Erin Hopmann

How are you feeling?
Good. Swimming with ideas, especially after a great few phone calls with teachers over the last day. And especially relaxed – could be ‘cause it’s Friday, could be ‘cause I experienced Reiki for the first time this morning.

Yep, that’s right. At 8 am PST, I closed my eyes for 10 minutes, Jess at the same time, and we both received the energy from a Dabbler in Chicago who’s not only offered up lots of feedback for the business, but also his personal Reiki services. Trippy? Yes. I didn’t quite feel the wave of warmth and tingliness that he said may happen, but 10 minutes ended up feeling like two, which was progress for me. And my mind managed to not drift… at least too much.

What’s the plan?
Building out some new features along the lines of what we’ve been discussing. Sending a survey to teachers this afternoon to get some final feedback and to help tweak directions. Stay tuned.

How is your team doing?
So we went from seven people in May to five people in June to 3.25 people in August. The team currently is Jess, Frank, and me (and some moonlighting from Rob, our ever tireless, yet always caffeinated, engineer).

I think it’s important to highlight what our situation has done to not only the current team, but also those who worked with us previously, as going through lay-offs at a startup feels different than a big company.* When you join a startup, you’re typically agreeing to sacrifice some degree of cash compensation for something else – equity, passion, experience, etc.

This is certainly true for those that’ve worked for us, most of whom came to us with a ton of passion for what we’re doing. We quickly became a tight-knit team that tried to live the Dabble brand day-in and day-out: two parts community, one part quirky, a dash of creativity… and a whole lot of hard work.

As much as we tried to keep everyone updated on our situation (30 Days of Honesty is not our first foray into transparency), it still was jarring to the few people we had to let go first in May. A layoff never feels good, but the emotional investment that you tend to make as an early employee of a startup is huge. There were tears, and the conversation felt more like a break-up than HR executing a layoff as handed down from above. Lucky for us, this breakup was of the amicable variety, and the send-off was complete with drinks and “cheers and jeers” where we recounted all the memories and goofy stories of their time with us.

By the time we had to cut back even more in August, it was not surprising to Evan and Rob.

As for Frank, he’s in the trenches with us now. When we first launched 30 Days, he mentioned being sad. There is something about putting all this out there that makes failure seem more real. But Frank’s an impressively resilient dude, and we’re incredibly thankful for his loyalty. At this point, we consider him an equal partner in decision-making.

Hopefully you’ll see some words from the actual mouths of the team at some point over the course of the next 19 days, as we’ve asked a few of them to guest post. But right now, they’re being shy!

*Disclaimer: I’ve never been laid off, so I can’t say for sure.


Jess Lybeck

How do you feel about the project?
I’m feeling good. Normal? I think the internal shock of this project has subsided and I’m just interested in getting to work – harder, faster and more efficiently than I have in the past. I was telling Erin today that I feel like this projected injected energy into me. I felt the exact opposite a few weeks ago.

I’m also feeling like I believe in Dabble (and humanity) now more than ever. I spent time on the phone today with REALLY talented people who all believe in what we’re doing and want to help. People I’ve never met personally. Some who just found out about Dabble a few weeks ago. If we can stir up that sort of excitement within strangers, there’s something here. Maybe even something bigger than we realized before.

What’s the plan?
Erin & I made some big decisions, we’ve done some homework so now we’ve started building shit. Building things is my favorite thing in the world, so I’m into it. We’ve put a lot of energy into the business model changes because I think they have the biggest opportunity to move the needle for us – but there’s lots of other things we need to do on the marketing front to make sure that those changes have impact.

Things on the top of my head after conversations today are more social marketing (encouraging students to share their Dabble class experience via social media), increased marketing support for our teachers (including hands-on training via Google Hangouts), Homepage updates & curation, loyalty programs. The list goes on. Need to focus on implementing one thing at a time. Time is going by way too fucking fast.

How is your team doing?
I think at first there was some sadness when we announced this project – especially for Frank. He’s worked so long and hard on Dabble alongside us, it’s hard to see the words “struggling” and “survive” associated with what we’re doing. It wasn’t a shock though. We’ve been honest about our runway, our funding prospects and our burn rate since the beginning. This project was just a hard dose of reality.

Rob, our head developer, is still helping out here and there on a contract basis. He has another fulltime job now, but still cares enough to make sure we’re not up shit creek. Frank has stepped forward and has put everything he’s learned about coding in the last 6 months to work on Dabble. It’s really fucking awesome to see him grow into this new role. I think he’s having fun with it too.

We had to let go half of our team due to runway ending in May. We still update everyone on things via email, let them know when the awesome projects they were working on are taking off and send texts of support. They are still family. We miss them mucho.

In short, I think we’re all “in this together” even more than before. It’s awesome. Have I said I really really love our team? I really love our team.


We plan on answering different questions every day. Submit a question you’d like answered by emailing 30daysofhonesty (at) dabble.co.

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