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Ask HN: Leaving my job to boostrap my projects. Advice?
148 points by welpwelp on Jan 20, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 139 comments
Hello HN! I've decided to quit my job to boostrap my projects à la IndieHackers. I don't want to raise money and I only have a few $k. My plan is to build everything myself, using a stack such as Python/Django + HTML/CSS/JavaScript + eventually iOS, and the initial goal after validating my MVPs is to become "ramen profitable."

Levels has been greatly inspiring to me and I've read most of his blog and work about NomadList. https://twitter.com/levelsio

I'm going to go with the flow and figure out and learn things as I go, so my question is whether there are any advice you can think of (release on Tuesday?) that could possibly save me time, money, and mistakes.

Let me know if knowing what the projects are about, but they're basically simple services with niche userbases (e.g: Squarespace for photographers and Slack for gyms)

Thank you HN!




> I've decided to quit my job to boostrap my projects à la IndieHackers.

I did this and it was fun and everything, but I never made a single cent. I did grow my personal network though :) If you value learning from others, keep your job and only quit if you make at least 50 to 75% of your salary AND you see constant growth.

> using a stack such as Python/Django + HTML/CSS/JavaScript + eventually iOS

Another red flag. Technology doesn't matter and the fact that you mention this instead of business validation you should think twice before making such a commitment.

EDIT: I forgot to add that the technology part is at most 10-15% of it. The rest is boring marketing, tons of spreadsheets, Google, Google, Google, Email^n, more spreadsheets and business operations if you are lucky.


>> Another red flag. Technology doesn't matter and the fact that you mention this instead of business validation you should think twice before making such a commitment.

This is a very, very true. I also did this, quit to work on a side project for about 8 months (2008). I wrote a lot of code, but in the end the project had a couple of hard problems and the market was a small number of large corporations. When I finally realized this, and ran the numbers, I discovered my folly. That and I found myself web surfing all day instead of coding. Went back to work.

Next project (2011) I also didn't validate the market, but kept working, it never launched. For my third project (2016) I launched but didn't validate the market either.

What have I learned? Validate the $#@!ing market before writing a line of code! I'm still trying to figure out how to do this however.


Talk to clients first. Say "what's are some problems that are stopping you from making money, I want to help you solve them and I'll only bill you if it works". You don't have to say that to too many companies before you find a problem that isn't just unique to them.


Ah this is a very good idea. I had always wondered (even as someone that's started a couple of businesses before) what would be some practical, efficient, useful and free (beer) ways to probe for market opportunities, and this seems like an excellent method.


Another one that quit his job to bootstrap own projects, and only made some 100 Euros from them..

It is hard, really hard, and I even had some kind of a business plan. But one thing is sure, you'll learn a lot about yourself from the process.

I'm now teaching CS classes on a local university.


> "...Technology doesn't matter..." <

Key point this one.


I'm in a similar boat, I left my job a few days ago. I have a substantial savings though, and i'm actively looking for contract work.

I've spent 10 years trying to get side projects off the ground while staying employed, each time I've gotten a little bit closer to something, but not quite there. Here's what I've learned.

1. Tech doesn't matter, the value you're creating does. If you build something no one is using, who cares what powered it? You should use what you're already most productive in.

2. You need to start selling before you have a product, it should influence your product, or help you avoid building something useless.

3. If you want to do everything yourself you should choose your idea based on what you're capable of. In terms of sales I had a lot of B2B ideas, but I found i've been more successful with paid ads and SEO. Doesn't mean that cold calling, and networking are not effective, but it's not my personal strength. Building a business is hard enough, ramping up new skills probably isn't something you have time for.

4. You can create a market, or you can compete in an existing market. If you have to create demand, it's going to take a lot longer than your planning for.

5. Getting people to pay for stuff is REALLY HARD, you should talk to people. The idea i'm working on now came after hours of talking to potential customers, I didn't write a line of code until I fully vetted the idea.

/just where i'm at right now. Hope it helps.


> 2. You need to start selling before you have a product, it should influence your product, or help you avoid building something useless.

This is the best advice and to push it further I would say you need to have a customer ready to go and willing to work with you.

6. YOLO so go for it. You don't want to be 80 years old looking back and thinking I wish I would have.


Second that advice. In my specific case, I had a customer very interested in using my product for a very interesting use case I hadn't thought of, and it only took one pitch (and it was basically cold calling, although we did use connections to open that door).

However, because I failed to deliver on time, I've lost the opportunity to strike while the fire was hot and key stakeholders went on vacation (I do expect to rekindle interest once we're ready, but I totally blew my personal deadlines).


Hi there. Fellow job quitter here, (though for extremely long vacation rather than bootstrapping). A lot of people in this thread are telling you not to quit your job because they are scared of not having "a long runway". I'm going to tell you about the other side of that.

Understand how much it actually costs to live for a year. In reality it doesn't cost all that much. You can live comfortably in Boston or Paris, not cheap cities, with loads of extra traveling to keep yourself happy, for less than $20k/year without resorting to sleeping on couches or in your parents' basement. If you cut out expensive traveling, the truth is that reasonable rent and healthy food aren't _that_ expensive.

Talk to your current employer before quitting. If they are happy with you now, they will most likely be happy to re-hire you in 7-12 months or however long when things don't work out as planned. Don't say that you're quitting. Say that you're leaving to try to start a business and that if it fails you'd love to come back. If the people who are currently happy with you and who matter aren't still at CompanyX in Y months, plan now to hit those people up directly at whatever their CompanyZs when things don't work out as planned. But ask now before you quit.

Get a gym membership and use it at least 3 days per week.


One more thing. Remember that the cost of doing this is not just your cost of living for the duration. You also lose all of the salary+benefits that you would have made. Loss of continued earnings can have a big impact on retirement investment accounts long term. Prepare yourself psychologically for that reality with a quick lifetime opportunity cost calculation now.


A quick "lifetime" opportunity cost is a bit misleading. A quick 1-2 year opportunity cost (but realize part of that difference is being able to invest that 1-2 years of savings). You will want to re-evaluate in a year anyway to see if you are accomplishing what you set out to accomplish. If not, you can get back into the workforce with a good story to tell.

Edit: Just realized you only have a few $k

Do not do this on only a few $k. You need enough to live on while you try. Also the opportunity cost includes using your savings so what that would have been invested really is a lifetime opportunity cost.

If you are going to do it with just a few $k at least get rid of as many subscriptions as you can (gym, or better running shoes, and low bandwidth internet are probably needed, but netflix, hulu, cable are not). Then calculate how many months you can live on savings. If you don't already keep good books it will probably take a few months to figure this out.


A few years ago, I left a really good job where I worked with people I really loved, because I had gotten too tied up in it too early in life and burnt myself out with work and worry. I took about 3 months completely off and spent another month or two looking for good new companies where I felt I could have a positive impact on society. I found a good one, but unsurprisingly (in hindsight), companies like that are difficult and not the most financially rewarding.

All told, I estimate the lifetime opportunity cost of that period of my life was a bit more than $100k. With that money, I could have been fully debt free, or have had a really good downpayment for a house, or my wife could have gone to grad school, or I could have saved a few percent of my total retirement, etc. etc.

I don't regret the decision, but I frequently wonder whether taking the easier path financially would have left me happier today than the path I chose. I usually conclude: no.

This is all to say: think about this lifetime opportunity cost question, but don't only think about it.


