I kept thinking about starting a web application on my own for a long time but it never materialized. Leave apart having a failed product, I did not create a product at all. I kept juggling ideas, sometimes relying on external developers and sometimes just hunting for one. The crux of this post is that for almost 2 years, I kept day dreaming of starting my app but it wasn’t until a month ago that I had something concrete and hopefully, promising. So, what did I do differently this time?
1. Stop looking for perfect partner – I know many people think they have a billion dollar idea and they can succeed if they could find the right tech co-founder. This problem has been written so often by people smarter than me that I shall not encumber you with further analysis.I spent nearly 8-10 months with few friends working on an idea (which was originated by me). I thought I did not have enough web development expertise and gave the technical development responsibility to another friend. Why didn’t it work? It’s hard for people to be motivated about someone else’s idea. No one can care about your idea as much as you can, so unless you have absolutely no background in programming (even that can be debated), there is no possible reason to think someone else can do justice to your idea. So, stop looking for a co-founder, learn how to code and start building. That’s what I did this time.
2. Stop reading inspirational posts and start building – I read a lot, sometimes I feel I read too much. It’s not bad but you should realize that reading will only get you fired up but that fire is useless if you don’t use it to actually build something. I love Swombat’s post on this topic.
3. Don’t follow the book – This was the most important part for me. You are fired up after reading those Hacker News posts and feel ready to conquer the world. You research and find there are two awesome web development frameworks out there and people say its damn easy to learn them – Ruby on Rails and Python/Django. You finally take a pick and start doing the awesome tutorials. You start off great and then the passion slowly dies away and you never actually finish that book. Worse still, you hardly remember what you did after few weeks. This is what happened when I started learning Rails in 2010. What I did differently in 2012 is: one, I zeroed in on an idea first (and picked Django but I don’t think that matters as much) and two, I gave myself a deadline. With this idea in my head, I started doing the tutorials and instead of following up the code and examples in the tutorial, I applied the concepts to my application and wrote code from scratch. The outcome was astonishing – I finished the basic chapters in a week and had a naïve application ready. Then, I quit on the book and started to further develop my app. Whatever I did not know, I searched on stackoverflow and django books on safari. If I found a book discussing an example that is very relevant for my idea, I would follow it else back to google. In this fashion, I learned concepts like basic CRUD, image handling, basic search, user account management, database migrations, integrating captcha etc. etc. as and when needed. No book will teach you all you need and following the examples blindly hampers your ability to think. This time, I learned the process so much better than the last time that I have created multiple simple apps, know the commands by heart and was able to create a decent app in our 24 hours Hackathon at Yipit. I consider it a decent accomplishment for someone who had never done web development before.
In these few months I created two products that are close to launch. First is Festsy, my attempt to make fashion more accessible in India – http://festsy.com Once I had coded the basic prototype, I decided to put out a sign-up page to validate that the demand exists for such a product. I sent out the sign-up page to friends and upon receiving good feedback, I started small adwords and analytics campaign. After seeing a conversion of 20%, I started taking the product seriously. Eventually, I resigned from Yipit a month ago and have decided to work fulltime on Festsy. The dream of working on my startup came true sooner than I expected but I realize there is a very long way to go to make it a success. If you want to know more, please check out the blog and jobs page – http://blog.festsy.com
Second product is LaunchValue which has a more interesting origin. When I was creating the sign-up page for Festsy, I felt that existing solutions like Launchrock and Unbounce were inadequate from design and price point of view. So, I created a simple django app to collect the sign-up emails myself. After getting some compliments on Festsy’s design page, I thought the app might have a demand for people like me. Again, to test out this assumption, I created launchvalue sign-up page – http://launchvalue.com and gathered interesting comments on HackerNews. When I saw few people signing up for paid services, I felt optimistic that I should launch this app and service. I am looking for CS engineers to join as partners or interns, so please ping me if you are interested or know anyone who might be. I would make it worthwhile your effort and time! If you are in India, please check out http://www.hellointern.com/
I am no expert to give advice but what I have learned is that your success depends more on your resolution than on your talent. You can learn anything but you should not be learning everything. Be smart about setting a goal and then learn whatever is needed to realize it. That ways you are more likely to learn and remember what really matters. And I feel that is why Hackathons work so great because everyone is pushed to a deadline and a goal.