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David Heinemeier Hansson at Startup School 08

startupschool · Youtube · 72 HN points · 80 HN comments
HN Theater has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention startupschool's video "David Heinemeier Hansson at Startup School 08".
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David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of the Ruby on Rails framework and Partner at 37Signals gives insight into creating a profitable startup company.
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Check out, if you haven't already.

Rob and Mike have great info, start in the archives.

Rob will mention his stair step approach to leveling up.

You can follow him from drop shipping beach towels, an invoicing app, to a SaaS app to co-founding Drip through to his exit and now funding companies with TinySeed.

You only get so many at bats to start something, so pick a good idea and then focus your time on it when you can.

I'm going through the same thing as you, I've been dreaming about it and had many false starts the past 10 years. I finally have the right idea (I think) now I just need to execute on it.

For inspiration I'd recommend listening to this once in a while.

@DHH Startup School Talk '08

Good luck getting things off the ground.

Don't take/pursue funding focus on your product and getting signups. You probably don't need funding.

I second the recommendations of taking on some consulting projects to extend your runway.

Start listening to, start in the archives.

Check out applying for the next round of if you aren't profitable when getting close to the end of your runway.

build your saas is another good podcast for inspiration.

Oh, speaking of inspiration. @DHH startup school 2008

Good luck growing your SaaS.

Thank you! I did try applying to tinyseed, but might have been too early. Will have to try again after getting some more traction.
"Here are some odds, if you’re building just a simple company to charge a few people, what are the odds of that being a success? 1:5, 1:10 I don’t know. But the odds of you building the next Facebook or MySpace are probably not 1:10, if it was I wouldn’t be giving this speech, I’d be trying to make the next Facebook." - @DHH StartupSchoolTalk 2008

This is still one of my favorite talks.

Thank you for sharing the video is great!
Yeah, this sounds like something people would say in 2008, but not 2018. Facebook has lost a lot of favor since then.
y, but it's still a dream for lots of devs, I'm not a fan of Fbook but I love the story of how it was created (especially the movie version, even if it's not all true) and how much wealth it generated for the founders and employees.
Freelancing does seem to be feast or famine. A lot of it is your network and happening to connect with the right person at the right time to get good projects.

For financial freedom in freelancing you need a long run of really good connections and projects. Even then you need to keep that pipeline full/moving.

I think the key is finding a way to sell products/training and/or a SaaS or productized service. You're really only going to be free when you aren't depending on a handful of clients for your lively hood.

So I would spend 80% of your time on client projects and 20% on your own info products, productized service/SaaS.

I'm just starting doing this myself 80/20. It's always a challenge to keep your own products moving forward. So hopefully setting aside 20% to really focus on my own SaaS will allow me to get this launched in 2020.

Here's some inspiration:

DHH Startup School

I know success stories are probably few and far between but this is doable. Having revenue coming in that isn't tied to the hours you work is a game changer.

Right now you have to sell your time for money, but build something that earns you money while you sleep.

Charge for hosting and maintenance, automate something valuable to your clients. Sell info products/courses. Create a SaaS.

Check out Rob Walling's stair step approach, in

Good luck in 2020.

One day a week is an awesome idea. I've been trying to work on one of my projects more often, and I think I'll start giving this a shot.
Don't feel depressed . . . you're only seeing the success stories, there are lots of us out here who have failed at building an MVP, a SaaS a Startup (multiple times). You just have to keep at it till you get the right idea at the right time and execute on it.

You probably can build an MVP in a week, but it depends on the idea you're building out too. If you need 2 to 4 weeks doing it part time, do it. The key is executing on the idea, testing out your product market fit.

You'll always have users saying I need x, y and z to use this.

You don't have to be in such a hurry.

If you haven't heard @DHH's startup school talk check it out it's still inspiring.

Check out the podcast. You can follow Rob from drop shipping beach towels, to buying SaaS apps to founding Drip and having an exit. Great info and advice.

It's always good to dream.

But don't let your side hustle consume you.

Other than watching out for employee agreements regarding IP of what you create, I would keep your side projects top secret, domain privacy, etc, don't talk about it with your coworkers, don't work on it with company resources or even visit the domain(s) from work. Do all development/work outside of work on your own hardware. Not only so you own the IP, but also your employer might not like you pursuing your own thing and could effect raises etc.

I would start listening to Rob has tons of great advice for what you're wanting to do.

It's hard to generate revenue from a side project, you might be better off doing some freelance work to generate extra income. Try to network with friends in the industry not connected to your employer first. The online freelance sites aren't super helpful, as it's usually a race to the bottom on pricing.

Building an info product or a website with ad revenue or SaaS would be a great revenue addition too.

It's not easy but it's possible. You have to execute and put in the effort though. It's easy to get caught up listening to podcasts about it, buying domains, setting up landing pages and not putting in the work to execute the idea to make it a success.

Here's a great talk from @DHH Start Up School 2008, but still relevant.

Good luck with your side projects.

Definitely still viable.

@DHH at startup school, still a great talk and still relevant.

Check out this podcast:

Lots of good information about building your own web projects and startups.

Jun 23, 2019 · vram22 on Startup idea checklist
>But what do you call a new business that a founder is fully committed to (so, not a side business) but without an aim to grow to a huge valuation (just enough profit to live)?

You call it "a little Italian restaurant on the web". At least, @DHH (Rails and Basecamp founder) does:

Short compilation of his original talk, by Werner Vogels, Amazon CTO:

Full DHH talk at Startup School 2008:

And it can give more than just enough profit to live. A lot more.

As far as working, I think you might be happier doing your own thing. If you have some runway I would look at starting your own company.

It sounds like you might be happy with a lifestyle business.

Inspiration: @DHH Startup School Talk (2008) it's still relevant and a great talk. Lots of great quotes in this one. is a great podcast, start in the archives. You can follow Rob along from starting out with job board sites, he even mentions drop shipping beach towels, to an invoicing app to an SEO SaaS app, to founding Drip all the way through to a nice exit. Inspirational and sound advice along the way.

Check those out, that might be your path to a job you can be happy with.

I enjoy work and you have to make a living but there is more to life. Family, friends, pets, volunteering, mentoring, helping others. These might bring a new perspective of work time vs personal time and give you things to look forward to outside of work.

Reach out and find a mentor/group/mastermind to help guide you through this time.

Take care and good luck.

David Heinemeier Hansson gave this speech at one of the early YC startup schools and he's still right about everything. This feels like such an impossible relic now that YC is firmly part of the grow-like-cancer VC universe. How things change.

The hope the dream, chasing the SaaS.

Lots of developers succeed with side projects, products/SaaS. It isn't easy, but it's possible, worth chasing.

Checkout @DHH's Startup School Talk for some inspiration.

Check out the podcast if you haven't already.

Rob is a great story to follow, from drop shipping, to job sites, invoicing app to founding and exiting He calls it the stair step approach building up to a SaaS.

Start in the archives Episode 1. All the advice is still relevant.

Good luck.

SaaS is hard, I've worked on several SaaS ideas but haven't found success yet, this could be the year though. It's about execution and keeping at it. There is tons of great advice and inspiring podcasts, but you have to do the work, execute on your idea.

Listen to this for inspiration:

I also highly recommend

You can follow Rob and his journey from small apps to SaaS and a nice exit with

Lots of great advice, start back on episode 1 in their archives. It was a great ride/story. Lots of great advice on SaaS, marketing, product market fit, etc.

Why have you not found success yet in your words? What do you keep getting wrong?

Listen to the archives, you can follow along with Rob as he stair steps up from job boards to a SaaS with an exit. Lots of great advice on creating a startup with kids, job, mortgage.

@DHH Startup School Talk (Inspiration)

Check any agreements you have with your company they may contain wording that anything you create is their IP or other restrictions.

If that checks out I would look in to building income with products and eventually a SaaS app.

Listen to the archives here:

Rob and Mike cover starting a business on the side and lots of topics that will be of interest to you.

This is inspiring too: @DHH Startup School Talk 2008

Keep your focus on your family and on your day job.

