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Persisting as a solo founder (vishnu.tech)
699 points by vishnumohandas 35 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 257 comments



>I’ve reduced my information consumption to free up brain cycles.

This is so important and not discussed very often. It's so easy to get caught up with the insane amount of information distractions. It is pivotal to narrow down your focus and attention on the really important things (deep work). Eliminate and minimize the pointless information hysteria.

I've worked with people who claim they 'work 12-16 hour days'. Yet, watching them work, they spend most of the day reading news articles and on Twitter. It is easy to get caught up in all of this, and it gives an illusion that one is "working" as it is very stimulating to your brain.

The only answer I've found to remaining positive about the world and staying productive has been to ignore >90% of the information out there. Very little news. No social media. I even ignore most of the things people say, unless I know that they are knowledgeable on the topic. But I guess this is what HN is for... One of the only places for decent information.


The most productive and successful individuals I know oscillate between multi day 16+ hour sessions of hyper productivity and multi day sessions of total procrastination.

It’s never chugging along at a consistent marathon pace. It’s always a series of sprints.


The dumbest thing you can do is try to be hyper-productive when you have no idea what you should be doing.

Of course, there are always five other things you know that need to get done besides the problem in front of you, but it can be a challenge to find the correct level of engagement, versus just sitting and 'marinating' in the problem in front of you.

I think the paradox is that if I spend all day doing nothing but reading documentation and farting around on Hacker News, nobody really notices. Not in the same way they notice if I spend a day on 'the wrong thing' (because I know for certain what needs to be done on this other thing). It's seen as wasting resources, because certainly I could have put that energy into the 'right thing'.


Yep. Over the last two years i've been fortunate enough to have a lot of time on my hands. In that time i've built 3 and a half successful products. 6 days of (thinking mostly, some research) about what to do. 1 day of actually doing it. It's so easy to spend that one day completely and productively - I already know what i'm supposed to do, I just have to sit down and do it.

The 6 days (not always 6 - maybe more, maybe less) let me come up with and throw out stupid ideas before i've coded them. By the time I come to build something it's a carefully considered thing that'll actually be useful most of the time.

It's not just feature ideas either, it's code design, data design, anything that might be complicated enough that I used to spend multiple days experimenting. It doesn't always work out, but when it doesn't, i've thought it through enough that I have a head start on coming up with a better design.


Want to share your 2.5 successful products built this way?


I'd rather not, only because they're in a market that relies on the good will of the users (who usually think that people should build these things only because they're passionate about it) and they kind of play off each other. Nothing unethical, but i'd rather not link them together if I can help it.


Oscillating between high distractibility and hyperfocus rather than fluidly directing attention is essentially the core symptom of ADHD.

As someone who has inattentive-subtype ADHD, I must say that this sort of pattern can result in a great deal of loneliness. It is far better to watch the course "learning how to learn" and use something like the Pomodoro technique to explicitly decide whether to be in

- focused mode

- exploratory mode

- actually relaxing and paying attention to your relationships mode


Okay, I've got a month of procrastination pent up, now if I could only release the hyper productivity! When I did my last masters, I somehow managed to get into a hyper-productive state, hacking on an app to collect participant voice data for a fews sessions close to 20 hours straight. (much to the annoyance of the guy who slept in the graduate lab) I don't think it was healthy, but it sure felt good at the time.


as an ADHDer, one thing I've found key is figuring out what things in my environment and mind are the things I want to signal "you're doing the right thing, keep going."

Essentially, what is your 'reward model'? -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYylPRX6z4Q

Test-Driven-Development is one example of this.


That was an interesting watch but I don't get how it's supposed to illustrate your point. Can you expand a bit?


A dopamine deficiency will cause you to seek out more frequent reward. So if you find a way to make your brain recognize reward that is on your intended path, you win.


I've found the same. When you have things to done you get them done. When you don't, you can sit around browsing the internet all day. It tends to be when things pile up that you are most effective at getting through them!


Ah, that old dilemma: Do I work best under pressure, or do I work only under pressure?


This is me. I always thought it was some kind of undiagnosed ADHD, ngl.


This is me but I'm totally procrastinating on code so I can hang in my garden as the sun goes down learning about myself through other instances with different circumstances in this thread. I need a break from the physical work to try to get my head space back to thinking about computers.

My sprint is not now, my sprint starts later.

The sprint toward my spirit starts now. Reading this comment, reflecting this thought. And another is below.

Upvote the comments that you can relate to and see what bubbles up


I'm trying to build something which tackles this problem. The idea would be delegating the decision of what you consume to an algorithm (that you can control), and you'll be delivered a subset of news/content daily.

Basically a giant filter through which you consume the firehouse of FB/reddit.

Although it works for me, I've no idea how practical this is on a wider scale. Would you use something like that?


Isn't that pretty much what all platforms these platforms do these days, with algorithmic feeds? What level of control do you plan to add on top of it? And more importantly - how do you plan to monetize a model that's pretty much dependent on dopamine hits, without making it _more_ addictive/a time-waste?


Well, I've been building algorithms which explain _why_ something was surfaced, not just being a black box. Everything is controllable from data sources, ranking/filtering weights and a feedback mechanism to tweak this.

As for monetisation, I've thought about this a lot - and I don't think the time wasting is needed to create a good product. Google Search certainly isn't fueled by dopamine hits, and from an ads standpoint, our users are saying exactly what they want to see every morning.


Feature request: When I find an article that the algorithm did Not suggest — but I like the article.

Then, it'd be nice to know how I could tweak the algorithm and its config values, so it would find such articles, thereafter.

And to dry-run the algorithm to verify that now it does indeed find that article.

(You don't have a website yet?)


Thanks for the suggestion. A Chrome Extension was my solution for this.

I have an MVP and real userbase which I spent time growing. Now I have a platform to experiment with the grander idea here.

That being said, I'm not willing to link to this yet because it's tied to my public persona and not yet my full time job.


Some platforms like Facebook and Twitter do, but HN and Reddit are (outwardly) based on votes, so you're seeing what the community thinks is important, not what you yourself do.

Mind you, there's a lot of people (myself included) who want to keep up to date on what others find interesting at the moment.


Reddit is arguably the original “algorithmic feed” - votes + the decaying algorithm make it way more “addictive” than if it was just a chronological series of posts, ordered by number of votes.

The popular/news sections of Reddit are also more heavily based on non-vote signals, like FB.


I am looking forward to more details on this.

I also think that allowing the user to track the changes made to this algorithm along with some metrics ( like how much time user spent on topics, time wasted etc) would provide a helpful feedback loop.


sometimes a person seemingly doing unrelated things is still 'working'. i know at least for myself, i run through various scenarios of the outcome rather than staring at the code before i make my decision to implement.

edit: and i'll typically run through those scenarios while doing seemingly unrelated stuff, like shitposting on reddit or sitting in a blacked out room.


In a similar vein I often like to try out a few avenues, because thinking about them won't get me any further, i need to interact with them to build meaningful scenarios.

Of course if you try three ways to get the right way, you've "wasted" time on trying to two wrong things.

E.g. when selecting a library it's often hard to find the one case that breaks, just from reading documentation, instead playing around with the library can get you there faster.


Even the best information has the same effect (maybe worse). If you’re reading this, you may have a problem (I do).


Possibly you have cause and effect backwards. What if the act of ‘thinking’ that you have a problem leads to the heightened distractibility?


Maybe... but as an ADHDer, my experience is that the bigger problem is thinking "I have this problem" but hearing from others "you're overthinking things" or "you don't need that, just get started" and consequently:

1. Never becoming confident enough in the problem to start solving it.

2. Never getting the rubber-duck collaborator to help you even imagine how you would solve it.


I agree - I have to consciously choose what I want to feed my brain. It's so easy to choose things that don't align with my goals, whether that be family, personal or business goals.

Do I find the non-stop inexplicable US politics fascinating? Yes. Is it helpful to my business? Nope.

Every week i have to revisit my goals, decide whats important, and remind myself that I don't need to learn everything, be all things to all people. It's okay to choose and to say 'no' to distractions, information sources and people.


The last paragraph is a conclusion I've arrived at independently as well. However, I'd argue that HN should be filtered as well.


The tough thing is figuring out what's the right stuff to filter out.

We all have had conversations with coworkers about some manager who just doesn't 'get it' and is out of touch. One way or another they are filtering out a bit of reality that it turns out is very important to us, or someone in the chain of command is filtering it out before they ever hear about it.

I wonder if the right solution is to 'audit' the information. Spend most of the time in your information bubble, with brief excursions in alternating 'directions' just to make sure that you aren't overfitting. Regular sanity checks where you turn on the firehose for a moment to see what comes out.


I think technically you have to ignore more than 99.99999% of the information that's out there.

Because I mean, realize how big Twitter is. Its much larger than the Twitter that you are generally aware of. The popular stuff for your language and interests is a tiny fraction of the total number of tweets.

Likewise, every subculture has thousands if not millions of web pages or whatever. Every city, state, country has their own news.

Depending on what you are interested in, there may be decades or even centuries of interesting things to study or play with just in that area. For example, if you are into C64, there are thousands and thousands of games, applications, demos, magazines, etc. You could literally spend 20 years exploring it if you were motivated. That is just one subculture.

If you are interested in world history then there could be thousands of years of documents and artifacts to study. Or maybe to understand some ancient literature you need to become fluent in written Latin. You could easily spend five years learning Latin to a high level.

I just feel that if you were to really give all of the interesting stuff that's out there a chance, it is many many lifetimes worth of information.

Which is to say that the number of potential distractions is actually effectively infinite.


agree with everything but havent gotten to know people who work 12+ hours but spend a lot on news sites

i have worked these hours in the past, plus my colleagues, and when there is so much pressure the least we wanted to do, and the least we did, was spending time on news sites because we were constantly tired and would rather choose to spend half an hour more on sleep


Very true!


> One of the only places for decent information.

HN is hit or miss. If you believe everything said here you’d reach the conclusion that only today in 2020 can we finally build websites all thanks to microservices, kubernetes, react and rust.


tbf you would also believe all this micro service, kubernetes, react, w/e is just another fad that will fade away and that “real engineers” know better. I see both opinions here.


Maybe both are true and we’re close but still not quite at the glorious day when we’ll be able to build websites


Solo founder here.

Make a product that people want and are willing to pay for.

The product may be in what appears to be a crowded field. Identify niche opportunities or cases where an established leader is doing a poor job.

It's fine to do some consulting on the side to pay the bills. Of course it will take time away from the product you are building; just be able to recognize when it's too much and scale back consulting or turn off the spigot completely once product sales take off.

It's fine to work according to your own schedule and needs, not some idealized '100 hours/week' VC fantasy schedule.

Investors don't care about you, they care about their returns. As you don't fit the pattern of what they expect for a successful startup, they will either ignore you or make very unreasonable demands - find a co-founder, work twice as hard, follow this or that model. Ultimately, it's a waste of time at best, a loss of control and failure at worst.

Once you have cashflow, offload certain business tasks to pros who can do it better and cheaper than attempting it yourself. Hire when you have sufficient cashflow + cushion.

Take pride in what you are building, the customers you attract, and the skills you are learning.


> Make a product that people want and are willing to pay for.

Great point. The long-term survival of a business distills down to being able to bring in more money than it costs you to produce a product. It's such a simple concept, but it's easy to forget when you're swept up in the excitement of coding and engineering an idea you're excited about.

Ironically, it's the most ambitious engineers who tend to make the mistake of doing too much engineering work before trying to validate the product. I can't count how many times I've signed up to follow ambitious engineers' startup ventures that turn into years of highly-detailed marketing updates for products that never seem to get any closer to materializing. These are the startups that fizzle out 2-3 years later with blog posts blaming the industry, the timing, the economy, or other external factors for their failure.

In reality, most of them could have determined their market fit, or lack thereof, much faster by launching a smaller version early and iterating with customer feedback.


It's hard to get out of an engineering mindset and into a product/customer focused mindset.

We like building things, and making them fast and powerful and efficient.

The customer doesn't care about any of that though. They just want something that helps them.


Of course the customer cares about fast, powerful and efficient things they can use.

What happens is that most of the time making something fast, powerful and efficient implies so much resources that the ambitious engineer can not complete the project in time.

Customers prefer something that works today, even with limited functionality that something perfect that only works inside the mind of the engineer.

That is the reason Steve Jobs said no so many times, because this way his company could ship products in time.

That in engineers mindset problem: It is painful to say No, like the song says, we "want it all".


> Of course the customer cares about fast, powerful and efficient things they can use.

Only if the thing being fast, powerful and efficient actually solves their problem better.


Not only that -- a lot of people pursue "innovative" technologies and try to build something all new, when existing ideas have only reached 1% of the market that need them because it takes a lot of work to actually get people on board.


This is why I work as a “prototype engineer” :)


> These are the startups that fizzle out 2-3 years later

Is that really the most common problem? I would probably be one of those engineers (if I'd start a business) and I'm a lot more afraid to sell something that doesn't exist yet than the other way around. Because now in addition to your usual problems you have legal obligations to deliver a product. I think this is one of the reasons for the crazy crunch culture of many startups.

Instead of selling a fake MVP product it is probably more healthy to be upfront to customers and let them pay for your development time like a consultant... And then repeat the work faster for different customers until you can spin the process out into a actual product.

In the case of the startups you describe I always imagine they have great sales and marketing people but no actual product, and thus survive only until the VC money dries up...


Statistically, more startup ventures fail than succeed.

> Instead of selling a fake MVP product it is probably more healthy to be upfront to customers and let them pay for your development time like a consultant

Careful, no one is advocating selling "fake" products. The key is to develop a minimal product that can be sold. It has to work, though. Fraud will sink a startup very quickly.

From there, you can contract with additional customers to expand the product to meet their needs. This is more difficult than it sounds, though, as you'll quickly be torn between working on what's best for the product as a whole, and what's best for an individual customer's unique needs.

I've seen many startups go down this path with best intentions, but ultimately become contracting shops with a single customer. That's fine if that's your goal, but it's painful when the contracts dry up and you don't have a product that appeals to the mass market.


> Is that really the most common problem?

The most common problem, if you're a really talented engineer, is that you could work for a big company and be paid more in a single year than your business will bring in for its entire lifetime.

Conversely what you really find is, the people running 20+ person companies with tens of millions in investor money to bring in only $1m in revenue a year - they lacked the talent, actually, to just make the money at a big company. That you should start with the assumption that capitalism works, and that the person doing this thing is not stupid but just shut out from a better opportunity.

So maybe you're a really talented engineer but you are foreign so you'd need an H1-B to work for Google. Or maybe you're a former product manager from Microsoft who didn't quit, but was laid off, so you really can't just go and make the money.

A transplant surgeon brings in about $1m in revenue per day for heart transplants. There is no risk there, there is unlimited demand for heart transplants. It's just extremely hard to become a transplant surgeon, it is extremely competitive, much more competitive than making a website. While I'm not suggesting every startup CEO is just a washed-out up-and-coming surgeon, there is other stuff they may have washed out from broadly, like just medicine itself, that led them to chase the worse economics of where they are.


I think it's often more about personality than talent or money. Founders tend to be the kind of people that hate the idea of being a cog (even a very well paid cog) in a big machine. People often start companies not because they can't get a good job, but because they can't stand working on other people's ideas when they've got a head full of their own.


The first business I started out of college was enabled solely by the fact I couldn’t find a full-time job. Like, at all really, for any pay. Was the business I started modestly successful? Sure. But did I move on when far better opportunities came about? Yes, I did. Opportunity cost is very much a real thing that dictates who actually starts a business or goes to work for one for under market rates.

I have met some people who implicitly or even explicitly claimed they were above being an employee but I think they weren’t being honest about their actual employment prospects.


So, you've got a choice: $200K/year at bigco, or $120K/year + a one time payout of $2m when you sell your company in five year. Yes, slow and steady can win the race, but last I looked, $200K x5 is $1m. The solo founder will make $2.6m. Of course, there's no guarantee of any of this. The talented engineer could be caught up in layoffs at bigco, and the founder could go out of business or never sell. Usually, exits are done at a multiple of revenue, so it is not uncommon to sell a small company with $600-700K/year of revenue for 3-5x that amount.

BTW, raising tens of millions for one million in revenue doesn't happen that often.


Everyone I know who has worked at the top tech companies for 5 years has earned considerably more than the entire startup's revenue. I wasn't ever talking about the startup's equity value, but even if I was, they were earning more than the equity value they would receive too.


You forgot to discount the $2M payout by like 0.05 (or 5%) which generously is the number of startups that will get anywhere near that.


I've seen companies raise single digit millions and not even get close to $1M in revenue, over 5 years later. The result is founders have been diluted massively after a couple of down rounds. Meanwhile, preferred dividends are accruing year after year. The odds of a big payoff gets smaller and smaller the longer this goes on.

Odds are you'd make more money taking a job at BigCo, live like you only needed half what you're making, and invest that extra money into the public market. This isn't as fun though.


This is entirely correct, and it also true that there are more opportunities in the startup world to build something meaningful and exciting from scratch and to have an unforgettable experience doing it. Not quite everyone is in tech for the money..


> let them pay for your development time like a consultant...

Do they not then own at least a share of the IP? You'd be lucky to find a customer that takes you on as a consultant but lets you keep the IP you develop during that time.


--Ironically, it's the most ambitious engineers who tend to make the mistake of doing too much engineering work before trying to validate the product--

? Not trying to be argumentative but that doesn't seem ironic to me at all. I would expect the most ambitious engineers to think that simply building the thing would be enough.


The more simple your MVP can be, the more indicative it is that you have a market.

If you need to build for years to release something [1], it's less likely that you're addressing a real need. The best products can start dead simple, even ugly, but still solve the problem.

[1] Deep tech is the obvious exception here.


The problem with some deep tech is the tech doesn't solve a problem until the next generation. It's less appealing as a solo bootstrap founder business.


It might also be it takes years to learn the skills to build something yourself.


Spending a lot of time building something is a great way to put off the painful realization that people don't want to pay for it.

Asking for sales up front means you have to face that right away. It's better for the business but harder for the founder.


I think this is great advice.

I remember when I was an undergraduate physics student, looking forward to grad school and idolizing all the famous physicists. My adviser, who was not the most soft and cuddly type of guy, always pushed this type of hyper-alpha stuff on me, even telling me that he himself only sleeps 2-3 hours per night just so that he can do more physics. It really does damage to you and your self image, and I don't think the advice he gave me was really meant to help me as much as it was meant to help him feel superior.

Anyway, a bit later in life now I look back and realize that there are so many times when I've idolized a certain way of living / doing things that are actually not productive at all but rather just feed that same type of alpha-image.

There's no reason why you can't be successful on your own terms, even if that means taking the weekend off, being a solo founder, or whatever. Sure, I get that startups are hard and draining, but (not to lean too heavily on cliches) there's a difference between working hard and working smart and more often than not I think these types of alpha-founders are glorifying busyness.


> even telling me that he himself only sleeps 2-3 hours per night just so that he can do more physics.

It's always fascinating to see people make claims like this, despite all evidence showing that it's impossible to maintain. Some extreme genetic outliers may be able to sustain performance with around 5 hours of sleep per night, but no one is going to last very long on 2-3 hours per sleep each night.


How do you rule out if the professor is an extreme genetic outlier? Seems like the kind of place you’d expect to find such an outlier.


Extreme genetic outliers still need 5, maybe 4 hours of sleep to function.

Going all the way down to 2 hours of sleep is doable for short bursts, but it will catch up with even the genetic outliers before long.

