Open for Business
It feels like a long time since I've rolled up the sleeves, dusted off the text editor and put pen to paper here. Yes, yes, I know — we're all very busy. But it seems that 2015 has been the year of unsurpassed leaps and bounds, taking me deep into vast and uncharted territory. The best part is, I have no idea how we got here and no intention of ever seeking a way back!
In short, dear friends: I have much to report.
Let's start with the farewells. After roughly two years at the helm of BrightHearts for iOS, in July 2015 I resigned as a company Director & will no longer be actively involved going forward. This was a tough decision to make for several reasons, the biggest being that I felt that we simply hadn't reached our goals for BrightHearts & this kind of unrealised potential can weigh heavily on the mind. I was also concerned that leaving the company at this stage would place a burden on my co-founder George, potentially crippling the app further still.
I'd been mulling these factors over for some time when I understood two key insights that helped me realise I wasn't seeing the bigger picture.
- By considering myself irreplaceable, I'd placed an artificial barrier to the app's growth and success. Why should the app be fuelled by myself alone? Developer talent is indeed hard to come by, but I don't hold any hidden secrets or magical powers to make great things happen; and
- Over time I'd noticed myself feeling less driven to create new features, to fix apparent bugs, to explore new approaches to the app or it's business model mechanics. I found myself letting go, explaining away small problems or lamenting the amount of time I was pouring into a project that wasn't growing as fast as I thought it could.
I had fallen out of love with the project. These insights told me something important - that I was certainly not helping BrightHearts achieve greatness, perhaps that I was even hindering it's future.
Time to say goodbye.
Given all this, I'm very pleased to say that my former business partner George has found a bright young developer to help him build the next phase of the app, Trent Brooks. I worked closely with Trent during the handover period. I can see him taking the app into new places I might not have even imagined. George is an incredibly driven guy, curious and insightful and I look forward to watching the next chapter unfold.
Now to new beginnings. Over the past 18 months Bruce Jeffreys and I have been building a new company, from scratch, that is literally changing the face of eyewear in Australia.
We're called Dresden and we're here to make eyewear simpler and more affordable than ever before.
So what's the deal with Dresden? I'll give you the skinny: for too long, too few players have dominated the global optical industry. We've become accustomed to spending a lot of money on fragile, easily lost spectacles that are also rapidly out-of-season. We thought this was madness, when we were customers. We thought surely it doesn't have to be like this. We thought we could do it better.
The irony is that the benchmark for a good eyewear customer experience has been set so low by the major retailers, that industry novices such as ourselves have a real chance to shine.
At Dresden you don't buy a pair of glasses, you buy into a system of eyewear unlike any other. Our frames are designed with interchangeability at the core: we've simplified eyewear into four sizes (XS, S, M & L), which can swapped with ease.
Let's say you have what's known in the biz as a fat head. No sweat, our Large frames are exactly that, Large. If you also happen to need shorter arms, we can swap them for you in seconds.
Best of all, a pair of Dresden prescription glasses will only set you back $49 AUD.
Also, if we have your lenses in stock, we can make them for you, while you wait.
Yep, brand new eyewear in just minutes.
All of our frames are made locally, at a manufacturing facility in Lakemba. We found a partner who saw something great in us and wanted to be a part of our story - Astor Industries. For Astor, we're another small thread in a growing tapestry that spells the resurgence of Australian manufacturing. For us, they've opened our eyes to a world of self-sufficiency and locally sourced products that we never dreamed possible.
Since opening our first store in Newtown four months ago, the response from the public has been phenomenal. Before launching, we shared as much as we dared with our friends and family members. But opening doors to the public - to random strangers - is another thing altogether. It really is the litmus test of the business concept. Will people accept the premise? Will they find our colours appealing? Will they want to tell their friends? Will they be nice to us? You can never really know how a retail concept will work.
Needless to say, it's going very well and we're already planning the next phase of Dresden. I have some pretty special news for you on that front - but I'll save that for another time.
Dresden is something truly special. We spent the better part of a year perfecting the design of our eyewear range, choosing the perfect materials to use and honing our skills at high quality manufacturing — right here in Sydney. We've been remarkably fortunate to have met an incredible group of people who believed in the idea from the very beginning (even if they thought we were a little bit nutty) and who have done everything they could to shape Dresden into something special. Lucky is not even an understatement.
Dresden simply wouldn't be what it is today without this small group of yeasayers who dared to dream big.
It's not often that a startup can enjoy the luxury of three key ingredients: a hungry market, an outstanding product and a truly kick-ass team, but we've been able to do just that. As our systems guru Isaac would say: it's "oh my god stuff”. We're just having too much fun with this company.
As I'm writing this, I can't help but notice a difference in mood, in timbre, between the first part and the second. The truth is that I've found my calling in Dresden, it's grown from simply being a project to being the project, one that I look forward to building, learning growing for many years to come.
If you've recently wondered, "where's Jason hiding?", well now you know.
I'm not hiding, I'm open for business. Come say hallo, one day.