600 to 6,000 Users in a Month? Might Be Time for this Side Project to Go Start-Up

Walter Chen at WeWork Labs. Photo: Michael Tseng / turfgeographyclub.com

IDoneThis started out as a simple side project to help motivate ourselves to keep New Year’s resolutions,” local lawyer-turned-developer Walter Chen told Betabeat in an email. He and Rodrigo Guzman built the app, an email-based “done” list, in two days and launched it on January 3. The app’s traffic bumped along for a while, a testament to good design and good hustle (cold email pitches to blogs and submissions to sites like Reddit and Hacker News).

Then at the beginning of April, it took off. 

“I moved into WeWork Labs on April 1, and that same day, iDoneThis got written up by Lifehacker,” Mr. Chen said.  “Our traffic blew up and we got a few thousand new users.”

IDoneThis, a system that builds a running log of completed tasks by prompting users with email reminders, seems to have filled a need. The site now has about 6,000 users who have sent more than 30,000 emails, Mr. Chen says.

“The biggest obstacle in making progress with iDoneThis is the simple mental block of not thinking of it as a project, but as a business,” he said.

But tomorrow the team has an interview for the Entrepreneurs Roundtable accelerator, which could mean a leap into start-up mode. “Depending on how our interview with ER Accelerator goes on Thursday, we could both be based out of NYC real soon now,” he said.

The shift from side project to start-up started with the good press, but it was bolstered by encouragement from co-workers at WeWork Labs, the tech-leaning freelancer co-working space where Mr. Chen is based, and others in the New York start-up scene.

“NYC has been really good to iDoneThis,” he said. “Naveen Selvadurai, co-founder of Foursquare, has been one of our biggest supporters. I met Gary Chou of Union Square Ventures on Ohours, and we’ve kept in touch and he continues to give us support. We’re also connected through people at WeWork Labs, which strengthens our loose ties… a lot of our new users have come and a lot of them have stuck around because of the buzz generated around the site in part by WeWork Labs. CEO of Citypockets Cheryl Yeoh has been one of our biggest evangelists.”

Mr. Chen and Mr. Guzman are building some social features that will “build communities around getting things done,” which Mr. Chen believes will make the site grow even faster and “turn something of a side project into a legit startup.”

But the two founders have already gotten plenty of utility out of iDoneThis, even if it doesn’t become a full-fledged company. Mr. Guzman lost 15 pounds using iDoneThis to keep track of his diet and exercise, according to the site, and Mr. Chen used iDoneThis to teach himself Ruby on Rails and remind himself to keep writing entries in his longest-running journal.

600 to 6,000 Users in a Month? Might Be Time for this Side Project to Go Start-Up