Many of these people are just exaggerating for effect. If you have poor time management, poor accounting for where you spend your time, and an erratic sleep/wake schedule, it's easy to get confused about actual sleep durations. Some people also use stimulants excessively during the week and then crash on weekends, but they'll only tell you about the nights where they barely slept.

Some people learn to normalize sleep deprivation and coast on a diet of frequent naps. If you take 30-90 minute naps a couple times a day you can coast for a long time on 2-3 hours in bed at night, but you're still sleep deprived. Those weird polyphasic sleep schedules that claim to reduce your need for sleep are simply normalizing sleep deprivation and masking it with naps throughout the day.

Finally, there's a common phenomenon where people misperceive some of their sleep time as being awake: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_state_misperception This is a common explanation when people claim they didn't sleep at all on a certain night. It's not uncommon for people to claim extreme insomnia, but then sleep 6+ hours as soon as their sleep is objectively monitored.

In short: You can't trust self-reported sleep times. Especially not when someone feels they have something to gain by claiming minimal sleep.


Has there ever been a documented medical case of someone surviving on less than 3 hours of sleep a night indefinitely?

I've read a lot of sleep studies, and besides some non-scientifically published variations on Buckminster Fuller's 30 minute nap every six hour sleep schedule I haven't read about someone getting such low amounts of sleep.


I've been on that little sleep for months. It takes away from any clear thought. Very unproductive. Not something anyone should do on purpose.


Why are you on it? Covid insomnia?


Welcome to parent life! Especially if the kid have colic


I had a bad reaction to a 10 day cipro prescription a few years ago and it felt like getting hit by lightening. So many things returned to normal but being able to sleep for more than 4 1/2 hours, was not one of them.


Baby.


Either he is an extreme genetic outlier (by definition the rarest of the rare) or he exaggerated to enhance his reputation (a trait baked in to everyone and so pervasive we all do it without realizing it). I know which one is more likely.


In this case, there's the additional irony of ignoring science in the name of doing science.

On another note, I can't be the only person who finds this kind of bragging to just fail to register, or even to backfire. Am I meant to be impressed by how poorly they've arranged their weekly routine in terms of work/life balance?


It reminds me of a line from a Jack Reacher novel - a guy with a scarred face (who obviously thinks he looks scary and tough) asks Reacher what his face tells him, and Reacher just replies "it tells me you've lost a lot of fights."


Maybe going on a cocaine/stim bender can sustain this for a little while then crash through the weekends when everyone is less productive. Obviously a terrible idea long-term to avoid chemical dependence/brain damage, but it's common enough that I've met quite a few of these "barely sleep yet hyper-productive" types that are abusing stimulants beyond coffee to keep it going during the work week.


The toughest part of this is finding a product that people are willing to pay for. The sunk cost fallacy kicks in, and everyone doubles down on pushing the product and iterating until they finally have no choice but to admit failure. I think YC does a great job of getting people to ask what is the absolute least amount of work I can do to validate an idea. Can you send texts instead of build an app? Can you do it all manually for the first 5 customers? Be quick to throw away things that aren't working, you don't have the bandwidth as a solo founder to make a perfect product, you NEED to see market acceptance to make it worth your time.


>getting people to ask what is the absolute least amount of work I can do to validate an idea

This is even a problem in the sciences! Everyone wants to kick the can (getting feedback on their pet hypothesis from reality) down the road & play with their shiny, awesome tech/math in the meantime.

"The great tragedy of science - the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact." Thomas Huxley


100% disagree. People good at this “know it when they see it” on the “finding a product that people are willing to pay for”. They don’t find this part hard.

What is hard is keeping mistakes/ignorance marginally less fatal than the ground you gain in your successes... forever.


Willing to pay for is a low bar. A prerequisite of many. People are willing to pay $1 for a decent coffee, for example.


Yeah, it is a twofold task really: 1) devise & ship something that makes sense and actually adds some value somewhere for a good number of people; 2) put it in front of the target niche through the cheapest feasible means of any type, aka do not get into the social media marketing rat trap.

In my very limited recent case, I produced a Kindle booklets series earlier this year (20 academic literature reviews) and started selling some through targeted ads on Amazon.com, at $0.03 per click, on top of a very few thousand visualizations per day.

Ramen profitable, but a platform to start from for small incremental updates in the mid- to long- term, hopefully.


> Make a product that people want and are willing to pay for.

Exactly. In fact, it's not even about the product. You need to solve somebody's problem in a way that they are willing to pay for. The product is just how you choose to do that. The designs and code and engineering decisions and artwork etc. etc. aren't for the customer, they're for you. What the customer is paying you for is solving their problem.


The trap I fall into is thinking about whether a solution 'ought to exist', disregarding the reasons why it doesn't already.

There are lots of tools people on appreciate when they are gone, and getting people to pay for them takes a much better salesman than I'm used to having available.


I’m a full time software engineer for a small company. No amount of googling answers my question: what exactly is part time consulting? At least, in your context


Here's my understanding. YMMV. Moonlighting: working side job/s for other entities while you are employed full time by one entity.

The full-time employment entity is your own company (if you are the founder) or your full-time employer and there could be other companies or individuals to whom you work for part-time (1 day a week, adhoc days/hours, weekends etc) and you are paid for that work.

You have two things to consider:

1. Make sure it is legal (for example if you are on certain types of work-permit visa in some countries it might be illegal to work for anyone other than the work visa sponsor).

2. Make sure you don't have conflict in your employment contract clauses (many full-time employment contracts have clauses that prevent you from working for others even for part-time without explicit permission from the full-time employer).

Usually if you ask your full-time employer, they may permit you to do one-off consultations to other companies (and get paid for it) if they think it would not take your focus away from your FTE work and if there is no conflict of interest or potential to reveal trade-secrets (example: if that other company is a competitor etc).


What is your product/service? You don't post anything in your profile. I'm interested to learn more!


Would you mind posting the link to your business.

I’d love to check it out. I bet others here would as well.


Excellent advice.


Being a solo founder myself here are a few tips I would like to add:

1. Solo founders are most often devs, which means they focus 90% of their energy on dev and what little remains on marketing. Unfortunately this is a easy trap to fall into and you should invest equal if not more time doing/learning SEO, content marketing (which you've done here very successfully btw) and building an audience.

2. Making a product without any user feedback. You work 1 year on a product and realize people don't get your idea. That's why it is essential to get feedback every step of the way and your spouse doesn't count :D

3. The good news is being a solo founder is no longer very unique thing. There are hundreds of thousands of people who are doing this and hang out on online communities like indiehackers, makerlog, etc.

4. After trying out hundred tools I've found that nothing beats trello. To each his own though but you really need a todo tool when working alone to keep on track. I've actually written a local trello for myself with one twist - the tool assigns me a task daily and as soon as mark it as complete it assigns me the next item from the list. But at any moment there is never more than 1 item on my "doing" list. It was because i was spending inordinate amount of time bike-shedding when i don't have one single todo.


While I agree with the sentiment of #1, I would argue that sales are more important than marketing at this stage. You can spin your wheels “learning SEO” and “creating content” with very little tangible results. In the beginning, sales + product are just about all that matter.


Both can be important and it really comes down to who your customer is.

For B2B (SME+) - Absolutely invest in Sales. Worth mentioning that it isn't too hard hiring seasoned sales professionals, with existing relationships who are trying to find their next career move etc. They'll often agree to a higher commission payout in-lieu of a base salary. This doubles up as a good way to get feedback from the market.

For B2C or smaller B2B - Definitely invest in marketing and customer experience if you would like the main driver behind your business to be product-led growth or some form of a self-signup/self-onboarding.


Could you provide any further advice on how to hire sales professionals? I'm starting to feel comfortable hiring tech roles, but hiring for sales still feels like a black box!


Sales can definitely feel like that. Without more context on your market, decision maker personas etc. the one piece of advise that I can give confidently is this:

Start with Senior Sales Leadership. Ideally someone with experience in your target market.

Reach out to a few individuals, in your network or on LinkedIn or similar. Ask them for advice, see the type of advice they provide. If you like them, ask them to recommend someone – the hope is they recommend themselves.


B2B sales is an area I'm going to need help with quite soon. Solo-bootstrapping a startup means that money can be tight though.

Do you think it would be possible to get part-time help using the approach you describe? Alternatively, do some sales professionals work on a commission-only basis?

Also, do you have any idea what typical commission is expected?


On sales leaders: I personally know some sales leaders who mentor/advise other start-up founders. This includes getting on some client calls.

However it's tricky, in that they wouldn't do it if there was a conflict of interest of any kind, they'd be more likely to do it once they know these people a bit more. There is also the WIIFM factor.

All that to say, it is possible to get help.

--

On sales reps: As others have mentioned the biggest factor here will be how long it takes to close a deal. If you have quick close cycles (typical in the small to mid-market), a higher commission component or commission only is possible.

Typically, I've seen commissions in B2B to be about 7-10% of Annual Contract Value (ACV) for the first year. Mind you this is highly generalized, based on my experience.

Most sales compensation plans aim for sales reps to earn 1x base as commissions if they meet target. So a base of $60K, would result in $120K in income if they performed.

Based on this you could try finding reps on 14-20% ACV on a commission only basis, paid out on paid invoices.

To be candid, I wouldn't try doing commission-only positions for my own ventures. That said it's worth a try if there are constraints that make it hard to pay a base.


Getting part-time help in sales is going to be hard. It will depend on how long your sales cycle is too.

Sales reps will happily work on commission only if they see a huge market for your product. Which might be difficult to show with a new product.

The commission rate is negotiable at the hiring point. If they are great at sales and know there is a big market they will want a lower base with a higher commission. You should also set a commission cap at some point as your variable costs increase your profit will drop and you could end up at a point where the sales team is making more than the company.


+1 here - sales dominant in B2B, but brand >> product in B2C, look at all the most successful B2C companies


What about D2C?


