So Long & Thanks For All The Fish
As of December 31st, 2012 (& barring something amazing), Toast Driven will be shutting down. We want to take the opportunity to thank all of our clients from over the almost two years for their patronage.
It's been a good, if slightly crazy ride, but the time has come to shut Toast Driven down once again. This was actually the second life of Toast Driven (first was very briefly as a Rails-based consultancy).
In short, because we simply don't have the pipeline to support ourselves in the future. The last 6-7 months have been pretty lean (to the point of taking a continual trickle of loss). Many of the consultancies in the Django world have been under similar pressures, but from what I've heard, most have recovered better than we.
The Good Stuff
There was an immense amount of good that came out of running Toast Driven. I learned tons about actually running a business, met lots of great people, worked on some interesting projects, got to employ two friends & was able to sponsor things (PyCon/DjangoCon/PyOhio/EFF/etc).
The Not-So-Good Stuff
For our part, we had 14 separate projects (not including the three separate attempts at starting our own services) fall through in the last 6 months alone. This may not sound like much, but we only landed 4 in the same timeframe. Further, by revenue, we landed just 5%. Every one of them that fell through did so either because we didn't have enough bandwidth or because the potential client couldn't commit. Quite simply, we can't maintain ourselves at the current rate projects are landing.
Beyond that, trying to run a larger consultancy (instead of just me) has taken a toll on me personally. I haven't worked less than a 60 hour week since last January, with several months worth of 80+ hour weeks in there as well. That, plus family, project & OSS obligations, have pushed me to the point of needing to seek medical attention more than once (though on the mend now).
Wait, Three Services Didn't Happen?
It's true. The goal was always to transition Toast Driven to be service/product-focused, using consulting as a way to bootstrap & as a means to even out cash flows.
The first service (developed during January 2012) may still eventually launch, so we'll skip talking about that for now.
The second (May-July 2012) was called Significant Whitespace, a Python/Django screencast site, something akin to what Peepcode has been for the Ruby/JS communities. All three of us worked heavily on scripts, recordings, a site & branding. We had most things in place & were perhaps 2-3 weeks from launching. We never finished it due to things like Code School launching their Python materials & now the "Getting Started with Django" series.
The third (August 2012) was much more public, in the form of Helm the discussion site. Conceived as something between Convore, IRC & IM, we tried to take the crowdfunding model, with the twist that we'd be open-sourcing virtually everything we built. After a successful first day (thanks to all you backers), the funding flopped pretty horrifically, with just two contributions in the rest of the 30 day campaign. There were lots of things that contributed to this (probably a whole blog post worth), but given the lack of available time otherwise, we had to give up on it.
These are perhaps my biggest regret of this iteration of Toast Driven. Perhaps none would have taken off, but I wish we had gotten to finish one.
What Happens Now?
I'll still be speaking at PyCon CA next month, though likely not under the Toast Driven banner.
This site will remain (likely in a blog-only state), but the rest of the company will be shuttered. Toast Driven will still sponsor the 2013 PyCon (since we already committed to it), but that will be the last hurrah.
What About Open-Source?
Ironically, running Toast Driven (the consultancy) has been the primary reason for my lack of open-source activity. It turns out that when you have less than 10 hours of total personal time left per week, it's hard to work on much of anything, much less have the energy to do so.