Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

"Instead of coding, the vast majority of your time is going to be spent marketing, selling, optimizing funnels, and providing support. Those are the things that get (and keep) customers. Those are the things that you do when you run a business. Not writing code."

This is the best part of this article for me. A lot of solo bootstrappers don't get it. They struggle. But the fact is that you have to market and sell. Talk to customers and do the shittiest but most important thing: Support. No matter how much automation you create, clients will send you emails and say "I cannot do anything. please help" before even explaining what exactly is broken.

There is a lot of dirty work you have to do every day as a bootstrapper and you get no relief from it. You can surely add team members or "outsource" some of it, but you can never outsource talking to clients (both pre sales and post).

Agreed. When I started writing my SaaS app, I thought the 25000+ lines of code and 80+ database tables would be the hardest work, and that the marketing would be a breeze afterwards.

How wrong I was! The marketing aspect proved to be just as difficult and brain taxing as the coding. In fact, I found it almost impossible to move ahead until I decided to bring on board a co-founder with a marketing background (after a full year of struggling). It was only then that I realised that marketing and sales is a whole art form not unlike programming. Both disciplines need focus and constant energy to bring about results.

And this, my friend, is why starting a [successful] business is hard. Because if it were that "easy" (i.e. the code, the database, etc.) then virtually anyone in the software development world would do it because it would be so much more lucrative to do so. But add in the fact that, yep, your software engineering chops are only so valuable to the extent that you can also provide and build skills (or have the resources to buy) in these other areas that are 100% critical for a business to flourish.

I wonder where I can find such marketing partner and what's the expected compensation in term of equity and whatnot?

I got into marketing through reading about the startup world (I think some of the people on HN would be surprised at how much of it is a discipline once you get passed the BS-ers), and come more from a hacker perspective.

If you're bringing them on as a co-founder, then they're a co-founder, equity and all. It's a valuable skill as much as programming and sales are (if you're actually building a business, that is).

The issue you'll find is that most of the places to find them will be full of aforementioned BS-ers, or self-titled growth hackers. Have a small LinkedIn hunt at marketers who work in-house at a semi-large organisation - in a lot of places there's a lot of hunger to do more, but large orgs tie your hands and often see marketing as a "support" function over and above a business driving one.

It might also be easier to find a part timer who doesn't want to give up the above security, but wants to exercise their creative muscles, depending on what stage/size biz you've got and your reqs.

No idea how many are out there, but there are quite a few I'm sure. I was looking for years to partner with someone and found a couple nibbles, but ultimately no one was as serious as myself about being an entrepreneur. Let's be honest most are talkers.

If only I ever had found people that valued my work, I may have stayed in marketing. Now I'm a former strategist that is converting to programming.

The problem is that there are a lot of s*s who go into marketing because it's easy to get away with being a bullshitter.

Unfortunately those are the types who are most vocal and up front, who you as technical founder always seem to meet.

I'd kill to meet a marketer whose skills of marketing (and selling) matched mine as an Developer.

Two sided matching is hard, and even more so in dating. Starting a company is both :/

My experience running a bootstrapped monitoring service (Cronitor) is that sure, very early on, code quality, test coverage, etc, is unimportant. We didn't write our first tests for 5 months after launch.

But low churn is a powerful lever for growing the value of your SaaS business. For the benefit of people who haven't spent time learning about this stuff: for any SaaS business there is a natural limit to it's size. Eventually your churn equals your growth and you stop growing. This is the struggle.

Ensuring that our product is highly available and relatively free of defects is an investment in low churn. Users are unhappy when things don't work, and unhappy users stop paying you every month. When you have a very small user base this isn't worth optimizing for, but I personally disagree that quality is not important and that test coverage does not have positive ROI. Like all things in a startup, the idea is not to neglect it, but to work on it just enough that it's no longer the most important thing to work on.

Yep. This was maybe the most valuable part of starting my own business years ago that went nowhere. I learned to appreciate the skill behind marketing and sales which I'd always put down. I had good tech, but completely failed to make sales, and in doing so learned a lot of skills I was missing.

As someone who is running not a Saas startup but a sideproject sell a fairly popular productivity app which I am making good money on I couldn't agree more.

I would even go as far as to say that your customer support is one of the key differentiators when it comes to establishing your product as a high quality one.

The difference between me helping someone right away and then being a little delayed (it is a side project after all) is huge.

People can have serious issues with the app but as long as you support them they will thank you for your great product.

Other can have less serious problems and if you ignore them too long they can turn really sour.

One thing I also do is ask people I interact with to go write a review about the app if they are happy with the support. That's something most are happy to do as long as you provided them with support and acknowledged their problems.

It goes both ways, but most SaaS entrepreneurs tend toward code for obvious reasons. I run a SaaS company now (ZenMaid) where I've focused entirely on the things listed and my partner focused entirely on code. Not everyone is so lucky though and most neglect my part.

We've started "outsourcing" more (hiring help really) but I intend to talk to all of our customers personally for as long as I can.

This really struck a chord with me. I spent the early career parts of my career as a developer and slowly transitioned completely to the marketing side of things.

When I start thinking about side projects of business ideas, the roadblock for me is actually getting myself onboard to code the thing so I can get to the point where I can start optimizing funnels.

You'll be lucky if users care enough about your product to send you an email. If they do treat it like gold!

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact