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Solo.im – A single founder peer group (solo.im)
160 points by matthiaswh on Feb 14, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 67 comments

I am a single founder and I was really tempted to apply. But I decided I won't.

I read all the copy, it is interesting. I went all the way filling the form, until the last question before the submit button. And there it was, the one question that made me (i) stop, (ii) wonder if this was for me and (iii) decide it wasn´t.

(i) What made me stop? The field was asking my Google+ account. They say the community will run on it, that is optional for now, but I will have to have one. As I don't have and don't one, I stopped right there to think if it would be worthy.

(ii) What made me wonder? Why impose such a burden to enter? I start wondering why they would to put barriers on who gets in, not only about Google+ by now, but submit an application that will be analyzed? They will have no idea who are the best people to get in through this questions. The whole thing started to look like a random selection disguised as an exclusive elite fancy club.

(iii) Why I decided not to apply? Because I came to the conclusion that such a community should be open to enter, and the mechanisms to decide how one fits the community or not should be actual contributions on it, not a random, snob bouncer. So for now, I hope someone improves the concept (that promises a lot of value to me), but implement it in a more open way.

As a single founder with experience I feel compelled to give you an advice: the biggest danger you're facing is worrying about the wrong things. When you get company you can talk abou things you are worried about, and having talked it out loud you get a better grip on it, and even some feedback. When you're all by yourself, you might start worrying about something that's not worth the attention, or even get obsesses with most inconsequential things.

Where I'm going with this is that the choice of login providers is the most inconsequential thing, and yet you allowed it to get in the way of meeting a potentially great company.

Google+ was just number i). And number i) was just what made me stop to think about the rest. Number ii) and iii) are the reasons I didn't apply and are consequences of me having time to think, not directly of number i).

TL;DR: Google+ was not the reason I didn't apply.

The choice of login provider is one of a few consequential things - for most tech services, it's extremely important to minimise friction and get people to use your service.

If you've decided on Google+ as your login provider, your bounce-out rate is going to be particularly high, for several reasons including the parent poster's point. That could still be the right decision for you, but it's worth worrying about.

Soneca, i've saw in the other thread about stackoverflow that you are from Brazil.. i'm also trying to bootstrap a thing on my own.. and i'm brazilian too..

So maybe we can start this open group.. with two? maybe add more people later? i dont know if i will help you out.. maybe i give you bad ideas.. rsrs.. who knows?! but at least we can try??!

sure, my email is on my profile. Let's talk about it...

Also a solo founder from Brazil. May I join?

i've created the group solofounder@googlegroups.com to make it easy.. I will add "soneca" to the group, since we got his email.. and could you please join in? i think maybe more even people will be in the same boat :)

> The whole thing started to look like a random selection disguised as an exclusive elite fancy club.

In starting a few "exclusive elite fancy" internet clubs over the past decade, I've noticed that random selection is usually sufficient for an initial batch of members. The trick is to quickly grab a chunk of those first members and invite them to think on what membership criteria will best serve the community.

> What made me stop? The field was asking my Google+ account. They say the community will run on it, that is optional for now, but I will have to have one. As I don't have and don't one, I stopped right there to think if it would be worthy.

I agree that Google+ is an annoying barrier to entry. A private subreddit is my first choice for these sorts of things, but it would probably be a bit limiting in this scenario. Higher bandwidth communication between individuals with strict, human identities is clearly desired, and Google+ is designed specifically for this.

If I were looking to start a limited-entry online community today, I'd probably start with a Gazelle[1] instance and build off of it as necessary.

[1] http://whatcd.github.io/Gazelle/

We looked at lots of different community software. Cost came into it too - so it came down to Google+, Facebook or Linked In Groups. We chose G+.

On iii) we are working on improving this all the time

Most community software would give people the option of G+, FB and LI identities, on top of regular email identity. I can't imagine the cost/hosting of something like buddypress or elgg would be all that burdensome, which would give you multiple social logins as well as keeping things in-house vs under google's control.

You're trying to go after a rather single-minded crowd (solo founders) and you may end up losing a fair amount of value from people that won't bend to your identity requirement.

I'm not a regular G+ user but I'd rather use G+ any day of the week over either BuddyPress or Elgg (because they're terrible) and I am certain that these guys have way better things to do with his time than write a better community portal. It is burdensome and it's presumptive of you to expect him to burn his time on something that benefits a tiny outlier of the audience. To be honest, I'd be less interested if it was populated with people who care that much about waving their Not Google+ flag because trivialities like that should be a very low priority for people in that solo-founder bucket.

Thanks, gregormck and crew! It's a great idea, I'm looking forward to seeing what comes of it. I'll be looking into it this evening.

I understand your disinterest in signing up for a service to sign up for ANOTHER service but keep this in mind- I'm sure very few of us on HN or in the entrepreneur community don't have accounts on at least one of the common OAuth sources (Google, Facebook, Twitter). Back in the early 2000s, when I was a kid, I signed up for probably hundreds of forums and each time I did it I had to manually create an account which usually consisted of about 20 of the exact same questions. It was extremely tedious, and as I got older and began to value my time more and more if I went to a site that expected me to answer 20 questions to join a community that I possibly wouldn't ever use again I'd just close the tab.