There are hours here and there when your family is asleep or busy that you can put that time in to building products. If you enjoy this type of work you can build your own products instead of watching TV two hours a night. Follow Rob's stair step approach. Like DHH says it's still hard, but it's definitely doable.

Good luck.

Most profitable ideas are something that solves a problem you or one of your founders and who's customers would be businesses or individuals who could save/make money using your service in their own business.

For Inspiration Checkout the businesses on indiehackers. Listen to their podcast too.

Good Advice - DHH Startup School

Listen to the archive starting at episode 1 Rob goes from drop shipping beach towels and jobs websites through a couple successful software products to founding and exiting with Drip.

That's why they call it work.

It's not always fun or perfect.

Sounds like you are doing alright, able to help your family, find jobs and able to change jobs. So focus on the positive.

Now as far as doing your own thing that's a great dream to work at. You can do it while working. Just don't try to go the investor route.

Here's some inspiration:

@DHH Startup School Talk

Follow Rob from drop shipping beach towels to creating and selling

Good luck, enjoy the ride.

If you are getting traction and enjoy what you are doing focus on that and keep working at it. You might not be interested in selling in 6 to 12 months or you might sell for 10x what you would sell for now.

If you haven't check out @DHH's start up school talk. (Link is to a section for you, but go back and listen to it all)

First off get some help/guidance.

Call a suicide hotline, even one in the US if you are considering it.

The answer to this isn't suicide or fleeing the country.

Consider winding down the company and getting out the funds you can. Close it properly to avoid any future tax issues.

Reach out to patio11 (Patrick McKenzie) he's born in the US lives in Japan. He's commenting here. Try to connect with him privately.

He can probably help you get to an english speaking accountant.

Occupy your mind/time with positive things, exercise, communicate with friends and family, see the sites locally. Do things you enjoy.

As far as staying in Japan, talk to patio11 about that.

Business/Job sounds like you want to have your own business. It's tough staying motivated working for a company or having your own.

Get some advice on winding down your company, getting your money out of it and staying in Japan. You'll feel better once those are sorted out.

Would it be possible for you to move back to the US close to friends and family to reset and plan your next move?

It's hard creating your own company and it's hard wanting to create your own company while you're working for someone else.

Check out Rob's stair step process on

Rob's wife might be able to help you out too:

Check out these:

I think patio11 should be your first go to on this. He should have lots of relevant advice.

Good luck, take care of yourself.

This is an old interview with GrubHub founder on mixergy but it's right up your alley with OrderHappy. He talks about what he did initially.

Selling to restaurants is super hard.

Check out if you haven't already.

@DHH Startup School Talk

Thanks for the links, the interview was really interesting and enlightened me a bit more about how much work there is to do
This might just be your first go at it. A semi-successful university project that you unplug and move on to your next idea that is in a better market. Or you might be able to make it work. Restaurants are an interesting space, but really hard. Don't be too married to this idea though.
I 100% get what you mean. That's why I've tried to market Order Happy at all businesses that are selling products such as clothing stores or DIY stores ect. but I'm struggling at selling that point. Who knows though in the future it may not even be an ordering system!
Congrats on getting traction.

I think you are too small to consider funding.

Even though you are downmarket I would look at raising your plans. Looks like your average is around $23. Even though you are downmarket of clearbit they should be higher.

You can grandfather in your existing customers. But I would rework your pricing so you start at $49 min and move up from there. Structure your plans where the more value your clients get their plans increase accordingly. So build in a way to upgrade them to higher plans as they use your app more.

$1-2k per month sounds like a lot to support 30 customers. Look at ways you can still provide a great app/support and lower your burn rate.

Don't look for funding, maintain control and keep adding signups. That $1-$2k is you investing in your business and then you can have 100% of the profit in the future. I think you can lower your burn rate though.

Good luck taking it to the next level.

If you haven't checked these out yet give them a listen:

DHH Startup School Talk

Listen to their archive, great tips and inspiration from what Rob has done over the years.

Search for patio11 on here and check out his posts, podcast and book.

@DHH's Startup School Talk has your answer:

For a VC startup the odds are tiny for success and will most likely fail.

Take the first jump and build a small niche product first.

You'll have a better chance at success and you can use that experience for your larger venture next time.

Good talk, thanks for sharing.

"... difference between having minus $10k vs $1M in your bank account is much larger than having a million vs a billion..." :D

I recommend a goal of creating a product and/or SaaS.

Listen to this for inspiration: @DHH Start Up School Talk

Great advice here: Listen to the archive you'll follow Rob from drop shipping beach towels to selling his SaaS for $XXM exit.

Since you're in college you have plenty of time to make this work and build a 'lifestyle' business that will allow you to get to $2.2M and maybe even have ongoing recurring revenue on top of that.

A lot of people on HN talk about SaaS - why this route? It seems passive, but then you have to maintain it and update it to the current needs of the market. Furthermore, unless you’re a really technical mind and can do straight CS work, you have to completely understand the needs of a different field. Is this really the best way forward?
I'm in my 40s and still doing well.

If you still have the passion for development and for learning/improving you should be able to keep going.

It seems no one is 100% safe from layoffs or companies making bad decisions.

I would encourage everyone to explore creating products/SaaS if those things are interesting to you. There no better job security than running your own business. is a great podcast to learn about this. Rob details his rise from consultant, to small successful sites to a $XXM exit. Amazing story.

And this is inspiring, still my favorite talk @DHH Startup School:

"Calling your own shots, running at your own pace, that’s pretty great."

Double True, execution and hustle is the key. Don't get caught up in all the entre-porn (Amy Hoy). Learn what you need from books, podcasts and mentors. Then go for it.

You'll know you're ready because when you read a book or listen to a podcast it will all be things you've heard before.

Granted every book/podcast usually has a unique gem but after a while, you're ready.

Plus, "It's NOT rocket surgery." (DHH Startup School, still my favorite talk)

Reminds me of DHH's talk about having just a "nice italian restaurant" :
Seriously. I kept thinking about YouTube when reading the story. What Hardbound tried to do is get VC money for an early stage YouTube channel. That's just silly. The business model for a YouTube channel is to start with nothing, make a video, nobody watches it, so then you make another video. Thousands of videos later you have a few people watching. You get a few of those people to give you a couple bucks on Patreon. You invest the money in better equipment and polish your videos up a bit.

It's just a long, slow grind. It requires direct communication with your audience. You have to listen to what they want and meet their needs.

You're right -- it takes a long time for most media companies to get off the ground, and it's often near-impossible to raise money in the early days. But how many youtube channels that get ~7,000 weekly unique viewers are able to convert ~1,200 into paying monthly subscribers?

Consider this: you might not already know everything there is to know about my business by skimming one blog post!

I'm sorry. It's all too easy to play backseat driver on an internet discussion board. It's far tougher to actually go out and build something with your real life and your relationships in the mix.

I've been part of a failed business that's left my father with a mountain of debt in his late middle age. I am in the process of retooling my life to go back to school and earn a degree. I recognize what it's like to face a crossroads in your life. It's not something that can be casually dismissed.

It's ok! And I am really sorry to hear about your dad's business. That must have felt terrible, far worse than I'm feeling right now.

We're all human and doing the best we can.

A piece of friendly advice: I get that you're in a pretty low place right now, and that this is your baby, but don't take comments on HN so personally.

You're coming across as pretty defensive, which is understandable, but probably not helpful. People here can see this from a perspective that you can't, and if you're defensive, you're missing out on learning something.

Otherwise, why are you bothering to interact here?

I was in a really low place a couple weeks ago, but I actually honestly feel pretty fine now. I've given myself the space I need to process it. I definitely wouldn't have been able to publish this post when it first happened.

Also, I totally get that it seems like a total waste of time to engage with the comments here. A lot of people have told me the same thing on Twitter. But the thing is: I think it's really special that someone on the other side of a computer screen read this thing I wrote and is thinking about what they would do in my shoes. Even if they express it in a way that's kind of rude or condescending, it means something to me!

I'm sorry if it seems like I'm being defensive. When I think of what the word "defensive" represents, I think of someone who is totally unwilling to consider other points of view and is trying to shut out the world. I don't think that's what I'm doing. Nothing is more important to me than learning from what happened and growing into a better, smarter person. I totally appreciate the fact that I am just too close to the thing to really understand what happened. I need help from objective third parties to learn the most from this.

