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You don't have to have superpowers.

You just have to have some product sense, some engineering chops, and the ability to take 6 months off (not everyone can afford this, and that sucks) to build the thing and see if you can get people to look at it and buy it.

You'll learn all the other stuff along the way (taxes, marketing, and eventually: hiring). Just give it a shot. If you run out of savings and have to go back to work, in interviews you'll get to say you "did a startup."

My company is bootstrapped. It isn't growing fast enough to fit PG's definition of a startup, but it's 5 years old and makes 7 figures.

Realizing after a few months that I didn't have to do a "startup" really helped. Whew, no more putzing with decks, trying to figure out how to get into an incubator, trying to raise funds, trying to convince one of my friends to quit their job and be my cofounder, "hustling", committing myself to never sleeping again. I could just focus on building a great product.

And I think my company worked because I was product focused. In the early days I just thought a lot about what the /best possible/ solution to the problem I was solving would look like, built what I saw, put it in front of friends (and eventually strangers from the internet), and made tweaks based on their feedback (and things they didn't say but that I noticed about how they used it).

This is contrary to the "sell first" idea--when I tried to cold pitch friends on my product idea they all said "eh, I don't think I'd really use it over the existing solutions." Those same friends asked me to comp their accounts a couple years later.

It worked for me. "Sell first" might be more important if you're selling to businesses? But like, getting the "x first" part wrong for a few months probably isn't going to kill you. Just start doing stuff. Wiggle around in your space until things start to catch.

I've had the exact same experience with "sell first" on various user applications. Pitch something to people and they're lukewarm. Make the product, in my case first and foremost for myself, and they end up gushing over it in practice.

Always brings me back to Henry Ford:

- "If I'd ask people what they want, they'd have said faster horses."

- "The customer can have their car painted any color, as long as it's black."

And there was of course similar mentality from many contemporary entrepreneurs, probably most famously with Steve Jobs. The rise of design by focus group is likely why things like independent video games have been able to do as phenomenally well as they have. One guy makes Minecraft in his spare time, makes billions. Massive AAA corporation with ostensibly elite business leadership and development personnel produce uninspired shooter/stabber #7,843,235 and barely break even after covering their 9 figure marketing and development budgets. Then they blame mobile, or piracy. I love it!

I hate that quote. They wouldn't have wanted faster horses, they'd have wanted something faster (or lower maintenance, or cheaper) than a horse.

For most people who ride horses, a faster horse is the only sensible next step.

That quote quite succinctly points out a bunch of human behaviors.

Just ask the next person you meet about their solution on high rent, bad traffic, etc. to get a sense of what I'm talking about.

The solution to traffic jams is naturally ‘more roads’!

Move out into the country. It’s lovely.

A better solution is to live IN the city and get rid of the car entirely.

> My company is bootstrapped. It isn't growing fast enough to fit PG's definition of a startup, but it's 5 years old and makes 7 figures.

Very impressive. Thanks for sharing! Is this https://interviewcake.com?


Wow. You were a lifesaver for me. I got into my dreamjob, thanks to interview cake.

To anybody looking to switch jobs in a computer science field, I will strongly recommend interview cake. It's insanely good.

Which product did you get?

looks awesome- i'm assuming there's no secret funnel for HN with preferential pricing? :)

Part of the excellence of interviewcake is that it feels like it was made by a person. When you're reading passages on the site, you can tell that the same person wrote them all. When you have an issue or a suggestion, you email it in, and the founder emails you back immediately.

It doesn't feel like a venture-backed company that provides an anemic free trial, but designs the entire product to upsell you to the subscription. Nope. It costs a few hundred bucks. Take it or leave it. If it doesn't work, you can get a refund.

This probably isn't a scalable way to do business, but isn't it nice that ignoring the growth impulse can actually make your product better?

I'm trying to launch a startup now...


What I've been mostly focusing on is product market fit and growth.

I think I have the product market fit down but the growth aspect is what's challenging me right now.

I don't want to just buy growth now as I'm not convinced (yet) that our user base will actually pay.

Additionally, I have to figure out a way to get a steady supply of new users through some growth channel and that's the area where I'm still lagging.

Well, people who care enough about reading to pay money for a better reading experience will want your product. Now, who cares enough about reading? People who have to read and people who want to read.

One the side of people who want to read, you have an opportunity to show them how much better reading is with your product. How do you do that??! Things that come to mind:

- A collection of blog articles on how to read more with an upsell to try your product

- A free course on how to read more with your product.

- Be a guest on reading/book podcasts. This is usually low cost/cheap and it provides a way to show social proof on your site ("As featured on the $podcast").

- Online book communities.

- Writing communities.

On the side of people who have to read, you have an opportunity to sell a solution to their pain. Reaching them will mean you have to split it into verticals. You can simply focus in one vertical (law industry as an example), set a time/money goal, and if it doesnt work out move to another. Reaching them is a matter of leveraging linknedin's data. Things you can do are:

- Write/Offer white papers on how to declutter their text based work process.

- Provide free consultations on decluttering their text based work.


It's all high effort. There are no shortcuts. You will have to be very honest with yourself and figure out if you really want to do these things. Best of luck.

I hadn't heard of this before, and looks really nice. I'd want integrations with apps I already have such content in, mainly Pocket, GoodReader (iPad), and Zotero. I'd need a way to read on my iPad, though, as that's where I read almost everything. I'd pay for those features.

i just posted on IH this question about wanting to find something like this..you might be my saviour?

[1] Ask HN : Get Pocket + Notes , does it exist ?

>Hey there community. Im tired of saving stuff to read later without activating it. I wish to get deeper in my workflow and "read and take notes" on what i save for later. If no note is taken, that's a signal of no interest My ideal workflow would be :


I'm a big fan of what you're trying to do here - have been using the app for a while now. Feel free to contact me - my email is on my profile. I put on dinners in SF that might be helpful too.

Very interesting product! Great job!

> You just have to have […] the ability to take 6 months off

Agree with everything except that. I've founded multiple companies while being employed full time, albeit not "startups."

May I ask, how old were you when you attempted this and at what stage of your personal/professional life? I like the idea of taking 6 months off, but for persons in their 40s or later, it might be a serious risk, especially when mortgages run.

I'm 36 and attempting this right now, with a wife, kid and mortgage. It's a bit terrifying, I am about to start picking up some contracting work. Been 'unemployed' for almost 4 months now.

I was 22/23--a year and a half or so out of college.

^ that my guy!

Very good point about the "sell first" idea. It's important to try to de-risk ideas as much as possible, and to some extent it's doable for B2B startups, but you really can never completely de-risk a startup concept without actually building a product or service and making it succeed.

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