Now we have OAuth available and it's convenient and awesome.

Let's not go back to those old days.

re (i) I kind of feel you missed the point a bit. I recently picked up a google+ profile simply for hangouts which the new nexus makes it tricky to ignore. I don't really want to deal with a google+ profile but I have a feeling the lowest barrier to entry for this kind of group is exactly google hangouts. Seamless and nice to use.

re (ii), I have a feeling this is a very initial implementation that will one day implement automatic matching, but for now, they're doing some "manual backend magic" to match people up with the right timezones, and say for me: I need help with finance, and can give help with ecommerce they can match this much better on their own.

re (iii) You are already speaking to the community you are talking about right now. We don't need another hacker news or #startups on freenode. What we do need is a small (4-5people small) tight knit group of individuals who we get along with and can discuss intricacies of our business plans without the whole world seeing. I imagine the matching process will get a bit more open down the line in regards to matching process.

What I would like to know is how we will deal with people who don't fit right with the group or go dark and what not.

I love the idea, but there needs to be more information.

Where is this geographically? Are there separate SF and NY groups? Additional ones? Do they meet in person? How often? Or is this all via webcam and e-mail? Is this more mentoring or support? More one-on-one or group? What kind of a time commitment are we talking about? Is the 150-member limit per geographic area, or global? Why 150, if it's all groups of 4-8 anyways?

I understand what you are, but I don't have the slightest idea what you do.

* Mastermind groups are run on Skype or Google Hangouts

* It's a global group

* We have group owners (volunteers) who start groups and organise them to suit their goals and timezones

* It's mostly a tech / web audience

* It's more support and accountability than mentoring

* Mastermind groups are run bi-weekly (depends on the group owner). We're looking to introduce weekly mastermind groups on specific subjects i.e. PR, SEO, pricing, partnerships, etc.

* We also include a weekly summary / round up of discussions that have taken place in the group that week and on Mondays people post their goals for the week, which other people comment on / offer help / ask questions

I think your idea has enormous potential, don't screw it up :-)

To quote General Rumsfeld, a solo founder usually has a lot of "unknown unknowns" because a single human being is likely to have a lot of skill gaps that they themselves are not fully aware of.

Many solo founders could probably see an order of magnitude in the success of their products if a bunch of peers give suggestions like "Dude, this page needs a link for tweeting your completed images" or "You need a call for action on this page" or "This font makes your web page look like it was created in 1998"

The dynamic of a startup is very different when you have 2-3 founders, in that case it is probably better to work as a team to try and resolve these types of problems, but for a solo founder a semi-confidential outside opinion could be valuable.

Asking "real-world friends" about these types of things doesn't really work most of the time because they may not understand startup tech and because polite society usually follows the rule "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all."

I assume the 150 number cretes a feeling of urgency to hand over credentials. That is the effect it had on me. : )

People interested in this kind of thing, but a bit more open, may appreciate this site: http://discuss.bootstrapped.fm/

There are a number of us from HN there - the kind of people really interested in bootstrapped startups.

I'm not sure this is at all the same thing. "One-founder" and "bootstrapped" are orthogonal. You can be a multi-founder bootstrapped startup, or a one-founder VC-money startup.

"One way to do this is to join a mastermind group that acts like a team of trusted advisors."

There's keeping a group small to ensure quality, but then there's the more critical issue of having quality people in that group, which this service does not ensure. Dunbar's number is not magic.

The photo at the top of the page gives me some majorly sweaty palms.

I can see my apartment! (view looks like it's from the Empire State Building, NYC, looking East)

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out. As a solo founder, I know my biggest concern with any online community is time/reward ratio. I've cut myself off from several online communities to buy more time for my work. (I stick with HN and Quora because the reward level is very high)

Are you all alone with your company on Valentine's day?

Well have I got the group for you!

Brilliant +100

Excellent timing. Over the last few months, I've been finding less and less things here at HN that have anything to do with building/running/growing a software business. I scan down the entire homepage and there's just nothing to click on anymore. It just looks like /r/programming or Slashdot used to look.

Something new will emerge pretty soon to fill the void, and our demographic will slowly find their way there, sadly leaving this place to all those folks currently having so much fun arguing about the time-wastish stuff on the front page.

If this has a chance of being that place, sign me up.

normally I ignore this "HN is not what it used to be comment". But this time there is a "something else" to compare to. And we have lost something on the front page - but Ask is still vibrant.

Now I must go ignore myself

Good points and you are correct (I'm the creator of solo.im)

The group is full of founders who all have different experiences and knowledge to pass on. "Quality" can be subject for sure, but I believe founders can help other founders regardless of where they are in the process of starting / running a business.

The big thing is contribution. solo.im / mastermind groups is just one thing of many you can get involved in and get help from when you are a founder.

I applied about three weeks ago but haven't heard anything as to whether I was accepted. I'm sure you have a backlog of applications so I'm not sweating it but would love to hear one way or another soon!

