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Timothy Treagus: Personal Blog

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15 December: Plan to Shut Yazi down

Yazi future: Essay

Over the last 18 months, Yazi's growth has been notably subpar. On 10 December 2023, a realisation dawned: the opportunity cost of continuing with Yazi is significantly outweighed by potential alternatives. This was prompted by a fundamental question: how much value have I created, both for customers and monetarily, and at what rate is this value growing? I feel it is not enough.
In life, every choice bears opportunity costs. When the cost of missed opportunities eclipses the benefits of the current path, a strategic pivot becomes necessary. I must ask myself, am I truly the right person to scale Yazi to a significant level? Currently, my efforts are not aligned with my 'golden zone'—the realm where my skills and passions intersect most effectively.

Am I the right individual to escalate Yazi to a substantial outcome?

My lack of experience in market research, an industry where established networks and in-depth knowledge are crucial, is a notable limitation. Being significantly younger than the key players in the field, I lack the typical demographic profile, such as a PhD in market research, which often facilitates credibility and networking.
Success in this domain demands assembling a strong team, a task made challenging by my limited industry connections and current lifestyle. I yearn to be in an environment surrounded by exceptional talent where I can both contribute and grow.
Yazi's core insight, utilising WhatsApp for data collection in research, while valuable, isn't sufficiently unique or protected to provide a competitive edge. Presently, my efforts are spread thin across areas that aren't my strengths, and building a capable team to delegate these tasks would require significant revenue or funding.
Considering these factors, joining a rapidly growing startup with a stellar management team seems like a more appealing path. It would offer me the opportunity to learn about high-quality leadership, scalable company systems, and delve into my interest in AI. Life's brevity urges me to pursue work that aligns with my skills and passions, rather than persisting in a role that doesn't fully leverage my potential.

The catalysing event

On 9 December, Yazi’s WhatsApp account was disabled (again). As a result, the number was unable to send or receive WhatsApp messages. Meta emailed me, stating the reason was due to activities that breached WhatsApp's .
This isn't a new challenge for us; it's the third such instance. Initially, our account was permanently closed in 2022. We navigated this by rebranding from AI-BO to Yazi Research, which allowed us to establish a new Meta Business Manager and bot. The account was later reinstated. However, the complexity of setting up a WhatsApp API, which requires extensive business documentation, means that creating new accounts as a workaround is not a viable solution. Each incident would require the formation of a new business entity.
This dependency on Meta’s Terms of Service has placed Yazi in a vulnerable position, with our autonomy over the company's direction feeling significantly constrained. The reality is stark – we are at the mercy of external policies that can disrupt our core operations without warning.
The implications are profound for our business model, which hinges on selling targeted survey responses, a strategy responsible for 95% of our revenue to date. The risk associated with this dependency has become increasingly evident. It is a clear indicator that our reliance on this model is unsustainable in its current form.

Yazi faces long-term challenges in its business model:

Competitive Edge: Yazi is incrementally better, not significantly superior to competitors. Its appeal is mainly to clients new to market research, facing stiff competition from well-funded, innovative companies.
Revenue Model: Yazi's revenue is non-recurring, reliant on sporadic client needs, making financial stability uncertain.
Market Position: The simplicity of Yazi's software offers limited defense against competitors or new entrants, making it vulnerable.
Market Entry Barriers: Traditional market research relies on long-standing relationships and reputation, areas where Yazi, led by a young, inexperienced CEO, struggles.
Quality and Security Concerns: WhatsApp's limitations in preventing respondent fraud and dependency on Meta's policies create operational risks.

What I did wrong

Not owning the end-to-end product experience. Yazi is fully dependent on Rather Chat for the WhatsApp bot infrastructure and backend.
Not finding a technical cofounder. This is a software business, yet I outsourced the development of all key software components. The webapp was built by a friend who is a freelancer, and the WhatsApp bot’s backend is built and owned by Rather Chat. Yazi set out to be a software business, yet I did not hire a technical person. Bootstrapping did not make it
Not going niche enough. If Yazi had potentially gone after a very niche segment and produced reports and marketing assets on that segment, we could have become the market leader in that segment and been able to easily sell to that buyer. Instead, we had clients across a variety of industries who all had different demands and needs and thus didn’t help Yazi build ‘best-in-class’ skills and expertise in a particular domain of research.
Not focusing on building the software part of the business sooner. Playing in the services space and competing in areas Yazi will never win in
Not delegating. I should have focused on how to automate and delegate tasks that are not leveraged in terms of outcomes and could have been delegated.

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