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I wish there was a similar level and quality of resources for what I think are called lifestyle businesses. By that, I mean product-based businesses with at most a few million in revenue, a 5ish person team, a solid sustainable market position, and no desire to revolutionize any unicorns.

I know a lot of people attempting this and they mostly seem to be flying under the radar, or at least have nowhere near the cachet of a startup. They are often bootstrapped, frequently for lack of other options.

For those of us who don't want to be in the pressure cooker or are turned off by the hype machine, these businesses are a viable alternative route toward independence and possibly achieving a significant impact. The fact that they have become as attainable as they are is I think also something quite remarkable.




The Basecamp (née 37Signals) folks have been beating this drum for quite some time. DHH posted "Reconsider" to their blog today, actually; it's an entertaining read, if nothing else: https://signalvnoise.com/posts/3972-reconsider

Here in Seattle, there's a great community of small software businesses with meaningful profits and impact. We have ties to the broader Seattle startup and technology community, without being a proper subset.

I don't see it as an either-or proposition. Right funding for the right business, as it were.


That "Reconsider" post was at the top of HN yesterday(1) but it was quickly removed from the front page(2). What a coincidence.

DHH's "Reconsider": "Our definition of winning didn’t even include establishing that hallowed sanctity of the natural monopoly!"

Sam's "Playbook": "We also ask how the company will one day be a monopoly."

(1)https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10506422

(2)https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10508269


There's plenty of room for both models. Lifestyle businesses are awesome. 100% great. But we wouldn't have society-level upgrades like Uber, Twitter or Apple without venture capital. They just don't work any other way.


I disagree strongly. We have the web because Tim Berners-Lee didn't raise an angel round, so he didn't ask 'how do I monetize' and built an amazing open system. Before him we had CompuServe and other VC backed trash.

VC businesses like Twitter and Uber create centralized points of stagnation that seem great at first, but can't innovate the way open systems can. If Twitter was open we wouldn't be wondering if they'll improve their product or who will be CEO, because there'd be a dozen people innovating on it. Instead, because the network is owned by one group of people, that basically doesn't happen.

We still get that sort of amazing, eco-system creating innovation when a rare innovator declines VC (wikipedia, bitcoin). But when a VC steps in, the only innovations that flourish are those that benefit the capitalist.

Venture capital is, ironically, the enemy of innovation. It doesn't support it; it captures it and restrains it, tying it down with the bonds of capital.


Well said!

What I find funny is that if you make an analogy to music you find exactly where these platitudes lead to. "Great team" like One Direction or Britney Spears. "Make something that people want," such as Hit Me Baby One More Time.

Innovation is more like this: "The Velvet Underground's first album only sold a few thousand copies, but everyone who bought one formed a band." [Brian Eno]

When I see VC's like Peter Thiel who openly (and correctly) complain about the lack of innovation, I have to scratch my head and think, "Well, then, get out of the way."


> We have the web because Tim Berners-Lee didn't raise an angel round

Perhaps, but how successful would TBL's creation be without the Kleiner-Perkins investment in Netscape. The paid web browser probably wouldn't have taken off and the VC funding allowed Netscape to invest in building a quality browser while not charging end users to download.

VC has it's place and we shouldn't write it off entirely. But we should also realize that there are other ways for important changes to develop and VC isn't the panacea as it's often presented as here.


You did still have to pay for Netscape sometimes.


> Joy's law is the principle that "no matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else,” attributed to Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy.

> Joy was prompted to state this observation through his dislike of Bill Gates’ view of “Microsoft as an IQ monopolist.” He argued that, instead, “It’s better to create an ecology that gets all the world’s smartest people toiling in your garden for your goals. If you rely solely on your own employees, you’ll never solve all your customers’ needs.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joy%27s_law_(management)


Tim Berners-Lee didn't bootstrap the web, there was a bunch of money from educational institutions and the goverment and the like.

Maybe it's not VCs, but you can't bootstrap everything. Or maybe you can, but it will probably take a lot longer.


Didnt the guy who wrote clojure "Bootstrap everything", atleast im pretty sure that he worked for a really long time without telling anyone.


