lessons from startupland
I'm currently trying to start my own company, it's a pretty basic B2B software company, I thought that it might be informative to make a thread on here that I could continuously update with lessons from startupland. The thread may provide insight into what it is like trying to do a bootstrapped startup, and might be helpful for anyone who is considering doing their own bootstrapped startup in the future
we launched about 1.5 weeks ago, I am focusing full time on sales (in extremely lucky position to be able to live with my parents and have low expenses so I can focus on this full time) and my cofounder is focusing part time on software development. we are 50/50 cofounders and have been working on the project together for a little over 2 months (I originally had the idea about 7 months ago though, and it took going through two other potential cofounders who didn't turn out to be a fit until I found the guy that I am working with now)
we haven't raised any VC money and don't intend to. we aren't seeking to scale this up into something massive, we are just trying to hit a single here
lessons from startupland:
- finding a committed cofounder is hard af, especially if you are just an 'idea guy' like myself (probably swiped on 1500+ profiles on YC cofounder matching and didn't even end up finding a cofounder there).
- what you have to understand is that these software developer guys, even young ones, are already making great money at their day job, I think that this makes them more risk averse compared to someone who isn't making great money in their day job and would thus be more willing to jump at an opportunity to work on something in their free time that could potentially make them more money, for whatever reason a lot of these guys that I talked to just seemed extremely risk averse. some of them wanted me to pre sell customers in order for them to come on board as the software developer. okay but then the project would have no risk. basically it felt like a lot of the people who I talked to weren't willing to work on something that might fail. some of them will probably never find a project to work on
- if the software developer is good then they most likely have ideas for their own personal projects that they want to work on in their free time (whether they be money making projects or projects to work on for fun), they are already probably working on these projects before you even contact them about your idea
- if the software developer is good then there are other projects that they could work on if they wanted to. you are competing against every other idea guy out there, some of those idea guys may have funding, they may have a more validated idea, they may have more experience in business/connections
you can't just be an 'idea guy'. with something like this everything is basically either the technical stuff (coding) or sales. you are going to need to get comfortable selling if you don't have technical skills - selling potential cofounders on working with you, selling potential customers on using your product, etc.
don't ignore red flags just because you are desperate to find someone to work on the project with you. when the developer has an illuminati sign in his Gmail profile picture, that probably should have been a sign that he wasn't the right guy. there were maybe red flags with the other potential cofounder too but I ignored them because I wanted to finish finding someone to work on the project with, well that just slowed me down by like a month
both you and everyone else are going to underestimate how long it will take to do everything, everything will take longer than you first thought that it was going to take, even when you think that you are accounting for everything taking longer than you first thought that it was going to take
I'm not sure if there is a cool lesson for this one but during the process of building out our product we discovered that Google is a scam job (in order to do what we had in mind in terms of integrations, part of the Google verification process would have required us to pay $15-75k for a third party security assessment that would only be valid for one year). we just dumbed down our product a bit as a workaround
test your website before you start selling it (first potential customer tried to buy $500 worth of credits on our site for $625 - the payment processing integration didn't work).
do not make changes that could potentially break the site at random times, especially if the random time is the morning of a demo (on demo with second potential customer, first demo, tried to log in to site and logging in didn't work while on the live demo, couldn't show the rest of the site and was pretty embarrassing, most likely lost the potential customer, happened because cofounder made random change to site earlier that morning instead of making changes on a schedule and then testing after).
Hope that some of this stuff helps or that people find it interesting. I would love to hear from/connect with other bootstrapped company founders, whether you are just starting out or further along than I am. Let me know if you guys have any questions.