Lanyrd: from idea to exit - the story of our startup
I recently gave a talk at SmashingConf in Freiberg. I wanted to share the story of our startup Lanyrd and some lessons learned along the way. This article is based on that talk, the abstract of which is:
Natalie launched the first version of Lanyrd.com with her co-founder and husband Simon Willison, while on honeymoon in Casablanca. As the site took off, they realised their side project was destined to become something much bigger.
This talk will tell the story of Lanyrd from a two-week proof of concept to a fully-fledged startup, the lessons learned along the way about building and launching a product, running a company, raising investment and the entrepreneurship journey. This is the talk she wished she heard before getting started! In September 2013, just a week before the SmashingConf 2013, Lanyrd was acquired by Eventbrite.
Our startup story begins in June of 2010 with our wedding - a rather unconventional beginning to be sure.
Simon and I met in the first week university, 10 years before we got married. In our time together we had already built and launched several side projects.
After the wedding, we quit our jobs, gave up our flat in Brighton and set out on honeymoon overland through Europe and northern Africa. Our intention was to travel as long as we could, whilst earning money from freelance projects on the way.
When we got to Casablanca in Morocco we fell ill with food poisoning.
It was Ramadan so we couldn’t buy food during the day, and we were too ill to continue travelling so we hired a flat and hacked on a prototype of Lanyrd, an idea I’d had that we had been discussing over a few preceding weeks.
We built something that we wanted to exist. A week later, when we launched the first possible version that worked to our friends in private alpha, we realised it was something other people needed too.
Lanyrd is a social conference directory: we help people and companies find the best conferences and professional events to go to, help them get the most out of them whilst they are there and provide a space to collate slides and videos after the event.
XML / JSON parsing trick #speed
Lately I needed to put my hands on performance issues in one project - I’ve rummaged through NewRelic a bit and noticed that the most time consuming actions were those that used external API requests. At first glance, I’ve thought the external API is responsible for the mess but well - breakdown shows in the controller request that overall lasts 1 second, the external API response is 48ms. All the rest is XML parsing.
After a quick examination it turned out that the project uses an old XML parser that is even slower than polish trains.
I’ve done a tiny benchmark of existing XML parsers (gem + engines) based on 4800-lined XML and the results (XML parse directly to Hash) looks like this:
PROTIP #1: Getting CSS class names with js
To get CSS class names from DOM elements simly use:
Simple as it looks ;)
Workaholics are driven by fear, and I have not found myself in a position where I need to spend six or eight more hours at work because I’m trying to make everything okay.
If you’re in this frame of mind and need control, being a workaholic is a socially acceptable way to try to achieve that. Your boss thinks it’s great, and you can get a raise for doing it. In the short run, it works really well because you can — at some level — control what you’re doing and keep pushing the ball forward. You get into trouble when you get better at your work, and there’s an increase in the number of people who want to interact with you and have you do more. So this kind of working method doesn’t scale— you end up exploding.
The people who are doing great art and having an impact on the world aren’t approaching their work in this way. I recently did an interview with the architect Michael Graves. Michael Graves works a lot. He’s been in a wheelchair for more than seven years. He would be excused if he decided to scale back now after what’s been an amazing career. But, instead, he’s working on a multibillion-dollar development in Singapore, etc., etc. If you look at the way Michael works, he brings a good heart and the right attitudes to his projects at all times. He is doing important work — work that changes things. But he’s not a workaholic because he’s not doing it defensively. He’s doing it productively.