I disagree with the broad characterization of VC as an enemy of innovation. There are plenty of VC-backed companies that don't innovate. There are also plenty of non VC-backed companies that don't innovate either.

To name 4: Google, Docker, Tesla, Apple. I'm happy that they were able to raise enough VC that they've innovated and created stuff that I happily use. (Well, I don't own a Tesla. But I've driven one.)


It's an interesting point, but I'm wondering how to unpack it.

"If Twitter was open... a dozen people innovating on it..."

Though not 100% independent of their funding model (loss-aversion bias might lead us to conclude that big companies take less risk), presumably Twitter has at least a dozen people trying to innovate on it?

They may not be doing what [parts of] the community wants, but that's not quite the same thing as not innovating.


You're suffering from startup myopia.

Things like GPS are society-level upgrades. Uber is just one application of GPS.


Things like GPS are the result of hundreds of billions of dollars of government spending, much of it going to the military-industrial complex. So yeah.


Sometimes they do. Wikipedia comes to mind. Your point is still valid though.


AFAIK, Apple had a single major investment for it's incorporation. And it was a healthy investment, as Apple was making real money really fast.

Twitter is flowing in the sea of red and as far as I know never had a dime of profit. Who gives money to twitter by this point? Twitter has a lot of users, but it does not monetise the platform well. Also IMHO, Twitter has waaaay too many employees and I imagine that it's internal processes are very inefficient.

Uber is great example of unicorn startup. Though we'll see how it will turn out.


How much venture capital did Apple raise before going public in 1980?


Oh wow, today I learned.

This is outrageous, I was so naive of HN community, that things like this are not happening here.


Step away from the tinfoil hat. "Reconsider" is still atop the best list.

Personally I found this article more interesting than "Reconsider". I mean c'mon, it's trivially true that the humbler road doesn't get the press but is more spiritually satisfying &c &c. Whereas this article brings together valuable knowledge from different domains.


Thanks for reposting this, I didn't see it the first time around. Many of the pro-startup stuff I see, in particular this Altman piece, make me subtly uncomfortable, and I couldn't quite put my finger on why. Maybe it's because, while I live in the Valley, I'm a Seattle native. Maybe it's because Sam's younger than I am. Maybe it's because I like the suburbs better than San Francisco proper. Maybe it's because I'm not an Ideas guy; this isn't targeted at me because I have no interest in starting a company and dedicating every second of my waking life to it. That's why I was hesitant to comment at all. "Of course you're uncomfortable with it," the reply to my comment would read, "you non-disruptive loser" it would end.

For those who want a unicorn valuation, I'm sure Sam's piece is great. Or maybe it's not, I don't know.

But what I do know is he kept mentioning how competition never kills startups. It's failure to execute. Why balance burnout and cashflow and hiring and funding in some kind of race to become a unicorn if competitors won't actually kill you?

Why not grow at a reasonable pace, running a reasonable business, that makes reasonable money?


I think the advice re. competitors tends to be about "how much should you worry about what a competitor is doing _right now_" - and the answer to that is pretty much always "not a whole lot." You can have two businesses doing similar things but taking radically different approaches to execution and both succeeding in their own way.

But on the macro scale there are always windows of opening and closing opportunity on what makes for a viable business before (new technology takes over/bigger companies start paying attention/governments try to regulate you out of existence), and it is that more general climate of whether it's possible to execute at all that pressures the potential unicorns into a do-or-die mode. Monopolistic competition like e.g. Uber vs. Lyft is an exceptional case for technology; the expectation is that if you succeed at all you will probably be in complete control until the technology ecosystem itself shifts.

There is a second half to this, of course, which is that the type of people who found a fast-moving VC-backed startup are so deeply enmeshed in their plans for the company that they will put themselves into an unsustainable overdrive and expect everyone around them to do the same. Their enthusiasm can be entirely real and still be basically toxic and lacking in conservative sensibility. There are a lot of commonalities among founder personalities, IME.


Because then the growth of valuation metrics will be slow and you will not be able to justify round A,B,C,+,-, etc.

Try reading it through the eyes of an investor putting capital to work rather than the person doing the work.


Results don't scale linearly with effort. I don't know if it's worth it.


I should do a blogpost about the small business I took over from my dad, and the impact it had.


Yes, yes you should.