With that line of thinking

"how much can I loose"

You're never gonna just do something for the sake of fun/enjoying it/making memories/experiencing failure.

Always play safe...? Might work for some - but this terrifies me!


I both agree with this comment, and want to say I'm not sure it fits OP.

You can live very, very cheaply. I was almost 30 before I made 20k+/year. I never felt put out or hungry. I always had a place--usually a room in a house with other people. I paid rent every month of my life starting when I was 16, so I wasn't just bumming around, eitehr. I did feel I was "behind" my peers, sometimes.

Anyway, you will find that a majority of people, particularly in places like HN where income is high, vastly overestimate the amount of money required for a single, obligation-free adult with few bad/expensive habits.

During all of the above time, I didn't eat out, I didn't smoke, I didn't drink, I didn't do any drugs. I also didn't visit any doctors, buy anything new at all, etc.

There are many, many tradeoffs to consider, but the point is a barebones existence to develop a website involves a safe place to sit, sleep, shower, and have internet. That can be had for a very, very small price if you are willing to, for instance, rent a room from a stranger. You can subsist on relatively healthy foods without access to a stove or refrigerator, etc.

The problem typically is occupying your non-work time. For most people living in similar conditions, that's where the bulk of their money goes.

As for OP: I'm not sure you're prepared to live this cheaply. If you were, it seems like you'd have mentioned it already. For a more-normal person, like renting an apartment and eating out sometimes and owning a car and tv and all--a few thousand dollars (as in singluar-thousands) is not much runway.


1. Don't quit your job if you can't live off savings for at least a year. Having a job allows you to have a safe base to experiment ideas without the burden of making profit.

2. This is business, forget about the tech stack you are using or finding the perfect tool. Your main goal is to create value and make someone's life easier. My advice is to use the tools you are most familiar with, this will allow you to be productive without worrying about things like "which chart library is the best for Angular 2 RC 5". There are successful business that started out with a spreadsheet.

3. Be aware of survivorship bias. While Levels apparently succeeded bootstrapping many of his businesses (and I think he did), there are hundreds of other people that you'll never hear the name of who failed miserably and wasted many keystrokes on launching a failed product.

4. "Perfect is the enemy of good". Ship things fast and don't be afraid of doing things that don't scale like processing payment, hard coding a few things (if you know what you're doing) and even calling users to get a feedback on your product.


About #1... If you're going to work in the same field while trying to start a company it's important to have your employment contract reviewed by an attorney. Intellectual property rights can become contentious if your business starts making money.


I see, thank you. This is another reason why quitting my job makes this easier.


Generate income first then quit your job. If you don't have revenue coming from your products, you'll spend most of your time trying to do that. And note, that isn't coding or product development its advertising.

Before I started contracting I changed jobs to ease my work / life situation. Early finish at work and shorter commute allowed me to do side projects. After 1 year I'm now starting to launch some of the projects and still not generating revenue yet.

Set yourself goals and hit them, every month. Then quit.


I'd second this. The stress level between a profitable / breakeven setup vs one that is not is quite large.


Almost 2 years ago, I quit my cushy dev job at an ad agency to do just this. I was bored to tears, and the thought of the work that really interested me languishing at home while I hacked away on yet another promotional website drove me batty.

I got lucky and was able to live rent free for a few months, sleeping in guest rooms and couches while I travelled / hacked around the midwest. Living is expensive, make sure you have things budgeted properly. It’ll save a lot of unpleasant surprise down the road.

Unless you’re building something that’s immediately profitable, you will take on outside work. But that’s okay – you now get to decide what you work on.

Don’t expect anyone to understand your path. Sure, you’ll get the few pats on the back for being ‘courageous’, but those closest to you will think you’re nuts. If you have a girlfriend / wife, this adds a significant stressor to your relationship.

People like Levels make this lifestyle look easy. It’s not. ‘Ramen profitable’ has the same romantic appeal as a ‘starving artist’, but when you’ve got $54.20 in your bank account to pay 7k in bills that were due last month, and no money coming in; it loses a bit of its lustre.

This life is hard. It is often lonely. But if you play your cards right, it is fun. I unequivocally have the coolest job in the world – and I don’t regret a step I’ve taken.

Who dares, wins.


I really love your facts, knowing that the journey wont be easy but its all about the things you want in life and you also have to learn to enjoy the process


I've decided to quit my job ... and I only have a few $k

I don't know the specifics of your situation, but this seems like a really bad plan. Usually when I advise people who are about to start contracting, I tell them they should have 3 to 6 months of rent before they start; contracting is much more of a sure thing than building Slack for dogs.


Yes, bootstrap at night while paying the bills during the day. As your side project starts to make money, contract less.


I believe superniche is good.

If you dont hate your job, I would suggest you to stay in your job until you validate your idea. It allows you to keep earning money while you are not actually building anything (validate an idea is not a fulltime job). And also it helps to keep you in the right mental state that your first idea most certainly isnt the right idea.

If you quit your job with an idea in mind and the plan of validating it then executing, it will be much harder to change or even discard this idea ("this idea is why I quit my job afterall!").

Validate your idea (with or without a MVP) before quitting your job. That's my two cents


Thank you for your reply! I have tried to keep my job, but working a 10am/7pm job with a 90mn commute everyday left me with only the weekends to work on something else. Also it's become harder and harder to get up everyday to spend the day working on something that does not wholeheartedly passionates me. Hence the decision to quit.


So your job takes up ~11 hours of each day with your commute. Get a closer job. A few thousand dollars is not enough to survive on.

> Also it's become harder and harder to get up everyday to spend the day working on something that does not wholeheartedly passionates me.

Most people don't like their jobs. Most people hate their jobs. Go to work. Get money. Build a business at night and then leave.

If you blow through your savings and/or retirement in six months you're just going to end up in a worse position overall.


Here is the thing:

You will lose motivation to work on your project. It will become so boring and tedious that you will want to quit. Businesses are 90% boring. If you can't hold a boring job before validating the idea then you will run into trouble. Don't quit or find another one that sucks less.


There are three things I've done that have personally helped me progress on my project.

First, I always took Sunday to work on it. Which is harder than it sounds because friends and family want that day. Eventually they'll pick up on it, be consistent.

Second, to help with the commute problem. I decided to dedicate an extra 30 to 60 min after work, before my commute to work on it. You're already at work, you're already forcing yourself to accomplish tasks, why not tick on task off for yourself before you hop on the road? I found that a lot of weeks this made me more productive than working Sundays as it was less likely to result in a few hours of web browsing. (I'm hungry and it's only supposed to be 30-60 min right?)

Third, if you dread waking up in the morning, that's usually the point where I will draw the line and get another job. It will seriously help you out if you're not stressed so much about your day to day work.

I get it, I feel your struggle man. I wish you the best either way, if you do quit, you owe us an update on how it panned out :)


Work in your side-project in a regular basis, 10am/7pm. You are always in front of a computer, anyways.

Don't throw away a comfortable situation thinking that you are running after a dream because you can finish without both of them (and this happen with the most of us). I'm much more happy now that I found another good job than when I left the last one to become a digital nomad.


Most employment contracts have clauses to the effect of "anything created using company tools or company time is owned by the company". If there isn't a clear dilineation between your work hours, work location and equipment you could get into a contentious situation. (I'm not an attorney but I recently consulted with one for this exact reason.)


