My Experience Creating A One Person Startup
I quit my job as a software developer to create a small development tool as a GitHub app that I hope to sell. I started working on this idea fulltime from Feb 2020 and I’m now ready to (soft) launch.
In a lot of ways it has been quite challenging and I’ve had some learnings I’d like to share.
I am uniquely privelaged
I am lucky enough to have the savings to comfortably quit my job for 1 year and not have to worry about money. The project I am doing is small enough that I don’t need any capital, just my time to see it through. This has enabled me to set some unusual rules for my startup.
- The work has to be enjoyable.
- I should push my limits and learn new things.
To me this is not the stereotype of a startup. I assume most startups will be churning out low quality applications to minimise investment and the test the idea. However, this is just not a rewarding way to develop for me so I haven’t gone in this direction.
Technological freedom is awesome
Businesses are fairly conservative with technology choices. They want the tried and true that will give them a reliable return on investment. Conversely developers want to keep improving and learning new things. Always sticking to well established tech can feel cumbersome at times when you know new tech could add a lot of value.
The best thing about starting your own startup (if you have the luxury) is working with tech that is hard to get approved in most companies. In my case I am writing the app in Haskell among other new (for me) tech choices.
This has been a great learning opportunity such that even if my startup completely fails I will consider it worth it.
I’m learning so much! But I have noone to share it with 😢
Working by yourself is extremely challenging. Even though the tech I am using is awesome to work with and I am learning a lot, it is lonely and unmotivating working alone. Day to day I am actually less happy than when I was working at my previous company with collegues. This is inspite of all the great things about this new challenge.
I keep learning new things and want to share it, but I have no teammates anymore. This challenge has been exacerbated due to covid lockdown, as I haven’t been able to at least work in a shared office. Staying motivated is difficult in these circumstances.
Teams do great work, not individuals
This is a personal belief of mine. Humans have evolved to operate together in tribes and I think we work best in groups, ideally with people of diverse backgrounds and experience.
Working by yourself is frankly scary! Everyone makes mistakes and there is no safety net. I know in some cases I am making bad decisions that another developer would catch. I just need to do my best and leverage as much automated feedback tools (ie. code linting) as I can.
Limited ability to produce high quality
As much as I planned to do things ‘right’, it turns out there is a huge amount to setup for a software company, even a very small one. Monitoring, CI, secrets management, business stuff such as promo websites, legal terms etc. I have constantly been faced with the choice of, “This isn’t quite right, but is 80% good enough and does the job for now. Do I spend the extra time to make it really good?”.
Most of the time I am forced to say no, this can wait. This is very different from my previous work in companies that are well established. I used to be able to take a small piece of work and make it really really good. Now, there is too much to work on and it is constantly irritating knowing I am letting some edge cases through and not being able to do a ‘great’ job.
Working alone has been very challenging. I would only recommend it to people who are highly self motivated. Some days I just have to take the day off as I can’t maintain it.
Still, overall I consider this time to be worth it for the learnings alone. It has given me a really good breadth of technical and business knowledge as I have been forced to do all aspects.
Fingers crossed my app doesn’t fall in a heap and people think it is useful. 😅
I’ll announce the project in the future, but for now I want to soft launch and slowly ramp up, so will not include any details today.