One exception would be if your product has really good and obvious search keywords that are being searched at a reasonably high volume. Google ads can work really well in this scenario. Even better if no one else is buying ads for those keywords.


Sales without marketing isn't the best strategy, it literally turns you into a one man[selling machine where everything is based on your time. Marketing develops channels of customers.


This really depends on the stage your company is at. If you haven't found product-market fit, you need to spend a majority of your time in sales mode talking to potential customers/users so you can figure out who your ideal market is and what your market wants. If you try to start marketing without finding product-market fit, you may end up wasting a lot of time and money without knowing whether anyone even wants your product.

It also depends on who you're selling to as well. Consumer/SMB customers may require less sales efforts than enterprise customers. You will always want to start with talking to users regardless, which is sales.


Well, you sort of described the position I'm in :)

Given that, do you have any recommendations for developing channels of customers? I haven't really hired for marketing before - what should I be looking for in that role?


Outsource parts of it:

- Content writers: Helps with Long tail SEO and building thought leadership; Ask within your network if they know someone.

- Website design and branding: Make a good first impression

- Banner and booth design for Conferences: Hopefully the folks from the design and branding can do this. caveat: Once this becomes a viable channel again.

- Ranking etc: Sign-up for a subscription of SEO Moz or something similar

- Adword: DIY

Honestly it's much much harder hiring for Marketing. If you do hire someone – find someone good at Project managing external resources.


The reply below hits all of the important areas.

From my experiences over the last year I would say there are too many channels that require so much work to reach a point where your reach matters. So unless you have a team I focus on one channel. If you pick youtube learn to create effective videos and use other social channels to reenforce the youtube content by posting on fb, ig about your new videos.

But that's just general advise trying to cast a big nest. The more effective channels usually come from being part of an existing community (think reddit forum or website forum or facebook group) and offering a product that fixes what people want.

As for hiring. Hire someone who has done marketing before or hire someone who is part of a community you want to be in who is usually doing a lot of unpaided work to make the community better.


At what point does sales end and marketing begins?


In b2b neither ends.


One thing I disagree on is that you should spend equal time on everything, at least at first.

The way I see it is that product development should still come first, but marketing and building an audience should be tied into that process instead of being an afterthought.

When you're building the product out initially there's just so much shit to do, I think if you don't dedicate most of your time to building it takes too long to get anything done.

Perhaps I'm biased as I'm trying to juggle a full-time job and building my product. I barely have enough time to build stuff, let alone get distracted with things like SEO.


Hey, I'd be interested in your local trello. I was meaning to write a todo-app based on best psych best practices, especially only presenting the highest priority ( = urgent * important) item at any given time. I also wanted to add ordered sub-tasks, due-date, and time estimate features so that the urgency ramps up automatically as the remaining time to complete a task approaches the estimated length of the task.


Sure thing. It's open source and you can find it here (1).

Unfortunately it's very badly written (sorry) because I wrote it just for myself on a weekend and is very limited, just enough to get the job done for me.

(1) https://github.com/san-kumar/kanban


You should look at Taskwarrior for some inspiration! I use TW and it has the features you mentioned(and I use them regularly). Urgency is derived from certain coefficients[1].

[1] https://taskwarrior.org/docs/urgency.html


The problem I have with Taskwarrior is that (from a layman's point of view, i.e. mine) there's a lot of new information you need to learn just to get to the point of a simple TODO. Whereas Trello has the massive benefit of being intuitive and you're up and running in seconds after making the board without even having to read any docs.

Anyway I'd be interested in learning Taskwarrior, but in my day job I work in a team and I can't make them use that kind of tooling.


Try Restyaboard, an alternative to Trello which is an open-source version with more features https://github.com/RestyaPlatform/board


Try this open source project, I set it up on shared hosting and it's amazing and full-featured https://github.com/kanboard/kanboard


I have a question about this. Is SEO really still relevant and necessary? Is it really effective?

I've been wondering about this for a while. It seems to me that everybody is doing it anyway, and that in the end what counts is that many pages link to your page. Meanwhile, search engines heavily penalize certain "optimizations".

If you have a page that loads instantly and contains all the standard meta tags and keywords, does additional SEO really make a difference? Are there really any "tricks" that work?


Yes SEO is still very much relevant and effective IMO. Regardless of the paid ads, Google sends a lot of organic traffic when you rank for the right keywords. If you were to buy this traffic you would spends thousand of dollars doing it. Same for Youtube. A good video is amazing source of targeted prospects.

Just think about how you find a new service, chances are you googled it and tried the 2-3 results.

Now as for the question - is it necessary? The answer is yes. Because if you don't do it your competitor will and as the joke goes "The best place to hide a dead body is page 2 of Google".

> Are there really any "tricks" that work?

I'm no SEO expert and so I don't care for meta tags, keywords. Title and page description are still important I think. I believe the most relevant things are the time user a spends on your page and social signals (shares, etc) and unfortunately backlinks from high authority pages (this is the worst part of SEO).

The good news is that you don't have to do anything sneaky to do SEO anymore. Make an excellent page on which a user spends a lot of time (so good that he actually bookmarks or shares it) and it starts ranking. For all its evilness Google is still doing something right here.


sitemap.xml can cause your search result to appear with sub-links.

Keyword density (just the right amount) and total word count seem to have an effect and I’ve seen targeted landers work very well for specific search phrases.

Backlinks will probably always be relevant to rankings as they were the original bedrock principle behind PageRank. If you get prominent blogs to link to you, that can help a lot. Inversely, use rel=nofollow on anchors to avoid seeping relevance to other pages.

Ever since Mobilegeddon your site MUST be mobile friendly or you will get penalized. Also other UI stuff matters (E.g. don’t put ads above the fold)

Not an SEO expert here but I would consider those effective and small things you can do for SEO.


Also performance - make sure you use this tool https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/


A lot of people don’t do technical SEO right. It sounds like you’re asking about whether there is something other than technical SEO and links to do right?

Not really. If you write good content, with relevant keywords, and people link to it, that is good SEO. Not clear what distinction you’re trying to draw.

There may be some scammy stuff with short term results, but you’re always one step away from an algo change or a manual penalty.

Edit: I forgot good internal linking/url schemes. Those matter.


There's gotta be like a github repo somewhere that lays out the actual technical aspects of SEO, without any of the bullshit. Anyone know of a project like that?


It would change based on google rollouts. A forum would have more upto date information.


I would also like to know, but SEO is also about the backlinks. Quantity and what anchor text they use, where are they etc.


For a solo founder, the bottom line is neither traction, recurring revenue, nor monthly active users. The bottom line is emotional health/fitness.

For example, as a solo creator, anytime I resolve my single-biggest source of stress I get in a flow producing my best work. I'm more open to looking at problems from new angles.

Without the typical external structures, emotional fitness dictates everything: ability to make decisions, ability to forecast, willingness to learn a critical new skill/approach, persistence through challenges, willingness to take risks, etc. Basically, if it matters, being mentally/emotionally healthy fosters it.

I don't know if it's a saying, but it should be: Great products come from great teams, whether that's a team of 1, 10, or 1000 people.


Exactly! Your business can be a threat to your emotional wellbeing, but your emotions are definitely a threat to your business as well. If you're alone then there's nobody to stop you from following your whims. It's very alluring to do what you _want_ rather than what you _should_. A team has a sort of inertia in that there's pressure to not let the others down, and changing course requires that more than one person wants to do that.

I think solo founders (including myself) should ask themselves: why are you solo? If you (like me) want co-founders but can't find any, maybe your idea isn't so great. If you prefer to be alone then scouting customers may not be your strength.


As a solo founder for 10+ years, what I can say is that all "rules" in business are "rules of thumb"... Not laws. It's ok to be a solo founder... Sometimes. Bounce ideas off your team instead of your co-founders. Make use of mentors. There is a workaround for all your challenges. I also recommend listening to podcasts with other founders. I host a podcast called "Open Source Underdogs". Lots of good advice there for all founders... Even if you're not working on open source. But there are plenty more. You need outside ideas... Just seek them out.

Don't burn out your friends talking about your startup. It's not that they aren't interested. But nobody needs a single vector relationship.

Also remember that VC's give tons of bad advice to founders. Or rather founders tend to put VC's on a pedestal, and misinterpret what they are saying as advice, when it is really just filter, convenient lies or lazy analysis. Be hugely skeptical of anything VC's tell you, including "you need co-founders".


Solo founder for 5+ years. The above message is right on point.

One things that I realized is that what happens to your business tells more about what _market_ you are in, that it tells about yourself as a founder. A great entrepreneur in a bad market will still have a bad outcome, and vice versa. Like a program is not about the programmer, a business is not "about" its founding member(s).

So a good advice you don't hear often could be "start in an easy market".


Totally agreed; in general the advice a VC will give you will be what they consider you need to do for them to be interested in investing in you.

This is not the same as ‘good’ advice, and will often be diametrically opposed to it.


Looks like an interesting podcast! Unfortunately, my podcast client doesn't load anything earlier than episode 22, and Spotify doesn't either - it looks like the RSS feed doesn't contain the earlier episodes. Is that expected behavior?

I was particularly surprised to learn that Moodle is open-source. I used it in school before the world of software development and open-source was on my radar.


I managed to find playable early episodes here -> https://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/open-source-underdogs-o...


Solo founder of Gumroad here. Highly recommended. It forced me to learn a lot more about every aspect of building a business than I would have otherwise.

I'm also a fan of investing in solo founders: https://shl.vc


Why does your LinkedIn says "Passed away 2018, do not contact"? Too much spam?


Thanks for creating Gumroad, it really helped me save a lot of time and use it for building my product instead!

Are you still working full-time at Gumroad or you are more into VC or "influencer" nowdays?


Another solo founder here - I copied the Notion fund memo you posted on Twitter and used it as a template to pitch VCs, so thank you for that!


