Another free app of mine that does great is https://zetabee.com/icaljs/ - it's a simple calendar that takes an iCal feed and inserts it into your website via JS and lets you style it with CSS. People have written me many times to make that into a more feature-rich app and charge $x/mo for it. I'm still busy with my KType project (that we emailed each other about a while ago) so I'm not in a good place to build these apps but you might be in a much better position, especially with your awesome marketing skills. Patio11's found success with apps for normal users too. So definitely consider "simple tools to make someone's life super-easy" as a viable candidate.
One example is "I can only spend $5,000 of my own money in this entire process". If you could get an awesome programmer for $6,000 to build the whole thing, would you really say no just to stick to the arbitrary rules?
I think you need to go into a startup with the idea that you need to overcome all the obstacles that get in your way, not start with some arbitrary obstacles to make a game of it.
Good luck, but I think you are making a tough task even tougher, and unnecessarily.
Designing within constraints is really what the essence of design is all about. If you set limits, you must work hard to stay within those limits. The idea that "given unlimited time/money/people I could design the ultimate whatever" is a myth anyhow.
I agree. I love the idea of a mailing list where progress updates are routinely sent (even if just links to new blog posts.)
I'm aiming for the same goal for my existing startup. Except in 3 months and the app (https://carelogger.com) has been running for a few years (almost entirely part time or while I was employed).
My app had been free for the majority and an earlier attempt to make it profitable was half-hearted, before we made it free again.
Now, we have a B2B version, a large email marketing list, and multiple native mobile apps coming out next month. We hope these will push it to profitably ($4-5k/month) by then.
Of course you are up against a lot of people in the iOS space, I hope you have some unique angles to compete.
It's been 3 years now, I've watched 75% of competitors fold while we kept at it, kept improving our product, growing our SEO rankings and figuring out ways to monetize it.
I hope to do the same for our mobile app :).
I too am Bootstrapping my project but with only a little, not $5000 but it can be done. Costs are: domain, Heroku/AWS hosting and advertising.
SaaS seems to be the route everyone is taking with these kind of things. Bring in the UK makes this harder though, no decent payment providers such as Stripe, so I'm going with Paymill.
Best of luck Nathan!
And good luck to everyone who will be taking on new challenges in 2013!
I think it'll be important for you to learn as much as you can about RoR so that you can accelerate to launch as quickly as possible and start getting those clients in the door. Anyway, good luck with reaching your goal!
If you need any help feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
And good luck!