Reflections on Premium Poker Tools: Part 2 - Deciding to call it quits

post by adamzerner · 2019-10-09T04:17:25.259Z · score: 40 (10 votes) · LW · GW · 6 comments


  Swinging for a home run
  Swinging for a single
  What if

For the backstory, see part one [LW · GW].

There's a part of me that thinks that quitting should be an easy decision. A big part of me.

The way I'm thinking about it, there are two reasons to continue working on this:

1. Swinging for a home run. If there's a chance for high upside. If not, there are other ideas I could be working on that do provide the upside I'm looking for.

2. Swinging for a single. If there's a high likelihood of making a few hundred thousand dollars. Something comparable to what I'd make working as a programmer.

Swinging for a home run

Throughout the time I was working on Premium Poker Tools, I had been assuming that the market was big enough to provide high upside. Eg. I thought that 100k users and $100/user was very possible.

But more recently, I've come to believe that that all just isn't true.

Even if the industry people I've spoke with are wrong about the market being eg. 10k users, I'd need them to be way off. Suppose I make $25/user after marketing costs. That would mean I'd need 400k users to get to $10M. Since I can't expect 100% market share, I'd really need the market to be something like 1M people, and that is a very long ways from the 10k upper extreme that people are telling me. Maybe the real market is 50k instead of 10k, but not 1M instead of 10k.

Swinging for a single

If I do decide to quit working on Premium Poker Tools, my next step would be to take some time to work as a programmer and save up money before moving on to my next startup. But if I am close to the point of making a few hundred thousand dollars or something, then I may as well just keep working on PPT instead.

I just don't think the chances are high enough that I'll get to first base, so to speak.

Zooming out, I've been working on this app for 2 years and 3 months and only have two paid users.

Furthermore, I've sort of exhausted a lot of the customer acquisition channels. Affiliate partnerships, paid advertising, YouTube, Twitter, blog, in person networking, offering it for free, participating in poker forums, refer a friend, offering to coach/study with people: none of it has worked.

So looking at it from that perspective, it would be crazy to say, "The upside to make millions might not be there, but I'm on the verge of making a few hundred thousand, so I should see this through."

Also, it's worth noting that throughout these past two plus years, I've continually [LW · GW] thought to myself, "I'm just a month or two away". I clearly have a bias, and I need to adjust in the opposite direction.

What if

Like I was saying at the beginning: this should be an easy decision. The reason to work on this is if it has a big upside, or if I'm on the verge of "hitting a single". Neither of those things seem close to being true, so I should quit. That's all there is to it.

I've went through this conversation with myself many times, and something just felt off. I was telling myself that the answer is obvious, but I still felt very hesitant to move forward with the decision to quit. It didn't feel right.

Eventually I noticed what was holding me back: "what if". What if I'm wrong and there actually is a big market? What if I really am just a month or two away from hitting a single?

The correct response to that is to note that you can never be 100% certain of anything, and just because there's some small chance I'm wrong doesn't mean I should keep working on this. You just have to make the best decisions you can given your uncertainty, not wait endlessly until you are certain.

Of course. I know this. My Monkey Brain even knows this. It's something I've always been pretty good with. Let me try to do a better job explaining what has held me up. Imagine the following:

I quit Premium Poker Tools, and proceed to do my thing working as a programer. Nine months later, I see a new poker app take off and make millions of dollars. I think, "What the hell! How did this happen!" I start looking into it. I find some financial website that shows Flopzilla making millions of dollars a year. I talk to some people who say, "Oh yeah, the market is huge."

I'll tell you why this would be boundlessly frustrating to me. Because if I had just taken the time to do this research before quitting PPT, I could have been the one who succeeded. Because a trivial inconvenience is the thing that got in my way. I expect better of myself. If that happened, I'd be extremely disappointed in myself.

I know I'm not perfect and there are things I'll miss. I just don't want to get caught in the above scenario where there are obvious things that I miss. Because of laziness.

