05 Jun 2018

Five years of Exist

Last week, when I was going over the final touches of our new web update, I noticed this:

Member since June 2013

Wow. I've been working on Exist since June 2013, five years ago this month.

Five years ago, Exist was just a vague idea that we could take all the numbers that people generate about their lives and make them useful. We started with two fitness trackers, Fitbit and Jawbone UP, and slowly added more services. We started finding correlations between users' attributes and showing insights about their recent activity. We added our first manual entry data, mood tracking, which was for a long time only available by nightly email. We slowly built native Android and iOS apps, turning the latter into an Apple-Health-syncing powerhouse. We decided that static goals were useless and the best way to track your progress is to measure against your recent average. To this day, it still bugs me if I'm not hitting my productivity goal in Exist. (I've pretty much given up trying to be more active, though.)

Along the way we've bootstrapped from something that made us a few hundred dollars a month, to a full-time job for one of us, and finally to something we both work on full-time. We've stayed pretty small, both in reach and in income, because a lot of the things you have to do to get big don't fit with our values. We've never taken VC funding and tried to grow a huge free user base, worrying about monetisation later. (To be fair, we did go after VC funding once, before we knew better.) We've never sold user data to marketers or showed ads on Exist. We've turned down acquisitions and big-brand partnerships. While many of our competitors came and went, we just kept on going, plodding slowly towards sustainability, sharing our business stats and our roadmap publicly, always trying to make Exist better.

Exist dashboard in 2014 Exist in 2014.

Exist mobile apps Our mobile apps in 2015.

Exist in 2018 Exist in 2018.

Of course that story I've just told you smooths out our journey, glosses over our many struggles and worries. It's been a hard road, and on one hand you could say it's disappointing that it took five whole years to get this far. But we're still going when others are not, without compromising what we believe in, and that's certainly something to be proud of.

If you've paid for Exist for a little while or many years, if you've listened to the podcast or liked a tweet of ours, if you mentioned us on your blog or told a friend to try Exist, you've been a vital part of our journey too. Thank you!

These days we're still plodding along, still sharing our business stats and our roadmap publicly, and still trying to make Exist better. When we were just getting started, someone once told us to make sure we were working on an idea we'd still care about in ten years' time. Five years in, Exist is proving to have been a good choice. Our list of ideas for making Exist better continues to grow faster than we can get things done, and we're still excited about the future.