That's actually why I'm replying to the comments. There's the naive DHH-cheerleading reply to anyone who is "yet another dumb unicorn chaser". But I want to go one or two levels deeper than that. I don't think those replies are particularly helpful, but I think the people that write them totally could be helpful. They just need to actually have a desire to understand in more detail what my business is/was doing. I accept that most people here will never care enough to really dig in. But I think the probability is high that some people here actually might really care. So I'm engaging here while it's on the front page of Hacker News, because I won't get another opportunity like that for a long time.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to think that through more. I hope it answers your question.

y, there are politics involved at every company/office. It's part of "that's why they call it work".

I would recommend settling in at your current job and use that to fund your future startup and support your family. If you're working toward your own thing you won't be as worried about promotions, climbing the ladder and office BS.

Don't advertise to others this is what you're doing. And check your employment contract and make sure you would own the IP of anything you do outside of work/work hours/work equipment.

To start I would work on something small to start building revenue that would eventually replace your day job. Work on something changing people's lives as something you can work on ideas for along the way and start once you have something in place supporting your family allowing you to leave your day job.

It's still hard, so test out and see what you can do working on things part time, building up small wins and increasing your side project revenue, getting more and more focussed on getting to the level where you can leave your day job. is a great podcast, go the archive and listen to all the episodes in order.

This is my favorite talk to get/stay inspired, @DHH at startup school 2008.

Don't abandon the idea. Keep earning your primary income as you currently are as a Sys Admin and coding where you can in your day job.

If you enjoy developing pick a framework (Rails or Laravel) and start building apps. Learn all you can. Work toward obtaining a remote developer position or working on contract projects to learn more/get a better taste of what the work is like. If you enjoy it and are successful work toward transitioning to it full time.

Another option is to create your own app/business and be your own boss if you're interested in that. Then you don't have to worry about being hired or ageism.

Inspiration: @DHH Startup School Talk

StartUpsForTheRestOfUs Podcast

Good luck, don't give up on your dream.

think it's interesting you mentioned laravel off the bat, lots of PHP hate in HN (I'm a laravel dev too--and love working with it), Phoenix Framework with maybe VUE.Js on the frontend is on my radar for frameworks to learn going forward--mainly if I ever do anything with communication like a chat app, or something that might need lots of concurrency or to scale huge but use less servers.
Mar 10, 2017 · 1 points, 0 comments · submitted by hippich
Why don't you follow this software developer's advice who also happens to be earning millions a year?
What's your runway, how much time do you have before funds run low?

Can you stay there for 3 months, 6 months, 12 months?

Income from products/SaaS can be a slow build so think about that. If you want to stay where you are you might need to consider contracting/consulting/freelance to bootstrap your own thing. has some great information for developing your own products, software and SaaS.

Typically an idea will find you. You will run across a problem you have or something you have knowledge about that you can solve with software. Or there is something you have created for multiple clients to solve a problem that you might be able to productize by turning in to a software solution.

This @DHH starup school talk is still inspiring.

Good luck, enjoy your time there and your journey to doing your own thing.

David Heinemeier Hansson - How to create a profitable startup company?
David Heinemeier Hansson at Startup School 08
What would your friends and family think if you showed them something that looks like craigslist?

Just because something isn't owned by Fbook or Google or doesn't look polished doesn't mean it isn't or couldn't make money. Or if you're not working for Fbook or Google or working on working there that you're doing it WRONG.

My friends usually gloss over me talking about developing SaaS apps till I mention ones making $30k/mo or $60k/mo . . . that gets their attention. I love when they follow up with "wait, wait that's per month?"

Making a product/SaaS that is successful isn't easy, but it's something most developers can accomplish, it's not s sure thing, but definitely worth the effort if it's something that interests you. It's worth a shot/putting in the effort.

So if you're interested in products/SaaS keep at it. Granted most of us have day jobs or are contractors along the way to pay the bills till we hit "SaaScess" but don't give up on it because of what unsupportive family and friends think.

You do need to find a better support network, maybe fellow entrepreneurs/web developers, connect with other like minded individuals online. (feel free to connect with me via email HNusername at gmail, I'm always up for bouncing ideas around, being supportive, reviewing apps/products offering constructive criticism).

Don't share what you're doing with people who aren't supportive. Just give them a simple answer like I'm consulting, etc.

Making any web application is hard so making any functional application is an accomplishment. Sure you could sub it out to a group of coder monkeys and they could build it in two weeks. But there is more to creating a good web application that people will pay you money for that just the code.

I think being able to create a web application is amazing and enjoy it. I would compare being a developer working on your own SaaS to being in a band. You're creating something, gaining an audience and the sky is the limit. With hard work and a little luck you can reach $83,333k/mo+. That's amazing and if you fall short of that, $10k/mo isn't bad either.

Your family just might be concerned you'll have financial problems, your friends might be jealous or just not understand what you're doing. Hopefully trying to give you good advice, but either way don't let them dissuade you from pursuing your dream.

That said SaaS is a long ramp to decent revenue so you need a day job/consulting/freelancing/supported by parents income till then so plan accordingly.

You'll probably like this: DHH Startup School Talk

Check out

Good luck in 2017.

You won't regret bootstrapping as long as you can and owning 100% of your SaaS not sharing your profits with others.

Reading your other comments it does sound like you could use cash/credit to increase your google ad spend and onboarding more customers faster that would be a good use of funds. Could you hire another contract employee to speed up getting people on board?

If you can get signups from your adwords spend who sign up as paid in less than 30 days you could increase your spend in adwords on a credit card paying the balance each month to avoid interest charges. Stream line your on-boarding process to get customers on board.

Adwords can go from printing money to shredding money pretty quick so use caution of course. But I think funding extra adwords with a credit card would be a nice way to grow signups if you can speed up your onboarding process.

On bootstrapping . . .

Being able to set your own pace, call your own shots, don't give that up.

Inspiration: DHH Startup School Talk

He also talks about limiting your work hours each week, give yourself blocks of time to work on your SaaS so you make the most of your time when it's available.

Feel free to email me if you want to bounce ideas around through email . . . HNusername at gmail.

Oct 10, 2016 · saluki on Ask HN: Idea for SaaS?
SaaS Inspiration

@DHH Startup School Talk (2008)

This is the most inspiring SaaS talk, I still listen to it once a month or so for inspiration.

You'll have to find the right idea, one that is interesting to you and still solves a B2B pain point that you'll enjoy solving.

Do you have any experience working with businesses where you can build a SaaS to make something easier for them?

Basically you're looking to build something for a business that provides them value that they would sign up for and willing to pay you money to use.

You can see what others are having success with here:

I always recommend listening to

You don't need to aim for $1k/mo, almost any niche can grow to $10k/mo or even $100k/mo. So don't limit your dream.

There is also that will send you an idea per day and has a community support/discussion to help you execute on the one you choose to pursue.

Good luck, let us know how it goes.

Thanks! This is useful.
Aug 26, 2016 · 2 points, 0 comments · submitted by pvsukale3
That's why they call it work.

Start planning do you want to start your own business or just get a better day job.

Start listening to this . . . Rob has had an amazing journey.

And I'll recommend my favorite talk:

It's definitely hard and depending on your point in life it can be really hard to transition from day job to your own business.

single+young is easier than family+mortgage but either way you can do it.

I went from day job to consulting full time. I am working on products and a SaaS but it's definitely not easy. But it is enjoyable and the potential payoff is 10x your day job (most likely). Plus you control your own destiny for the most part, vs being an employee.

But work is work, if they pay you decently and it takes care of your needs plan your move carefully as you might not have it as bad as you think.

Maybe changing day jobs if a first step and start stair stepping with products/apps as another revenue stream.

Good luck.

@DHH Start Up School Talk 2008

The Secret to Making Money Online/A Secret to Making Money Online

Still my favorite talk.

You'll be super busy with law school, focus on that, make sure that's a priority, do your best and finish top of your class.

That said lots of people build their idea with full time jobs, while going to school and even with a family.