So then, the solution is pretty simple right? Just take the time right now to investigate all of these things and make sure I don't fall victim to trivial inconveniences. But somehow, that solution just doesn't seem to be working for me. I just keep worrying that there are other things I'm missing. That there are more trivial inconveniences that I should look out for that I just don't want to because I'm lazy. I know that sounds weird; it's a hard feeling to explain.

I feel tempted to just move on despite the voices in my head saying "this doesn't feel right". But if I do that, I know I'll torture myself with "what if" questions.

Let's try writing about the "what ifs". Sorry if it gets too poker-specific.

Even after writing all of this out, it still doesn't feel right. I feel like there are brilliant ideas that I had in the past and was excited about, that I put to the side and am failing to recall right now. I feel like I've built up to thee point where I'm slightly better than the competition, and that if I spend another six months or so, I'll really start to pull away and differentiate myself with a solid competitive advantage.

But all of these ideas I have. The things I'd do to pull away and differentiate myself. I don't actually think that any of them would really "grow the pie". They'd just give me a better shot of getting a slice of that ~$300k pie. And that just doesn't seem like it's enough.

It could easily fail. Even if I build all of this cool stuff, people could just want to stick to the software they already know. Customer acquisition is hard. The things I'd be building would be much more of a vitamin than a painkiller, and so I don't think "build it and they'll come" would happen.

So ~$200k reward let's say + 50% chance of success let's say (generously) + 12 months more work + a lot of stress and anxiety. And that's the optimistic equation. That just isn't good enough.

This is very, very difficult, but I've decided: it's time to call it quits.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by cousin_it · 2019-10-09T09:09:51.683Z · score: 13 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, if you're building a money-making funnel, it's a good idea to make numerical guesses about how each step of the funnel will perform, and sanity check them. Reddit or YouTube audience size is only top of funnel, you also need to estimate click through rate, conversion rate etc. There are many articles online about that, and many cheap experiments you can run.

comment by adamzerner · 2019-10-09T19:07:59.643Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yup, I totally agree, and it's been a lesson I've learned.

comment by johnswentworth · 2019-10-09T05:16:20.470Z · score: 12 (6 votes) · LW · GW

One thing you might look into is selling what you have - there's a few marketplaces for tech projects that haven't really taken off (e.g. I think flippa is the biggest?). If your product really is worth a decent chunk of money, this would at least give you a market price on the business as a whole.

comment by adamzerner · 2019-10-09T05:23:18.189Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That makes sense, thank you.

comment by philh · 2019-10-12T12:35:52.203Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Zooming out, I’ve been working on this app for 2 years and 3 months and only have two paid users.

You mentioned in your previous post that you had a bug preventing people from paying you (oof). I'm curious how many people tried, if you were able to figure that out from your logs?

I ask because one possible direction would be to stop doing any serious work on the app, but leave it up (with that bug fixed, if you didn't already) and see what happens. You won't get rich but you might get enough income to be worth the occasional maintenance hassle.

(This isn't me advising you to do that, you know your stuff better than I do. But this is the option that was on my mind the whole time and I was surprised you didn't address it.)

comment by adamzerner · 2019-10-12T18:03:20.170Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I actually do plan on doing what you describe: leave it up, and also continue to work on it in my spare time. I enjoy working on it (when I'm not feeling pressured), and as a poker player, there are a few tools that I want to build for myself. There are also a few sort of last ditch things that I plan on trying, but none of them require me to be working on it full time.

In retrospect, this would have been a good thing for me to address in the post, because you're right, it's a logical question for the reader to ask.

As for the bug preventing people from paying me, I'm not sure exactly how many tried, but it seems like it was four or five. I have since fixed the bug (ended up just being a small typo), and after I did I emailed all ~100 people who were signed up for the free trial, and have gotten one paid user. Now that I think about it, I should reach back out to those four or five people who previously tried to pay me. I'll go do that right now :)