Ah, Sahil, I remember your tweet: if you can build and sell, the world is your oyster. :)

I'm also a solo founder. I'm happy that you have sympathy to solo founders. Maybe I'll apply to your VC later.


Thanks for sharing this! @vishnumohandas I wish I could've seen more posts like this when I started out ~3 years ago.

This is my 35th month as a sole founder. A few things I did to fight "loneliness" as a sole founder:

1, Invested in productivity. Life is not easy, so you should treat yourself well :) I spent time building scripts to make dev & ops easy. I rented a WeWork desk (first 6 months), then upgraded to a private office (2 years), then moved out wework (recent 6 months, due to covid-19). I bought SaaS products from other companies - I like spending money to save time.

2, Make it easy for others to contact myself. I put my contact on every page of my website [1]. The happiest moment of my day is always the time when I talk to inbound emails from some strangers. Yes, there will be trolls, but most people are nice & with good intention. Nowadays, I spend at least 1/3 of my time reply emails everyday.

3, Share progress on the Internet. I write a monthly email newsletter to report my progress [2] and some blogs to share my experience & thoughts [3], which help me make some friends on the Internet :)

4, Meet people offline. Quite a few of my former coworkers are doing startups now. We hanged out a lot pre-COVID-19.

5, Unfollow some people on social media (e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook…) and avoid seeing news from TechCrunch and other unhealthy VC-focused online media. Avoid status game.

[1] https://www.listennotes.com/

[2] http://listennotes.substack.com/

[3] https://www.listennotes.com/blog/


I set up Bx (https://usebx.com) a solo founder/dev in 2017, after a fairly good career in finance (got to MD-level at a bulge bracket bank front office in ~7 years, but was extremely unfulfilled despite the decent money).

First few months were tough (no money, no customers), but things suddenly clicked towards the end of 2018 and we got a fair few users. I even managed to sell to a few corporate clients, which really bumped up the revenue. The version from 2017 still serves as the core product today (with a few tweaks for our corporate clients). Three years on, after receiving lots of feedback from our users, we're getting ready to launch Bx 2.0 in the next few months. I can honestly say, nothing has been more enjoyable than working on Bx, despite the ups and downs.

I don't think I would have stuck it out for so long if I had a co-founder, as I've generally not found many people I can work with for a prolonged period of time. I think the most freeing thing about being a solo founder, is that you can own your mistakes without having to be answerable to anyone.

To be honest, even in my finance job, I operated as a bit of a lone wolf on the desk, so working solo just happens to suit me. I admit I am not the best team player, but I am a good at delegating, dependable and back myself to get difficult stuff done. I think those things are really important when you have no one else to rely on or blame as a solo founder.


Solo Founder.

I have done Meditation, gratitude journals and focused transitions. It all helps.

However, for me the activity that helps the most is hard workouts early in the morning. Once I get going, I am fighting against gravity and fatigue. I am no longer thinking about my past, future or even the day. Just focused on the moment.

I am in a similar boat as you OP. I am very happy on a daily basis, building the product. I am also pretty financially stretched so that adds a level of stress. I hope your product is a giant success.


It's amazing how overlooked exercise, eating well, and sleep can be. Sprinkle a little gratitude in and you're mentally prepped for the day.

Been running my company for 8 years, and I take the same approach to the day.


I go for a 5k run in the morning. Despite it taking a little time from your morning, it'll pay for itself threefold in terms of productivity throughout the rest of the day.

Also, if you work alone and get stuck on a problem or need a little help with being creative (ie: UI design, marketing), try smoking a joint! It might not be as good as bouncing ideas off of someone else, but it's definitely helped me think of ideas I might not have come up with otherwise.


> hard workouts early in the morning

This is interesting, thanks for sharing, I’ll try this out.

All the best to you too. It’s good to know that you’re happy. I hope everything works out the way you want them to.


> I quit my job in January 2020 to build a privacy friendly photo organizer

> what I had underestimated was the difficulty involved in finding a co-founder and how that would compound the difficulty involved in finding an investor

Whoops.

I just shelve ideas until the pieces align.

If my idea involves being able to get into certain rooms to be taken more seriously because I have a co-founder, then I don't do that idea until I have a co-founder, and do other ideas.

Look guys, your competition has a lot of ideas. A lot of viable ideas, and this is not a coveted position, it just is. If your brain coincidentally functions like that once, it isn't a good enough reason to pursue it.


> Over time I’ve realized that action precedes motivation and procrastination precedes guilt

I group tasks into three categories:

1.) Stuff I don't want to do but really need to do. Get the most important stuff over with so you don't need to feel the shame of procrastinating and you will feel clearer too.

2.) Stuff I shouldn't be doing. Opening you Inbox first thing in the morning is something you should /NOT/ be doing as a solo founder, aswell as checking social media or news sites like Hackernews. Email (for me) is a TODO list created by other people, and social media just wastes my day on mindless trivia. It is not productive in any way and serves only to make the founders of those social media companies richer, and you poorer.

If you must get your news, setup alerts for major events, or read the Current Events[0] page on Wikipedia which I find to be unbiased and comprehensive.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal:Current_events

3.) Stuff I can delegate to others. For example, do you really need to write blogposts yourself? There are plenty of good content marketers that can churn out good quality blogposts for a fee and you don't necessarily need to be blogging all by your lonesome. I can understand the need to write a personal blogpost that others can't write, but most posts don't have to be personal anecdotes, they can be technical and draw from different sources on the net.


Been indie 10+ years (aged 23-34) and can definitely say that — once it works out — the autonomy and independence make it an absolute dream lifestyle.

Some pointers and observations I've learned along the way.

1. The hardest part of persisting is the emotional game. Improve your motivation by doing things in a way that even a failure of your primary business goal still leaves you in a better position career/skill-wise than when you started. Also: figure out how to separate your identity from your business, otherwise every tiny failure or criticism will sap your energy.

2. For many — maybe most — products within reach of a solo founder, marketing will take up at least as much time as development. Unlike programming, marketing is shrouded in something not unlike the fog of war in RTS games. It is highly exploratory and experimental in nature. But dealing with this uncertainty carries its own intellectual appeal, one that you can learn to embrace — or even enjoy.

3. Outsource as much as can. If some work can be done for less than your hourly rate as a freelancer, then, overall you're more efficient to code for $$$ then pay someone to handle that part of your business.

4. The technical skills that are most useful to a solo founder are more to do with system design than programming languages and frameworks. You should focus on things like data integrity, uptime, redundancy, error-tracking, rapid response to production issues, integration testing, etc. rather than which React.js state library is better.

5. Get to know other solo-founders. I formed a monthly meetup with about ten other people in a similar boat in my town and these sessions acted both as a support network and as a way to get feedback on my (sometimes harebrained) ideas.

I've a lot more to say on this topic and I go into way more depth in the screencasts I post over at https://www.semicolonandsons.com/


As a single founder, I agree. The only advice I give anyone, ever, when starting a company is to not do it alone.

Think about how much of a disadvantage you are, early on, when you have to switch between tech and business. Longer term vision vs short term. Running a product vs running a company. It's almost impossible.

That being said, you mentioned "how that would compound the difficulty involved in finding an investor." The good news is after you get a bit of success, this goes away. You can hire the things you're missing. Some things, like having a cofounder, are an early signal that goes away once things go well.

(If you ever need to talk, my email is in my bio)


I think this is good advice only if you know someone who would be perfect as cofounder who you have a long working relationship with.

Otherwise "get a cofounder to get a cofounder" can definitely ruin a project. Am someone who went through 3 in one year, made it harder to change things, strategize, and there was always some misalignment between product, sales, and content. Find that I'm making significantly more progress as solo founder now.


Don't know if it's relevant but I spent almost a year on "zombie startup" and still is working on it.

I wrote about some techniques how to keep persistence for solo founders: https://medium.com/@victor.ponamariov/how-therapy-turned-out...


Interesting read! Friend sent the link to this article to me like a week ago. Nice one.


Just like you, I quit my day job in my early 30s, and have not looked back since. Have founded a dozen companies in the meantime and am currently having the best financial year of my 15 year solo-founder career.

My advice is, hang in there. If you like what you are doing persist and adapt. My best product thus far is an API I built to support my original business plan. The original product I tried to build is long dead.

All the best. e.


I did the same and I regret most of it :) All my attempts were total failures.

It's also fine to just dance back to a 9-5. Having a paycheck and living an OK life if perfectly fine.


Dozens of companies or sites? Even sites, why did you make so many Ventures? We're they affiliate sites?


I originally started https://foodpages.ca and dinehere.us then built https://geocode.ca to provide local search functionality, then expanded worldwide with geocode.xyz and 3geonames.org, also got into collaborative fiction writing with fictionpad.com and price comparison engines with comparify.xyz & askvini.com (which I sold on flippa) and real estate aggregator sites (shitet.net and landhub.ca, landhub.us).

Currently geocode.xyz and geocoder.ca are my most profitable businesses.


Thanks for your kind reply. I might like to have some guidance for starting as a solo founder. Is it possible to ask you a few questions via Email or something? How may I contact you, provided if you are willing?

Thanks


Sure. eruci@geocode.xyz


Was it worth it financially? Like are you earning loads now?


Totally worth it. I'm currently earning around four times a senior software engineer salary, and I've got plenty of free time. Overall my average earnings over the whole 15 year period have been double what I'd have been getting in a day job.


Great post, these strategies are very similar to mine. I've been bootstrapping solo for 12 years while holding fulltime jobs and growing my family to 5. I'm currently working on my 3rd project and as life throws more and more distractions and negative thoughts emerge from my unconscious, having a consistent plan like this is best way forward.

The main take away is goals, tasks, ideas, and random thoughts, you have to get them out of your head and onto paper (digital or otherwise) and this could be as unstructured as the thoughts themselves. They key is to materialize internal thoughts externally, to capture the essence outside myself, and to give myself room to work on that small task that will push me forward now.


