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English Startup

My 2019 in numbers

Happy 2020! May all your companies turn into unicorns and all your projects be bought by Facebook!

I have a tendency to blindly jump into new projects, lose interest along the way and then abandon them. It’s been a constant in my carreer, so in january 2019 I decided to do something about that. I started doing timetracking on my just-for-fun projects.

Turns out I worked on 16 projects this year, some of them as little as half an hour. I have also kept note of any income generated by the projects, and calculated an hourly income. Note that I’m ignoring any costs involved (servers, transport, equipment and external labour), and all amounts are VAT excluded.

ProjectHoursRevenueHourly
Work for hire1.013,76€ 77.897,38€ 76,84
QuizWitz388,75€ 8.547,76€ 21,99
Dolumar10,25€ 78,67€ 7,68
Quizfabriek336,00€ 925,00€ 2,75
Quizkalender33,00€ 13,78€ 0,42
CatLab Drinks167,00€ 0,00€ 0,00
Kitten Race55,00€ 0,00€ 0,00
Werewolves34,00€ 0,00€ 0,00
Escape game21,00€ 0,00€ 0,00
Research project13,00€ 0,00€ 0,00
Administratie11,00€ 0,00€ 0,00
Word game11,00€ 0,00€ 0,00
Eukles8,00€ 0,00€ 0,00
Dolumar TCG6,00€ 0,00€ 0,00
Trading game2,00€ 0,00€ 0,00
Wittegeit0,50€ 0,00€ 0,00

Since this is the first year I’m doing time tracking, I don’t have running totals of the projects. The bulk of QuizWitz development has happened over the past few years, and a quick estimation shows at least 5000 hours have been put in before (by various people). However, to not completely lose my mind, I have decided to only measure this years activity.

In total, I’ve logged 2110,26 working hours, which is about 44 hours a week (at 48 weeks / year, holidays excluded).

An overview

Don’t quit your dayjob just yet is probably the lesson to learn here. I deciced to turn down a lucrative project in May, in order to take some time off and take on projects a little closer to home. It took a cut out of the hourly rate, but at least I don’t have to drive for two hours every day. But even then, pet projects don’t even come close to working for the man.

Next up: the big one. QuizWitz has been my main project for the past few years, so I’m happy to see at least some revenue coming in. Quizfabriek, a little lower on the list, should actually be added to QuizWitz as well, as any income from Quizfabriek comes in the form of license fees for QuizWitz. That brings QuizWitz to €9472,76 in revenue, or €24,36 hourly. (I’m not counting the 336 hours worked as a volunteer, since none of the other volunteers get paid either.)

The bulk of the QuizWitz revenue comes from offering support at live events and renting out equipment (so basically me doing actual work) totalling €6544,50. That means QuizWitz generated €2928,26 in software sales (including Airconsole).

Related, but not exactly the same: Quizfabriek, our now 10-headed non profit that tries to revolutionise the traditional pub quiz. As stated above, all revenue that is listed here comes out of QuizWitz license fees. All hours put in should be considered ‘unpaid voluntary work’, but just for funsies I split them up anyway.

I’m not sure what happened, but for some reason Dolumar also generated some sales this year. Not enough to keep the server running, but since this game was my first proper try to build a strategy browser game, I can’t bring myself to shutting it down. And obviously thousands of hours have sunk into the Dolumar project, so the hourly revenue is way off. Thanks for the support though!

The last project that generated any revenue was Quizkalender. This project was built to give to provide some free advertising space for our Quizfabriek quizzes. It uses data from various sites to compile the most complete overview of the Flemish quiz scene. When we’re not advertising our own quizzes, we’re using the space to show paid ads, resulting in a tiny bit of extra beer money.

On to another big time-waster, but one that has had a significant impact on the way we organise our quizzes at Quizfabriek. CatLab Drinks is a very rudimentary web based cash register system with support for NFC topup cards. It can be integrated in the QuizWitz quiz software, which allows players to order drinks from the bar during the game. When the NFC topup system is used, players can topup their card and all payments are done behind the scene, so that bartenders don’t have to worry about anything. I’ve released the code under GPLv3.

That leaves us with the projects that have had no value whatsoever. Kitten race was an attempt on an educational ‘classroom game’, but ended up being a refactor of our ‘CatLab Remote’ engine. That same refactored engine was then used to create a party game implementation of the game Werewolves (also known as Maffia in some parts of the world). Both games are still sitting on a shelf and might be released on Airconsole or Steam at some point in the future.

With Escape Game I wanted to see if the CatLab Remote engine could be used for a mass escape game, where tens to hundreds of people would try to solve a mystery or avoid a disaster, but I didn’t get much further than a few sketches.

Finally there’s a bunch of projects where I only spent a few hours on; prototypes that I still want to explore at a later stage. I even have a rough draft of a Dolumar themed card game, but it hasn’t come to the playtesting stage yet.

Technology

Overall, I’ve had a fun year. Not always productive, but I’ve played around with fun ideas and tinkered with lots of things I hardly knew anything about.

I’ve used DMX and WebMidi to automate moving lights and led pars at our quizzes. I’ve used WebRTC to stream QuizWitz to raspberry pi’s connected to displays (to avoid having to use HDMI splitters and unhandly cables).

I’ve played with NTAG213 NFC tags and readers to implement a cashless topup system and used html offline features to make sure the system runs even when internet connection fails.

I’ve made my old libraries compatible with npm and typescript, to make the game development less painful.

Oh, and I’ve also bought a new car!

