essentially just me thinking I am funny.
Goodbye mad start-up idea number 279.
“That’s it!” I told Amber after software developer number two told me that Gigantic-Sprawling-Life-Eating-Pikaado-Monster may be a bit much to cope with if he wanted to remain married and sane. “I am finished.”
“Really? But you have put so much work in. It seems crazy to finish it now when it has been so great.”
“Hmmm”, I said, not really listening. “I could make the website entirely black and have ‘So long and thanks for all the fish’ in big writing, you know, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…”
“You just want to blow something up” said Amber.
“That is 100% exactly what I want!” I said, again engaged in the conversation. “I would like to actually throw something off the balcony and shoot it into one thousand pieces.”
“But it has been so great. Like, not for you clearly. For you it has been awful. But for other people. For other people it has been amazing.” Amber said wistfully.
“Actually” I murmured, “Maybe a Malcolm Tucker quote gives a more complete sense of my perspective. Maybe I’ll just write ‘Fuckity Bye’”
Pikaado is what happens when you have a mad idea and instead of waking up in the morning, shaking your head and getting a job like a normal person, you think, ‘Huh. Let’s give that a whack’.
Pikaado really started with Burcu. It started because she told me about her career in software consulting between the U.S and Europe on some enormous installations. Burcu is extremely clever and I am clever enough to know when other people are cleverer than me. Yep, I thought to myself. Let’s hitch myself to that.
So we began. The best-worst idea I have ever had. Two reasonably unsociable people without networks in Dunedin starting a business based on sociability. Fifteen hour days trying to create the illusion of having software while also trying to build software. Absolutely no money and no prospect of making money, or even paying for expenses for years. What could possibly go wrong?
As someone who would naturally prefer to never have to chat randomly to strangers Pikaado was a nightmare. I am fine in a B2B setting. Outside of a few mandatory ‘How’s the family-s?’ and amusing myself by amusing other people you then just talk about work. Work is what I am naturally interested in and I am usually talking to people who really only want to talk about this too. But Pikaado was different. I found myself in women’s groups making small talk with strangers who all seemed unaccountably not horrified to be there. Perhaps for people who can just be themselves in these situations, it may be easier. But I am busy being a more palatable version of myself. Less sweary. I liked all of the women there, but they said things like; ‘As women we are all intrinsically nurturing.’ Everyone nodded, murmuring in agreement. ‘Just shoot me. Actually just take me out the back and shoot me’ I thought to myself as I forced my face into mask of passive acquiescence. My favourite comeback to my husband after he has said something funny-terrible is to cackle ‘I am going to punch you in the throat.’
Not very intrinsically nurturing.
And I had to go on (hatey-hate-hate) Facebook for social media marketing. Facebook is where I find out that people who seem quite reasonable in real life are actually complete psychopaths. “Some people, who KNOW who they ARE!! Did something AWFUL today and I CRIED.” And then there are seventeen comments saying things like ‘You okay, hon?’ and “Stay strong, queen!’ and then I hate eighteen more people in the world.
Never having a weekend, or a day that was not spent with some kind of panic at tasks that remained incomplete as well as not being able to pay for the petrol I needed to put in the car to meet people for Pikaado started to upset even my husband’s usual sunny outlook. “What is Kate doing this weekend?” people would ask him. “Oh we have lovely time-family time” he would answer sarcastically. My husband, already annoyed that I had hijacked his very nice life in Istanbul working in a fulfilling, creative and coveted role in PR to bring him to work in a factory in Dunedin, a city which he spent two years cheerfully describing as ‘Shittest place on Earth’ to any friends who asked, hated Pikaado beyond reason.
My daughter went through a phase where she would write letters carefully on pieces of paper and then pretend to type. “Not now Teddy!” she would say irritably “I am working.”
Then there was the day asked I kissed her fat little cheek and asked “What is my favourite thing in the whole world?”
“Work.” she announced. “Your favourite is work.”
“No”, I said mortified. “It’s you.” She looked up at me unconvinced.
Burcu and I went to events where Startup founders who were by now driving wildly successful enterprises talked through their experiences. I thought it was going to be inspiring. “God” I said to Burcu after listening to one “He looks miserable. And tired. But mostly miserable.”
“Yes” said Burcu. “Look how happy the investors look, though.”
Burcu eventually broke and software developer number one went with her, who relieved at being free from Prometheus-like toil and terror, skipped happily off into the distance. So then the wonderful Amber came on board. Amber bought the Unicorn Plan and Tom. I found a new dev and then roped in Solita and Clarice. Amber found Nick and we all worked away for negative money. Then Software Developer number two quit. And that’s where we are now.
It was a good idea. For lots of people. We encouraged a sustainable life, a slow life; a life that New Zealand is really good at. Lots of people met new friends, made some money, learnt new things and realised that for all of their differences people are all pretty much the same, and pretty nice.
But it is a business model that only works with software, and having a software developer is a fairly integral part of this. Also, I am beginning to realise that having a semblance of a life is more important than previously thought.
We have gathered a community of people here in Dunedin. It is a great place to have a mad idea. People who were in senior level management roles gave time and advice. Dunedin’s creative community opened their homes and shared their talents. And our serial workshop addicts supported us and went to every African Cooking-Fermented Food Making-Stained Glass class we posted.
There has been some interest in a not-for-profit resurrection, stripping out all the design and bits that made it especially owner-unfriendly. Burcu, Amber and I are happy to pass on what we know and what we have to someone else who wants a new community project. It comes with a small team of chirpy volunteers ready to help.
If not, at least we can all get together, drink some (on our budget, bloody awful) wine and say
Fuckity Bye Pikaado.