Many advantages as being solo. 1) If you fail, it only impacts you. Often underated but important as in startup ventures, failure will be 80% of cases. Solo : you hurt no one. 2) You can change path easily. To come to sucess, you will inevitably change of directions (technically or on the clients you are targeting, ect). I think Being alone is cool because you need no explanation. So You can go fast.

Drawback : Social validation ! Of course, your friends, your familly, many potential investors will not be friend at all with the idea of being alone here. So yes, this is tough. It was for me.

Now, I see it more as a test : If you can accept that being alone for a while is socially painfull but not that horrible, well go on : build your software, full time or part-time if you have no more cash.

And think about it. How many people is needed to drive a car ? A Solo driver.

Solo mean YOU DRIVE the experiment --> This is good


Don't persist as a solo founder but do it if you have to.

I was a solo founder and at the end of my journey, I realized I would have given up 25-50% of my company just to 1. have someone else to talk to on a daily basis 2. have someone I could bounce ideas off, 3. someone who could have focused on the parts where I was bad (even if they didn't have that skillset).

I would have done twice as much as solo founder.

Push yourself to find a co=founder. Invest 10% of your time in it. Have no expectations. Slowly you'll get a nose for the kind of people you will want to work with. Also you'll polish up your people skills which you'll need to raise money and to run a sucessful business in the future.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go further go with a team. (There is no fast startup.)


> I would have done twice as much as solo founder.

so in the end, you remained a solo founder?


I had a part-time cofounder in the end. He was really good and we buit and launched app. Make 2k/month but I had to go back tot he workforce due to family reasons - dad got sick.


>To minimize the overhead of context switches, I split tasks into a tree of checkpoints. Before taking a break I note down the next simplest checkpoint so that when I get back to work there’s little friction to resume.

This reminds me of a trick I deployed while studying for an tedious exam back in the college days, that worked super good at the time but I haven't tried it since.

I used to have the problem to wander off in my thoughts unrelated to the exam(task) at hand. It would often also be interesting thoughts: "well if X is true as this course material claims what about Z? oh that remind me of Y! let me just quickly google/wikipedia...." so letting the thought go was incredibly hard.

The simple solution was to realize as quickly as possible when I fell in to those thought pattern, write down what started the thought, and what associations propagated it. Then write down where it stopped, and the potential rest of the thought chain I could think of. All on one A4 paper that I promised to review at the end of the day after the exam study. The mere promise of reviewing it at the end of the day reduced the procrastination due wandering off from approx 2-4 hours a day to 30min max.

Worked quite fine, and it was easy to see what thought were actually interesting and demanded follow ups, and what was just useless (but enjoyable) thought experiments.

It also helped to have the "Todo today list" A4 paper next to this "chain of thought" paper while writing it down, to get back to the study quicker.


Friends

It's really hard to write this, but I'm sharing because I can see that I'm not alone.

I've been working solo for a very long time. Working solo has taken a heavy toll on me in many ways, both good and bad. I didn't want to work alone but the people in my network only had excuses for why they wouldn't work together. During the time that I've worked alone, competitors have entered the market, thrived, and even successfully exited. It has been crushing for me knowing that my vision and market were spot on accurate, and here I am watching others succeed at what I knew was real a long time ago. Yet, they have taken a far more risk averse approach, leaving the holy grail for someone like me. I didn't want to work alone but I persist because working alone on this dream is worth more than not working on it at all. Hope remains. Things are finally changing this year, but it's because I've given up working alone without trying to raise funding. My risk profile has changed during my solo career. I'm not going to fail to fundraise because I'm solo, anymore. I'm bringing strong, modern tech assets, expertise, and validated business strategy to the table. I'm going to crush any reservations that investors will have about me for being a solo founder. The fact that I'm solo is nothing more than one person's excuse for not getting involved. Being solo was a legitimate concern years ago, but it's not anymore. I don't need a founder. I'm a hardened soldier who doesn't need a shoulder to cry on but rather CBT, exercise, and sleep. I have enough love in my life to carry on, and am very fortunate for that. Moving forward is a frightening experience, but I will remain no matter the outcome. I accept my fate and will fight like hell to arc towards the positive.

For the Dune fans: Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past me I will turn to see fear’s path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.


I apologise for the uncharitable reading, but this just sounds like you’ve reduced your information consumption to free up brain cycles which you’ve just reinvested into productivity porn instead of validating your business idea.


First company I started was solo, second company was with a co-founder.

My perspective is that this proverb is right on: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Having a cofounder completely changed my second company's trajectory. Having someone who takes on the parts of the business where I am weak, and visa-versa, has made a world of difference.


I see that you worked for a FAANG - how much of your motivation for building ente.io came from an insider view of how corporations leverage user data? In other words, did your stint at a FAANG fuel your desire for a privacy friendly photos alternative?

P.S: Native Malayalam speaker here - love the name "ente.io". Nannayi varatte :)


Reading this article, I feel really proud of the solo founder for having the commitment, fortitude and skills to come as far as he has.

I can also relate to the need for focus and attention, but it saddens me to see founders and passionate developers who think they need to cut off social ties and events for their product to succeed. This isn't something that I like to hear, but perhaps it can be effective for some.

My response, and my question, to solo founders and developers working on their passion projects:

Do you use or know of any resources for finding good teammates? Do you have to do it alone, or do you want to?

I've made a few friends on angel.co, but I think it would be great to have some kind of resource that helps pair or facilitate partnerships for healthier product development.


You could check out IndieHackers.com for other solopreneurs.

With respect to partnerships, I find it difficult to consider someone who I have not built things with or shared emotional baggage with as a business partner.

So if I had to approach this problem, I would pick an arbitrary problem and as an experiment start building with the friends I find on such platforms/communities to see how the working relationship evolves.


A lot of this stuff is about feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, or alienation. I think it's harmful to think of this as part of being a "founder". It's hard out there right now.

Having contact with customers who pay you for something they find worthwhile, rather than just pitching VCs for money to buld your, can reduce these feelings of floating and inadequacy, and give you some human contact.


It’s often part of being a “engineer founder”. You can go your whole career having the market side taken care of by your employer and end up overconfident about the business side.


Although the author is persisting, I get the sense that he is forcing himself to feel happy about what is essentially a zombie startup* (a photo organizer).

It shouldn’t feel hard or even lonely to be a solo founder. There’s so many people you will have to interact with that are not your co-founder. There’s so many people you can share your feelings with that are not your co-founder. And having a co-founder is no guarantee you won’t be lonely; a technical co-founder spends most his time heads down coding and a sales co-founder spends most his time out making deals. Occasionally you may have meetings about customer feedback and high level strategies but that’s about it; the intent of the relationship is not to spend weekends hiking or riding bikes together or other social activities. If you are feeling lonely the source of that must be coming from other aspects of your life.

Most of the time the loneliness a founder feels comes from the fact that almost no one that matters is enthusiastic about their idea, or at least not enough to pay for it. It creates a mentality that it’s you against a world that just doesn’t understand what you have to “offer”.

I hope he will realize this before too much time has been wasted.

Give this an upvote if you agree.

*edit: I wanted to elaborate on why this is a zombie startup in case people think I threw this out too casually. He calls his product a friendly privacy oriented photo organizer. First off, drop the word friendly, that’s a meaningless word when describing apps and usually just a way to say an application has some decent UX, which is expected by default anyway. Second, “privacy oriented” is a red flag unless your startup is deliberately targeting people who have something they feel they need to hide. This will do nothing to move the needle for most mass market consumers who already consume tons of products without any regard to privacy. A lot of your marketing will have to rely on first making people paranoid so they seek out a privacy focused product, which is kind of scummy. Third, what you’re left with is essentially a photo organizer, whose novelty is questionable in a world that has no lack of photo organization. There’s no way this will be a successful business at this rate. Sorry if you think otherwise, but feel free to justify why.


Hey, author here.

To reiterate, this really is the happiest I've been.

The initial few months were not smooth (as indicated by the article). Mostly because was an expectation mismatch with respect to how comfortable I believed/was made to believe life would be for an "ex-FAANG engineer" starting up.

Also, the loneliness I felt was more about not having someone to rant to about roadblocks or share small achievements with. This was something I had taken for granted at work.

I wrote down this essay now after I felt that I was in a comfortable place, and that there were learnings that could possibly benefit someone going through a similar journey.

> a zombie startup

That's definitely the case now, and will be for a few more months. I've never been a fan of "ship fast, apologize later". So while it's less exciting to work on a product that's not live, it's something I'm okay with.

But thanks for your thoughts, I can see where you are coming from.


You can be very happy working on zombie startups, but why do it? There’s so many other things you can choose to work on that have the same potential (zero) but might be even more fun and bring more happiness. I work on emulators in my spare coding time knowing they’ll never be any kind of business, but it’s fun. Just don’t keep working hoping the zombie will one day come alive.


> why do it?

1. I'm scratching my own itch. I wanted a privacy friendly alternative to Google Photos to store and organize my memories, I couldn't find any that were as convenient, so I'm building one.

2. I have a clear path towards a public release, so I'm not worried about it being a "zombie" forever. Some projects take longer to see the light of day, and I'm okay with the delayed gratification.


Yea, it's so easy to call any product someone builds a zomby startup'. Once you are live and people do not continue to use your product, then only it might be right to call it a zomby startup, but not before...

I am always quite surprised that many people think "yea, you always can build a software in a few weeks. If not bah, not good'.

I think SOME softwares requires month if not years of building. Because there are difficult technically. Those complicated softwares can be a game changer in the field, because well, the technical entry is so hard. So let's see more those softwares like perhaps future BIG success. Not just future 'obvious failures'.

I think this makes sence.


I agree with most of this although I think if you do privacy well there is a core of people willing to pay so yes your market is much smaller but still potentially valuable.

