I’ve been a big-company man for my whole career in software so far, but I’ll admit that the idea of founding a startup has a certain allure to it. The thought of singlehandedly (or with a few partners) taking a business from just an idea in your head to a real success that provides a living to you and valuable services to your customers tends to fire the imagination of anybody who has even a little ambition. For most of what I’ve read, the reality of it seems somewhat less sexy to someone like me, whose real skill is software. The bulk of the founder’s time seems to be spent seeking VC funding, finding customers, finding employees, managing projects, etc. Fun in a way, but not quite the same as being all hands-on.
That’s why I felt somewhat inspired after reading a bunch of of posts on Kalzumeus. His first and second projects were conceived, designed, built, and funded all by himself, with some appropriate parts (CSS and page design etc) farmed out to contractors and some advice from some other successful people, and they both seem to be pretty successful – not the Mark Zuckerberg billionaire kind of success, but more than enough to have a good life on. That’s the sort of software business I feel some enthusiasm about starting. It’s 100% yours from start to finish, and it’s all between you and your customers. I’d call it a Micro-Startup.
It looks like one of the key insights is to focus on solving problems for non-technical people in a way that they will pay for. Lots of us software engineers tend to spend most of our time around other technical people, so we tend to think of our own types of problems first. Thus, there are kazillions of little gadgets and gegaws out there trying to help out various aspects of development, debugging, webhosting, etc. A few are successful, most aren’t, and in general the market is very crowded. What’s slim pickings, and more wide-open markets, is the needs of more non-technical people, most of whom don’t come into contact much with the kind of technical people who create solutions to these things, and don’t think in terms of creating software to solve their problems. It’s just a matter of finding out what their problems are that we can solve, creating the solutions, and marketing it in such a way that they can find it.
I don’t have any ideas that I particularly like for this right now, or I’d already be doing it. But I’m on the lookout.