My Startup Experience
When someone asks me what I'm working on, I usually say that I'm working on my startups. Yes, startups with an "S" because they are different products for different markets developed with different teams. This statement elicits various reactions like "oh, an adventurer..." or "so, you don't work for a good company, huh?" or "interesting! I hope you become successful." However, as time goes by, the downsides of choosing the startup path begin to emerge. I don't regret taking this path, but I want to share my thoughts and experiences so that you can learn from them. Here's what I've been thinking:
Financial struggles: Needless to say, I'm not making much money as I'm not getting paid for pursuing my ideals. I rely on my savings and freelance jobs to get by. It has been a year without indulging in any expensive purchases, like a new laptop or recreational travel. I did go to Sweden for work and tourism, but I was paid for that and it interrupted the development of my startups for a few months. There's also the opportunity cost of not being an employee and the potential earnings I gave up to pursue my ideas. While I can calculate the monetary value of this, I don't dwell on it too much. Unfortunately, not many people consider these factors before starting a startup.
Reduced learning opportunities: In my days as an employee, I used to spend a lot of money on training and invest time in exploring interesting topics. Although it was challenging to keep up with the latest news due to work commitments, I still managed to delve into interesting subjects. Now, it's easier to stay updated with news, but finding time to explore in-depth becomes a challenge. Most of my time is dedicated to improving my products as much as possible.
Loneliness and personal responsibility: Embarking on the startup journey can be a lonely road. As the ultimate responsible for the success or failure of the startup, the team is usually small, often consisting of just one or two people. It feels like being stranded on an island, working on a project to find your way back home. You may succeed or fail along the way. It requires self-discipline, developing productive habits, and navigating without much feedback. Learning from the mistakes of others becomes crucial.
On the other hand, throughout this journey, I have learned some valuable lessons that have helped me stay motivated and focused on my projects:
Create a business plan: Even if you're a one-person show, having a business plan is essential. Tools like Lean Canvas can be helpful, but they are not a replacement. I initially started with Gauntlet, a hub of security scanners, but after a few months, it felt like an endless project without clear goals. This sense of an "infinite project" can significantly impact your momentum. So, I went back to the drawing board and embraced the concept of the Minimum Lovable Project (MLP) - the bare minimum that users can fall in love with, rather than just something that works. Setting this north star was enough to reinvigorate my motivation and keep me moving forward. I also recommend using Trello for organizing your activities.
Maintain focus: It's incredibly easy to lose focus. You may receive enticing job offers for interesting positions at reputable companies. If you're in a weak state of mind, thinking "this project will take so long...," you may be tempted to give in. Additionally, troubles and distractions can arise at any moment. Learning to say "no" and effectively managing your time are crucial skills. Being efficient and working quickly is a must. In the startup world, if you're slow, you're at a significant disadvantage.
Embrace the power of small wins: Progress is the best motivator. As Harvard suggests in their research on the power of small wins, the more progress you see, the more motivated you become to keep coding and pushing forward. It's a simple recipe for success that leads to the next point.
Get things done: Ensuring that both projects are 100% functionally complete is the minimum I commit to doing. After that, it's time to engage with users. Leaving things unfinished is not an option because it would require too much work to return to them later. There are relevant articles on this topic that you may find helpful, such as the ones mentioned.
Finished reading? The clock is ticking, so keep moving forward!