My issue really is with taking 7 months to build and not shipping anything. I see the authors comment that he's not a fan of ship fast and apologise later but surely you can put a beta out there even if it's just for feedback from the indie hackers and hacker news communities.

As the existing photo organizers to increasingly creepy things - face recognition I do think there might be a market but how long are you going to spend before actually testing that out? Right now it's just a theory.


> taking 7 months to build and not shipping anything

So I spent the first couple of months chasing an on-premise alternative to photo storage[1]. Then I realized that the product was difficult to sell, and required a substantial investment of capital so I pivoted to an E2EE alternative on the cloud. I also spent a non-trivial amount of time trying to raise investment, which I regret at this point.

> how long are you going to spend before actually testing that out?

If things don't go terribly wrong, the project should be up for beta testing in early October.

[1]: https://orma.in


Oh that looks great (but.. lol)

I'd lead with "Share your family's photos, access them everywhere you want them" rather the rather conspiratorial "corporations cannot be trusted". At least if you want to appeal to families. But what do I know!

I pay $99/year for Mylio which does importing, syncing & basic editing between devices, but my goodness it's slow - the only saving grace is that it's faster than Lightroom. Mylio doesn't really trade on privacy despite the impressive self-hosted cloud sync, and it doesn't trade on sharing between family members despite that being quite useful! If you want to see a very similar product, check out their forums and their very vocal customer base.

I'm also working on a solo startup (accounting) and I feel a lot of your pain - I've got 2 kids and it's mega-slow trying to work about 10hrs/week, but I'd echo what a few other people said here: however painful it feels, spend 50% of your time marketing and testing to make sure you're building the right thing. I have an embarrassing prototype of my product out right now, but it's valuable to a few users who are giving me feedback.

Good luck and keep in touch with HN :)


> Mylio

Mylio looks really cool, thanks for sharing!

> spend 50% of your time marketing

As a thin-skinned introvert, marketing doesn't come naturally to me. But yes, I've been trying to internalize this and in fact this blog post was a step towards putting myself out there.

> I have an embarrassing prototype of my product out right now

That's fantastic! I hope things work out the way you want them to. :)


Props on pushing your edge with the post. Building or tapping an existing community of early adopters is an enviable position to be in for a solo founder. Very unsticking. The feedback loop provides much desired certainty. Whether Twitter, Discord/Slack, a forum, whatever.


Solo founder here.

I have a bunch of happy beta users that had previously tried and given up on Mylio. You're certainly welcome to try it out!

https://photostructure.com/about/introducing-photostructure/


How much time do you estimate you've spent developing the product?


Barring a few weeks that were spent dealing with family situations, the last 7 months was spent full time building orma.in and then ente.io.

If your question is from an engineering perspective, I'd say ~65% of my working hours were spent in writing and rewriting code.


That looks interesting. Have you tried posting it to privacy groups?


As solo founders we can easily decieve ourselves. That is take on a dodgey narrative to explain our slow progress or failure. In my case I set some magical goals...I think these goals were me setting myself up to fail. If I didn't have x mrr within 6 months then it can't have been my fault because I really, really wanted it to happen.

I'm 9 months in to having given up my job and have taken on some consulting work. Time will tell if the business grows or if I go freelance/employee.

I'm living in day by day land now rather than fantasy land.


Note: the definition of an entrepreneur is someone who doesn't listen to advice (some of it good). This dude says you're startup is "zombie"... Well, he might be right, but if you see an opportunity there... That's what makes you smart. And in 10 years if you're successful, the same people who said your idea was bad will be saying it was obvious.


Privacy apps have their place in the FOSS Linux world. Usually GNU/Linux users don't pay money for software though. There aren't really good polished options on LineageOS and the other FOSS Android forks. Maybe OP could sell software to that community (nothing about being FOSS means you can't charge money). Might as well just skip the mainstream operating systems because people there by default don't care about privacy.


The product could find a market with privacy conscious Parents. So I wont call it a dead end yet.

Though an extremely tough market to crack, something drop box realised early on and moved out of photo business


Solo founder here.

- I started a newsletter with progress updates to keep myself accountable but found that as time goes on I haven't needed it as much

- Motivation can be variable over time and you need to keep making progress even on your down days. I think this is (one of the ways) where a co-founder is super valuable, as you can motivate each other when one of you is down.

On the theory that this thread will be a honeypot for other solo founders: if you're interested in potentially working together or just someone to bounce ideas off of, shoot me an email (address in my profile)


I totally agree. This has been my life for the last year and it's been really tough, but tips like this have really helped.

I spend alot of time thinking of decisions which is awesome and because I'm solo I know I have to do everything I can to make sure it's the best choice. To do this, I balance with as much research on each challenge as possible with quite morning walks(with my dogs) and journaling where I talk myself through ideas.

I've become a huge fan of journalling as a business tool and highly suggest it for solo and non-solo leaders.


It sounds like you have the motivation and persistence figured out. That’s great! Have you read Lean Startup and done some customer research? Maybe I’m wrong, but gut reaction to this app is that very few people would be willing to pay for this. If someone is privacy conscious and anti-google, Apple has a much better track record for privacy. I get multiple gigabytes of cloud backup for free and can add on additional space very cheaply, and I trust them to keep my data replicated and safe. The photo apps are also very robust and have local AI and such. It seems like a hard sell, and that the people who understand and care about end to end encryption could just set up a NextCloud instance and get E2E encrypted backups in their native photo client, in addition to office tools, general data storage, etc.

I wish you luck, and I sincerely say this to try and help you, but I think you should stop adding features and start trying to convert people to paid to see if they will.


This was valuable feedback, thanks.

> people who understand and care about end to end encryption could just set up a NextCloud instance

This is the exact problem I'd like to solve. It worries me that currently only the tech savvy can afford privacy. I'd like to take a shot at making privacy accessible to a larger audience. Something along the lines of what ProtonMail is doing to GMail.

Of course I might fail at attracting enough attention for this to be a viable "startup", but I would have still built something me and my family can safely use. Also there would be learnings along the way, and I'll just move on to building something else. :)


I think this is a fantastic attitude. Build something that you personally care about. Worst that can happen is you lose a lot of money, but honestly what would be worse if you never tried.


Nextcloud is really not a photo management solution though. The e2e support is nextcloud is really not production quality. Do you use either of these for your setup because I am happy to change my mind.

I use emby these days for managing photos and auto uploads.


Nextcloud does have a photos addon : https://github.com/nextcloud/photos

how is it tho ?


The fact that a number of my beta users came from nextcloud looking for an alternative is telling.


You can use nextcloud as the cloud backup and turn off backups within google photos, and then you have a photo manager with encrypted (and self hosted) backups. I have not used nextcloud myself. I use Apple products and pay for icloud. I use Emby as well for media management. What I was getting at is that I don’t want to switch my photo manager and photo workflow when all that the value here is is the fact that the photos are encrypted, there are many solutions to that. Why not sell a hosted end to end encrypted backend that is compatible with google photos and Apple photos?


Ah, I misunderstood what you were saying. So, what you are suggesting is a privacy focused backup option for the existing cloud services. That is indeed an excellent idea. Before I went totally selfhosted, I had a tough time getting my pictures out of Flickr and Picasa web (now both dead!)


Solo Founder here,

Ive tried a bunch of things to get myself into flow state over time - meditation, exercise, journalling etc. they all help.

Recently I was trying to lose some weight and did a few 48 hour fasts. Holy moly doing about 6 of them over a period of 20 days give me increased clarity and focus for the next 30 days.

I'm planning on doing a few every month.


I've been working as a solo indie developer since 2005. I think being solo has advantages as well as disadvantages. So don't beat youself up about not having a partner.

one of the keys, from my experience, is early feedback. Start showing your product to people as soon as you have something that might be useful to someone. No matter how imperfect it is. Do not wait until it is polished. I wrote about that here: https://successfulsoftware.net/2007/08/07/if-you-arent-embar...


Also a solo founder here.

The comment about going from dev to marketer is huge. I'm in that phase now and it's pretty daunting. I've spent so much time obsessing about the product and now that I finally have something...how do I get people to use it?

I just started brainstorming ideas and it's actually fun to start diving into something I haven't had to think about before. Yes, daunting but so is everything about being a solo founder. It's just another hurtle to jump.

If you're serious about your product and enjoy the solo founder journey, you'll find comfort and stimulation in the new adventures that present themselves to you.


I think marketing it becomes a lot easier if you build with it in mind.

If you know what you're building will excite your target demographic, it's super easy to market.


Easy in theory, however difficult in execution.

I'm D2C, so social media strategy, brand building and generally getting enough volume to convert in order to sustain the product without a huge ad budget is very tedious. Very much the long game to get people interested (probably over the course of years unless you go viral and have good network effects).


Yes, very true. When you read marketing books, it seems very obvious. But trying to actually decide pricing, naming, positioning etc is a different story.


I really hope your startup flies - can't wait for a world famous app with a malayalam name. Aaha, anthass.


Solo founder, one-man-shop here--14 years in.

There's lots of great advice here, and I'll add getting in the habit of sending out monthly update emails.

Pick a group of people (friends, family, maybe ex-colleagues) and once a month summarize what you accomplished in the last month, what you want to accomplish in the next month, and some goals you want to accomplish 4-6 months out.

One of the hardest part of going it alone is lacking perspective. Monthly updates are a really helpful tool in keeping you oriented.


One thing that appears to be missing from your blog post is evangelizing, you should spend a not insignificant amount of time contacting potential customers, partners, and employees and let them know what you are doing, your progress, etc. You will be surprised at how often people will pop up to offer help.

Of course posting your blog post here is a great example of evangelizing, so keep it up.


>It is sub-optimal to not have a coworker to bounce ideas off and rant about problems to. A lot of times it’s these conversations that help you gain clarity.