So make the most of your spare time, weekends, summers.

Whether you learn to code or are a co-founder it's going to be work.

This will be interesting for you:

And I love @DHH's advice here:

Good luck, make the most of it.

Thanks for the response! I'm not scared of the work. I'm just looking to be as efficient as possible. and learning one part of the business, though extremely important, might not be the best use of time. And could hurt on two-fronts (the idea itself + law school). I'm ready to work, but I'm just trying to get a feel for what makes sense at the moment in terms of proceeding. I'll check out those links! Thanks again.
Spend time meeting with and talking to other entrepreneurs every week.

Internalize the idea that you don't have to be motivated to get stuff done. It's okay to admit, "I'm not motivated right now", and then get to work regardless!

Get into a routine for starting work, and try to never skip it, even when it feels unnecessary.

Find blog posts, videos, and articles that motivate you. Revisit them often, or work them into your routine. I like DHH's talk from Startup School '08 (, for example.

@DHH has the answer(s) and sounds like you already do as well.

Startup School Talk

On that note I have to post one of my favorite talks.

@DHH Startup School 2008

Still inspiring, still relevant eight years later.

Thanks so much for this, as someone making just "a nice italian website in the web space", it's comforting to hear this rarely heard logical approach.
This sentiment reminds me of DHH's talk at startup school ( in which he explains that the best way to create a business is to make money, but not just make money, make it on your own.

I am a little removed from the Silicon Valley echo chamber and enjoy the ability to watch it from the sidelines, but I don't understand the obsession with the 'rapid growth, raise millions from investors, become a unicorn, own the world' mentality.

I just don't get it. As a founder, your life is going to be just as good (probably better) if you made a couple million dollars in actual money that you don't have to divide up in odd percentages to all sorts of already rich guys who gave you tons of money in the first place.

Why isn't everyone just trying to build products that work, that people like, that make money, and going from there?

Why the need to go to YC, or raise any capital AT ALL, for the very very low chance of becoming gajillionaires?

I understand the appeal of the #1 king on top thing, but not really, and not with the risks and pain associated with the journey and the reality.

Whatever I guess. People will not stop investing or raising money, at least for now.

Plenty of people are starting software businesses without taking outside funding.

I imagine the majority of Show HN posts are of that variety.

Agreed, most companies are this way in general. But that's why I'm surprised to see such hype around the alternative.
I'm going to assume you're relatively new to startups, because this didn't always used to be the case. Founders 40, 30, even 10 years ago had much less leverage in that today it's so comparatively cheap to launch an app that can quickly get millions of users. Back then, even to think about launching an app you needed a server. The capital that founders needed came with investors who had all the leverage and board control.

It's only recently that you could literally start accepting dollars from paying users without actually paying anything (servers, money integration, etc all free). That means founders have more leverage, which in turn means for the first time founders are getting more of a say in the trajectory of the company.

Basically, your feelings are following recent developments, but it's unusual that this is the case. In other words, you are the long tail that previously never got a seat at the table. But, there are still going to be founders already at the table chasing the big bets.

Of course, you are also discounting the value of having investors that prioritize growth. In most cases, all companies somewhat converge when it comes to what that start up needs to do to survive and succeed: grow.

This is insightful and informative, thanks. I am relatively new to startups, but at 25 years old, most of my peers seem to be in the category I've described and seem to think that is clearly the best way, if not the only way, to start a company.
If you want a side income then your goal is to find people who are already paying for things you can build. If every single idea you come up with is already tried by someone else, then it means you are coming up with ideas for which people are already paying for. That's fantastic! To your question 1) If someone is already offering same product and paid customers - ask yourself - do they have 100% market share? If not, whom are they missing? Can you reach those whom they are missing? To your question 2) If you just came up with the idea, how do you know the market is thinly spread? To your question 3) Those are a very tiny tiny tiny tiny slice of all the majority of SaaS products. Is this something you are well and truly interested in? If not, go back to your question 1 and figure out who has the most customers.

worth watching ->

Jul 22, 2015 · saluki on None
Do, or do not. There is no try. -Yoda

Do you think this keeps down other founders from 'making it happen'.

If you're interested in starting a web related company. I would recommend learning the basics. Learn some HTML, CSS, javascript, then jQuery.

Check out:

Then some PHP/MySQL to see how web applications work behind the scenes.

You can mock up a basic app/service with that amount of knowledge.

Then learn a framework like Laravel or Rails or team up with a technical co-founder at that point.

Network, contact developers online, make friends.

We're living in a time when kids can build $200B companies out of their dorm room. It's never been easier to build a web/tech company at any point in history.

Need inspiration start here (@DHH Startup School Talk):

Read/Listen to everything Paito11 has published on the web/HN.

Listen to:

Check out:

Rails/Laravel (frameworks) Stripe (payments) Mandrill (trans. email) MailChimp/Drip (email lists) Leanpub (books)

Good luck, you can do it, make it happen!

I would start banking some of that gravy and stay where you are for now.


Nights and Weekends learn something new.

Rails (Ruby) and/or Laravel (PHP)

Are both great places to learn.

These are mainly to create web applications.

SaaS Apps.

Get inspired:

Choose a side project, can be something fun or for profit.

google patio11 and ready everything by him.

You're making really good money, no need to throw that away, you can build your skills in your spare time, and if you're interested start building your own product/SaaS empire along the way. Preparing now for things to go bad in the future.

But I would stay on your gravy train as long as you can building new skills along the way.

Enjoy the ride.

This talk by DHH explains why I prefer to bootstrap a company:

The main point being, that if you start off by selling a product (rather than getting people to sign up for a free product and then monetizing later) and can get a fraction of the people to sign up then you are in profit. Further, if you own 100% of the company, you are profitable much faster so you don't need to grow as large.

Ex: $30/month * 500 users = $15,000 a month. If that was a bootstrapped business with just a solo founder...$$$

> Further, if you own 100% of the company, you are profitable much faster so you don't need to grow as large.

Can you explain how 100% ownership translates into earlier profitability?

I guess not earlier profitability but earlier "riches" because there is only one person taking from the pie.

Of course the reason people add confounders/employees and take VC funding is because it makes the total pie easier to grow in many cases.

Fewer founders means fewer people with expenses that the business needs to support (even if those expenses are the bare minimum: food, shelter, etc).

Of course, I think what that assumes is that one person could launch a product as quickly as a team. It's easy to imagine a product being complex enough that a team could launch it before a solo founder would.

But ignoring that.. it's clearly faster/easier to build a business to support a single person than multiple people.

But you could sell shares to non-founders. That way you have the same path to profitability but none of the extra costs.
@DHH's startup school talk says it best.

"Scaling problems rule . . . "

Sounds like you have the skills to grow this up to 500 to 1k paying customers on your own. Early on you can increase ram/cpu to handle any initial scaling issues.

Once you even have 1k customers you'll have revenue to hire experts to help you with scaling and security.

Good luck in 2015.

Dec 05, 2014 · saluki on Ask HN: Settling on an Idea
I would minimize your costs initially, you can work from home to build your idea.

First stop for you is to watch @DHH's startup school talk . . . most ideas that are successful are simple . . . it really is all in the execution.

Link to DHH at Startup School: It's from 2008 but still inspiring and relevant.

Ok . . . so you're inspired . . .

Don't just build the software . . . you'll fall in to the trap of spending too much time building something your customers don't want or doesn't provide enough value.

Read Dan Norris's book the 7 day startup and listen to his podcast.

And listen to

Lots of good info on proving an idea, talking to customers, building an email list.

The key is launching fast with minimal development time. Once you have paying customers you can automate and improve your app/software to provide even more value with less effort on your part.

I would pick something you like thinking about/would enjoy working on and would enjoy dealing with the potential users.

There are infinite ideas/opportunity out there in apps/saas so don't worry about that . . .

@DHH "Zappos is selling F'n Shoes . . . "

Execute, do it right and provide value to your signups and you'll be revolutionary.

Remember you don't need an office, an LLC or anything else in the beginning . . . just start getting to know potential paying customers and build out the simplest version of your app that clients can sign up for. Once you have revenue you can think about office space (if needed) an LLC, etc.

