When James Xabregas founded Sparkello, he wanted to create a platform that supports goal setters to achieve whatever they set out to achieve. He was originally inspired by a website 43Things, which would ask “What do you want to do with your life?”
“You could list your dreams and aspirations and connect with other people who had those same goals. For a while it was a popular site, with millions of users and great press coverage. But it failed to adapt to the mobile-app age and just ended up shutting down,” James says.
“With Sparkello I really want to bring back the core of that idea in a mobile user experience but go further with tools that help people stay on track with their goals and present it through a modern social networking experience.
James believes goal setting is a common process that many people engage in on a regular basis. The three main factors that have been found to help people to achieve their goals are, recording their goals, regularly reviewing their goals, and having a social support network to lean on when you need help.
Prior to working on Sparkello, James spent over a decade working in enterprise IT within the higher education sector.He’d been leading a long-term project for a few years and then, a week before the project was set to go live, he was told the whole project would be cancelled due to an organisational restructure.
“That was a turning point for me because I thought to myself ‘Why am I spending my life working on projects that matter so little that they can be cancelled at a moment’s notice?’” James says.
” I’d been thinking of the idea for Sparkello for some time and I knew I wanted to do something that could make a difference to people’s lives. So, I left that job and began working on the business plan and design for what would become Sparkello.”
One of the biggest obstacles James faced in the beginning of his entrepreneurial journey was similar to the challenges faced by many at the start of the pandemic: juggling work while home schooling children!
“Luckily that didn’t last too long, but it was a bit of a crazy year. I had also hoped that I could have done more networking as I began my start-up, but COVID impacted that too. Working as a solo founder in isolation over an extended period can mess with your confidence. There were a few times where I thought to myself “Why am I doing this? Is anyone even going to use this?” James says.
“I gave up for about a month at one point and just ended up working on landscaping my garden. My wife has been very supportive, so I think that’s the biggest reason I was able to keep working through it. I eventually got back to work and finished the initial release. My garden is looking pretty good too!”
Sparkello is already receiving a huge response and now James is focusing on growing the user base, as well as working on expanding the social functionality with the app.
“Version one of the app was all about implementing the goal setting and vision board functionality. Subsequent versions will allow users to communicate and connect around shared goals,” James says.
James, who is based in Brisbane, says he’s found the virtual community of Fishburners very helpful.
“It does make me feel like I’m tapped into a broader community of founders who are going through the same things as me.”
Here’s James’ advice for other startups:
“Be prepared for the initial product development to take longer than you expect. I tend to feel like the whole concept of an MVP has been twisted to the point where it now means just release something as quick as you can even if it has terrible UX and is full of bugs. I really don’t like that idea. In my view an MVP should be limited in functionality, but it still needs to be polished and have great UX.”
“Before you start out you also need to make sure you’re in a financial position where you can focus on your start-up for the long term even with major life disruptions. Nothing goes according to plan and those early timelines are always way too optimistic. As John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you when you’re making other plans.”