Look for a mediocre job that pays less, is closer to home, and has a lot less responsibility. This can free up some time for working on your side project and not leave you in such a vulnerable position.


Just my two cents, hire somebody else to finish the product. Pay them less than what you earn in a month and pat yourself on the back.

Spend your time on building the business (getting customers, building a brand name). That's hard enough IMO.


Do not rush important decisions. Explore options for a better job first. If you get 5 decent offers in a week jumping off may be much less risky -- it shows you can come back to a regular job pretty easily.

And build up your cash cushion. If you do try to bootstrap your project you want to be able to dedicate your time to them, not be stressed about how to pay for your next meal/rent payment.


Then go for it, quitting your job seems the right decision for you.

Just pay special attention if you are moving forward with an idea because the market, your customers are saying so. This is the only valid reason. All other possible reasons are probably pushing you to the wrong way (inertia, a gut feeling that this someday will be huge, people that are not customers nor remotely potential customers giving you positive feedback, to occupy your mind as you have nothing else to do, to take advantage of a tech stack knowledge you already have, etc)


It sounds like you are just upset with your current job. But bootstrapping a business will be even harder then what you describe and possible without any financial gain.


Have you thought of contracting or getting a remote job instead? I think one of the other posters had the best advice, which was to contract while you get validation that your idea can be a business, and then cut back contracting hours in favour of your own project as it gains traction.


There you go! You have 90 minutes / day to work on your side-business!


How long is your runway? Try to get your projects to revenue as soon as possible. If you can, perhaps you can do consulting work on the side to slow the burn.


you should definitely find another job, first.


Lots of people are pointing out that you have focused too much on your stack. Don't be dismayed by that feedback - it is incredibly common, especially among the sorts of people who are skilled enough to bootstrap a software company.

That said, don't ignore the message behind that. At this point, the only important thing is to build a product that a few people absolutely love. This product has to solve a problem so acute that those people are willing to pay for it.

That is a marketing problem, so it is going to take some different skills. You're going to need to learn how to go out and find users. You are going to have to learn how to pick out problems that are small enough for you to solve, yet big enough to earn a living off of. And, you are going to have to learn to kill off your emotional attachment to your product.

Those are tough problems and they tend to require significant personal growth.

I have been guilty of jumping into businesses too quickly, so I understand your zeal. Without knowing more about your life, it's hard for me to say whether a few thousand dollars is enough to survive on. So, let me frame my last point as a question.

If you quit your job today and did not make any revenue at all, how many months are you away from being homeless??

Sometimes, when you're excited about a vision, it is easy to come up with conservative estimates of, say, $1500 of monthly recurring revenue in four months. That is a big mistake, especially amongst newer founders. With products like ours, the only truly conservative estimate is that you will make $0.

I don't know if I would put that in a pitch deck though...:)

Anyways, best of luck and have fun. You caught the bug!! I hope that you have an immense amount of success and when you do, I look forward to reading about you on Indiehackers!


I think you should become ramen profitable before quitting your job. When I quit my side-business was doing $1 million in revenue. I only quit because the work load from customer support had become impossible to deal with on evenings and weekends.


Oh wow, what industry / service you did as a side project?

I can't imagine keeping my job once I start to make more on the side than doing something full time. Maybe there are that cool places to work, but I haven't seen any so far :)


I don't want to out myself but it's a boring business which is tailored to a very specific local market. Think legal stuff that only applies to a specific country.

One of the reasons I didn't quit earlier was because I loved my old job so much, the company was exploding and I was a key player. I also had nice stock options (with pre-emption).


$1M in revenue and you're doing so much customer support yourself that that's the reason you quit the day-job?


$1M in revenue, not profit. Customer support in this case is dealing with a high-profile customers. A lot of legal stuff and writing important emails. Not something I can easily outsource away.

The technical backlog is huge as well but most of the business critical stuff has already been implemented so yes, the bottleneck is support.


I wasn't thinking outsource it, I was thinking surely your time's (literally) worth more than it would cost to hire a support person.

(But of course, you know your company; I don't :))


Wow! Did you have a team when you were 1Mn in revenue!? If not, what was your side business?


No team. Just me and my co-founder. I don't want to out myself but see the reply to the sibling comment.


Launch as soon as possible/keep your first version as simple as possible (proof of concept). You might think, ah, but I need that cool feature, bla bla bla. It might be a cool feature, but is it essential for your product to simply work?

Listen to feedback. Keep everything bite sized & keep releasing new features along the way. Don't let people find your product, but approach your potential customers.

Allow them to take your product for a test drive & listen to there needs & frustrations. Focus on satisfying your customers & fulfilling their needs.

Keep building your network. You can build the best product out there, but it's useless without users.

Good luck, and more importantly, have fun! ;)


It's kinda messed up but I hired a contractor to build my site(even though I'm a developer) I built the database, come up with a spec for what I wanted and found someone for 20/hrs a week. We made a list of things to get done for the week. Used a hosted repository to check in code deployed it to a shared host. He would email me what he got accomplished each day. I would work on things he got stuck on. I payed him 1/7 what I get paid, so I it was a good trade in hours.

--->>>>But it's much, much more important to find some initial users.


I was about to post exactly the same thing :)

Six months ago, I quite my dev job to work on my own startup ideas. Finished the first product, spent a lot of timing polishing it and ended up getting exactly 0 customers.

Then, we 'pivoted' and I created another product. Now we have some users but the growth is slow (marketing is waaayyyy tougher than I had imagined). So having finished the MVP, I am now looking to get a job and use the income to find somebody else to me promote the product.

I should've read Adam Smith more carefully...


I've often thought about doing this. How did you find the developer? How did it work out for you in the end?


It worked out ok. I used upwork. I think the key benefit was a schedule and working with someone else. I think in the future I might hire a part-time general assistant for like $3/hr just to keep me motivated.


Sorry for hijacking this.

I have some free time available and am based out of India. If you have some immediate requirements, are happy to pay a decent rate and have interesting work, drop me a mail (in profile). Would be glad to talk.


I don't have anything currently, sorry. Kudos to you for taking the oppurtunity to ask :)


It sounds like you've missed a key piece of advice somewhere along the way: Don't quit your day job until you have something replacing its income.

I live off the profits of a few bootstrapped SaaS products. It took six years before I was bringing in enough to comfortably live on.

If it's not too late, switch the "build a product" and "quit my job" steps around into the correct order.


Mind sharing those products?


check his profile


Spend at least one hour every day on sales. Starting now.

Coding is the easy (and natural) part. In my experience, sales has been harder than I expected. Even when people love the product.


My advice is to not build Slack for Gyms, build XXX for everyone and go to market with an early niche that finds your software useful. Why limit yourself? Only other advice is to find clients that both have money and have an obvious problem. Don't try to sell to visible companies that you interact with all the time like a little restaurant. They don't have the income to support you. That military contractor that insecure, out of date site that looks embarrassing they are your target market. They don't bat at eye at a $10k invoice if it helps them make more income.


Lower your overhead. Reduce your rent - $0 would be ideal, if you have a car, consider selling it or replace it with a super cheap one. I bootstrapped for 10 years, and I did make some money along the way. BUT, I spent too long trying to make it work. Make sure you don't hang on too long. Give yourself a deadline for when this thing should be self-sustaining. Understand UPFRONT that taxes are going to suck up every penny you have. You are no longer a W2 employee, make sure you understand the difference taxes have on a business owner and a W2 employee.


Context: I quit my job in June 2016 to take a break from my career and among other things, build a product end to end. Money has run out now but passion hasn't and I'm close to first launch. I'm in Bangalore so I'm able to keep burn rate below $400/month.

Advice: I'd say go with the tech you know(exceptions only apply if your core differentiator is technological superiority, but that's rare). You'll have full days to yourself, so separate work time from leisure time, do physical exercise, be in touch with friends, don't reveal your plans/progress to many people, involve target users as soon as possible(most important). Lastly, enjoy the ride!


You move a mountain one stone at a time. I strongly recommend that you find a way to create structure for yourself and make (meaningful) bit of progress coding daily. Set goals and deadlines early and measure yourself against them. You're on the clock (limited cash to burn through) so it's important that you avoid rabbit hole ideas and "fail quickly". Good luck and send HN your work for us to test out and provide feedback.


I like that idea and will keep you updated with progress. Thank you!


The fact that you are replying to the comments about how to make progress and keep coding, while not replying to some of the other kind of comments, is actually the biggest red flag. Coding is not going to be your biggest problem.

Of course, it's possible you'll get lost in the weeds of some framework or scaling something that you don't need. I can tell from your replies that you get this and you understand you have to ship. Let's assume you got that covered.

The real danger is that you will ship, and only then you will discover nobody wants to pay for what you built. From your pattern of replies, I suspect this is what is going to bite you, and it's why you shouldn't start with code at all and you shouldn't have any expectation of finding revenue before your savings run out.

Anyway, as others have said, whether you take the excellent advice here or not, either way you will learn a lot by trying!


I'm actually spending a few days to build tools to validate an idea, and not building even an MVP yet. Thank you for your feedback!


First of all, congratulations! This is a big step (albeit a little scary), but it's the kind of step you'll never look back and regret.

I quit my job about a year ago to pursue my startup. It didn't work out, but I don't regret it.

I think the biggest thing that I messed up is truly underestimating my expenses. Make sure you budget (on paper, not just in your head :)) for "miscellaneous" expenses. When bootstrapping a project, it's really easy to say "woah, this really is valuable, I'll just put it on my high interest credit card because I'll be able to pay it off in a couple months with my cash flow." I made the mistake of looking at what it took for me to live and pay my bills, and severely underestimated all those little "misc." expenses that show up when bootstrapping a project.

Oh, and for what it's worth, the company I quit to work on my project full-time hired me back with open arms and a raise :). So don't worry too much about quitting, people understand and support your decisions more than you might think!

Good luck!


> and the initial goal after validating my MVPs

Validate before building an MVP.

See: https://steveblank.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/customer-deve... -- company building happens at the end, not at the start.

His book: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/0989200507


My advice for someone at your stage is not to come up with the idea yourself. Unless you're an expert in the industry you're building your business in, it's more likely than not that your idea isn't as great as you think it is.

Your best bet is to work backwards. By that I mean interview users first (preferably in a low-competition niche), find out what their needs are (preferably a business need that they're willing to pay you money for), and then build a product to satisfy those needs (as fast as possible with a well-tested and reliable stack). Don't fall into the trap of building a product nobody cares about and then trying and failing to find an audience for it. I made this mistake and it was painful.


Jerry, this is your landlord speaking: please don't quit your job!


Don't quit. Validate your idea first, then implement it.

Read "Nail It Then Scale It" and "The E-Myth Revisited". You'll save time and money. You might also study business strategy (free courses on Coursera) so you can evaluate your idea from business fundamentals first. The more you can invalidate it (no market, massive incumbents, no demand, too costly, etc.), the less time and money you'll waste building something nobody wants, and the better placed you'll be to spot a truly great opportunity.

As a developer it's natural to focus on your strengths. You need to validate ideas before doing that.


I don't know what you do at work but if I were you, I wouldn't do that. Not because of money, but because you need something that motivates you and gives you the feeling of accomplishing things.

I'd like to quote this:

- 80% of your time goes to low-risk/reasonable-reward work

- 15% of your time goes to related high-risk/high-reward work

- 5% of your time goes to satisfying your own curiosity

Read this twice: https://www.facebook.com/notes/kent-beck/fresh-work-80155/11...


Just got done doing this. Spent 30k in cash and maybe 60k ( like, 60k in cold, hard, 2017 posttax dollars ) in opp cost. It was fun but I had the same "idea" as you, which is to say multiple ideas, which really is no idea. Still haven't launched a product and racked up a decent amount of cc debt. If you quit,don't use your runway like I did to design and build a product. Use it to pitch, pitch, pitch and pitch some more. That's your new job; pitching and raising ( or pre-selling if you can with e.g. Kickstarter ), NOT building!.


I will never quit my job without having better signals of profits from your project. My second advice is methodologies (e.g. release on Tuesday?) don't matter when you don't have a business.


Some thoughts:

Everything will take longer than you expect. Nobody will answer your emails or return your phone calls. If somebody, by amazing chance, does reply, it will be weeks later than you expected.

The code you thought you could finish in a month? It'll take 4 months. And you still won't be satisfied with it then. And you should be so lucky as to have written something anybody will actually pay money for.

As Grant Cardone says, companies die from lack of attention. Nobody can buy your product or service if they've never heard of it. You have to find (a) way(s) to get people's attention. Jump and and down and scream and yell at the top of your lungs. You have to figure out the marketing / promotion / sales stuff to succeed. Don't believe "if you build it they will come." You have to work far harder than you might expect, just to get on someone's radar so they will even consider buying your thing.

OTOH, the good news is, you don't have to worry about competition from other startups. Startups don't die from competition from other startups. They die because they build something nobody wants, or they can't figure out how to get attention in the market.

Read The Four Steps To The Epiphany by Steve Blank. Read The 10x Rule and Be Obsessed or Be Average by Grant Cardone. Read The Discipline of Market Leaders.


You should have at least 18 months savings of your expenses + expected business costs. That's least runaway you need to get ramen-profitable if you do it alone and not planning on raising any money.

If not do, do some freelancing, part time job, whatever you need not to run out of money.


Unless you want to take time off regardless and have plenty of money to burn through, I'd save leaving your job until you are already making money with one of your projects. You can get pretty damn far just working on projects in your spare time.


Thank you for your reply! I'll link you to mine since there has been similar replies.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13442866


So you don't have a product built already?

Your plan reads as if: quit job --> make product --> get rich

Why not build the product at night to get an MVP, maybe take some vacation days if necessary to build and/or sell it to prospects, make some money and then quit your job?

You only have a few thousand which seems like you are banking on your idea taking off right away and I can tell you from experience it rarely does.


Don't listen to the Don't(s). Only you know your circumstances, if you're in a position to follow your inspiration (no kids, mortgage, etc), awesome do it. These circumstances (typically) evaporate with age, take advantage of them.

Worst case, you learn a ton (probably more about yourself than anything else) and you still have a trade (software dev) that will land you you in the top 1% worldwide in terms of standard of living to fallback on. Best case you build a rad business, plenty of room in between.

That said, become enamored with the problem not the tools (django/python, JS etc). Try to get "ramen" profitable or feedback with the least possible effort. The hard part of sideprojects is rarely the dev, it's most always the marketing.