Services/Ideas to help you get off the ground for low/upfront costs:

Rails/Laravel (frameworks) Digital Ocean (hosting) (payments) (App emails) or (building an email list)

Also start blogging now about your product/niche right away.

Feel free to email I love talking SaaS/apps, startups and bootstrapping.

I've been running this same playbook and will be launching my second SaaS in early 2015.

Good luck in 2015!

Thanks for the reply.

I'd like to avoid the cost of office space but I would literally not do an iota of work from home. Home is for home stuff, work is for work stuff; that is how my brain works. I'm in Europe and my desk is costing me €160/month so it's not exactly an especially taxing expense.

I keep my ear to the ground with regards start-up news but I think I'm going to spend some time listening and reading to some of the resources you and others have posted. Hopefully it will help me narrow down what I'll ultimately set out to create.

And thanks for the offer. The best of luck to you as well.

y, it's great to have space . . . I have a couple locations around the house that are office-like but there is always the chance family time will encroach on work.

y, the podcasts and Dan's book are great resources . . . be careful about listening and reading though . . . get the good gems of information and then take action . . . you can spend months/years listening to other people and how they executed.

So listen, learn and take action . . . otherwise time will pass you by . . . has some gems as well . . .

And of course read/listen to everything by paito11.

There is more to business than startups. If you can program, then you can bootstrap a "lifestyle" business.

I don't love that term, but people know what it means. You can make a business that doesn't depend on traction and scale.

Find a prosaic need, and serve it. Could start with consulting, or products. Start small, stay small by Rob Walling is an excellent primer, as is the four hour workweek. The latter glosses over how much effort is actually required to make a "muse", but the mindset is spot on.

I'm currently doing this. I'll never get a $10 million payout, but I've built good revenue streams and have complete freedom of time.

And I did it without knowing programming. You've basically got a superpower in the internet world. You can program AND you have a baseline of entrepreneurial knowledge.

Just shift out of startup mode. As long as you've got enough money or time that you can work on something new without starving, it's not THAT hard to make a business that gives you freedom.

(No guaranteed success, but the odds are significantly better than in a startup. This talk by DHH is a good overview)

In my view, there are three strata of businesses that a person can start:

1. Small business - Bakery, barber shop, golf store 2. Lifestyle startup - Unique product, smallish market, little chance of liquidity event 3. Venture - Startups with the potential for massive, fast growth

Every time I think about starting #1, I dismiss it immediately. I see it as merely the illusion of freedom.

A girl from my hometown opened a Pure Barre. Sure, she doesn't have a "boss", per se, but she's still working like a dog to send most of her money to the .1% -- the rent she pays in the shopping center, the utility bills, the franchise fees, the Gatorade she sells from the fridge, the fridge itself, etc... and probably makes <$30k for herself.

There are exceptions, but generally I think the same thing is true of restaurants, bars, computer repair shops and franchisees of all stripes.

Having experienced #2, first-hand, I can tell you that it's much harder to do than it sounds. I think the universe wants growth or death in all things. Hanging out -- safely -- in equilibrium between them is a rare feat.

If you aim at a market that's a bit too large, you're going to get crushed by the big boys. In fact, there are myriad examples of large corporations butting into small markets first discovered by startups because, heck, why not? The big corporation has the resources to inject itself into the small market on the off chance that there's actually something there. It's like buying insurance.

If you aim at a market that's too small, then you don't make any money and you're on your own to pull it off because no (worthwhile) investor should want to get into a small market with MAYBE a $5m buyout years down the road. Ditto good co-founders and employees. If you're able to get investors and rock-star help, you're probably in "venture" territory, not "lifestyle".

What happens with a lifestyle biz is you end up turning a small profit and living on the edge, fearing that something doesn't go horribly wrong. One lawsuit... one legislative change... you, the lifeblood of the company, have a medical emergency... and it all goes poof.

Worst of all, you're stuck. Because it's a middling market, it's difficult to find anybody who could run it in your stead (they're at Google, etc), so it's always and forever on you.

Again, there are many exceptions. Like the guy who runs The Chive or the guy who runs Fark. It's possible, just harder than it sounds. If you're going to take all the risk and invest your time, why would you knowingly aim small like that?

No, for my money, #3, swinging for the fences, is the only way to go. Anything short of that is setting yourself up for years of anxiety and frustration with little chance of making real money. I'd rather put my money on red or black and see how it turns out quickly.

Here are some resources:









* more here:




My favorite articles and talks:


* (DHH @ Startup School 2008 on making money online)

* (Nathan Barry @ Pioneer Nation on growing his business)

My advice is to:

(1) Make it a habit to work on your small online service every day -- or one full day per week -- and stick to the schedule. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

(2) Subscribe to one or two podcasts. They're great learning/motivational tools. Listening to other people talk about building a small business will help reinforce your work habits. Don't overdo it, though! Your goal is to build something, not to continually consume and never produce. I know I gave you a huge list, just pick the one you like best!

Thanks for two mentions on this esteemed list :-)
Haha, I was looking at startups for the rest of us yesterday. Looks really good. Thanks for the links.
- David Heinmeier Hansson talks about the "secret" to making money online
Feb 03, 2014 · rudedogg on 12 websites in 12 months
No, that looks interesting, especially with the ratings. A few years ago I remember reading various blogs and having it drilled into my head that there's a lot of money to be made with niche websites.

Also, this talk for startups reminds me of these points:

PG represents the growth angle perfectly here:

DHH represents the other side perfectly here:

Congratulations on your success so far . . .

As for changing careers start here . . .

Then catch up on . . .

Sounds like you would be more interested in starting your own business rather than working for someone else.

Learning development is a great start . . . and great skill to have.

Rails is a good choice . . .

Before jumping into Rails I would start with HTML/CSS create some basic websites . . .

Then learn some javascript and jQuery . . .

I think you would learn more by building a few simple web apps using PHP and MySQL so you can learn what it's like to build one without a framework . . . login/user types/CRUD . . . then once you have the basics down then see what it's like creating the same app in Rails. Rails is easier to understand once you know what is going on behind the scenes. Has some great tutorials . . . for HTML/CSS, js, PHP MySQL and RAILS.

If you're not interested in starting your own business becoming proficient in rails is a great career track.

"Not every important idea is a huge world-changing event. Sometimes building a small company that makes a big difference to a small number of people is more important."

Totally agree. DHH actually gave a talk about this subject at Start-Up School back in 2008. Definitely worth watching

I like that, you frequently hear "You just need to work hard", never "First thing you do is drop out of school".

May Bill need to work harder because he dropped out? Without any context the "work harder" does automatically mean that you'll succeed, nor that it's worth the effort.

David Heinemeier had a beautiful talk about being happy with a million dollars, rather aiming for the billion.

Apr 08, 2013 · saluki on Ask HN: Micro Startups?
Definitely worth going for . . .

Start listening to the archives for great information there.

There are also some good talks on from last years conference. has lots of interviews. Subscribe on iTunes. Andrew is a great interviewer and each interview has at least a few gems you can apply to your startup. Start with the Bidsketch interview lots of good information.

Amy Hoy has great advice as well.

There are a lot of information you can read through online and lots of interviews and podcasts to catch up on.

After you have caught up on all the information out there you can consider signing up for paid courses.

Consider one of Amy Hoy's one day conferences or her 30x500 class. I haven't signed up yet but I am considering it.

There is also Micropreneur Academy that you could consider signing up for. Rob gives great advice on the podcast and his website. so I would expect good results from the academy.

I would recommend to find a mentor. Someone who's done this before to share ideas with and keep you moving forward on your business.

It is a process so depending on your runway you'll probably need to consult part time or work part time as you scale up your startup.

You should also follow Brennan Dunn at he has lost of good information/ideas.

Follow as well.

I have transitioned from my original career over the past 5 years to consulting full time and am currently building my first SaaS app.

This is the talk that inspired me the most start with this one.

David Heinemeier Hansson's startup school talk from 2008.

It's a little dated but very inspiring.

Good luck.

