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Ask HN: is there a place for single-person bootstrapped software businesses?
11 points by dottedmag 1464 days ago | hide | past | web | 6 comments | favorite
I was thinking and trying to starting my own bootstrapped (read: very little money upfront) software business (not a consultancy) for some time.

The situation as I understand it:

B2C. Lots of VC-backed companies which can afford to make their products and websites pretty. Expensive, I can't.

B2B. Selling to businesses requires a lot of sales work. Expensive.

B2D. Very crowded space, also a lot of companies with funding.

Is there still a place for single-person bootstrapped company which cannot afford to spend money or time on anything, but the product itself?

A little background: I live in the remote part of the world where most of the IT is doing local business support, and unable to relocate any time soon. I am also stuck with full-time job to support my family and repay mortgage. Laws here make it very expensive to employ people and nearly impossible to fire employees.

The HN bubble often leads people to believe that VC investment is a mark of success. But there is no reason to sell part of your business and swing for the fences other than your own desire to do so.

In the circumstances you describe, the odds of your business throwing off fuck you money are about the same as if you were in Silicon Valley - almost zero. Yes, being in the valley improves your odds some, but the vast majority of startups still go bust.

The only way to lower your odds is to do nothing. Then you will never have the experience gained from having failed on your first, second and third forays into entrepreneurship. Standing still, it is impossible to change direction.

Make something and see what happens because what happens might be good fortune.

Getting a lot VC funds for start ups some time treated as a sucess, b'cause VC's invest money into your firm most due to they believe that the start up has some potential. But this is not the ultimate thing. As somebody said 90% of the start ups are failures. Single person bootstrap start up can be successful. look at the case of Instapaper.(http://www.instapaper.com/)

Assuming you can code, you have internet access and you'll have some spare time. Especially in software, those three could make up for the lack of money!

VC backing is nice but not a bliss on all sides. In your situation, without VC funding, you'd keep your freedom, you'd not be distracted by money, you can't run out of money and your strongest asset can't go anywhere, cause that is yourself.

With respect to the latter, this means that it is wise to foster this one asset: improve your tech skills, market knowledge, business skills and your network (and networking skills). If you're someone dreaming of your company you'll find this fun to work on.

Having a fulltime job that helps you improve relevant skills is a plus, as is a job / boss where you could reduce working hours (and salary of course) in small steps.

There's a few ways to go from here. You could work per hour. The cool part is that this would enable you to free yourself from your daytime job bit by bit. The downside is that it requires work. As you describe it, this is limited in your area, but perhaps you should do a more in depth market analysis to be sure? Also, you could work for people remotely via the internet, there are many websites that bring work and workers together. Whether this can help you will depend a bit on what country you live in, and how your monthly wage is compared to that in other countries.

The other option is to bootstrap your own product. Read Tim Ferris' 4 hour workweek for inspiration. This depends on a good idea, a bit of luck, how you execute it and your patience. You can balance your webdesign skills a bit by using tools like 'Bootstrap'. Don't worry too much about this part if you are building your own product, look at Reddit, Amazon, Hackers News: the relation between use and looks is pretty noisy!

It is not impossible and bootstrapping has been preferred by many over VC money. Given your personal situation, you do need a lot of patience and put in a lot of time and effort. But as long as you learn from it, and enjoy it, it is all worth it.

Good luck!

Sounds like you are out of luck, mostly.

If you don't have time, skills, freedom or money for a startup, can't make someone else to do the hard work for you otherwise, then you can't really start up a programming something business.

Solutions would be to decrease your liabilities, for example get rid of the mortgaged house and/or get a less time consuming job. Your family might have something against that, though...

Other than that, start a business around a website. Maybe something around bitcoins. Maybe a game. In this type of thing time to completion doesn't matter, user support or sales almost doesn't matter... Of course, lack of skills does matter a lot there...

Hey, I definitely do have skills, but they are just not web design skills: I've got a plenty of diverse software engineering experience, ranging from QA to leading software engineering teams and to designing network protocols (besides a lot of code written).

"Is there still a place for single-person bootstrapped company which cannot afford to spend money or time on anything, but the product itself?"

If you have time to spend on the product then you also have time to spend on the research, the marketing, the promotion, and the interaction with your customers.

A business isn't purely about the product - there is so much more you have to do to make it successful.

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