On the marketing side, read, read, read...then experiment, experiment, experiment. Given the lack of capital you're gonna need to be creative, it can be fun, it can be frustrating...this will be the hardest part of your journey.

Good luck, have fun, learn a ton.


Thank you for your comment!

I like your mindset and this is the one I try to have. The tools I mentioned are the ones I use best. Like you said, the choice of tools does not concern me as much as validating my idea and getting to revenue. I'll keep in mind your advice about marketing.

I hope everything is well for you at Scalus!


Most of the Don'ts are going to come from folks who have been there and done that. Listen to them.

By all means, you'll learn from your mistakes. That doesn't mean they aren't mistakes. You can learn even more by building something that's viable and not being flat broke when your first iteration fails to gain traction.


Go for it man!!!

What kind of JS Framework are you going to use? Also, what kind of DB will you be using, how are you going to make it scale? How many years of Django xp do you have, do you think it'll scale well?


Thanks! No JS framework. I usually use postgres, I'll scale on Heroku, and I have a few years of Django experience. No devops experience with very large userbases, but my initial goal is just to get a few users.


Did you forget the sarcasm tag?


of course not!!!!!#12


If you use your brain to work then playing games, watching documentaries, reading books and articles does not qualify as relaxation. What qualifies are the activities in which you don't use your brain as in: gym (mandatory, all weekdays), walks, manual labor etc.

On weekdays, at 5 pm, you leave the house (mandatory) :)


I love it, thank you!


If I would have to choose between the stress of 1.) building a MVP in the evenings or on weekends, while still having a day job or 2.) building a MVP fulltime and realizing that my business idea wasn't brilliant and I don't have enough resources left to pivot, then I would choose 1.) every time.


I'm doing this right now.

- You need more savings. Everything takes longer, and building the tech is only a small part of building a business. I thought I've had MVP 90% done when I left my job, but I underestimated just how many mundane time-eating problems there are (technical and non-technical).

- If you're going to move to a cheaper place, move before you quit the job. Negotiating is much harder when you're effectively unemployed.

- Be very very careful not to overengineer the code before you've validated the product. If you love the tech you could spend infinite amount of time building nice abstraction layers and scalable databases, but the #1 priority is ensuring the business won't die before you even need to scale.


> Levels has been greatly inspiring to me

Thank you! <3

> I've decided to quit my job to boostrap my projects à la IndieHackers

To anyone else: DON'T DO THIS.

First get enough cashflow from your side project to sustain yourself (e.g. $1k/m to $2k/m if you're single, without kids, in an average city). You will burn yourself out if you don't have cashflow. Savings is nice but cashflow is better, because if it runs, it probably keeps running. Savings, you run out.

It took me YEARS to get anything substantial off the ground on the internet. You can't just quit your job and expect to get money within months. It's not smart. Consider going back to your job or getting another job and keeping the cashflow from that. Then work on side projects in your own time and quit when it makes enough money.

Seeing all these product makers on Twitter etc. they make it seem easy but you don't see the intense battle they had to go through for years to get where they are now. It takes time and lots of it! I was making sites since I was 10 and my first site that made money was after 10 years! Not that money was my goal when I was 10yo, but still. You don't realize people's histories.

I bankrolled Nomad List (https://nomadlist.com) in 2014 with my YouTube channel (https://youtube.com/pandadnb) that made $2-8k/m from 2010-2014. When Nomad List started making $5k/m, I stopped working on the YouTube. I bankrolled my YouTube channel in 2010 with a a terrible blog about ASUS tablets (http://asustablet.com, see screenshot @ http://dig.do/screenshot-hires/201310/asustablet.com-transfo...) that made $500/m. I bankrolled that tablet blog in 2009 with being in university and getting $200/m college subsidy from the government since 2007.

My point is, you can keep stepping up and bankrolling the next project with cashflow from your previous project. That way I've never had to do ANY freelance work or get a normal job EVER.

> My plan is to build everything myself, using a stack such as Python/Django + HTML/CSS/JavaScript + eventually iOS, and the initial goal after validating my MVPs is to become "ramen profitable."

Great choice! Avoid frameworks like Meteor, React etc. they're a rabbit hole that will paralyze you from shipping and getting to revenue.

My simple stack is:

Client: HTML, CSS, JS with jQuery (JS talks to server API via basic AJAX requests), CodeKit (to compile + minify my JS and CSS)

Server: API written in PHP that connects to SQLite and Postgres databases (just a better version of MySQL)

The client stack (HTML, CSS, JS) is mostly same for everyone, the server stack you can also do in JS, Python, Ruby or whatever server language you like best.

> + eventually iOS

This stack has the benefit you can easily build an iOS app that just connects to your server API. Now your iOS app is simply another client app.

I'd recommend AGAINST learning iOS in your first year, as your time is limited. And even with Swift, it's a rabbit hole.

You want to get to cashflow as fast as possible to avoid burning out and running out of cash, so focus on revenue. The web (vs. native) is I think fastest way to quickly acquire money from customers.

For payments, use Stripe.

Good luck!


Thank you Pieter!

I feel honored by your reply : )

I unfortunately do not have any previous project to bankroll from, but this will be the first one!

The stack I mentioned is the one I use best, which is why I picked it.

Fortunately, I have been doing iOS development for the past ~5 years.

I'm going to validate my idea and move forward to a simple MVP if it works.

It all feels very uncertain but I'm going with the flow and will see what happens!


> Avoid frameworks like Meteor, React etc. they're a rabbit hole that will paralyze you from shipping and getting to revenue.

I agree with the part where you say to avoid tools that don't paralyze you from shipping and getting revenue. On the other hand, I think that if someone is fast and productive with React or Meteor, that is the tool he/she should be using to build anything.


Yes, absolutely. Always use whatever is fastest for you.


I would also like to add that you should get to mvp as fast as possible so that you can charge for whatever you've built.

I think a lot of devs focus too much on coding and not enough on revenue. Make sure the feature you're adding has value, or else you're just wasting your time.

I also made the mistake of using the project as an opportunity to learn new technologies which is dangerous because it can eat into the time it takes to ship.


Agreed, I've done that too before : )


Red flags:

- I only have a few $k (even with a product-market fit since day 1, it is going to take you time to generate enough revenue)

- My plan is to build everything myself (do everything alone is not a good idea, you need at least external support for the bad days)

- Levels has been greatly inspiring (it should be your project/product what inspires you, not others project)

- my question is whether there are any advice you can think of (definetly you need a plan before quitting your job)

My advice:

- don't quit your job, you don't need it to launch an MVP and get your first customer. Actually don't even thing about forget your only income until you have some customers in your MVP.

- try to make your first sell even before finishing the MVP (there is no better validation than this one)

- pick a stack you already know very well

- focus on the minimum features that will make your customers pay

- don't read about other projects, yours is different with it nuances and you lose your focus when reading about others

- talk with your customers since yesterday

- do go to meet ups, unless you are planning to get some customers there

- spend at least the same time doing marketing (user research, promoting, measuring kpis, ect) as you spend developing the product

- don't quit your job

- release your MVP yesterday

- do small and fast releases, big releases are a pain to test, small releases mean less bugs in every release and you get early feedback

- focus, focus, focus. Simple services is not a product or project, pick one, sell it, launch the MPV, and if it doesn't work move to the next one.