I appreciate the positive comments and suggestions from everyone. I would say I'm really beyond the stage where I need a 'push' or motivating articles. I've been following YC for many years. I've read probably every one of PGs essays.

The questions I'm asking myself are more like this: Should I set up a server in my basement or use a service? Will my personal internet provider have sufficient bandwith? (media is involved.) Will I need a lawyer to write the user licence agreement? How much will it cost? Which business type should I use? (I need to balance the liability issue with simplicity.) How will should I set up the payment methods? What potential legal issues could happen? how could they be avoided. These are the hard questions that I feel I need to work on. Most podcast / articles / essays etc don't go into these technical details.

You should consider a technical co-founder . . . or at least a mentor . . . they can point you in the right direction for questions like these . . .

Here are some quick answers without knowing too much about what you have in mind . . .

Should I set up a server in my basement or use a service? No servers in your basement . . . most ideas can probably be validated with inexpensive shared hosting and you can move up to a VPS and beyond from there as needed.

Will my personal internet provider have sufficient bandwith? (media is involved.) You won't want to serve these off your home based server . . . consider Amazon S3 for your media files.

Will I need a lawyer to write the user licence agreement? How much will it cost? Consult an attorney but typically you can find a free template that is adequate to use when validating your idea.

Which business type should I use? (I need to balance the liability issue with simplicity.) Again consult an attorney but you could start out by forming an LLC or even initially testing your idea without forming a company.

How will should I set up the payment methods? Consider for payments.

What potential legal issues could happen? Consult an attorney . . . all kinds of things could happen.

how could they be avoided? Again, consult an attorney and a mentor.

These are the hard questions that I feel I need to work on. Most podcast / articles / essays etc don't go into these technical details.

There are some technical gems in podcasts but you are going to need an advisor or technical co-founder.

The main thing you'll get from the interview/articles are things like testing your idea, is your niche/product/service viable, building an email list, launch strategy, pricing, selling a product/bundle, marketing, conversion optimization, etc . . . the technical aspects should be one of the easier areas of the startup . . . making the idea happen . . . this would be the responsibility of your technical co-founder and/or developer.

Good luck . . .

The articles you read do not include technical implementation details because those details are prohibitively complex without reading and comprehending a significant amount of technical documentation. You can learn this stuff on your own, but it's going to take a while. I would recommend comprehending some basic technical overviews and hiring a technical consultant to help you with all of your questions.

There's nothing inherently wrong with weak technical knowledge. A lack of technical knowledge simply indicates a lack of domain experience. Unfortunately, you're asking these questions on Hackernews, where many (most?) readers are technical domain experts.

Most of your questions indicate that you have weak technical domain expertise. Specifically, "Should I set up a server in my basement or use a service?" is a question that indicates a lack of exposure to the wide technical field of infrastructure. For that reason, I recommend hiring a technical consultant to help you with initial planning and setup.

Yup, or finding a technical co-founder.
From 2004-2009, I basically built things I could have charged for, but didn't. I was afraid to take money from people.

DHH (et al) to the rescue:

This is where the "Nice little Italian restaurant" SaaS meme was sourced from. He was hilariously spot-on.

I caved and started building things I would charge for. I'm still just part-timing it, but my stuff is growing. And, frankly, I'm not the best Rails/iOS/Java developer out there. Literally if I can do it, you can too.

Great, inspiring article.

So many people feel the same way. What was the scariest part about taking money from people?
I used to sell a small iOS app. For me, my biggest fear was not delivering value for the $2.99 someone paid me. It's dumb when I think about it logically because it's only $2.99, but I wanted anyone who paid to also be happy with their purchase. I will say though that people giving you money directly for something you built is a rush.
Among apps, $2.99 is quite high. The average price per app in the store is roughly $1.40, and the average selling price is likely less than 50 cents (I'm unsure, because reporting is only available for average overall price, not average sale price. However, logic dictates that, given that free apps are purchased with many times greater frequency than paid apps, the average sale price would be significantly lower than that average price.). Moreover, the median is free (due to the fact that ~90% of all apps are free.) So, because the price is inordinately high, there is undoubtedly a higher standard and more pressure to deliver value commensurate with the inflated price.
Great obserations.

Let us talk out of our asses here, just for a moment. People like to call these "thought experiments":

There are two mindsets at play that I can see. Lets call them the "analytical" and the "immediate"...

[Aside: If I use my own terms like this, then I can write that book later and have my movement-terminology ready-to-go ] :)

The "analytical" mindset is willing to spend thought-cycles worrying about the fact that an app is expensive at $2.99, since the price is anchored against a million other <$1.40 apps. The level of cognitive dissonance on display here is uncanny, but apparently price-anchoring is a low-level OS service of the human brain that is difficult to kill via the Task Manager (consciousness).

The "immediate" mindset is completely free of the cares of price anchoring. This usually happens when you're playing with other people's money, or when you simply don't have a choice.

If you build for the "immediate" mindset, you win.

Of course, this is just a thought experiment and completely indefensible. However, I am willing to make a bet that contains elements that are correct.

When I had a paid app in the app store price didn't seem matter too much.

I had a free version of the app with IAP and a paid version. Both initially cost $0.99 but after 6 months I raised the price to $1.99. Sales actually went up. I think if you have an app people like and you have good reviews, price isn't as important.

Graph for paid app

Graph for IAP

Funny thing, your reviews also go up when you raise the price. I have 2 theories to explain this: - People who pay for something are more likely to research it before, and thus will only get the product if they think it fits their needs. On the other hand, if the app is free and it doesn't do what you thought it did, you might give it a bad review. - People who pay for things tell themselves that they're buying more quality, and so they truly see things differently.
This was a few years ago so things may have changed, but I played with pricing a lot. Eventually I found that sales were lower at .99 than $2.99. Above $2.99 they quickly fell off again. I assumed that a slightly higher price up to a point caused people to assign a higher perceived value.

As for a higher standard, I want to deliver value regardless of price. At the end of the day people are giving me something way more valuable than a couple dollars - their time.

Probably dealing with angry customers.
In those days, two things:

1) The possiblility of "Oh, crap, I just bumped the decimal to the right, by accident, on 1000 customers."

2) The likelihood that someone would tell me that I was "a joke", to be charging money for my software.

So, fear of rejection and fear of screwing up on the money side. Thankfully, there are billing services which eliminated #1 a few years ago, and that was probably the tipping point for me. #2 is an ongoing concern, and always will be.

Thanks for the question!

Not to mention the fear of anger from free software advocates...
Surprisingly, yes, this is a thing, along with people who are anti-SEO. I speak as a convert from the church of anti-SEO, thanks to our mutual outspoken SaaS comrade in Japan.
I think the fear of rejection is huge. I'm a pretty confident guy (I'll speak in front of crowds without too much trouble). But the idea of putting a price tag on something and asking people to pay for it is scary. The biggest fear: "What if no one buys it?"
"Pay what you think it's worth" might be a good way to mentally offset this? That way, you're not affixing a price to your work but instead just asking for a demonstration of what they value it at. It's probably a unilateral upside if the entirety of your payment process is 'post me a cheque if you feel it's worth it!', for the following reasons:

1) By not affixing a price to it, people will pay what they think it's worth. By affixing, say, $20, those who think it's worth less may not pay but those who think it's worth more won't pay more. There's a small risk that people may stretch to make your price tag but instead not bother but my completely untrained gut would say that'd be minimal?

2) You're already relying on people to go out of their way to send it based on goodwill. You're not going to lose customers simply by floating the amount they can choose to send.

3) Your conscience doesn't tell you 'hey, are you SURE this is worth $20? What if something breaks for someone? You forced them to pay $20 rather than $5, you owe them more than this!'. That's got to be liberating.

Of course, PWYW works mainly if it's a supplemental income and you're not relying on it to feed yourself :) That said, I'd expect it's pretty confidence-boosting to see someone voluntarily pay for something you made, since it basically says 'hey, I think you're worth this, thank you!'

The OP and this discussion is incredibly inspiring too, it makes me want to build and release stuff in my spare time that people are completely free to pay as little or as much as they want for, just to see what happens :)

I had a leg up to begin with. I started with an audience (of sorts) that I was able to poll to gauge interest. I didn't start building until literally 200 people told me they would buy it from me. Turns out most of them were blowing some kind of sunshine (or else they found another solution before I could launch one to meet their needs), and very few converted...

