My Startup Experience
When someone asks what I am working at, I'm used to say that I'm working on my startups. Yes, startupS with a "S" because they are different products for different markets developed with different teams. This affirmation generates a lot of different reactions such as "hum, an adventurer ..." or "so, doesn't work in a good company, hum", "interesting! hope you be successful" among others.
But as the time is passing by, the downsides of choosing the "startup path" begin to show up. I don't regret taking this path, but it is worth to tell you what I'm thinking in an attempt to make you learn something from my experience so far:
Needless to say, I'm not making much money, as I'm not getting paid for pursuing my ideals, so my economies and some freelance jobs let me alive on the edge. It's been a year without doing anything expensive, buying a new laptop, travelling for fun, etc. I did go to Sweden to work/tourism, but get paid for that and stopped the startups development for some months, so actually doesn't count. There's another sum that I won't like to make. The money that I could be making if I were an employee. How much I gave up to purse my ideas. Actually I can calculate it and don't give a shit, but few people take that into account before starting a startup.
Not learning as much as I used to. Back in my day employee days, I used to spend a lot of money in trainings or time digging some interesting stuff, although was hard to keep up with the news everyday because of the work. Now it's easier to keep up with the news, but it's hard to dig in some interesting stuff because I use that time to improve the products as much as I could.
It's a lonely road. You're the ultimate responsible for the startup success or failure, and the team usually is small (1 or 2 people), so it's kind of being lost in an island and make a project to go back to your country. You may succeed or die along the way. You need to learn how to discipline yourself, your habits, and so on. You won't get much feedback either, unless you go abroad and ask for them or read much. Learn from the others' mistakes and that's it.
On the other hand, during this journey, I've learned some things that helped me keeping up with those projects.
Make a business plan, even if it's a one-man show. Lean Canvas may help as well, although it isn't a replacement. I knew what I was up to with Gauntlet, a hub of security scanners, but after few months, it looked like an eternal project without clear goals. That sense of 'infinity project' really affects your momentum. So, I went back to the drawing board and set up the so famous, MVP, or better yet, MLP, Minimum Lovable Project. The bare minimum for users to fall in love with your solution, instead of 'something that works'. Just setting this north was enough to get me back to the path and power me up to continue going forward. I also recommend using Trello for organizing your activities.
Focus. It's so damn easy to lose it. You may get job offers for interesting positions in good companies, and if you be in a weakness state, such as "oh this project will take so long ...", you may fall for it. Not only that, but trouble pops up every time. Learn to say "no" is a must. Learn to separate time for each stuff is a must. Learn to do things rapidly is a must. If you're slow, you're dead.
The power of small wins. The best motivation ever is progress. Harvard said that, just google it, or click here. So, the more you see the progress increasing, the more you'll keep coding. That's the very simple recipe to go the item 4.
Getting shit done. The bare minimum that I will do for sure is to make both 100% functionally complete. Then go date some users :) It's just too much work to leave things unfinished. There are some articles related to this topic as well such as this and this.
You're done reading? The clock is ticking, move on!