Too funny! From DHH's blog post:

Angels? Really? You’ve plucked your self-serving moniker from the parables of a religion that specifically and explicitly had its head honcho throw the money men out of the temple and proclaim a rich man less likely to make it into heaven than a camel through a needle’s eye. Okay then!


How can I find jobs for small software business like that (especially in Seattle!)? I want to work in a smaller environment that's not necessarily trying to be a "unicorn", but those seem to be the only jobs posted here on HN for "Who's hiring?". On other job boards, I mostly just see larger corporations hiring worker drones. I just want to write good software that solves interesting problems and make enough money to get by!


It's really up to you to go out and find them. I suggest looking for local meetups and talking to engineers who are working in those small businesses. Get to know the people in your community running these small businesses.

Most of our hires were introduced through people I know. In a small business this is often the only logical way to hire because you already have some level of trust with the referrer and thus they've acted as the first gateway for a candidate to get through (and they usually can vouch for the candidate's work).

Also, many small businesses are concerned largely with staying alive and making a profit, so that may mean they will be focused on "non-interesting" problems of making the business operate well. Factor this into your decision as to who you want to work for as well.


I guess that's the issue- where I'm living right now, there is absolutely no "tech scene". There are no local meetups that don't require me driving 1.5+ hours one way to get to, which I can't manage to do on a regular basis. I'd love to move somewhere where there's more people who are like-minded, but I can't just up and move without a job waiting for me.

The general consensus I'm hearing is that the way you get hired at a smaller company is just through networking, but if there's no network near me to speak of am I just simply out of luck?

And yes, I'm aware that I will have to work on some "non-interesting" problems, but I'm okay with that as long as I feel like my work is being valued by my coworkers and that I'm not just another drone.


I'll second this, it really is a "scene." When hiring or looking for contract work, people reach out to their network first and it almost always produces someone. Reaching out to the open market is seen as a last resort and rarely happens.

Also, chatting with random people at coworking spaces could be fruitful.


If you think that at a lifestyle business you can just philosophize about 'architecture', write 3 prototypes and hone every last function for aesthetics, you're sadly mistaken. When you're small everyone has to do everything, you need to ship so bills can be paid, and customers are always nr 1, not the software. I like 'small' too, but it's not like working at a lifestyle business is like having tenure. Owning one that has plenty of cash at hand might be, but working for one isn't.


When I worked for other people I had great success by cold-calling firms that interested me and that I felt could use my skills. They didn't always have job listings but they liked my genuine interest in their products.


If you're in Seattle, have you looked at software engineering positions at the UW? You can find plenty of interesting problems to work on, with world-class peers in the faculty and students.


I was surprised that article didn't trigger a bigger response on HN. It is a little over the top, but it leaves a lot to think about. The Unicorn, disruption PR wheel has drowned out the virtues and benefits of other forms of entrepreneurship.


For me personally I tend to ignore most of what DHH writes.

He has an unfortunate tendency to see the way that he was successful as the only way to be successful, and seems to lack the ability to benefits in other ways of doing things. We used to see this in PG's writings too: back before he started YC he appeared to be utterly convinced that it was Lisp that made his company successful. After he started YC and he saw a lot more his writing became a lot stronger IMO.

Regarding DHH, I'll just point at [1], with the comment that Facebook made $891 profit last quarter. It's also currently valued at ~$300B.

[1] https://signalvnoise.com/posts/2585-facebook-is-not-worth-33...


> Regarding DHH, I'll just point at [1], with the comment that Facebook made $891 profit last quarter. It's also currently valued at ~$300B. > [1] https://signalvnoise.com/posts/2585-facebook-is-not-worth-33....

To be fair that blog post was written in 2010 when Facebook was still a private company and had nowhere near the level of advertising, reach, etc. that it has today. In particular they had barely scratched the surface of mobile and were only making money off Farmville and other ephemeral apps.


That's kind of the point!!

The trajectory was clear enough that all those investors DHH called "star struck" put money in.

To quote him: Irrational investor exuberance indeed. I think it would be more sensible to class them as "investors who had more foresight than DHH".

He berated them for being dumb. Since we can now see that they weren't dumb at all we should consider DHH's insights questionable.


