Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Startup Realities Checklist: Coder or Entrepreneur?

So what are some of the harsh realities of a startup that applied to me as well?

Your First Iteration of an Idea Will Be Wrong
Our first product is a property website which allows checking for historical property prices so that you could make a wiser decision before purchase. Though it might sounds useful, but we fail the gain user tractions or wrestle with the big boys like iProperty. Price Analysis is nice, but people use property website to search for property (either buy/sale or rent); and we don’t have the resources or connections to succeed in this manner.

Perhaps it isn’t a fail product (yet), just that it would consume more resources and industrial relationship to succeed (something which we don’t have). Restaurant reviews is something which we could do really well given our limitation, thus we focus on that.

Your Friends And Family Won’t Understand What You Do
It takes years before my dad stop asking me to get a “real” job. When I told people we are running a restaurant reviews website without charging for usage, people would ask how we survived. I would explain it is like The Sun newspaper, a free local newspaper and make money from the advertiser. Wait until they found out I am making less than being employed (sometimes).

Why do it (start a business) if it doesn’t make more money than being employed? The short answer is it’s fun and satisfying, I can work through weekend and midnight and still feel good about it (though I curse at the notebook many times). What if it doesn’t work out? The problem is, I could no longer get myself to do work for others which doesn’t interest me. It’s just painful. There seems to be no turning back (I once wished for burning the bridges, seems like it had happened).

You Will Make Less Than Normal Wages For A While
It could be a long while. I would probably earn more if I continue to climb the corporate ladder 6 years ago. Then again, I would end up in a dead end: a life which I wouldn’t enjoy. I need good mixture of freedom and passion, and a good mix of programming and traveling. I am lucky that my life expenses are low, and I am good at saving money, and pretty good at bootstrapping, and doing something which is within my means and capabilities.

Everything Takes Twice As Long…If It Even Happens
Still remember about thinking about making the 1st million by 25, then 30, and now turned to 35. Still remember about become sustainable within 6 months, then 1 year and then forgotten about how to calculate. Being a programmer, we are always optimistic about launching a new product or finishing the feature within 3 days, which might ended twice or thrice as long. All system must go live and all features must go out the door! Luckily that is still true: late but deployed. Getting it done is still better that getting it perfect.

Titles Mean Nothing. You Will Be a Janitor
I can call myself CEO, Founder, Serial Entrepreneur, Software Architect, Product Manager, etc. It doesn’t matter: I’m still a coder, and a thousand other things.

There Is No Silver Bullet
There is no savior (mentor or VC) which is going to come in and save the day, or any magic formula not known to mankind; I have to make it work though countless iteration of experimentation and error, until I get it right, or stop being relevant.

Customers Will Frustrate You
I like the users and consumers (since they are not paying and happily using our free services); customers could be a bit demanding since they are forking out the money. Then again, I am thankful of Google Adsense which could temporary shield me from sales and customers.

You Can’t Do It All Yourself
Yup, I have tasks piled up for me for the next 12 months if I am going to do this alone. I can pick-up multiple skills, but I could squeeze more than 24 hours in a single day. I definitely need help, HELP!!!

Building A Team Is Hard
Yup, I could be very tricky, but there is no other way. Then again, we shouldn’t just assemble a team just because we need to, we need to find the “right” people; just like we should not get married just because it’s time to get married, and we need to find the “right” girl or else we would be miserable for the rest of our life.

Building a team is like a courtship which hopefully would lead to marriage, and expect a lot of heartbreaks, incompatibility, wrong timing, betrayal, bad judgment, misaligned vision, not good enough, etc.

You will LOSE all of your money that you ever earned, and then a bunch that you still have not earned. If you’re not prepared to put it all on the line, you’re not prepared for a start-up.
When I am Solo, I just need to feed myself and get a shelter (which my parents could temporary provide for me).  Worst case scenario for me is that I might lose that “potential” income per year, or don’t have enough money to get married or have children. Should I take on more risk?

Am I a Coder or Entrepreneur?
I have ponder this question for quite a while, am I an Entrepreneur doing a Startup? I know I am a coder who likes to build stuff, and I am happy when people like to use my stuff. Is my stuff (a product or a website) a startup? Is a coder running some stuff an Entrepreneur? Before the word Entrepreneur doing Startup becomes popular, it was known as Businessman running a Business; and it is common knowledge that technical person are less likely to be a businessman. Technology (and Timing) made it possible for a coder to become an Entrepreneur doing a Startup. We know Entrepreneur consist more than just a coder: the business and management side, the sales and marketing side, and the whole “running a startup” side.

Rather than being all glamorous about entrepreneurship and startup, perhaps I am happier being a coder building some useful stuff which people happens to like to use. I guess I am not getting any VC love after admitting to this :)


editor said...

IMHO, you built a really good and useful stuff. Did you have a right mentor of doing this business?..Just curious!

d_luaz said...

Glad that it's useful.
Official, there is no mentor; except Hacker News and Slashdot ;)