Why / How you should start a company when you have a full-time job Todd Garland Founder, BuySellAds.com
My Story (real quick) Started working on the idea for BuySellAds in March 2007 while freelancing to pay the bills. Was scratching my own itch, didn’t set out to “build a company”. Came across a post on Craigslist for a “Devigner” (designer/developer) by Dharmesh Shah of HubSpot, where I worked for ~ 2 years. Seeing HubSpot go from 5 – 50 people in 1 year inspired me to do BSA. “Finished” the 1st version around July 2007. BSA was put on hold nearly 6 months until I acquired the domain name for $2,160 in January 2008. Spent the next few weekends putting final touches on the app, and launched late-February 2008. Spent the next 11 months working on BSA by morning/night/weekend and HubSpot by day before leaving HubSpot to do BSA full-time January 1st 2009.
Startup Motivations (the WHY) Financial Freedom Creative Freedom (good) Ego & Pride
WHY: Financial Freedom The Pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow. Great reason to start a company. Your back up against the wall, sink or swim. Different stages to financial freedom: Making cool supplemental income Making enough to quit your full-time job Making enough to hire people & grow your company Making enough to “cashout” at the end of each year Making enough to start other investments Making enough to “retire”, otherwise known as “an event” (chances are, you’ll never actually retire)
WHY: Creative Freedom Creative Freedom = going from crazy idea to a real living product, without the red tape. Full-time job = working on someone else's idea. Greater emotional attachment to YOUR users experience – treat them like family, they help put food on your table. “Pivots” can be more dramatic since they will be less expensive.
WHY: (good) Ego & Pride Success becomes more valuable than cash Pride is confidence, and being confident will help you win You will never fall asleep while at work again Your mind will never be more active
Getting Started (the HOW) Finding the idea Building your app Launch Support Competition Ethics Time Money
HOW: Finding the idea Don’t be desperate, but be alert – just like dating, desperation usually doesn’t work. Business model – if you’re not sure how it’s going to make money, move on. The “homerun” – you’re not looking for a homerun, you’re looking for a small win. Remember, this is probably your first startup/company.
HOW: Finding the idea (cont…) A practical business that people already understand is helpful (i.e. buying/selling ads on websites). Focus on the zero-touch. We don’t “touch” people at BSA until they come through support. We touch only ~ 35% of our users each month. You don’t have to be an inventor, you can be a re-inventor. Every day, software gets cheaper and faster to build.
HOW: Building Your App Manual processes are OK: 1st version of BSA, I was resizing screenshots in Photoshop like crazy as sites were submitted. No cancellation feature, had to ask via support. No “cashout’ feature, had to ask via support. If you’re not a programmers, it’s OK, build it as best you can, and once your ideas are into the workflow, pass off to a real programmer.
HOW: Launch Don’t be trigger shy (I was). Not launching is more embarrassing than launching. Iterate as much as necessary. We still release ~ once per week at BSA, sometimes more. However, at beginning, we would go weeks without a release. Don’t plan too far in advance & don’t promise new features.
HOW: Support If you’re a jerk or don’t care much about your users, it will be obvious. Become obsessed with support queue = 0 Always be honest. Some users will be very aggressive, but honesty, accuracy, and fairness will will the toughest of customers. Email is fine for support, you don’t need anything fancier than that at first.
HOW: Competition Simple is harder than it sounds. Simplicity can be a competitive advantage. Know thy competitor, but ignore thy competitor as much as possible. The more you focus on them, the quicker you will lose. When your users leave for the competition, work really hard to save them and/or understand why they are leaving. Clone Wars = you’re doing something right.
HOW: Ethics Wouldn’t advise starting a competing company, too many legal & ethical issues Must be up-front with your current employer State-specific laws might make this tough, and make sure you know what’s in your employment contract. Re-write software once you leave employer (we did this, just for good measure).
HOW: Time You don’t need much more than 6 hours of sleep each night. 9 – 5 is 8 hours, so that leaves 4 hours a day to work on your startup, 4 hours for family time, and 2 hours for stuff like showering and eating. You are never actually ON vacation. Even while on your Honeymoon, your business will need attention.
HOW: Money Be smart with your equity. Equity is not cheap. Funding is necessary for some, but definitely not all. Which way you go depends on the type of business you’re looking to build. Small wins ($1mm - $35mm) are a lot sexier without investors.
In Conclusion “Shit or get off the pot” While listening to this, you were wasting valuable time that could have been spent working on your company Image used under Creative Commons from http://www.flickr.com/photos/thelifeofbryan/