They were still dumb, they just got lucky. When you have enough money to throw shit and see what sticks, you don't need to be smart and pick winners. That's the whole crux of why people don't respect VC.


Lucky?

They were desperately buying anything they could on the secondary markets. That isn't luck, it's seeing an opportunity.

It's like Pinterest 2 or 3 years ago (say around the time of the 27M A16Z B round). Putting as much money into that as you could isn't being lucky, it's seeing an opportunity. Their 2014 and 2015 rounds are basically just ways to print money.

That's the whole crux of why people don't respect VC.

Um. Some people don't respect some VCs. I don't agree with everything Marc Andreessen says, but I'd be pretty silly if I didn't respect his opinion on technology.


To my mind, this mainly reinforces that ample success does not lend one's opinions any credence. Fortunately, there aren't many people relying on DHH for market analysis. It's kind of like how no one really needs to hear my opinions on politics just because I'm a championship level drinker (but I'll give them anyway).


I think what this essay overlooked is that the choice between a "low-risk but small business path" and a "high-risk unicorn path" is not always merely about business-choices and cornering markets simply by using large sums of money. A different "high-risk unicorn path" is going through hard scientific research, which often requires external money to get anything from the ground. And it is this last type of business that, imho, deserves our respect most. But otherwise I agree with that article.


I think "unicorn" is strictly reserved for the Ubers and the AirBNBs of the world. Anyone who calls the company that gets fusion energy working a "unicorn" will probably be laughed out of the room.


It seems like Aileen Lee was one of the first people to popularize unicorns. in his article around 2013[0] he defines them as

> We found 39 companies belong to what we call the “Unicorn Club” (by our definition, U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors). That’s about .07 percent of venture-backed consumer and enterprise software startups.

That being said, the term is now almost a pejorative moniker for overpriced vaporware or at least "proof of the bubble". or something. Still though, a fusion company would be the rare breakthrough on a big idea that would warrant such a moniker. Unicorns missed the ark during the great flood, so at IPO time we'll see if tgey go extinct or evolve into narwhals.

0 http://techcrunch.com/2013/11/02/welcome-to-the-unicorn-club...


>in his article around 2013[0] he defines them

Aileen is a woman.


good catch. uncommon name, "cowboy ventures", prominent VC, bad assumption on my part. can't edit post, but noted.


> I wanted a life beyond work. Hobbies, family, and intellectual stimulation and pursuits beyond Hacker News, what the next-next-next JavaScript framework looks like, and how we can optimize our signup funnel.

> and pursuits beyond Hacker News

What foreign language is this?


Ah yes. Refreshing read. Thank you.

I am long time thinking and saying, that modern startups have rather poisonous culture around them. It's very refreshing to read who thinks (and writes) about it.


Reading the advice in the handbook, I don't think it's all that different from what you'd need to start a lifestyle business. You still need to start with a business niche that is underserved where you can make a few customers very happy. You still need to focus on improving your product (or service) to the point where people will give you business via referrals - pounding the pavement for every single sale isn't a very desirable lifestyle. You still need to listen carefully to everything your users say, and to focus tightly and improve the product.

The difference, I think, is that a lifestyle business is a startup where you take your foot off the gas once your income meets your personal needs. It doesn't need to be a monopoly - in fact, it's better if it isn't, because if it is some other company will likely monopolize it. And you don't need to deal with the fundraising and hiring parts of the handbook, since you never get that big. Everything else seems to apply, though.


The devil's in the details. The handbook emphasizes Growth Growth Growth. So when your small focused obsessively cohesive product saturates its small niche and your growth is suddenly not-so-exponential, if you're a startup you start to Expand Expand Expand your product, new use cases, new functionalities, until you've reinvented email again.

If you're less growth focused, have your pricing nailed down, and are well positioned in your niche - then you should have enough new users from simple population turnover and you don't need that graph to keep angling so sharply upward to avoid ulcers.


That's my business. 2 partners (me: President and Founder, partner: CEO who I hired), 4 employees, and 2-3 at-will contractors for sporadic work. Revenue barely $1MM but growing, probably to $4-5MM in 3 years. Really love what I do and happy to be out of the BS VC silicon valley groupthink crap.


