, and thought a good old post mortem may be just the reading you may enjoy.

The concept behind was simple. Show a page (and eventually a widget) of hashtagged Instagram images, within a defined location.

You know, show everything tagged #perthfood within 10km of the CBD, that sort of thing.

We’ve had a prototype up since 2014, at and it has enjoyed regular traffic since then. We recently ran a successful example, using a local comedy festival. We then garnered interest from a couple of potential customers.

There’s plenty of scope for it to be licensed to third parties. Brands, events, local towns or councils, showing what is happening, in near real time, in a visual form. Much nicer to view than a Twitter stream, and much less likely to be spammed (we had the radius and hashtag combination all worked out).

Then Instagram announced their new API rules.

From next month, Instagram is changing the way their API access works. We need to meet criteria to get out of ‘sandbox mode’, which included;

Acceptable reasons:

  • My app is still in development and/or is a test app.
  • My app allows non-business users to login and post comments, likes or follow actions.
  • My app allows people to login with Instagram and share their own content.
  • My product helps brands and advertisers understand, manage their audience and media rights.
  • My product helps broadcasters and publishers discover content, get digital rights to media, and share media with proper attribution.
  • Other

They also list some unacceptable reasons for API access:

  • I want to install a third party widget to show Instagram content on my website.
  • I want to display hashtag content and public content on my website.
  • I want to display my Instagram posts on my website.
  • I want to build analytics for my own Instagram account.

Yep, we pretty well tick all of the unacceptable boxes.

Sure, we could try and work under their scheme, and find some not exactly the truth method to get around the rules, or we can just shelve it now.

The impact of shelving this product now is little; we’ve bought a domain, used our own hosting environment and spent less than 10 hours on a simple landing page, a sales page (never put live) and the app itself, which is a bare bones MVP in its true sense.

So, what went wrong?

We built something entirely reliant on a third party we have no relationship with.

We didn’t do enough research on their API rules, before getting our MVP together.

Maybe I should have heeded that gut feeling with more confidence?

Oh well, not a huge loss on our behalf, but a great lesson in what NOT to do. It could have been far worse if we’d hatched this product to paying customers, built some velocity and then a year down the track, this happened.

Next time we build something which is reliant on a third party, we’ll ensure we have a great working relationship with them, or deeply understand their planned roadmap for the next few years.

So, what do we do with the assets? We still own a great domain name, a Twitter account and two soon-to-be-defunct websites. We’ll let you know.

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Miles Burke

Miles Burke

Miles is the founder of employee survey start-up, 6Q, Founder & MD of an award-winning Perth digital marketing agency, and curates the Australian Software Guide.
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