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Ben Halpern for The DEV Team

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Have you considered starting a company?

This post is part of the Mayfield + DEV Discussion series. Please feel free to go back and answer previous questions as well.

Discussion (32)

ingosteinke profile image
Ingo Steinke • Edited on

I once started a company about 20 years ago, a startup together with a fellow developer who used to be a carpenter before. We used to focus on interactive web applications using Flash, before changing to e-commerce and search engine optimization. We had a lot of fun and learned a lot, but we could have done better economically. Lessons learned: if you want turn your hobby into a profession, don't forget about money! Team up with a salesperson or get professional economic advice. Also find out about your skills and what makes you happy at work!

After leaving my own company, I became an employee for about the next 10 years. First I was happy not to worry about money, paperwork, and difficult decisions anymore. Later, I started to miss my freedom, especially the freedom to say no, the freedom to chose my customers. Globalization, pandemic, and economic crisis brought a lot of change to our industry, and so did the imminent climate change - at least for me personally. I was one of several people who quit their job (others got laid off) to find alternative vocations offering more purpose and impact.

Currently I don't own a company, but as a freelancer, I grow my network to be able to offer customers full service without relying on conventional freelance project for traditional agencies.

I'm open minded about my professional future, so I might join a collective of other web developers and designers who share ecological and ethical values if they are also fun to work with and share a lot of my implicit values about design and technology.

colonelxy profile image
Harold Oliver 🛡️

Man, employment can be so comfortable till you forget your passion and purpose.

thenickest profile image

Really inspirational. Thinking about freelancing for a while now but well.. here I am still employed. Especially the part with sharing ecological and ethical values I like.

piyush_digital profile image
Piyush Singh

Yeah you are right, this here is a golden advise. Believe me, I learned it hard way, you can still save your time

subuhunter profile image

Thats a great inspirational story @ingosteinke , Thanks for sharing :)

maddy profile image
Maddy • Edited on

Sometimes I do. But I'm aware it takes so much dedication (it's not as glamorous as social media makes it look). I think having a "one-person business" is more doable and sustainable.

piyush_digital profile image
Piyush Singh • Edited on

I have seen many people fall for this and failing because of wrong approach. If you are good at coding the product, doesn't mean you can build a successful product. And, people tend to think that they will handle all other aspects from marketing and sales to support, etc. You can't!

So the right approach is to find a great co-founder who have completely different skillset than you, for example someone who is good at sales and marketing.

And then building a good team, for this you need a decent amount of money to at least start, then after successful MVP, you can go for funding or stay bootstraped.

But for this you need to be a different person than you currently are, you have to learn other skills to compliment your leadership and entrepreneur role.

I know, starting a company is the new trend, I have seen genius of coders building trashiest of product and wasting their time.

jamesvanderpump profile image
James Vanderpump

I'm not saying you're wrong, but even without being a great sales person or marketeer one can bootstrap and run a successful business. As a software consultant/ developer I had enough of building other people's businesses and billing by the hour. I wanted something that would grow by itself, invest my time in something sustainable. I started a site where members place their own content/listing and other members respond, hopefully being able to make a deal. The trick here is the user generated content that creates a feedback loop where more content generates more organic traffic. I can more or less sit by watching member subscription increase. I don't spend a dime on marketing as my users are doing that for me. If you hate marketing and sales, find a way to not need it in the first place.

piyush_digital profile image
Piyush Singh

You are right, many businesses can grow from word of mouth marketing. But, that's also a type of marketing. Marketing is not paying to get an ad slot, it usually starts with the product, its shareablity and whole experience.

Personally, whenever people come to me for marketing consultancy, I see their track record about how much people intaracted and shared. You can always burn the money acquiring customer with money but you can't keep them and make them share.

karmablackshaw profile image

Nice advice. Realizd my dream is too far off haha

jmau111 profile image

Technically speaking I have one, but freelance is a very broad category ^^. I've this project, but, signs of the times, I don't have something meaningful, for now.

thevinitgupta profile image
Vinit Gupta • Edited on

I did, started developing an Application, dropped the idea as it was too complicated for me to build at that time.
The twist is that after 2 weeks, I saw a similar app being launched and gaining popularity😅

liviufromendtest profile image
Liviu Lupei

I did that.
And it's a really fun experience to see what's going on beyond your IDE, to learn a bit about Sales, Marketing, Legal, Accounting, etc.

