Wantrepreneurship & getting out of tutorial hell
New year, new me bullshit is on everybody's mind right now as we're kicking off the first week of the new year. This is not going to be one of those "I'm going to start exercising 5 times per week" posts, but thoughts about reaching a goal of mine, which I've had for multiple years. The idea is to provide my thoughts on the subject of entrepreneurship and then review it after the month of January 2023, is over. Alright, here we go!
Create something, put it on the internet and have people pay me money for it
For the last few years, my main goal has been to create something using software and have people on the internet pay me for it. I've yet to accomplish that goal, spending the majority of my time reading and studying entrepreneurship. To be honest, I've spent probably the last 5+ years preparing for my entrepreneurial journey; reading books, taking courses, watching videos, participating in forums about indiehacking and bootstrap, which is absolutely crazy way to approach this. Some of those years were spent getting into software engineering, so not a total loss, but still way too long to put off something that has excited me ever since I was a kid. I remember reading one of Mark Manson's books where he talks about wanting to be a rock star but didn't want to spend the long hours practicing guitar, taking on shitty gigs. Mark never became a rock star, what he really wanted was the fame and people idolizing him, not all the other stuff which is necessary for you to become a rock star. He did, though, became an absolute beast of a writer by, you guessed it, doing a ton of writing on his blog and eventually turning into a best-selling author of multiple books.
And that lessons is something I seemed to, almost willfully, forget when it comes to being an entrepreneur. This game requires you to have a predisposition towards doing, a shoot-first ask question later approach, if you will. It's comfortable, and it definitely feels productive to be reading books, watching courses, following thoughtful twitter arguments, from a successful entrepreneur. But in the end, that should take up a minuscule amount of your time spent playing this game. Even science agrees on this. While it's definitely a great business to be selling shovels in a gold rush, digging for gold is way more fun. But you have to be digging, not read books about how to best use a shovel. This effect of gravitating towards action is something I also find to be very true in software engineering. You want to have a little upfront planning and postulating about the problem at hand, and then start cracking away at it. If you over-do the upfront planning, you more often than not end up with overengineered systems that the problem or domain has to fit into, and not the other way around. If you do nothing upfront, it tends to lead to a lot of wasted time because you didn't spend time gathering observation or analyzing what it is, you're actually trying to do. Figuring out the root cause, the absolute minimum that needs to be in place to solve a problem and the feasibility of it is the task at hand.
Therefore, one of my plans for the coming month is to get a process down for ideation and analyzing the outcome of the ideation process (market analysis, problem area and feasibility etc.), by actual doing it. The next part will be a review of some of the most common practices and advice I see, when trying to learn about this topic. Should make for a fun re-visit a month or two in the future.
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The indiehacking/entrepreneurial process
Warning: there is a massive amount of postulation here, all of this is to be tested over the coming months.
For a long time, my biggest problem was actually having ideas. I knew I was supposed to look for problems, in my personal life or professional, and draw experience from that. But, and maybe I'm super lucky and don't have lots of problems and the authors of such advice have a very trying life, it didn't really lead me anywhere. Luckily, over the past couple of years, this advice has become more nuanced as multiple people have contributed. I love Jakob Greenfeld's piece on it, where he illuminates multiple viewpoints from different authors, which actually gave me some sort of success in terms of generating ideas. Because, let's be honest, most ideas are shit, so you need to have lots of them. One way to look at this is through the creativity faucet where you treat creativity as a process of dumping your brain into the keyboard, so you get as much of the bad stuff away, to make room for the good stuff. Generally, the advice seems to be to use some sort of prompt in combination with brainstorming to generate lots of ideas. Getting into the habit of this, you start making lots of connections that will lead to more interesting thoughts over time. I've already had some success with this; Jacob Lang's Step One covers this great with lots of examples and different prompts, which gets you far and wide in terms of potential ideas. I don't expect much to change here except picking out the prompts that seem to trigger the most interesting ideas.
A lot of the literature focuses on problem/idea validation as an integral part of overall processes, as if you do X steps the idea is validated, and all that is left to do is just to build it and money will flow. I was a stout believer in this for many years (having no actual experience doing it, of course), until I read Jason Fried's Validation is a mirage. What are we, after all, validating?
Ideally, we want to validate that we are not wasting our time on a product that solves a problem that nobody has and exists in a market where we can actually compete. But aren't this what market analysis is for? We wouldn't actually know if our product solves a problem well-enough until we put it out there and charge money for it. That is the first order of business for an entrepreneur; make a product that competes well enough to make money. But that's can only occur once the product is out and in front of people, everything before that is hypothetical. This makes me think that we should instead, spend our time looking for signals that this might be a good problem space to spend our time in. Just because you can drive traffic to a landing page does not necessarily mean you have validated your product. I've read quite a few threads from people who have built a subscriber list leading up to their product launch only to be celebrating with crickets after they release the actual product.
I guess it might be a question of mindset, if you're convinced you've solved the problem in a valuable way because you validated the idea using traditional steps, you might miss obvious red signs that are right in front of you. It's the "assume your wrong and try to be less wrong vs assume your right and try to be more right" situation. One can lead to over-confidence, while the other leads to critical questions and analysis. You want to be in the latter category when embarking upon a journey of unknown-unknowns, we don't know what we don't know. So, do more market analysis, tests hypothesis like "can I compete on keywords in a financial sustainable way" or "can I convert people that land on my page", how is the competition and is the market big enough or me to enter or is it too big that you can't compete given your current resources. Add the score up in the end and see if you think it's worth pursuing, but only from there can you start validating your product; by building it and putting it in front of people.
The turnover rate of how fast you can do all of the above is what determines your success; getting as many quality tickets in the raffle as possible, so you increase your chance of getting lucky. Because you need luck to play it's part as well before you start seeing those tasty internet dollars rolling in.