After more than a year working on ByteVitae, going through ups and downs I feel it's time I reflect on how things have gone.
As of the moment of writing this ByteVitae after ~12 months has performed this way:
Total Page visits:
- March 2019: Prepare "perfect" scaffolding/learn backend development
- June 2019: Start developing MVP
- August 2019: Finish MVP
- September 2019: Launch to PH + Launch to HackerNews
- November 2019: Implement coupon system and exchange promo with NomadCity conference
- December 2019: Stop developing new features. Improve existing.
- January 2019: Get a part-time job
- March 2020: My brother joins in
- April 2020: Halt development (except maintenance). Put on marketing/business hats
- May 2020: Make stats open
- May 2020: Contact bootcamps (some interested), give away codes. Result = 0 uses
- July 2020: Give away discount codes to existing users + Ask for user feedback (11 months in duh!). Contact someone interested in buying the "company", no deal.
- August 2020: Reduce operating costs to minimum, remove feedback widget and leave it in standby.
- September 2020: Write post-mortem
The chase of the solo founder dream
If you haven't read my previous posts. In 2019 I embarked on an adventure to live off my own products. Extremely excited, and fueled by the stories of successful indie makers I was extremely sure that by January 2020 I would be living off my self made stuff! (spoiler: I am not).
I had been kinda obsessed with this idea since a long time ago and specially since I left my old startup, thinking this would be the solution to all of my problems. More than a year later I am far from living off the money I made, but definitely closer to finding my desired lifestyle. Here are a handful of lessons I learnt in this past year:
- I love making products: Nothing wrong with that! But building a product and building a business require two different mindsets. I abandoned quite fast the idea of 12 startups in 12 months in favour of "learn to build something great". If you want to build a business, you better put on the hardcore business hat and validate early and fast. You might need (or not) to develop something custom to serve your users, but that product is just a tool to support your business.I chose to put on the techie hat.. With that decision, I chose to build my own skills by using a business as a tool. So it's no surprise that the tech side of things went great, and the money side of things went horribly wrong!.
- I'm not good at everything: To build something profitable on your own, you better learn to put on ALL of the hats. I have been avoiding marketing stuff for years, and I thought during this past year things would go great, I would learn tons and learn to love it. Surprise...it didn't happen! I really don't enjoy doing marketing stuff and I have come to make peace with myself. I'm human and there is stuff I will suck at. Also my love and appreciation for all my marketing teams in the past has increased x1000 🖤 Clara!I feel, it's better to focus on the stuff I love doing, which takes me to:
- Going solo is great, but having a partner is AMAZING: I always dreamt of the solo maker/founder cracking out profitable products on his own a la Pieter levels. I'm sure there are people capable of that. But in my own case, the few weeks I could work elbow to elbow with my brother felt amazing. Being able to rely on someone to make the stuff you are not good at, and having another brain to throw stuff against felt really healthy.
- Forcing myself to crank out product-building felt miserable: So with ByteVitae it felt really good to work on it, I was very encouraging to see friends using it to find jobs, and seeing it was making a real impact on people's lifes.As soon as I released it, and I got to find "my next money idea" I started to get stressed out, unhappy and miserable all around. I was chasing the "successful solopreneur story", but it didn't feel right. I felt I was using my free time to build something with the idea of "maybe" buying free time for the future me. That's an error I had made once in the past, and there I was, falling for it again.
On the product/business side of things here are a few things I learnt, I should keep in mind when working on a new project:
- Be explicit with your goal: If you want money, put on the money hat. If you want to develop, put on the techie one.
- Less building: You love to code, we get that. But that is not the best way of making a business profitable.
- Have fun!: You are using your free time. If you are not enjoying yourself, quit. You can work hard AND in something you enjoy, not mutually exclusive.
- GATHER USER FEEDBACK ASAP: Validate, validate, validate (Don't wait 11 months for customer feedback 🙃)
- Outsource legal headaches: Paying 10 bucks a month to sleep comfortably at night feels worth it. (not affiliated)
- Launches are not that scary: They really aren't, the internet can feel scary, but people tend to be nicer than you expect. And even if you get a bad response, it's not the end of the world.
- Launches are not the silver bullet: Yeah, you might get a thousand users in 2 hours, but chances are they will help you validate stuff not make your product successful right off the bat. Success is a matter of cumulative work over a longer period of time.
- Track stats from the very start: Remember that KPI you forgot to track for 6 months? 😅
- Make stats open from the start: No one is going to "steal" your stuff, and it is very useful for other makers.
- Setup a solid CI and infra from the start: Although it might take some time, it will save so much time later on.
- Contact people and try to make deals/partnerships: People are really open to this kinds of collabs, who would have known 🤷🏻♂️
- Keep self management pretty lean: Don't overcomplicate stuff, being solo you can save lot's of overhead by using the context inside your head.
- Be flexible but constant with time: It's ok to stick to a schedule every day, but it's okay to go relax and enjoy life when you need to.
- Once you get back after some time, your code will look horrendous: You code shit every day, get used to it, improve it every day.
- Creating an initially reusable scaffolding is a pretty stupid idea: There is no perfect template that will fit all of your product needs. Learning to build lean stuff and iterating constantly will pay way more dividends.
So what I'm going to do from now on?
For now, I'm giving myself some rest time, eventually I hope an idea I really love will flourish and I will get to work on it. Until then I'm exploring stuff I find interesting and fun for the sake of it.
Regarding ByteVitae, I'm leaving it on "standby" mode, it's only spending $7/month right now, and it seems people are getting value out of it, so for now I won't be focusing on it but I will keep it around.
Those are my reflections after a year of building stuff. Leaving them written here so I don't forget them in the future!