- sell your product before even having an MPV or write a line of code

- be ready to fail, most projects fail. Set a metric before start the project to decided whether you are failing or not in advance and move on with other stuff as soon as you detect you are failing


Just curious, how do you sell a product before exists? Do you literally sell it, or do you pitch it and then when they're sold on the idea you tell them it doesn't exist.


the usual approach is a google form, stating what you are going to make.

then you presell it. meaning you sell something that does not yet exist. if X number of people buy, you build it. if too little people want it, you return their money and say sorry.

then you deliver the product in as little code as possible. if its just information, write an email instead of building a fully responsive javascript react native reflux multi tenant fully distributed app.

yes, its not called reflux. but thats what it induces in the developer.

edit: thats how you presell products that are sufficiently easy to make. if you are looking at bigger projects like, say, a fusion reactor - you dont presell your customers. you presell investors. you do that by saying "heres the paper weve written as postdocs in university, we think we have a decent shot at making this happen". then you take the money and build the first step of your roadmap. then you go back to raising and presell "see? weve built feature X successfully. now we need more money to build the next thing". and so on, until you have a product.

the process doesnt really change, just who you presell.


Presell go fund me style (not using the site, just a money first example), or presell as in you email a group to take a survey?


"hey i have 5 ultimate frisbee frisbees with super mario bros. art on it. want one? $25 bucks to my paypal"

example taken from noah kagan explaining the process. if you manage to collect the cash, you order the frisbees from the vendor you found. if you dont sell 5, just ship the money back. the example is deliberately simple but you can apply that to anythign. you have a business idea, sell the result of the business. if nobody wants it, dont build it.

i dont know go fund me, but if you run a kickstarter, its basically the same thing. you say you need an amount of X dollars to be able to deliver. if its not met, just return the money. the fact that people on kickstarter are idiots and dont deliver after collecting money is another story.


kind of. You should offer something in return of the people who are buying it in advance. Like for example 50% discount or whatever. Then you should deliver something in less than a couple of months, otherwise it is hard to justify the pre-sell.

What I would do is set a landing page like the product is almost finished and collect emails or some personal information to contact the people when the product is done. This helps to validate your product before even start building it. Once you know your MVP (very minimum) will be ready in less than a month you can start doing the pre-sell and take the money. It also depends on the product, it is not the same if your customer are the gyms or the people who go to the gym. You can make some gyms sing a contract to use your product for a good offer before you have your product done and without getting any money yet. But once you deliver they have to pay you by contract.


Having done this (/ currently doing it), I would say: follow your heart.

Taking time off to nurture your own projects is a fine and reasonable personal endeavor, but not necessarily an optimal business or financial one.

In many ways, the time and space can help you explore and expand your ideas into something in the middle of the venn circles between "your happy with it" and "the market is happy with it".

But, don't expect to be done with day jobs after burning through "a few $k".

Depending on where you live, and who's in your network, you may be able to move to part time, agency, or freelance work after burning through your runway in order to keep enough time to work on your thing.

My operating assumption with all of this is, your current day job is preventing you (in one way or another) from focusing on your own projects. This is ok. Not everyone can handle burning the candle at both ends with the day job and night-work. Figure out a way to make space for both until the personal project becomes sustainable.

Beyond this, the other advice about 10-15% tech and validating your idea before hitting the code is solid.

I have a single-time-purchase iOS app in the App Store, and a month or two after releasing the app, spending one day investigating blogs and websites, and one day sending tuned press release letters to them did more for my sales than any new feature I could have designed or coded in that amount of time.


The three most important things (imho) are this:

1) Most of your assumptions are wrong. Tell/ask everyone you can about your idea and evaluate all feedback.

2) Figure out how you are going to get customers and get them to pay. If you don't know this first, you'll never get anywhere.

3) Find someone to work with. This is a very hard thing and you are going to get discouraged constantly. You'll need external motivation or you'll give up.

Everything else can be overcome with hard work.


I have quit my long-term position (remote contract) with less than $2.5k in the bank about a month ago.

It wasn’t much of an impulse move. Thought of it as a last-resort measure to motivate me into building projects of my own, with subsequent evolution into adequately priced freelance consulting and bootstrapping own businesses. The alternative would have been remaining at that position with bare minimum pay, no portfolio gain (strictly internal company projects), no growth or career advancement potential, no security or insurance.

Bad:

– Quitting itself was poorly planned and resulted in ruined connections with ex-colleagues at the company and unnecessary stress.

– Initially experienced fierce drive and got a lot done in a few days, but now the focused vision is gone. I regret not having changed something in my life to make motivation a non-issue prior to quitting.

– Returning to my pretty much third-world country after nomadic lifestyle is depressing, and so is the likely necessity of living with parents. Nonexistent real-life opportunities and networking potential, even if somewhat cheaper food.

– Doesn’t help that people close to me in life think I got fired and didn’t make the tough call myself.

Good:

– I remain convinced I’m better off, all opposing opinions be damned.

All the luck to you!


Good software rarely makes money by itself - you'll need to have a focus on validating your market, acquiring new users and finding features people would be willing to pay for.

levelsio is a great example of this. The guy is actually graduated with a Master degree in "Business Administration, Entrepreneurship & New Business Venturing" [1]. His main focus is on business development [2][3][4]. Software development is just something he needs to do in order to grow his business ideas.

Nomad List is great not only because levelsio created a nice product, but also because he successfully built a community and did great marketing to promote the "digital nomad" way of life.

So question to yourself: Why do you want to do this for? Creating a business or creating a software?

If your main motivation is to create a business, then design your software development cycle to spend plenty of time focusing on the business needs.

[1] https://www.linkedin.com/in/levelsio

[2] Greatly handles communication - https://twitter.com/levelsio

[3] His blog posts are designed around visibility, product placement and referral links - https://levels.io/how-i-build-my-minimum-viable-products/

[4] He uses whatever technology is the quickest / most convenient for his business ideas (nomadlist started as a Google spreadsheet, then as a PHP website).


I feel the general advice is don't do it and with good reason!

However, I feel that if you have good skills this should be the way to go. Hustle and get profitable. It is not that difficult using services.

The moonlighting alternative sounds appealing but I find the progress to be extremely slow and there are just too many distractions to really make it useful.

I know there are people who do it successfully, but I feel they are supermen and a notch above most.

Just my 2 cents.


Thank you! It seems from all the feedback that I'm significantly against the odds, but I really want to give it a shot.


I tried this (and it didn't work out), so here's my advice:

Keep your job, allocate a fixed amount of money each month to the business, and spend it all on advertising, copy writers and development.

You already know how to program, so you can be an effective PO for a remote team, you (probably) don't know how to delegate work or market stuff. Also, having to pay for the development will encourage you to create a real minimum VP.


1) Try to sell before you write the code like a company called Buffer did. All you need is just a landing page and not MVP.

2) Levels, as I know, had a YouTube channel with $1500-3000 of mostly passive income and already had followers before he created NomadList.

3) IndieHackers earns $1500-2500 after 5 months of work - the question here is can you properly live with a few $k so much time?


My two cents is 1.Keep your job and hack on your projects at night/weekends. 2. You'll make better decisions for your projects/businesses when you are not worried about how to pay rent. 3.Use Steve Blank's startup manual to validate your idea before you even write one line of code. Good luck


Don't quit your day job, not yet anyway.

