The Why of It All
What if you can fundamentally alter the startup skills of a developer in the same way that baby faced high school graduates become effective, highly disciplined soldiers after Boot Camp?
The idea of the year long 12 startups challenge is widely known in the indie startup world. It all started with Pieter Levels back in 2014, when he set the challenge for himself and in the process creating NomadList, among other startups. While Pieter challenged himself in order to ship his projects, since then there have been a number of public attempts of the 12 startups challenge with various rationale. Notably, Jon Yongfook's challenge to regain his SaaS building muscles that resulted in BannerBear, and there's even an ongoing 12x Startup challenge where a group of 6 developers take on the challenge concurrently.
My rationale for taking on the challenge differs a bit from the examples above. I'm doing the 12 startups in 12 months challenge as a way to stretch myself and become a better generalist. I taught myself how to program a decade ago in order to solve a pain point I had in graduate school, in doing so making a very handsome 74 dollars from other students. A decade later, I'm an experienced developer with an actual computer science degree but, my marketing skill barely moved on from the flyers I posted around campus.
I'm using this space to share my experience with the world, document the mistakes I know I'll make along the way ... the lessons learned ... and the success stories. 🍾
The Square and the Circle
In Chinese, the square and the circle make up the basic boundaries of the world, so before we get on with the projects I'll set some rules of the game and what I hope to learn from the experience.
- Startup is by my definition a piece of software that users find useful enough to generate revenue in the long run. Just like Nomadlist did not first have a monetization strategy at first, I do not expect all initial versions of my startups to be revenue generating.
- Shipping a startup in this definition means deployment of the initial version of the software, and does not include associated marketing activities.
- Documentation is key to the experience, I will be building in public with a monthly project reflection post and any ongoing business metrics along the way.
- Learning being the ultimate goal, I would periodically announce new experiments I'm running, my hypothesis and the results.
With the rules listed, let's get the FUN started!
Keeping It Honest
January Project: Kata Club
Kata Club is an idea I had while researching the solo founder startup journey. Namely that I didn't have any startup ideas.
One day I came across Tyler Tringas' Micro-SaaS Blog Post about the Ideas Meat Grinder and I saw:
First of all you should be coming up with at least five possible business ideas every day. This part should be basically effortless ... If you’re not doing that, you’re probably not going to be an entrepreneur… sorry. It’s okay.
So I decided to prove him wrong and put my butt in my chair everyday with a timer on to come up with ideas, and after a couple of weeks I got better and better at it, to the point that I almost started to turn into the "mildly annoying ideas person" he cautioned against.
'I don't have the right business idea' is a hurdle that held me back for a number of years. Finally getting the monkey off my back is a nice itch scratched and I wanted to create something that share the solution with others. This is where Kata Club comes in, it's a daily challenge for founders and soon to be founders to work on their idea generation and evaluation muscle, a list of public ideas for others to sink their teeth into, and a community of others to provide support on this journey together.
3/3/2021 Kata Club Update: Kata club is still up due to it being on the free Heroku plan, but it is no longer an active project. I did not spend as much time and effort into its marketing efforts as I should have, and I didn't see a revenue generating path for the site. Lessons Learned:
- Marketing: got my feet wet at content marketing with Kata Club, it's not that hard and not that scary :). The key is to give value, and it is rewarding to see people learning from my content.
- Revenue: despite my lessons learned, Kata Club is not a step in the money making / spending workflow and inherently has a harder time generating revenue, which decreases my motivation with the project.
- First users: with the launch of Kata Club, I got my first users for one of my own projects in a decade, it's always validating to see that I can still make projects people use.
February Project: Freelance Parlance
I spent much of February learning about marketing, sales, and the world of freelancers. It is motivating to see that freelancing isn't nearly as difficult as I thought at first... but it's also frustrating to learn about all the regulatory things one has to keep track of... and having to file taxes quarterly.
It's even less reassuring to learn that there aren't many easy to use web software targeted at freelancers. IRS.gov is a scary looking website... at least for the uninitiated.
As luck will have it, I almost became an accountant a life time ago, and I have no problem going into the nitty-grittiy of freelancer tax. I also have a lot of opinions about life as a freelancer that is not appropriate for this blog, so for now all that information will also go on Freelance Parlance. I'm not exactly sure what the revenue stream of the blog will be yet (sensing a pattern here), but for now I'm focusing on generating value instead of revenue.