Next up

I don’t think 2020 will be much different from 2019. I’ll probably try to put in some more work-for-hire hours, as you can’t spend every summer sitting on your arse, but I don’t think I’ll stop starting silly projects and giving up on them. It’s just too much fun.

I should look into more ways to get QuizWitz into the hands of event planners and quiz organisers. Everyone who’s used the software is enthousiastic and our very first client still calls us for every quiz they organise. I feel like I’m leaving a lot of potential on the table. I’m just not very confident reaching out and doing sales. Improving my business skills is pretty high on my list of new year resolutions. Or finding a cofounder who can handle that part.

Finally, I should finish renovating my tiny little house. I haven’t really done any construction work in 2019, and renovating a house of this size shouldn’t take 5 years to finish. 🙂

Categories
Startup

QuizTed: why so serious?

S2013.04.20 quiztedo it’s been almost two years since I thought it would be nice to develop a small quiz game. A game where questions would be shown on a big screen and where players would compete using their cellphones. A two week feat, I initially thought. Something simple. Socket.io, html5, some nice design slapped on top of it, and done.

Now we’re almost two years later and the project has grown from a quick proof of concept to a full fledged indie game. A project with budgets and market research and marketing and pr and distribution and apps and builds and steam and employees and partnerships and trademark issues and …

Oh, and a €40k subsidy from the Flemish government. Yay. A blessing, for sure. With this subsidy we raise the quality of the game to something that is actually worthy of some money (I hope). With it we can build the community framework that this game desperatly needs. And most of all, with this subsidy I can finally give this project all my attention.

titelschermt_V_2.0It’s already half a year ago that I’ve assembled my little QuizTed team. All 3 of them students. Ken, our marketing guy and manager-of-everything, Yannick our second code monkey and Katia, our design guru. A summer of developing, and afterwards we’d see what happens.

I had some money to spare and I really wanted to make this one work, so I just went for it. I had no idea if I’d make back the investment, and honestly I didn’t really care that much. I just wanted to make something awesome, something that I could play with friends. And these guys would help me make that possible for the price of a modest car. And it would be tax deductable…

Summer ended and the project had grown some more. We would implement a unique soundtrack, so I hired two student-composers, Michaël and Pieterpauwel who composed one for us. We would do voice over commentary, so I looked into voice artists. And the graphics would have to be amazing, so Jolanda drew something nice for us.

And suddenly I wasn’t developing a game anymore; I was managing a project.

Summer ended and the funds ran out, but the team stayed. The subsidy request was filed. Questions about full time positions were raised, but all I could say was: “I don’t know, it depends on the subsidy”. And even in this uncertainty, we kept working, and I’m unbelievably proud and thankful for everything we have achieved already.

And now the subsidy is granted. And I’m happy for that, really. I’m very happy.

uitwerking_characters_v2But now, when I lay awake at night, I’m not thinking about cool features anymore. I’m not thinking about game concepts or changes I could make to our open source libraries. I think about how I’m going to spend that money in a way that we can make this project work.

I’m thinking about how I can reward each team member for their unbelievable awesome efforts, without bringing the budget at risk. I’m wondering how the hell I’m going to resolve these trademark issues. I’m wondering if I should do most of the coding myself, or if I should spent a cut of the budget on a second developer. And are people really waiting for a cross platform quiz game?

We’ve started on this road and there really is no going back. This time it will work. This time we have a solid project. This time there is this bunch of really awesome people who want to see this game succeed as much as I do. So time to get smart, damnit, and go kick some ass.

But if this one fails… what then? I just hope I don’t have to write a post mortem soon…

Categories
Startup

Alle begin?

Dinsdag nacht, kwart voor één. Ik zit naar m’n code te staren zonder dat ik in het laatste half uur eigenlijk ook maar enige vooruitgang heb geboekt. Op de achtergrond Lindsey Stirling, geen kwalitatieve muziek, maar het neemt me terug naar tijden toen ik op een Parijs’ balkon sigaretten zat te roken en me zat af te vragen wat ik die avond in godsnaam zou doen.

Ze heeft wel een lekker lijf, die Lindsey…

Nog eventjes doordoen, de deadline is morgen, en met het geld dat ik met dit project binnen haal kan ik de jobstudenten ook in september aanhouden. Nog even persen, ook al heb ik al uren totaal geen zin meer. September, dat is de goal. Met september erbij kunnen we het sociale aspect van de quizgame ook afwerken, denk ik… hoop ik. Want na september wordt het moeilijk.

Ze doet me denken aan dat meisje dat me liet zitten omdat ik geen tijd meer voor haar had, die Lindsey. Een beetje hetzelfde haar, een beetje dezelfde teruggetrokken kin…

‘t Is nu dat het moet gebeuren, toch? Ik ben bijna dertig. Als het nu niet gebeurt, dan gebeurt het nooit meer. Dan moet ik me terugtrekken en achtendertig uur per week mijn kloten afdraaien voor een baas. Hoewel… is dat eigenlijk niet beter? Ik weet niet meer hoe lang het geleden is dat ik na achtendertig uur kon zeggen: zo, het is weekend.

Keuzes maken, heet dat, denk ik. De keuze voor een eenvoudiger leven. Niet dat wat ik nu doe geen voordelen heeft, en ik wil geenszins klagen over mijn bestaan. Het mag, gewoon, soms eventjes rustiger.

Ik glij langzaam van de slippery slope van de klagende zelfstandige.
En moeten zij er maar niet gewoon mee stoppen?

Misschien moet ik dat meisje nog maar eens bellen.