My approach to starting up

My approach to starting up

There are many schools of thought behind what constitutes the correct method to approach "starting up" (aka starting a project that can turn into a business). Having read books and many articles on the subject, I've found that the common denominator between everyone advocating their approach is that their beliefs are anecdotal and based on what has worked for them in the past. I've also come to realize that there is no universally correct answer.

Approach #1: Focus on your pain

Successful indie product makers Pieter Levels and Andre Azimov are strong advocators of the "build something for yourself" approach, where you first think of an everyday problem that you have encountered and then build and launch the product that solves this problem as quickly as you can. The reason behind this is because you have firsthand experience with the pain point, so you are your best “target audience”, so to speak. Pieter and Andre propose that you should build and launch as many (polished) products as you can, given it’s a widely accepted notion that 90% of startups fail. For Pieter and Andre, that launch target is 12 products, or $1000 in monthly recurring revenue (MRR), in 12 months. Judging by the MRRs that Pieter and Andre have individually obtained, this approach has certainly worked out well for them.

Approach #2: Identify a niche audience and focus on them

Arvid Kahl is another notable product maker, but he comes from a different school of thought. As a product maker who successfully sold a bootstrapped business, he (in his book) strongly proposes that the first thing you should do is to first find a niche audience based on a number of factors such as size and your affinity, and after some qualitative research, identify what their critical pain points are. It is only after you’ve identified an audience, detected their critical problem, and validated a solution, should you then proceed to build a product. Seeing how Arvid managed to sell his business for a “life-changing” amount of money, it's obvious as well that this approach has certainly worked out well for him.

Arvid Kahl's suggested approach

My approach

Nonetheless, as methodical and logical as the aforementioned approaches are, I honestly don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all solution. I think how you approach starting something should be based on your personality and how you “take action”, and despite both approaches serving as good points of reference, they don’t work for everyone. As YC founder Paul Graham so eloquently describes, ideas are stupid since most startups end up nothing like the initial idea. But that isn’t to say you shouldn’t “take action”, in fact, you really should take action, as the faster you take action and fail, the more you progress. Another way of looking at it is that you might be taking a step back every time you fail, but you’re taking two steps forward every time you take action.

"All of the really successful people I know have a really strong action bias. They just do things." - Naval Ravikant

So the answer to how I personally plan on taking action is to just do what I find comfortable and enjoyable. I don’t particularly enjoy researching and interviewing people in niche audiences that I’m not a part of, and even if I wanted to, it’s extremely hard to get involved in a network/community since there are no large events during this pandemic. I feel that the most convenient and enjoyable thing for me to do is to go ahead and just create things that I find interesting (and useful). This isn’t just because I enjoy building things, it’s also because I think it can add to a portfolio that I’m currently lacking. At least if none of my projects work out, I can fill this website with cool and interesting stuff while learning new things along the way. My backup plan, should all my endeavors fail and I come close to running the well dry (or going broke per se), would be to find freelance work using these projects as working evidence that I am a self-starter and can make cool things.