Really appreciate your information. Looks like the rest of the web pages are not ready yet. It depends on how many people sign up. A list of signed up solos should be posted for people to choose from, I guess.

@wj - shoot me an email gregor at buildtracks.com

@dclara - yep

Think it sounds awesome. Signing up!

I am always worried that these things are just acting as "idea harvesters" ... so while these single founders are discussing strategies and tactics.. some company out there is selecting the best one to build an MVP and pitch to an investor.

The fear is completely unfounded, but I guess that's how my mind works.

EDIT: Having said all that, I am still waiting for my confirmation email.

I'm one of the early people on solo.im; all I can say is that it hasn't felt like that to me. Just a really useful supportive group of people who are out there doing it, willing to share our experience.


P.S. And I don't buy the idea of "idea harvesters" anyway. Ideas are easy; ask any founder. Execution is the hard bit...

Why are there so many of the same kinds of apps if ideas are easy? I think "idea harvesting" is definitely something to be concerned about.

Didn't you just answer your question with the question? There are so many of the same kinds of apps because everybody came up with the same idea.

To be fair -- those "Flappy X" apps on the various app stores were not "everybody coming up with the same idea". Not that flappy bird was in any way original -- but there is a lot of copying.

Ideas aren't worth anything.

Thanks for making this. I signed up and entered a pretty long answer to "Tell us more about your business / idea." After I confirmed my email, I reviewed my answers, and that answer was cut off (looks like at 255 characters). I recommend adding a maxlength to input boxes that have limits and noting those limits on the page.

I reaaaaaaaly like the idea. I have soo many questions I need help with from really basic things to complicated technical things. The main problem I had with the site is: "The solo.im currency is contribution. No contribution = no membership." I'm not in a place where I can contribute. Seriously, I am probably the last person who should be giving advice. I'm on my first startup and havent even launched yet! More than that, I work about every day of the week more hours than I care to admit to. I just dont think that I would have the time necessary to do justice to the others and not be just a leecher.

How does pruning occur? It says it is limited to 150 people.

Presumably over time you'd want new people/refresh the ranks.

How do people get evaluated and eventually (in cases that need it) forcibly dropped?

Thanks - good question.

In terms of "forcibly dropped" - the group is run free of charge, so contribution is key. No contribution = "forcibly dropped". Contribution means taking part in a mastermind group, discussions or asking / giving help.

On evaluation, I'd like to move to a democratic way of evaluating it where the group or a group within the group decide. I believe that's what http://yec.co/ do.

Love the idea, I'm a single founder as well and tend to talk to my poor GF about my issues (luckily, she is awesome :) ). Looking forward to see where this goes.

I too could have said the exact same thing. My gf is listed on my my business continuity plan because whether she likes it or not she knows everything about my business (she is also awesome, luckily). I applied, interested to see what it's like and how I could help and be helped.

Haha this post could have been written by me. Perhaps I should sign up!

@gregormck - emailed you about giving you @soloandproud as linked at solo.im

Went to follow it on twitter and saw it wasn't registered. Held it for you & ready to transfer.

Well, @gregormck, when you blocked @soloandproud on twitter, I got the message. I deactivated the account, unenrolled from solo.im, and will leave this attempt to be of service in the bitbucket.

Sounds great I was just having a bad 10days. So need a kick in the right direction that I'm hoping this sort of thing could offer.

I'm not a G+ user but am interested in joining this group. I filled out the form without realizing that the whole thing is run over G+, so I put in my own website instead, assuming the only reason you were asking for G+ was to find out more about each applicant. I think some explanation about why the G+ link is on the application would be helpful.

I assumed it was that the masterminds were going to be done over Google hangouts but I could be wrong.

Just signed up. I would love if you changed the signup form to use textarea rather than input though...

Could this be a fishing expedition to troll in new product ideas ? I've heard some of the lean startup people are into building fake landing pages to collect interesting data. These type of well designed single form pages are getting easier and easier to build..

It could be but that would be an awfully cynical view. Sometimes it is okay to give people the benefit of the doubt.

I am interested to hear more about what you have heard about. Doing what you're suggesting seems like a fool's errand.

I previously tried to start a posterous-based med tech discussion group, right before posterous announced it was pulling the plug. I am still interested in talking with others about that type of thing. I am open to suggestions as to platform, etc.

Thank you for not making a parallax scrolling website. I first thought as soon as I started scrolling the image will be covered with some text, and then some other image starts showing up in the background

Great landing page photo, I had it as my desktop a few months ago.


Great idea - I've signed up. Of course filtering out inactive members is going to be important in the future.

I love the barebones landing page + signup form as the MVP.

I just signed up - seconding the comments about using text area for longer answers.

Edit: received the confirmation email, just took a little longer

It's a good idea. G+ was a barrier but I filled out my profile and submitted (even though not required).

I thought the google+ question was rather unimportant so I used the opportunity to ask about free snacks?

I signed up but I haven't got anything after the confirmation email. Is there a waiting list?

So, a meetup.com with selectivity and a better looking website.

I figure it could be a way to meet a cofounder..

This webpage is not available error :(

Great concept, I will signup tonight.

Gregor, get me in ...

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