You need to tear apart your idea and find flaws, rework assumptions and so on before you write a single line of code. The way you do that is by asking your potential customers and if you are struggling to find them now, when you have an income, then it will be even harder later on when you have no money and start getting desperate.

Learn to describe your product in two sentences. Not the features but "this product will fix problem X" in two sentences.

Also, your MVP should be some renders done in mspaint or something free/cheap - explaining the tool and then showing someone an A3 print out of it will either work or it won't... In my case it worked spectacularly and everyone got it. If it doesn't then back to the drawing board with a better picture or a better explanation.

Basically, validate, validate, validate.


> I've decided to quit my job to bootstrap my projects

I did something similar last year to unsuccessfully bootstrap a SaaS product. I wrote about what I learned here: https://sungwoncho.io/lessons-from-building-vym/

Afterwards I launched another product called RemoteBase but it's not doing that well. What I learned: https://sungwoncho.io/lessons-from-successfully-launching-re...

As others said, I would advice you to build cashflow from your side projects while at your job. Happy to share more. Good luck.


Firstly, congrats on deciding to take the plunge. I took a similar move a year ago and left full time employment to bootstrap my side project, EmailOctopus (https://emailoctopus.com). I haven't looked back since.

If you can, stay in employment a while longer and validate your MVP in your spare time. I had a few ideas which missed the mark and it took me almost a year to find a project that showed the growth I was looking for. If I hadn't had the luxury of a monthly pay packet, I would have ran out of money before I had the chance to properly pursue the goal.

Wishing you the best of luck!


I left my job to work on my own idea. I just had enough to survive for 3-4 months. I started working as a freelance consultant for a US company which allows me to keep paying my bills. Though the problem is, the company I freelance for is my only source of income and the contract is about to get over. I am looking for another contract position to keep paying my bills. If I get one, I'd be able to keep working on my project else I'd finally go back to a full-time job.

So, think before you decide. If you decide to leave, take up a contract job if possible. That'd keep you going without fear of running out of money.


If you're following someone elses method of doing something, you're not following you.

Bare in mind Levels was exactly in the problem space he was solving with nomadslist. He lived and breathed it, he could solve his customer's problems, because he was solving his own problems.

He had thousands of twitter followers before he started. It looks like quick success - but he's worked really fucking hard, for a long time before. He spent a year on one project before starting the 12 startsups/projects in 12 months.

Are you following yourself, or just another method someone stumbled upon? :)

Doesn't mean you can't do it, FUCKING GO FOR IT!


I always wondered what it is like getting back into a day job after taking an extended leave from the working world (6-12 mo). I was considering this, but ultimately I just wanted to program my own stuff, not start a company or even make any money. I fully intended to get a day job again in a year or so, I was just wondering how frowned upon it was to take a year off.

Anyone have any experience with that?


Personal Anecdote: I've been on a planned break since June '16 to build stuff, among other things. I get approached by top Indian startups once a week on average and nobody seems to lose interest when I tell them I'm on a break.

I have come to love a language called Elixir while working with it during the break and potential employers take it as a positive when I mention this fact.

Before I quit, I was a Tech Lead at an early stage startup(now Series B funded) for 6 months and I'll be looking for employment soon. I do not see this being a problem in my case.


Neat, that was basically what I was hoping to hear. I'll probably build a bit more savings so I can feel secure running on my own gas for a year, but I'm definitely planning it in the near future.


Yes, definitely build up a good runway or you'll find yourself negotiating from a position of weakness when you look for a job with urgency.

Another thing would be that employer preferences differ with regional factors, so get opinions from some local friends who have done this.

Finally, as you might already know, you must realize that this is a gamble. I'd play in a way that I have some guaranteed upsides(learning, fun, experience, autonomy), bounded downsides(loss of income, loss of seniority, stress) and unguaranteed, unbounded upsides($$$..$$$).


> Save me mistakes

Quitting a job before having an MVP and a rudimentary validation of your idea is a very bad idea. Sit on your paycheck until your project takes off.

That's unless you are quitting for different reasons, e.g. to take a break, traveling and, perhaps, possibly, try and see if you can also work on a side project at the same time. But the likelihood of this working well is near zero.


If you quit without adequate cash, you will spend most of your time worrying about money rather than building your project. If you have your parents' support, then you spend time worrying about their level of support.

I would not take this level of risk unless you have already validated your idea through a customer sale, and it's just a matter of finishing the project to deliver.


Figure out how you can make a steady stream of money from what you love to do. After that you can quit.

Without that momentum into jumping into working in your own, it becomes really hard.

Right now that taste and understanding of creating money is Something that your employer knows and that you don't and that you are terribly under Estimating.


If you already have some target markets in mind, get to know as much as you can about things like their buying habits; their influencers; where they hang out online; conferences they might go to; what content topics matter to them, etc.


Validate first, build later.


Why did you decide to quit your job? Could you not work on your projects on the side of while working?

Also if you don't mind me asking, what is your personal life like? Are you single or need to support a family?


I suggest you have a pool of customers ready to give you money ASAP. The engineering will take longer than you think and then the sales/marketing/customer development will also take longer.


Creating something other people will pay money for is very very hard. 90+% of projects are ignored and forgotten.

I've had two successful projects over 10yrs which is about average.


If you need this to make money for you to live then work on it until it starts making money. You don't know if it ever will right now.


I recently quit my job to start a startup, but this isn't my first go 'round. The first 8 years of my software development career I freelanced while I "bootstrapped my projects". I'll give you one guess as to how much money I made on my projects vs how much money I made contracting.

I took full-time work after it became clear my startup ambitions weren't panning out and suffered through that for 3 years. That was, however, enough time for a lot of very important lessons to solidify in my head. This time, I'm taking a far different approach, which is as follows

- put off coding for as long as possible. Every line of code you write before you validated that someone actually wants to use what you're writing is time (read: money) that you've thrown down the tube

- your big idea sucks by default, so don't come up with a big idea. Get as many meetings with as many people as you can (preferably decision makers) and ask them about the sources of pain within their organization. It won't take long to find a real opportunity.

- speaking of opportunities, be wary of anything that you're initially excited about solving. If you're excited about it, that means it's fun, and if it's a fun problem to solve, that means there are more people who are willing to solve it, which means it's less valuable to solve. Find problems that are painful and tedious to solve to guarantee your competition is minimal. After all, that's what people really pay other people money for - to avoid pain

- do the hard things first, which for engineers, is talking to people. The majority of your time should be spent learning about your potential customer. By the time you actually write a single line of code it should be painfully obvious exactly what needs to be built.

- Use old, proven tech. The biggest enemy you will contend with is your own desire to use shiny, cutting edge technologies. You want to use tools, languages, and techniques that have no "unknown unknowns". Use proven tech, but more importantly, use tech you're already comfortable with. You don't want to be finding and fixing bugs for other people's software on top of writing your own.

- If you don't trust yourself not to over-design, over-engineer, or in general turn your minimum viable product into a maximum viable product, pay someone else to write your code. Because you're not paying yourself when you write your own code, the tendency is to devalue the work, which leads to a higher likelihood that you will work on the fun but less important parts of the project first. If you're paying someone else real money to do it, you will make damn sure they only build an actually minimum viable solution to the problem you identified.