But, just the fact that they said yes to my product and price point gave me the confidence to start.

But, I think you can hijack someone else's product-confidence... by which I mean you should find a 800-pound gorilla competitor in your market and just follow them into battle, and eventually outflank them. Not gonna lie, I did this too, because I got to a place where my market-vision was limited... so I piggybacked on a competitors market vision. :)

"There's no such thing as viral" David Heinemeier (37signals)
Watch this video instead:

That was really great, thanks.
"Focus on building a community first, and worry about monetization later." I don't entirely agree with this statement. This is precisely why a lot of startups fail because they slap on the business model as an afterthought. DHH said it pretty well:
Strictly referring to new media as an independent content creator, I think the statement does apply. Building the community and relationships gives you the ability to monetize much easier.

However, I do agree with you on the broader point. Building or creating something isn't an instant recipe for income. It can't be a blanket approach to something like a startup.

Be glad you have a secure job currently.

Keep your day job . . . you just need a side project to get excited about that you can turn into a business.

First watch this . . . David Heinemeier Hansson at Startup School 08

Then listen to they have good advice for starting your own business. Start a google doc to take notes/ideas/create a plan.

For starting your own business start saving money so you have runway when you decide to make the leap to your own business.

Before you get started review your contract and see if there are any issues with you starting your own side project/company while employed. It shouldn't be an issue but it's a good idea to check that you don't have a clause in your contract that says any IP you create belongs to your company. Never work on your project at work on company time or on a company computer.

Have a long term plan to create a SaaS app or product with a subscription component that solves a pain point for businesses with software.

Good luck in 2013.

And this is 100% correct. Nobody cares about technology while it works from the customer perspective and gives you enough momentum to evolve your product.

A great set of hints was also given by JHH in his widely known presentation: (but still so valid!)

And as evidence, I present the current contents of the posted link:

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The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to the site owner reaching his/her bandwidth limit. Please try again later.

The other answers aren't wrong, but I think listening to 37Signals Partner DHH from Startup School would speak best:

Almost more than their products, they're known for their very vocal broadcasting against the standard startup focus of investments, valuations, exits, etc...

Their books "Getting Real" and "Rework" represent their bootstrapping, sustainable-business values - they're not timid in speaking out against the nonsense of the modern startup conventional wisdom.

Personally, I think it's a very refreshing and empowering voice for entrepreneurs. It's not without controversy though, so dig in to their content for yourself to make your own judgement. (FWIW - "Getting Real" is a free PDF out there somewhere. I recommend it, though others may or may not.)

Have you already watched DHH's "How to Make Money Online" presentation ( If not, watch it ASAP.

If you go down the bootstrapping road, you must have profits coming in, to fund and further the development of your product. Sooner or later you will have to make money and since you don't seem to have a lot of funds laying around, the sooner the better.

Moreover, have you validated your idea(s) (included the previous, failed attempts to excute them and build a viable business)?

Are you sure that there are enough people out there with the burning desire to throw money at you for this app to make it worth the hustle?

(assuming you want to sell your app, which would be the best and most simple way to make money)

As PG says, the worst mistake one can make trying to build a company is building something THEY think is NEEDED by their customers and not what the market actually needs. Listen to your audience.

Do the people need an iphone app to "truly define us"?

Creating a kickstarter campaign was a good move, by the response you'll get you'll understand if you are solving a real problem or not.

To expose more people to your app (and validate it or not with a wider set of data) you can use an adwords\facebook voucher and create a campaign (just search for them).

Link to your homepage, track how many visitors opt in vs how many of them just land and bounce away, not interested.

Ask questions on Answers sites, open threads on forums your ideal customer hangs out, the more eyeballs the better.

Best wishes

I'm watching the link right now- very interesting, thank you.

I think we've truly taken bits and pieces that worked from our failed attempts to build a viable business. We've cut down from what we had before to focus on the core features that we believe will work.

From what we've seen from our signups so far, we're sure that there are enough people who are really to give us support, but they're far spread out and hard to reach. We've had quite a lot of signups, but almost no tweets which I don't understand. Our last revision had a lot more tweets.

PG is right in saying that one of the worst mistakes to make is to build something that we THINK is NEEDED, and not what market actually needs but it's a difficult situation to address. What if your product faces the chicken and egg problem? I'm not sure how accurate I am here, but I wouldn't have believed that the market would actually need twitter. I think twitter believed that people could benefit from their services and find it interesting to use and therefore build their business that way. Maybe I'm wrong, or twitter is a very rare example, but I get where you're coming from.

I think people generally need a way to define who they are. Take mySpace for example. I think they really understood the importance of showcasing a person's uniqueness or individuality. Your profile page on mySpace used to scream everything about you, from your background image to the number of friends you have, your moods, what music you're listening to, the About Me section, your blog- it was basically everything about you. Sure, it's true that mySpace is no longer doing as well as they have since then and they're changing their profile page layouts, but giving back the user focus is what led them to success in the first place.

From what I've gathered (omitting my own thoughts to avoid bias), your friends on Facebook don't know anything about you. Ask most of them what they know about you and they won't be able to tell you much. That's the point we're trying to illustrate. People spend so much time caring about how they look in real life and it's really all the idiosyncrasies that you talk about in life with your friends and the people you meet that make you interesting. So why is the web not picking up on this? With Persona, we want to bring back that very intimate connection you see in real life. We want to make a product that binds people together rather than just another social network about your friends.

We've launched a small Reddit campaign, and we've been getting a ton of signups from that, but the problem is we have no idea how they feel about the Kickstarter. People don't give feedback and Kickstarter doesn't offer analytics to track how many people have seen your page.

So far, we're getting a 10% conversion from people who visit our homepage and do signup.

I'll take your advice on the answers sites and the forums. I'm really looking for a way to promote sharing on twitter though - I feel that it would be the best way to generate more traffic.

Thanks for such constructive feedback.

BTW I liked your previous headline more. (thanks to Google cache)

"It's everything you are, in pictures" is clearer and easier to understand than "your autobiography in graphic novel style".

I still think you miss something unique and diverse at a feature level (what your app can do that other don't) and not on a concept level ("IT'S ABOUT YOU! NOT YOUR FRIENDS OR FAMILY, BUT YOU!").

I keep a notebook on my night table with a pen to catalog my ideas as they popup. My ideas usually come as the result of me reflecting on the past day and letting my mind wander. I write everything down, even if it seems highly unlikely to ever come to fruition. I believe this is important as further ideas can be derived that are slightly more 'approachable'. I try my best not to force this process and let it occur organically. The notes are written as a stream-of-consciousness, I sketch and write to my hearts content hoping to capture the idea envisioned in my minds eye.

Validation: I don't validate my ideas as much as I should, this is a personal failing but its something I am working on. I do perform market research on each product and consider the challenges of getting a MVP out to consumers. I recently watched a talk by DHH at Startup School '08[1] which gave me a personal epiphany, sadly this should have been painfully obvious, that you can still do well aiming to satisfy the niche markets, chances are you will not be making the next facebook. While it is nice to dream of being the next big thing, I personally would be ecstatic to have a handful of people paying 5$ a month for a product that solved their problem.


I haven't read the book that some others have been recommending, but it looks good (I respect a lot of the people who gave it favorable reviews on its website). Aside from that, I'd say you should do some research on others who've successfully followed this path. They exist -- they're just less likely to show up in tech news, which is heavily influenced by investors (who only care about big wins) and bloggers (who only care about big news).

Take a look at the early blog posts from Balsamiq's Peldi, anything by Patrick Mackenzie, the Wufoo guys, Gary Vaynerchuck, or anything from the 37Signals guys. This talk by DHH never fails to motivate me:

The talk you link to in that essay leads to a 404. Is it this talk on YouTube (

If so, maybe you want to update the link.

DHH is always fun.

David Heinemeier Hansson at Startup School 08

Jason Calacanis vs. David Heinemeier Hansson on This Week in Startups

Quitting your job sounds like it was a good move, if you hate what you are doing everyday it's tough to enjoy life.