Do you mind sharing your company? I love these kind of stories.


i run one like that too (a little further along) but i'll never mention the name here. there's no point, and it's risky. the other guy probably thinks the same. our businesses survive on sales and operations, not internet name-dropping.

i know you're curious so instead of teasing i'll just say: all of these kinds businesses are basically the same: think of something people or businesses pay money for, then do that. generally the business morphs as you get better / identify new opportunities. and you can grow it very large given enough time.


Yeah. There's no upside for me to share the name of the business. I would love to, but it's not in my best interest.


>* happy to be out of the BS VC silicon valley groupthink crap.*

If you have a 6 man company with titles like "President and Founder" and "CEO", you're buying into the SV groupthink a little.

Outside of SV, in the world of small/medium business (for which I've consulted), I don't think I've ever heard the title "CEO". Meanwhile, I've gone to tech conferences and have seen sole-proprietors refer to themselves as the CEO.


We have to be named something. I am the Founder of the company. That is a no brainer. I am also the President, as I set the strategy for the company (this is traditionally what the President does).

I do not make 95% of executive leadership decisions. The CEO does. Which again, is the definition of the term.

So no, I am not buying into the SV groupthink. Just because other startups use VP/SVP/"manager" doesn't make it non-SV. They're just... correct terms.


   By that, I mean product-based businesses with at most a few million in revenue, a 5ish person team, a solid sustainable market position, and no desire to revolutionize any unicorns.

I believe this used to just be called "a small business". Not a terribly new idea, but being rediscovered perhaps by tech people?


A small business is fundamentally different from lifestyle tech business or a bootstrap. There could be hundreds and thousands of small businesses, say in a certain FMCG market in different local ares. A tech market with hundreds or thousands product businesses catering to a same target audience, probably, doesn't exist at all. Product companies tend to either grow or whither. Centralization is the norm.

Building a lifestyle business mostly rules out services as most desired lifestyle business model is some sort of passive income scheme. Content oriented monetization models are being slowly, but surely killed by ad blockers. An innovative product tailored to the needs of a small, well defined audience seems to be a best bet for a lifestyle business and that's very different from a classical SME.


I was reacting to the definition of "lifestyle business" not the label.

I don't think passive income is needed at all, I think "lifestyle business" is a useful definition for making tradeoffs in your business decisions in favor of your lifestyle.

e.g. setting up a consulting business in a small coastal town because you like to surf every morning, even though it costs you potential business. To my mind, that's certainly a "lifestyle business".

Doing this with a product business is harder but not impossible.


> I was reacting to the definition of "lifestyle business" not the label.

I don't know about you, but personally I get annoyed when people create a false dichotomy between a startup and a "lifestyle business". Not everyone who declines to play the VC game is a "lifestyle business". It should also not be a dirty word, which is the way it comes across to me sometimes.


Lifestyle business is a dirty word somewhere? "Lifestyle" business is a significantly more rational choice in comparison with VC backed startup if one considers their personal happiness and psychological wellbeing as an important metric.


Can't speak for poster but I suspect this is being used pejoratively in the context of "lifestyle business" == "living off passive income".


That's just sad and I mean it in a non-sarcastic way.


I understood the difference to be a startup implies 60 hour weeks, a lifestyle business implies 40 or less.


> There could be hundreds and thousands of small businesses, say in a certain FMCG market in different local ares. A tech market with hundreds or thousands product businesses catering to a same target audience, probably, doesn't exist at all. Product companies tend to either grow or whither. Centralization is the norm.

Each local area is a separate market. Those types of businesses have limited geographical range, and a given range can only support a handful in a specific segment. For a technology business, the market is usually not limited by geography. Fundamentally, it is the same principal: a given market can only support a limited number of players.

Now, the size of the market may preclude traditional small business growth models. It depends on how tied to locality a particular business idea is. I could see, for instance, something like Homejoy working on the scale of a single metro area. In fact, having dozens of metro-area-sized Homejoys might actually work better than a single, national incarnation.


This is as good excuse as any to link to my rant post that we need a new term for startups that are not focused on VC funding.

1. http://www.tillett.info/2014/11/24/lets-kill-the-term-lifest...