- Design comes last. There's such hyper emphasis on UX and design these days that it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it's the most important part of solving someone's problem. If craigslist survived for as long as it has by using the native web ui toolkit, your product likely can too. "Does it solve the problem" comes way before "does it look good doing it". The only exception is if you're making a carbon clone of a software solution that has a proven market but severe problems with design and usability (e.g. IRC being cloned by the more usable and pretty Slack).

- B2B, not B2C (but it sounds like you already know this)

- Avoid empty room problems. If your solution's effectiveness relies on a critical mass of users you will likely run out of money and patience before you get there. Only try solving these types of problems if you're willing to stick with the community building aspect for a sufficiently long period of time or are independently wealthy to begin with.

- You can freelance to pay your bills, but avoid relying on it too much. There's no greater motivating factor for creating a product that people actually want to pay for than actually needing them to pay for it in order for you to survive. Deciding which modern framework to use, how you're going to scale to a billion users, or tweaking your designs to pixel perfection will suddenly seem a lot less important when your rent is coming due.

- Find a co-founder. I know you think you'll be fine going about this on your own, but Paul Graham is right; there's almost no better measure for success in a startup than the presence of a co-founder. Running a startup can be likened to willingly accepting a bout of temporary insanity because it requires you to believe in a reality that doesn't exist... yet. It's easier to prop up that reality when you have someone with you to reinforce it. The goal is to turn that insanity into sanity by making that fantasy into a reality. Momentum, morale, and faith in the unproven are the most important and hardest aspects of a startup to maintain (again, not the code). You're building a cult, so find your first adherent.

Good luck!


Odds say it will be a bad business decision (how bad? ymmv) but life is short so good luck and enjoy the ride.


Dont! Never ever do that. If you want to bootstrap do it on the side. Only quit your job if the project matures. Not only that, but a solid benefit is that the skills/ideas you might learn from your project will cross pollinate into your work, therefore making you a better employee hence more valuable.


Stop reading these comments and get to work. You don't have time for both.


Don't.


Okay here is what you really must do if you are ambitious about building everything yourself.

Break your application down into smaller applications that exploit a particular feature. For example, if you are making a chat application, first make a simple Node.js site that can post to a Database and Read from the database and render a post in html.

Maybe add some extra functionality.

Then go on and make a really simple site that uses sockets to make a simple group chat box or something simple like a haiku sharing site (to tell you what I made).

Moving on, you can finally synthesize these two approaches and make your ambitious app. You already know how each component-that-is-kinda-tricky works so you can go into your huge awesome superapp with confidence that you'll get the layering right and not forget anything.

So that's about it, go in chunks.

I am a designer and if you are building everything from scratch I highly recommend you do two things:

1) read the book "Understanding Comics" by Scott McCloud. He talks about the "Infinite Canvas" which is a great metaphor for what a screen is capable of.

2) get plain paper, pencils, scissors, tape, and coloring equipment and make cut-outs of every screen. You can even make buttons, slide cut-out divs across the screen, simulate behavior in a tangible and visible way. It is by far the best way to prototype a web-app.

3) Focus on making something people love. Yeah yeah you keep your job or not, makes no difference to me. You'll have something. File at the local temp agency for a coding gig PT in the meantime and work 3 days and spend 4 on your projects.

If you are confident in your products and their appeal, have some corroboration from would-be users, go for it.

Money? I don't know, my idea is that you make something awesomely useful and people will use it, and from there you can bank on the traffic in some way. Maybe you run your own "hey here are some ads" service or just rely on "one-dem-giants" and let funds slowly trickle in. Monetization is sadly important, but if you are making something people will use then I don't think you need to consider it as much. Of course, I'm not rich, and that may be the reason why, so take this here chunk with a couple grains of pepper perhaps.

If you want environment+coding recommendations I say:

Node.js + MongoDB (or Redis?)

Use WebSockets (if you must use socket.io for the syntax be sure to upgrade it by adding a line to use micro web sockets (uws)... findable on your local githubs)

Or Ajax^

If you have more time and more float, I would say take the time to read BraveClojure. Most simple web apps would become:

Compojure for routing, Enlive or Hiccup for templating, and some Database.

Once you want to do more javascripty/real-time interactions, I say stick with Node.js and Sockets ... but if you are looking for long-term expansion of an app (that has research-potential in the future) you gotta build it from the ground up with the best possible tools of your time.

So yeah, just some thoughts. Be creative and make something beautiful, friend. Societal Value > Profit.

That said, hope you make a bunch doing it.


After grad school, I've spent a year making a music web app with 3 friends (I was fortunate to have family was funding me). I'm now doing the opposite of you as I've just signed my first job post graduation. But Here's my 2 cent anyway:

I'm just a young graduate, but so far what I consider the 2 most important things in starting a business are to surround yourself with the right people, and be able to manage them.

About your project, you can do a market study to buy time. If it's a service, then maybe you don't need much more than a landing page for now. Maybe you can fake the product you're selling if it's a desktop app, and only show videos on your landing page (I think that's what dropbox initially did). this allows you to study the market before/during coding and/or keep your job at the same time.

As a coder, the most useful thing I've had in this team is a UI/UX designer. Because without him, I'd lose hours trying to find the right spacing/sizing/centring for all my divs. More over, always make sure that you understand a wireframe before coding. And most importantly, make sure you have a wireframe before coding. Because maintaining your html/react/sass will quickly be time consuming if you change your UI often. Especially if the app's responsive.

Don't worry about the stack, use what you know. It looks like you're in a rush to make money since you're quitting your job. Don't learn the latest JS/Python Foo if you're already efficient in Bar. If you already know react and redux, structure your code such that you can reuse as much code as possible when porting to ios/android using react native.

Funny anecdote of how we lost many days trying to figure out why our bounce rate was so huge. We realised that users thought that our buttons were textboxes and wouldn't click on them. Once we realised that, we simplified the landing page so a user HAD to know that these textbox looking objects were buttons because the only thing to do on the page was click on them. Subconsciously, the users now knew what a button looked like on the app. So yes, sometimes you will waste days on things because you're not looking at the right place (in our case we imaged all source of problems possible, but not that users didn't know what a button on our website looked like). Try as much as possible to stay open minded, because things will be obvious to you but not your users. Working on projects alone can make this hard to remember.

I guess what i'm trying to communicate is the obvious: don't lose any time unnecessary time. Always plan ahead. Don't under estimate the amount of work there is to do. Be able to delegate the right task to the right people at the right time while supervising that everything goes on smoothly. Remember the product is designed for users that have never used it.


> I don't want to raise money and I only have a few $k

BE VERY AFRAID. I did this thinking I could get something off the ground fast enough to generate minimum income to live. It's possible ONLY if your level of support is "I live at mom & dads house".

I had enough social support to undo my mistake but it took close to 4 months to find another comparable job. It took another 2 months to pay back my friends for their generosity. 6 mos down the drain living on shitty couches and damaging friendships when I could have been saving money to make a less halfhearted attempt.

I will do it again, but a more realistic amount of money to start a business is 20-30k if you're on your own. This initial cash is your runway of sorts. If you have a few co-founders you could probably swing 40k all together. And 30k is enough of your own skin in the game to get an investor to double or triple that. 50-100k is enough to start a real bootstrapped business.

Also be wary of working on your new project while working for your current employer. Most have non-compete and ip-assignment clauses in the contract. If you're running a dog walking business it isn't worth their time, but if you ever build a business to the multi-million level they will swoop in and take everything you have.


> I've decided to quit my job

Don't.




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