In the short term it may make things difficult financially.

Get excited about something, what are you passionate about that can pay the bills in the future?

A college degree is good, I would recommend getting some type of technical degree, computer science. Calculus is tough, a lot of people struggle through it, don't get discouraged.

Art appreciation is great, Art as a career or even as a degree not recommended (if you enjoy programming/solving problems).

That said a degree isn't 100% necessary, just nice to have.

If you are creative and enjoy programming and web design. Do not give up on web development/freelancing.

There is so much opportunity in this area.

Stage 1:

Stay at your parents as long as you can short term, thank them for letting your stay, help out around the house.

Find a support network and take care of yourself (Find people who put you in a positive mind set and spend time with them, spend time outdoors, exercise, eat right)

Find a Job any Job (Try to find something that interests you and relates to technology: Computer Repair Store, Apple Store maybe even Barnes and Noble).

Keep Freelancing (Take on every project you can find, approach local businesses and restaurants about creating or updating their websites, Take on difficult projects, that test and improve your skills)

Keep Learning (PHP/mySQL, jQuery, Create a Web App, Create an iOS app, HTML5, CSS3, Ruby on Rails)

Learn more about startups and businesses in general (Listen to David Heinemeier Hansson's startup school talk Start listening to the interviews at

Meet Like Minded People (Ditch your friends that aren't supportive, make new friends)

Talk more with your family (Build a better relationship with your parents explain how bad your previous job was, admit that maybe you should have stuck it out, tell them about your new plan, keep them updated)

Money (Use credit sparingly, do not buy things on credit cards unless you can pay off the balance monthly, check out Rich Dad Poor Dad, just take in the overall message don't follow all his advice to the letter and Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover to build good money management habits now while you're young.)

Stage 2:

I would push you to plan on (or at least think about) having your own business (eventually).

Freelancing or working for a company is only going to take you so far. Salary isn't everything but when you have a wife and 2 kids, mortgage, college tuition, etc money won't go as far as you think.

Working for someone else your salary will hit a ceiling, same with freelancing/consulting you only have so many hours to sell and you'll constantly be chasing new projects.

You currently have a job, consulting, and are learning all you can about web development.

Let's add one more item to the mix, your side project.

Your side project will be the start of your company.

Your goal is to create a website, web application that provides reoccurring revenue.

SaaS (recommended) Mobile Apps Affiliate Site Content Site with Ads

Since you are young you can explore all these areas, figure out where your passion is and go from there.

If everything is going ok living at your parents use this time to build your side project(s), along with your job and freelancing/consulting.

If you feel like you need to get your own place then you're going to have to start looking for a better day job.

Basically balance your job, consulting and keep your side project(s) moving forward.

Stage 3:

You are young so you have a lot of time to get a business off the ground if that's the direction you are headed.

There are lots of ways to make money building online businesses.

Business is not easy, you will have failures and successes, stay positive.

Save money to give yourself runway when you decide to quit your day job and depend on your side projects that have turned into your primary business(s).

Keep an open mind, be on the look out for new business/website ideas, keep learning, keep up your support network.

If you aren't passionate about consulting or running your own business, pick a career you like and will enjoy day to day, then look at your starting salary and long term salary ceiling and setup your lifestyle below those levels, including money for savings, travel, kids, college.

Enjoy the ride.

This is wonderfully packed piece of advice, I'm sure it will be useful to many.
I love this talk from the creator of Ruby on Rails (DHH) about the Fortune 5000000 (from 2008):
Indeed, great talk. Check out the talk by Chris Wanstrath co-founder of Github >
I'm a single founder (Haystack Software). I wrote/write Arq (online backup to S3). I consider it a success because it pays my bills. A huge side benefit is it gets me into conversations with folks who tell me their business pain. I'm working on products to solve those pains as well.

I was (and still am) hugely inspired by DHH's presentation at Startup School 08

Great product that keeps getting better and better. Glad to hear that it's supporting you properly.
Having those conversations with the folks with the business pains is golden.

I want to switch my current development job, among other things, because I don't get to interact with the customers having the business problems, and I want to solve them (not to mention it's where the money is, but I honestly like solving business problems too).

Being empowered to solve them should be gratifying too.

Thanks for sharing.

Nice collection but this one with David Heinemeier Hansson on bootstrapping a profitable startup is definitely missing:
"Its hard, but not THAT hard!"

6 years into building web-apps and finally I am just now seeing a few bucks rolling in (still <$1000 month).

I wasted lots of time, primarily pursuing the wrong kinds of business models (free!!!) or putting effort into the wrong areas of a business, ultimately burning out because things weren't working.

But, even if you've picked a good product with a good market, for the un-initiated engineer there's this mysterious delta between being able to build something (anything!), and making that something successful. My recommendation (because its working for me), is to find a co-founder who is a business guy employed at a successful small software company. Painting with broad strokes here, but try to pick a sales or marketing guy over a biz dev guy, I think they are connected better with the product.

You've heard this advice before. Its true. Engineers think of the world as meritocratic. But good product != success. You need someone to help you get past this way of thinking.

DHH's "How to make money online" (Startup School) goes into more detail on this.

The version with slides isn't working right now

Nov 22, 2010 · chesser on My Y Combinator interview.
2) I'm not criticizing the idea of funding, I'm saying the amount is small. Google got either $100k total or $100k each from David Cheriton and Andy Bechtolsheim, depending on which article you read. Presumably they had their living arrangements already covered, so it could all go to the company and not to rent.

Even though computing resources are cheaper now, the bar is much higher, so if your project needs a cluster or significant bandwidth it's still expensive in relative terms.

1) A lot of things have the "potential" to work out, but you can only count the ones that actually do.

Besides, even a billion-dollar exit isn't "The Next Google". By Paul's own binary metric, that's still a failure. Let's say they owned 6% but that got diluted to 1/4th from follow-on rounds; their cut would be 15 million before taxes. They (Y Combinator) took $2 million in 2009 and then $8.25 million in 2010 from investors including Sequoia, so it's either going to be divvied up a dozen ways or has to pay back the $10.25 million first or whatever the terms are. Or maybe that's only for 2009 and 2010 startups, so it only has to be split between the 4 partners they had at the time (of funding Dropbox).

It's a win for the founder, but there are other wins that this model can miss.

David Heinemeier Hansson at Startup School 08:

I'd add that it's a good idea to take it easy because it's never going to be less work, as DHH suggested at Startup School
Jan 13, 2010 · 69 points, 14 comments · submitted by niyazpk
We've seen this before (two years ago). The secret? "Sell something".
I thought it was "start a cult".
I think we still need a number of people having a go at random ideas without any clear revenue streams (e.g. Twitter). However, there are so many people who are working on niche-facebooks, socially aggregated widgets and crackpot venture-driven gimmicks who would be better off trying to build a small, profitable business that actually contributes to the economy.
If you prefer just the audio (and in better quality than this, I think) then check out the 37signals podcast: - It makes for great listening and this presentation is the latest episode.
I would have loved to see the slides instead of David's body language.
A way to make money online. There are many viable ways.
He addresses this issue right at the start of the talk.
Definitely David's best. And he had a lot of great talks in the past.
Never gets old..
You know, my first thought was like davidw's, that we've seen this before. But you're so right, he is a very energetic speaker, funny, and the message is well supported and presented. It's just a great talk and one that has really stuck with me since I first saw it.

"You don't need to be an f'ing genius to make any of this work..."

This guy really rocks ! Should give more talks like that.
This link is much better, because you can see the slides in parallel with the talk:

Speaking of which, what's new with Omnisio since Google acquired them? It seems like Google shut down the service to new sign ups for many years now, similar to what they did with GrandCentral, and likewise with Etherpad.
I think the Omnisios got rolled into YouTube in various technology and product roles, but I'm not 100% sure. (They were in the same YC batch as I was, but I've only talked to them a couple times since the acquisition.)
GrandCentral was reborn as Google Voice, so I hope similar things will happen with Omnisio. I imagine Etherpad is simply being folded into the Google Wave team proper though.
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