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It's a good idea to improve your web developer skills, but I think the problem lies within your entrepreneur skills. I'd highly recommend the book Disciplined Entrepreneurship to you. It consists of 24 steps that is focused on product conceptualization, which I think you'll pretty much appreciate it.





Could you share why you think that's a problem in his approach/method?

The first time I built a business, I made the same mistake as the OP:

"Then, it struck me: what if ingredient parsing was the business? If this was a problem for me, then surely other developers struggled with it as well. Hopefully, some of them made money and would give some of said money to me if I solved their problem. Thus, the idea was born for Zestful, my ingredient-parsing service."

Before starting to write a single line of code, you need to do market research and understand the opportunity size. Building a business takes several years of personal investment and you are betting a lot of potential missed opportunity on the "ingredient business" market. This is a common mistake that, again, I have made myself, too.


100% agreed. As a coder, the comfortable thing for me is always writing code. But every unshipped line of code is a bet on what I believe users want. It's only when I have people try it that I find out it's useful.

And really, one can learn so much about what people want without having them use anything. User context interviews are hugely helpful. But my favorite thing is real-world tests even before there's a product. If most of your sales will come via people clicking on an ad and looking at a landing page, test that first! If people won't sign up, there's no point in building anything after that.

A good example comes from my cofounder at a startup we did in 2010. At the time, we had theories about an app that people would mostly discover through their Facebook feed. We used Greasemonkey to do user tests and found out that although some liked our idea, most people hated it. So we threw that out and did something else. But two other startups went on to build the same idea and fail with it. We estimate we saved $2m in learning what they learned. Ignite talk here: https://vimeo.com/24749599


Great conversation here. Sort of a mini-MBA in this thread.

This is a great argument for entering into an existing market, rather than trying to find a new one.

I'm not sure this is really true. The focus of market research can be to find markets that are currently unserved.

I suppose that this is still entering an existing market since the people who comprise the market exist already exist, but it's new in the sense that this group of people collectively have a need that isn't being met. And sometimes the goal of market research is just to find one of those unserved (or underserved) markets.


Zestful sounds like a feature of Edamam (https://developer.edamam.com/).

I think the market is not in parsing, but extracting nutrition information.


Yeah, Edamam probably does something similar to what I was doing.

The project kind of came out of me needing ingredient parsing for a different product and existing solutions being a poor match.

Edamam requires you to display their logo in your app if you use their API[0], which I found inappropriately intrusive.

There's a similar service called Spoonacular, but they don't allow you to store results for more than an hour[1], which is crazy. I wanted to build a search index that let users search by ingredient, so it made no sense for me to reprocess my entire corpus of data every hourly.

But they succeeded and I didn't, so maybe the weird API terms are what they need to survive.

[0]: https://developer.edamam.com/about/terms

[1]: https://market.mashape.com/spoonacular/recipe-food-nutrition


Once you have identified an idea or technology as the basis for your innovation-driven business. Your first goal is to assess the needs of potential customers, focusing on a target customer with the goal of achieving product–market fit—a product that matches what customers in a specific market are interested in buying, which unfortunately he failed accomplishing this step as the customers did not want to buy his product.

The single necessary and sufficient condition for a business is a paying customer. The day someone pays you money for your product or service, you have a business, and not a day before. You cannot define a business as a product, because if nobody buys your product, you simply do not have a business. The marketplace is the final arbiter of success.

Now, just because you have a paying customer does not mean you have a good business. In order to have a good, sustainable business, you will need to gain enough customers paying enough money within a relatively short period of time so you do not run out of capital, but instead, become profitable. And as a startup, you have few resources, so every action you take must be hyper-efficient.

Therefore, you will not start by building a product or hiring developers or recruiting salespeople. Instead, you will take a customer-driven approach by finding an unmet need and building your business around it.


Entrepreneurship is a lot more complicated. Each startup’s failure is unique and has various mix of challenges.

Suggesting a book for someone who has failed running a startup right away is naive and glib. Also, the OP didn’t put too many details of why his startup failed. Asserting that they have poor entrepreneurial skills - how do you know if it wasn't circumstantial?


I didn't take the book suggestion to be naive/glib. It could actually be quite helpful. My brief involvement in a failed startup would have gone differently had I known more about the business side of things, and reading a good relevant book is one of the best ways to learn about something.

I strongly and passionately disagree. I’ve read many many startup books. They are all completely and utterly useless in my opinion.

If you want to know something specific say accounting, read a book about that specific area. If you want to know more about the “general” aspects of startups - listen to interviews of founders about which unique chellenges they faced.

I strongly discourage anyone starting a business to not listen to Sam Altman’s advice or anyone who gives generic “strategic” advice. These books are akin to “How to become a millionaire”. Yes, I’m talking about books such as “Lean Startup”, etc.

You get so much value from reading about specific aspects than from general startup books. Learn how each LEGO piece works and learn it well. You know, you’re going to have to rely on these specifics to actually get your business rolling. Strategic advice - you can consult your friends, discuss and determine the best course of action through your own acumen based on data that you have. That startup book on your shelf is not going to help at all.


I disagree. Many people doing startups for the first time have no experience running a business and no idea what the actual building blocks are. I think YC's library of advice are a goldmine for them, because of the simple lessons like "validate the market" or "get feedback from people who are not friends or family". It doesn't seem like they're hearing that anywhere else.

See my comment and discussion in this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17189254

I’m a big fan of “just in time” learning. When I’m facing a specific challenge I look for books and articles that will educate me more about potential solutions (eg your accounting book example).

However, for many founders, myself included, there’s an aspect of “you don’t know what you don’t know” and in these cases I find the generalist books quite helpful. For these topics, it is extremely helpful to have a wide but shallow understanding of business, strategy, law, etc so if you encounter a problem you at least understand enough to know where you can dive deeper (or know you need to hire someone else). The advice in general business strategy books certainly lacks nuance. But for anyone who is not already enmeshed in the many many aspects of running a complete business themselves, they are great guides to gain a 10,000 foot view very quickly.


I agree with you ,and I also share your opinion.

People usually say that entrepreneurship should not be disciplined, but chaotic and unpredictable—and it is. But that is precisely why a framework to attack problems in a systematic manner is extremely valuable. You already have enough risk with factors that are beyond your control, so the framework provided by disciplined entrepreneurship helps you succeed by reducing your risk in factors that you can have control over.

Both of the things he mentioned didn't really solve problems.

The storage thing is already solved, people have no reason to switch from AWS. As he mentioned his product was worse, so even if it was just for the sake of competition...


Thanks for the recommendation! I'll check it out.



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