This has arguably already been done in the "entrepreneurship" world through the label "small giant", coined by the book [1] of the same name.

"Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big"

[1]: http://www.amazon.com/Small-Giants-Companies-Choose-Instead/...


Sort of similar: micheleincalifornia.blogspot.in/2014/03/i-love-lucy-lifestyle-business-that.html


Interesting post, but I am not too sure that it is that similar to my post :)


Similar in terms of rebutting the idea that a "lifestyle business" is something to be dismissed out of hand as not really a serious business.


Because they benefit from YC's value prop, it's in Sama's and PG's interest to beat the Big Startup, Fast Growth, VC train, Silicon Valley drum. It's not disingenuous, it's literally what they believe and are committed to. But it's not the only way to be happy as a technologist. I'm not even convinced it's the best way to be happy as a technologist. YC put those materials out 1) as a branding and marketing effort and 2) to be helpful (part of their brand). In order for us to get quality resources like these for doing something small instead of big, we need folks who have a sustained interest and experience in beating that drum as well. Maybe we need a "Slow Tech" movement akin to the Slow Food movement.


Unlike the DHH rant linked above, I'm not condemning the Big Startup / Growth / VC approach. At a societal level, it has managed to spin up many game-changing companies very quickly. I think it's a movement that will go down in the history books for creating a lot of rapid progress in the first half of the 21st century.

But I'm also not convinced that it's the best way to be happy as a technologist. The system produces two things - incredible wealth and power for the few winners and a large amount of (a certain kind of) technological innovation. And it produces a lot of bodies, empty hype, churn and overpriced housing in the process. You can enjoy the innovation without joining up, and if you do join up then statistically speaking you're way more likely to be a body than a winner. I marvel at this machine but I'm aware that my happiness (or that of my loved ones) is not something it's likely to produce.

To his credit, Sama's post hints at this when he says that starting a startup actually "sucks." We should listen to him.

And I would be a card-carrying member of the "slow tech" movement, where do I sign?


I started my business 8 years ago and might be able to hire an employee soon and have been considering writing a post called "How I Hired My First Employee In Only 8 Years".

The goal would be to balance out some of the other posts here about getting 10000 users in a week or "bringing in $500k of revenue in 3 months.


Please write that post!!! I would LOVE to read it! I am sure thousands of other people would too!


Even I kinda feel like this, they make effort to make their name out in the market, but that doesn't mean that their advice is BS, some parts of them obviously will be a little bit too far fetched because they want to serve their purpose, but it is amazing to have free startup advice like the stanford lecture that YC took. Truly amazing content.


You'd probably like "Start Small Stay Small" by Rob Walling.

http://www.amazon.com/Start-Small-Stay-Developers-Launching/...


Oohh, thanks for this tip.


> lifestyle businesses

I really hate this term. It makes it seem like anything that's not a high growth unicorn startup is somehow a failure. It's like a way to give it a label and somehow look down on it.

(don't mean to aim this at you - just a general remark)


I generally use the term "Bootstrapped" as a shorthand for product/SAAS business started with limited capital and focusing on growth through their own operating profits.


At the same time though if a business is doing $3m profit a year between two people earning $1.5m a year each, calling it "Bootstrapped" is underplaying its success a little.


Yeah, I also say it with some distaste. This is the path I'm personally pursuing though, and I'd love to have some better terminology to describe it.

I wouldn't call it a "small business" either because, to me at least, that brings to mind a small consultancy and does nothing to communicate the "sell widely but stay small and focused" approach of the intentionally-small digital B2C business. (Mouthful there, huh?)


I think it's a really good path to follow and would love to do the same one day.

You might like this article if you haven't already seen it. It's been doing the rounds lately. https://medium.com/@dhh/reconsider-41adf356857f

As for a term... I can't think of one apart from "business". :P Heh.

edit: Just noticed someone else already commented with a link to that article! Ha!


How about the term "scale-sustainable", meaning the business is cash flow positive for most of its growth?


I usually just refer to my business by what it was (an office design magazine/website) as opposed to defining it by a category of technical jargon because the majority of people I interact with don't want to know.

Some people ask how it makes money (advertising) or if I have raised any money (no) or if I have employees (not yet), but I've never once needed to use the term "lifestyle business" or "small business".


