This post was written on 9/6/2021 and finalized today.
My plan for the Eureka Room keeps changing. (I feel like that statement sums up the entire 8-10 year saga of The Eureka Room.)
The June Plan
In June, when covid looked like it was on the outs, the plan was to run the ER in my house. Once I had 2-3 bookings a week for a month out and a waiting list, I would feel confident about renting a place to run it. Then, once that was doing 20-30 showings a week, I would consider that a pretty winning idea that I could take to investors or get a loan to get it to the next level.
I hustled and got the whole end to end experience made and had my first paying customers at the end of July.
The August Plan (#1)
Then covid came back and we quickly went from stage 1 to stage 5. I also had some family stuff come up and needed to go to Ohio for a while. I paused the bookings.
Back in Austin mid-August I was frustrated that this project continues to take long. I wanted to get multiple rooms up faster and just make this happen more quickly. I also have been thinking the “2.0” version should be all projectors, not LEDs. That was going to be no small challenge.
Going with the “faster” plan, required me to solve a few big issues I had been sidestepping thus far:
- Soundproofing. How do I keep the loud music and screaming from one room from going to the next?
- Making ER 2.0 with projectors and keeping it safe. I want an all-rear-projector solution. How on earth do you build something like that?
- City regulations. Dealing with the city. I don’t want to set it up and then get shut down for some code issue. What are the issues I might have to face, and how will that effect things like soundproofing and the all-projector design?
- Finding a space.
- Finding employees. I don’t want to have to run it 30 hours a week by myself.
The last two items are challenging, but not ones I’m super concerned about. The other ones are the ones filled with dread-inducing ambiguity.
When you don’t know the answer fear can slink in and paralyze you. I recently read this quote of Isaac Lindsky:
“Fear is familiarity’s imposter. It passes off what you dread for what you know. Offers the worst in place of the ambiguous. Serves up anxiety in the absence of comfort. Substitutes assumption for reason. Under the warped logic of fear, anything is better than the uncertain.”
Working on Dreaded Tasks
Instead of focusing on the feelings of fear and anxiety, I asked this:
Who or what can make the ambiguousness go away?
Ambiguity is the oxygen fear lives on. If you can remove the ambiguity you can kill off the fear.
The questions above are very specific to the Eureka Room so I can’t get the specific answers I need from a google search. (Example: I google soundproofing and see that I could insulate the walls… will the city let me do that? Even if they do, is that the best option? What is a good enough option? A good enough price?)
I need to reach out to people who know and can help.
For soundproofing I can talk to sellers of the material (they’re motivated to help me) and maybe owners of rehearsal studios (less motivated probably) and also the city to find out what is involved time/money for each option.
For ER 2.0 I also need to talk to the city. I need to talk to myself and decide what my design constraints are (are gaps and standoffs permissible in the walls? If so, how much?). I also need to talk to sellers of the parts (acrylic, glass, etc)
I also need to talk to the city to minimize surprises. If they show up and see a big box with LEDs all over it – is that OK or will they freak out? Etc.
The August Plan (#2)
So I started making drawings of how we might construct this “2.0” version. I talked to plastics companies and glass companies trying to understand how to make a rear projection screen that was essentially free-floating so that no supports in the back would block the image. I researched sound proofing materials. I made drawings. I chart of the high-level ideas I had:
The list was big and daunting.
I was trying to go faster on the ER but this was going to slow me down. I wished I had someone that could just design it and figure these things out. But I was already wondering how I would pay to build it and it was hard to imagine hiring someone to design it as well. The income from my one and only customer was not going to stretch that far.
The Soundproofing Question
Of all the challenges to be overcome, the sound was the trickiest one. Sound is like water. If you want to keep it in a room you need to make sure it is completely sealed. Oh.. sound is actually worse than water because it can magically transmit through the walls of a sealed room.
How was I going to have more than one room not bleed sound into the second room? Without actually building two rooms and experimenting, this was going to be a hard problem to solve.
The challenges that came to mind were:
- I needed three soundproofed rooms, at minimum: 2 ER’s and the waiting room (I didn’t want people in the waiting room to hear the people experiencing what they would experience. ) If I couldn’t find a space that have 3 rooms that could nicely fit 2 Eureka Rooms and a waiting room and could be soundproofed, it would mean having to build walls or barriers that the city would almost certainly have to inspect.
- The cost of building the barriers was unknown but likely not too cheap.
- I don’t know anything about building barriers.
- Finding a rental that would be a fit for 3 rooms like I needed would be very challenging.
- Many of the options out there share walls with neighbors. This likely meant soundproofing or finding neighbors that ran on a opposite schedule than the Eureka Room.
Getting There Faster
ER “2.0” R&D and build was going to be expensive and soundproofing was likely expensive and possibly very time-consuming. Somehow my “speed up” plan was slowing me down.
Then I looked at the 1-year plan. Suppose I find the capital to build ER 2.0 and I solve the soundproofing question. What do I do when I want to add a third room? Do I cut lease and move? Do I build out an even bigger space to prepare for the future? That seems like getting ahead of myself.
I really couldn’t find a path I liked that was *faster* and not way more expensive or carried a risk of being way slower.
So I took a nap.
Or more accurately, I laid down in an attempt to take a nap, but it was more of a semi-conscious haze wherein I my challenges and my brain met while I sat on the sidelines. And then the idea came to me that could potentially solve all these challanges.
First, as much as I wanted to build “2.0”, I don’t. Instead I just build a second “1.0” which is identical. I know that one works and people will pay for it and people enjoy it. If I can get those both making money, then that would be enough to hire someone to make the “2.0” design.
But what about sound bleeding from room to room and to the waiting room? How do I soundproof?
Answer? I don’t soundproof. I don’t have to. Why not? Because both rooms will play the same program at the exact same time.
The waiting room won’t have bleed because I’ll combine both groups in the welcome and training, then they go off to their respective rooms.
The biggest remaining question is how do I keep from annoying the neighbors with the sound. I could get neighbors that work complimentary hours. Or I could get a standalone building or one with no shared walls. I’ll be looking for that.
If I got up to two rooms running frequently, that would provide me the capital to hire someone to do all that design work on ER “2.0” that is better left to someone who knows more than me.
Waiting room operational cost is cut in half. I won’t be tempted to create more programs for “2.0”. I can even set the two rooms up to face each other, potentially paving the way for a “big room”.
The September-October Plan
In terms of capital investment, I’m looking at this plan:
- Run it in my house until I have booked 2-3 showings a week for a month out + have a waiting list. That triggers:
- Rent a space for ~3000/month that could potentially hold the waiting room and 2-3 Eureka Rooms. Move the one from my house to this space. Run it until I have 25 showings/ week for 4 weeks out + waiting list. When that is triggered:
- Build a second “1.0” model. Run it until they are both at 25 showings/week for 4 weeks out + waiting list. That triggers:
- TBD, but probably a new bigger, custom space, “2.0”, investment.
*It might be the case that most people do not book out four weeks because they like to be spontaneous, etc. I might need a better way to determine high demand. One option might be discounted presale tickets. That way people can commit to going but have the flexibility to go in more of a last minute situation.
This also depends a lot on covid. I think I will start having masked people over here in a week or so but will be keeping an eye on the numbers.