Carbonmade: 2010 in Review

Last January, I wrote a piece entitled Carbonmade: A Year in Review covering some of the things we did in 2009. While 2009 was mainly getting our ducks in a row as a company, 2010 was far more interesting: we added our first employees, moved into our own office, released a new marketing site, an update to our app, and a lot more. Read on for details.

Carbonmade: 2010 in Review

First Quarter

At the start of 2010, we had a tad under 190,000 members and by the end of the year we had just over 306,000 — a 62% growth. Not shabby when you consider that 2010 was our fifth year of being in business, so in one year we nearly doubled our existing userbase. This growth was led by two major projects. The first was our new marketing site re-design that we released in March.

As Dave's roommate at the time, I never saw a man pull more all-nighters than he did during the first three months of 2010. He was determined to refresh the look and feel of Carbonmade if it killed him. It nearly did. To be clear: This was a re-design of our marketing site: homepage, examples, about, sign up process, etc., and not a re-design of the app itself.

It launched in early March and led to our biggest single sign up month ever: 13,232. We haven't surpassed that since, although we've been damn close on a few occasions and will certainly pass it during 2011. A few press articles coinciding with the redesign helped propel this number up as well. The biggest one was the first major piece on us entitled The Startup Story of Carbonmade, written by Chrissie Brodigan for Think Vitamin.

Along with the update, we launched a Progress page, which we've since replaced with a Why? page. The Progress page was a failed experiment Dave and I came up with late one night to allow folks to follow along with the progress of updating our app. Although it flopped, I still think the idea had some merit if executed correctly. We were just too small a company to follow through on it, as it was only Dave, Jason and myself at the time.

Second Quarter

While our new marketing site was a huge hit around the Web, we didn't have the luxury of getting to sit back, relax and drink margaritas on the beach, as we still needed to push through on an update to the app side of Carbonmade. Most of the second quarter of 2010 was dedicated to brainstorming, designing, and developing this update as well as looking for the right people to help us complete the update and move Carbonmade forward. We experimented with different contractors, but quickly came to the realization that we needed people in-house. Thankfully, we found them just as quickly last summer.

Third Quarter

In July things began to gather speed. Working nearly four and a half years as three people without any additional help had taken its toll. We needed fresh blood. Our first relief came when we hired Mike Minnick to handle all customer service emails and phone calls together with much of the community stuff. This released me from having to deal with nearly every email in our inbox. At 200,000+ customers at the time Mike joined, we were getting an email volume that you can well imagine. Hiring Mike was a life changer for me.

Next, we needed to give Dave some relief from designing every pixel of Carbonmade all by himself. We'd been looking for a full-time designer to work under Dave since 2009, but never came across the type of person we needed, one who could handle multiple design disciplines: UI, UX, marketing, and illustrating. It's a tough skill-set, and not many folks other than Dave possess it.

We found Michael Sigler this past August through an introduction by Pasquale D'Silva, an illustrator who had been hanging out with us in New York City and crashing on my couch. Sig fit right in, and by September he finished relocating his wife, his baby daughter, and himself from Portland, Oregon to Brooklyn.

Sig began working immediately with Dave on wrapping up our update to the app side of Carbonmade. Without Sig's help, I don't believe we would have been able to get our update out in 2010, let alone at the very end of September. The first 1,000 emails announcing the update went out on September 24, 2010.

Fourth Quarter

By far the busiest quarter in Carbonmade's history was the fourth quarter of 2010. Most of October was spent bug fixing — what a pain! — and managing our migration, which I wrote about in an article entitled Case Study: Carbonmade's Migration. Think Vitamin covered that in a piece entitled Incremental Rollouts: Lessons from Carbonmade's Migration.

Along with handling our new update, we did a few cosmetic tweaks to our site. We launched a feedback page designed for people who close their account, and replaced the Progress page — a failed experiment in that we never updated it — with a Why? page that did a better job explaining why people should sign up for Carbonmade.

On top of all the craziness, we moved into our new office by the beginning of October. Never having had our own office before, we didn't know the work that would go into outfitting one. We spent thousands and thousands of dollars to get things set up. I think we placed upwards of 100 orders on Amazon and Alice during October alone — many containing multiple items — for miscellaneous office supplies, from toilet paper to a crow bar.

Our rollout went really smoothly despite the hectic nature of it all, and everyone had access to the new Carbonmade by mid-November. The rest of that month and December — when we turned five years old! — was spent on beginning our next big plans for Carbonmade, which unfortunately I cannot let you in on just yet. Look out for the news in 2011.


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