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Carving the Statue of David

January 30, 2013

The statue of David lives in Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy, is made of marble, and stands 17 feet high. It was carved by Michelangelo between the years 1501 and 1504. If you ever have the chance to see it, I highly recommend that you do, it's quite an amazing sight. When I saw it, however, I didn't know a key piece of information: it was carved from a single block of marble.

If I came upon a block of marble 17 feet high, I wouldn't think: "David. Wait, naked David." Michelangelo saw it. He kept chiseling until David revealed himself.

Now, IANAS (I Am Not A Sculptor) but I imagine that Mich started by taking the edges off. He took one corner off, then another, then the third and fourth. He kept chiseling away, bit by by, until he had something that resembled a head-ish shape.

Then a torso-ish shape.

For 3 years he kept going. When did it start to look like the David we know? Year one? Year two?

The David that I'm carving is my first software product: Mantis, a SaaS offering for businesses with mobile employees. Right now, Mantis is mostly a block of marble as opposed to a masterpiece, but I do believe that in there somewhere is a David, I just have to find him.

To round the first edge off, I got two books on the PHP framework Yii and started coding. As I knocked out the big features, I began to see a general torso shape come into view. Knowing that I didn't know everything (or anything, really) I picked up Rob Walling's book and read it. (If you haven't been listening to their excellent podcast Startups For the Rest of Us, you should. See you at #MicroConf!) The first thought I had after finishing was: "Uh oh, I'm coding before I do any marketing." (Fortunately my brother has already validated the demand, I insisted we do this first.) I stopped everything and start putting together a landing page. With a landing page comes a whole new stack of problems:

We need a name.

We need a logo.

We need a theme.

I came up with a name, got a logo from 99Designs, and bought a theme from WrapBootstrap.

At this point I needed to actually write the landing page. It's really a shame I knew nothing about copy. I bought the copyhackers books, read them all, and tried (am trying) to apply what I've learned. Still, when it comes to copywriting, I'm no Joanna Wiebe. My copywriting is not good, I'll admit it. However, if I keep chiseling, day after day, maybe a head-ish shape will start to appear. Years from now, I'll have something recognizable.

There is so much to learn. You better believe I've watched every interview with Patrick McKenzie (multiple times), read his book, and read most of what he has mentioned in any interview.

Read, Implement, Repeat.

Same goes for Amy Hoy, I've gotten a lot of actionable advice and inspiration from her interviews and her no-nonsense blog.

At this point, the block of marble is still unrecognizable. What I have is a landing page, about half an MVP, and most importantly: a huge amount of new knowledge.

I can't say how empowering and exciting it is to learn all these new things. There are resources out there. There are so many kind people waiting to help.

My intention is to keep this blog updated with information as I learn it and to keep you on the inside as I build this SaaS product. If you have any tips, resources, encouragement or criticism, please do let me know in the comments. This is my first public blog post ever, so take it relatively easy.

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Thanks for reading! My name is Aaron and I'm a Developer Educator at PlanetScale — a serverless MySQL database company.

My main project focus is Hammerstone, where we build components for your Laravel and Rails applications. My business partner and I do a podcast where we talk about building a software company.

I do another podcast about web frameworks called Framework Friends.

If you ever have any questions or want to chat, I'm always on Twitter
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