Corollary: The optimal communication outlet is your users. Your friends and coworkers might just tell you what you want to hear. Your users will tell you what they need from you in order to make your product.


Bit of a side note, but the author mentioned https://GitHub.audio, which I'm quite enjoying. However, that site says it plays "string plucks" which I'm not sure I can hear, or at least discern from "bell dings". Is it working properly?



Question for the solo founders out there:

How much certainty or revenue did you have before quitting your job?

I’m in the common dilemma of not being able to leave my job because my business isn’t making money. But my business isn't making money because I’m working 10 hours a day for another company and don’t have time to work on my business.


I had very little certainty of revenue when I quit my job, but I was quite bored with it and got a $20k severance package on the way out. So I gave myself 6 months before I had to look for another job.


I worked in large companies where sometimes hundreds of engineers working on a few products and took a long time to launch(hardware+software).

I led a team of a few engineers for two years to build network products from bare-metal to UI in browser. two years that is.

now I work alone to build a product(software for hardware, I don't make the hardware) and it's very difficult, I have so many coding work to do and it just drive me tired, hiring others is not an option, I'm struggling to find reason to keep going on, before returning back to consult or a permanent job, neither I really enjoy these days.

on the hiring part, I probably can afford a few engineers overseas for a while, the problem is that finding them taking so much time, and it's hard to find good candidates when you're a little "start-up" with uncertain future, been there done that.

yes I'm stuck.


This is by far the best guide for solo founders: https://blog.gettamboo.com/the-epic-guide-to-bootstrapping-a...


I feel like there is alot of shade being thrown on partnering these days. The unreality of solo founders is that you cant be antisocial and accomplish something alone, having a partner is an excercise in trust, which is not entirely a bad thing.


I've always been a proponent of being a solo founder, but a few years ago I went down the path of starting my (current) business with two other co-founders.

One I fired after a short while as he wasn't carrying his weight.

The remaining co-founder has been a God-send. In January, I was diagnosed with late-stage cancer, and he took over the reins. He stepped up in a way I couldn't have ever imagined. Days I was suffering from surgery pains or (daily) chemo, he kept the ship afloat.

Everything OP says is correct, but one of the things my co-fonder gave me was an unplanned plan for the unexpected.

Without my co-founder, I'm not sure we'd have survived.


https://github.audio/ is a game changer. one thing I find hard about lo-fi channels is the sheer amount of visual/ mental noise to break through in order to get the video/ station up and running on various platforms.

One thing that I have taken to in my quest for zone-out material is to put this type of music on a separate Hi-Res music player; I have a Sony A20 Walkman, Sony PHA-1A DAC / Amplifier, and Sony MDRV6 Studio Monitor Headphones as my setup.

Github.audio is perfect for when I don't want to/ can't set all that up


I've built a collection of lo-fi stuff (mainly off youtube) and the main problem is unnecessary (IMHO) and/or depressing vocal cues (e.g. "I don't love you anymore" on repeat, wtf!). Just cool clean lo-fi without the seldom needed garnish is a very relaxing thing. Also, TIL github.audio - quite nice.


Hi Vishnu,

Repeat founder here. But I always have same co-founder. Startup is an emotional experience so my suggestion will be get someone passionate (not money minded).

Can you pls also suggest starting guide for Naval's meditation challenge.


He already posted twitter link. That's all. That is the guide.


Some valuable tips. Thanks for sharing.

I have a question from community. Like many I have a routine of creating a to-do list. Often times I end my day with guilt that I didn't do much despite of finishing tasks. It also happens that if I am doing an important task, after X mins I feel to give up and not fully engaged. While I feel this i start feeling bad and try to fill the slot with another task which often makes me unsatisfied and not happy. I feel I did not utilize my time. I don't know what should I do.


Why do you need VC funding? Plenty of people have bootstrapped businesses with no outside funding. Don’t ask VCs to pay your paycheck - ask customers to. Make something that’s worth paying for.


Some ideas have huge buy in. They're capital intensive and that's just the way it is. Even for other ideas, sometimes it's nice to have founders not worried if they're going to be homeless. Definitely tradeoffs on both approaches but I can see the reason why some choose to pursue VC funding from the beginning.


A photo organizer is not capital intensive, unless of course you have a lot of users and need more compute space or something.


That goes towards my second point. Everyone has living expenses. Not all founders are in a position where they can afford to drop their income to $0 for extended periods of time.


Reading the last few lines of this and hearing that he’s the happiest he’s ever been is interesting to me. Does anyone ever regret movement from job to owner/founder? Seems like most don’t?


You do it knowing that it could be a terrible financial decision, cost at least a year of your life minimum, and that 90 to 99% of new businesses fail. Or at least you should know that. But you do it anyways.

So no, I think most don't regret it.


I've been doing it for 10 years, it's been hard so far, but there have been satisfactions. Some money was made, a few lives were saved. I'm not good at getting attention (heh, that would help, wouldn't it?) but if people have questions, I will answer them here.

https://www.robots-everywhere.com/


I did this so many times, I lost count. Big mistake. First, get them to pay you for something you even do manually, then automate. Manual>Automate>Repeat

One advice I can give you is to learn an open-source project that you love and sell support for it. Then find out what is missing and what kind of product someone will pay for that would be commercially viable. Again, Manual>Automate>Repeat.

Hope this helps.


If anyone is feeling lonely as an indie founder and looking for an indie founder Slack community where you can reach out and bounce ideas of other founders in real time you can join the Nugget Slack community here:

https://nugget.one/join

Access to our Slack used to be paid but we've recently opened it up to everyone.


A few years back I was subscribed to newsletter, daily/weekly nuggets about ideas with thorough research. Are you the same?


Yes, the very same!

We have gradually iterated from that point toward training and community because we've seen that has a much bigger impact on founder outcomes than supplying ideas.


Awesome I remember I had specifically created a Google label for your emails. I was kind of disappointed you had quit sending and hide behind a paywall.


BTW You can login now and search all 4,000+ ideas for free.

I guess I could set up a daily random idea email if you wanted. But I couldn’t guarantee the quality of said idea :)


You can theorize as much as you want, at the end some are successful and some are not, each one will tell you they know why. none of them will do. Luck has a lot to do with it, but work hard in doing something you believe in and if it becomes successful, good for you, but this should not be your first objective. Struggle is underrated.


Hello Vishnu, I see that you are from Kerala! We have a very active online maker community in Kerala which regularly launches products in HN, PH. Some of them has been accepted to YC as well. I think you should defintely join it! You can DM @keralaph in Twitter for adding you to the WhatsApp group.


> While not all of them genuinely care, some do, and these conversations force me to reflect on how well I’m doing what I’m doing.

The act of describing what you're doing clearly enough that a 3rd party can make sense of it already helps, no matter who your conversation target is and how much they care.


I find my biggest holdup is designing UI. I'm not a designer so while I can implement it, it usually looks a bit meh in terms of colors and layout. This costs me a lot of time because without a clear image of what it looks like, I find I don't know exactly what I'm building.


How about trying to hire out a UI designer?


Use component libraries with their default themes until you can afford to hire designers.


ente (/ɛn'tɛ/ meaning: mine): In South Indian Language, Malayalam Ente means mine, which I presume is the OP's mother tongue. I agree with all that is being said here, but would like to add one more. Thats just based on my own experience. Please for the love of God, don't quit Your day job while You build, validate and find Post-Launch PMF(Product-Market fit). Its not just the financial Security that comes with us, but as a solo-builder/founder the, feedback/implement cycle is very long and can be soul crushing. If You had a contract/Freelance or even a F.T. job that keeps Your mind busy during those idle periods of lull, You will be able to stay motivated.


I'm also on the same journey and it all rings true.

I'd like to learn more about their strategy for fund raising, as I'd guess most people going down this path would be tending more towards the bootstrap/indie hacking/rev generating end of the spectrum


Hey Vishnu, Congrats for your progress with your product. And also best of luck for all things ahead! Noticed the name is "ente" couldn't notice the similarity with Malayalam "ente" meaning mine.


Hi Vishnu,

Repeat founder here. I always do with same co-founder. Startup is an emotional exp. My recommendation is to get a co-founder who is passionate and not in for money.

Also, can you pls post Naval's meditations starting guide?

Thanks


Fellow solo founder here. Your landing page uses the same bango music as mine :) https://abot.app/


Another solo founder...

There are benefits to working alone (insert Mr. Incredible Meme here)

No need to worry about salary or splitting the company. You can pivot really easily and you have 100% control of decisions.


Looks good, but I don't understand how you can compete with Google & Apple with a photo organizer app.

You may want to use Flutter or similar tool so you don't have to write it twice.


The aim isn’t to compete with the companies at large. But to provide an alternative for users who (like me) care both about privacy and convenience when it comes to the niche space of photo storage. The size of the audience might be small, but I’m optimistic about it being large enough for me to sustain this as a small business.

And yes, I am using Flutter to build the mobile apps. It does come with its own set of problems that I have to bang my head against, but I can’t complain as it’s saving me quite a bit of effort.


Firstly, great work on the your product. It already looks quite polished!

Could you point out what problems you faced with Flutter? I ask because I'm planning to use it to build an app.


Perhaps you’ll find your market overlaps largely with users of Brave and DuckDuckGo. It’s helpful to know where to find your people. Good luck.


Resonate with the meditation habit. Glad that meditation is becoming main stream and not something that only spiritual people do.

Everyone should try meditation atleast once.


Glad to see others talking about being a solo founder. I run a virtual meetup for fellow solo founders. We share the notes at solofounders.substack.com


In a similar journey. Failing because of burnout will be silly. True. You are doing good. Kudos to you. Keep sharing.


> Over time I’ve realized that action precedes motivation

Interesting insight. Usually we think of it the other way around.


Found this true of everything, and yet I continue to procrastinate. For example I write fiction. The absolute hardest part is just starting to write. Once I start I have no problem whatsoever to keep going.


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