Running Tanooki Labs: Falling in love with client services


Before we started Tanooki Labs, Dave and I were working one of the best jobs we’ll ever have in our lives. At QLabs, we were creating products fast, forming beliefs about the world and tossing out ideas that acted on them to see if they caught fire, and having a blast. QLabs was all the fun of a startup, without the usual heartache.

We were building the factory floor for startups, reworking all the repeatable parts into a set of processes, and turning that repeatability into advantage. Each project we built, each company we spawned, taught us new things that we could roll forward into the next. It was bootcamp, it was Montessori school for hackers, and it was the best training and the best job you could imagine.

As with all things which sound too good to be true, QLabs too had to meet reality at some point. We built some incredible things, some, like Huntsy and Rootsy, which were poised to become strong companies in their own right, and some, like Framey, which have quickly been reimplemented once their absence left a vacuum in the market, but most of our products  lacked a cruicial thing. A founder.

We built beautiful, amazing products, but we didn’t couple them with domain expertise and passion. We were already building the next product (or three) by the time we were hoping to see traction on an idea. Without someone to relentlessly apply a vision, to be out hustling, to push the product in the unexpected ways the market took it, we were significantly hamstrung.

As our parent company changed course and we mulled our next move, Dave and I began speaking with startup founders. Overwhelmingly, we heard the same story, but from the opposite angle. They had the passion and the expertise, they were willing to hustle and schlep, but they didn’t have expertise in building products.

As we started out, many trusted friends and advisors warned us that client services is a hard road, and we’ve certainly worked through our share of tough situations, but we also set ourselves a mission that informs every decision we make. We exist to empower entrepreneurs to change the world. In service of that mission, we keep our rates low so we can choose from the best products to work on, and best founders to partner with. Then, armed with amazing products to work on and learn from, we get to select from amazing, entrepreneurial developers who want the flexibility, support, and balance we can provide - often developers who aren’t on the market otherwise. 

Over the past two years, we’ve proven that the advantages we had within QLabs are portable. We can bring the repeatability of building products to our partners, and when aligned to their expertise and vision, it can do some incredible things.

Yes, someday we’d like to build our own products again. Sometimes we wish for simpler days when we weren’t managing the grittier aspects of running a services business, but today? Today we’ve fallen in love with the middle, the amazing back and forth between the visionaries and the builders who can make those dreams real. We’re in love with the amazing number of victories we get to celebrate with the companies we partner with - the products we’ve helped launch, the rounds that have been raised while we’re part of the team, and the incredible press that they’ve garnered - they all keep us excited about the things we’re helping to build. Finally, we’re in love with the absolutely mind-bending amount we’re learning, about markets and disruption, about building products, and now as we grow to 20+ people, about leading a team. 

Our last gig was one of the best jobs in the world. This one? It’s even better.

Want to partner with us?
We’re talking with founders now to round out our schedule for fall-winter 2014, drop us a line.

Want to join the Tanooki Labs team?
Work on amazing projects, learn like crazy, and keep your work-life balance.

We’re hiring freelance and full-time developers, in New York and remote.
Apply here