Totally. It implies a semi-lazy work ethic (do just enough to support yourself+family, plus some left over for fun), and a lack of ambition.

In truth, you gotta bust your ass at a small shop to get your work out there and make $$ from it.


Try Getting Real and Rework by 37 Signals. https://gettingreal.37signals.com/


Rob Walling and Mike Taber have and excellent podcast for solo entrepreneurs http://www.startupsfortherestofus.com/ . Rob Walling also wrote a book on this topic http://www.amazon.com/Start-Small-Stay-Developers-Launching/...


This is your place I guess: http://www.microconf.com/

I never went to one, I just follow patio11 tweetstorms whenever he is on it and it is full of gems (the tweets, I can only imagine the conference itself).

They have lots of videos on the website, but a "playbook" format would by an awesome resource!

BTW, I work at "trying-to-be-big-with-outside-investment" startup applying to YC, but I see A LOT of value on the advice of these people when I'm daily executing stuff and not daydreaming how to big a "YC startup"


Microconf is the best conference anywhere. Other options if you enjoy that one: Baconbiz and DCBKK (less software focused but much of the content and crowd generalizes).

To the extent bootstrapped SaaS has a playbook, it is Start Small, Stay Small. I'd probably write one eventually but Starfighter is cutting into my writing bandwidth at present.


Hold the phone. You're hoping to write the bootstrapped SaaS playbook? I know it'd be wrong (and futile) of me to ask you to put off Starfighter to write it, but I'll drop my email (again) into whatever form you'd put up to get an idea of public interest in such a work.


Thanks for indication of interest; many things to get done before I can take on a new project. (Selling AR, getting Starfighter started, and delivering a conversion optimization course first off.)


Along similar lines, it would also be nice to have resources for one (or max two) person businesses, with 100-300K revenue per year (clicky was two man team making 500K/year). That is more than enough to live well and spend some time pursuing interests (not for money).


Or pursuing other business opportunities as well.


The people doing this are too busy chilling on the beaches of the world with their moderately huge income to write much about it.

But I highly recommend anything DHH says (as mentioned before) and also the 4 hour workweek book.


You might check out Starting and Sustaining: http://startingandsustaining.com/


This looks great, thanks for the tip!


> They are often bootstrapped, frequently for lack of other options.

The key thing that people don't understand is that investors only make money if you're trying to "revolutionize unicorns." In other words, so many company fails, that in order for your fund to have positive returns, you need to have an investment return 10,000x. Otherwise, you're losing money.

Companies that don't intend to become massive business are fine; but they are not candidates for venture funding. It's not about being un-sexy, it's that the economics just don't work for venture funding. It's not enough to return the investment. It's not enough to 10x. It's not even enough to 100x.



The vast majority of businesses are not going to fit any of this playbook. The problem is this playbook covers a niche. If you don't want to play that niche game, that's totally fine. However, like me, you will have to look elsewhere to decide what game you DO want to play, and what rules you'll have to live by. Sometimes that's customer focus, sometime's that is volume focus, or diversifying, or a 12 month profitability plan (sometimes longer, like maybe a restaurant).

There's no rules in business but the laws of the land. Pretending that there's one definition of success is very limiting to both focus and opportunity for all of us.


For smaller business, my rule is that you need to be great at one of these things and other things do not matter so much.

Do not try to do everything: like have a "great idea", "great team", "great product", "great execution", etc. Think as company as product: if you try to make everything "great" then everything will be actually "half-ass".

If you are great at two or more things: you are unicorn.

For example, if you are great at customer acquisition / SEO then you can just make something very very simple and ask people for money. No need to have "great product" at all.


There are tons of resources for this niche. Amy Hoy + Rob Walling would be two people I would check out.


I would recommend the book Small Giants by Bo Burlingham where the stories of 1 person companies to few hundred people companies are told and these companies have been around for many many years. They did not attempt to be not unicorns and are content


I'm a big fan of Noah Kagan...I think he offers products/help often on this front through AppSumo. Example:

http://www.appsumo.com/monthly1k/?rf=brws


In the past this has also gone by the labels "shareware" and "microISV". Try searching about these should turn up some pretty good information.


There is, mixergy.com




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