I even wrote an article about it a few months ago:
12 Extremely Useful Tips for Building a Startup

As developers, I think we're sometimes a bit too self-centered, thinking that we provide the most value for our employer and all the other departments are just one step away from being automated.

cescquintero profile image
Francisco Quintero 🇨🇴

Well, yes. In fact, this company exists to date but I'm no longer putting any effort (beyond keeping registered in the local chamber of commerce).

It's a software company. I started it with some pals because we had a prospect that needed a registered company for a project but it never came to live.

I decided to keep and invest some time on it. In 2018, I was jobless and, thankfully, go to clients to work with. It was all freelance work but I took the chance to exercise working for the company. As organized and flexible as possible, being concise in communication, trying to do the best so the company would succeed.

In the end, local clients are very hard to work with because of expectations they have about software building and budget.

It was like an eight month effort. Tons of learning. I'll probably start looking for clients for the company but not soon. I first need to understand a bit more the business side of a company, analyze what went wrong, try to niche it down, and even create a product instead of making custom software (which is VERY complicated).

It's definitively worth it but needs a lot of commitment and sacrifice in the initial months.

karandpr profile image
Karan Gandhi
yongdev profile image
Prosper Ugbovo

He is the author

ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

Whoops, fixed.

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karandpr profile image
Karan Gandhi


abhinav1217 profile image
Abhinav Kulshreshtha • Edited on

3 times, Once in 2012, once in 2016, and one in 2020.

Out of three, the one I was trying in 2016 was a sass product which I thought would change digital marketing of small brands. It should have been successful, but I then realized that coding a software is much different than running a company. I had no people skills, I miscalculated my fund reserves, I was too focused on making a technically beautiful code, not the features that my end clients needed. A year after I turned off the servers, A friend of mine in digital marketing background pointed it to me that the end clients I assumed would use it, would actually prefers to pay marketing companies to do it for them, I would have been successful If I had targeted marketing companies first instead of focusing on small shopkeepers.

drewclem profile image
Drew Clements

Yep. And so I did!

A JAMstack agency leveraging Nuxt and Storyblok CMS focusing on small/local businesses.

They need affordable custom options too. Not everyone wants a wordpress or wix price, nor can afford a full-house design & development agency.

Literally filed the forms to be a legal entity this morning!

Exciting times ahead

karmablackshaw profile image

woah good luck running your business! I'm planning to go the same path as well. A software solutions :)

dvddpl profile image
Davide de Paolis

every other day. but first of all I really have no Big Ideas for a new startup that would revolutionize any industry
and second, I really love what I do, and find already hard to disconnect. If I had to work for my company, for my baby, I guess I would never stop working ( and die within a year)

taijidude profile image

Was part of a startup try from 2015 - 2016. We didn't get of the ground, but i learned a lot of things. And our Shirt commings in communication and coordination made me appriciate what a good manager can do for you.

The second time was after seeing a presentation about the ml services in aws. Wanted to build a transcription service and market it to a specific audience. But the first tests where terrible so i aborted pretty quickly.

ajshivali profile image
Shivali Pandey

I have always had this thought. Have had a few ideas and one of which I would definitely like to implement in coming years. It is a dream.

natescode profile image
Nathan Hedglin

I have my own company, NatesCode LLC. I do software consulting part-time. I'll eventually go full-time.

fen1499 profile image
Fen • Edited on

I have some ideas of products that could definitely be managed by a company/startup. The thought of starting something did crossed my mind but instantly decided I wouldn't. Don't really think it's worth the effort, but I'm sure I will code everything someday and make a post about it.

sublimegeek profile image
Jonathan Irvin

I've considered it several times, but never had the mental fortitude to carry the concept to fruition enough to get more hands to make less work.

In the end, I've settled for what works. Employment. Maybe down the road I will, but for now, I'm good with a job.

andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden

I never gave it much thought until recently because my skills have improved a lot. And now I have a ton of ideas which could potentially be turned into SaaS or PaaS products. But I do have one idea how about creating a company that makes it significantly easier for developers to find work.

Because the current interview process creates high stress and is such an awful form of gatekeeping that denies aspiring developers the chance to work in the industry.

arndom profile image
Nabil Alamin

Yeah, sometimes. I've had some ideas that realistically wouldn't playout, solutions to peeves and the occasional utility but taking an idea from the ground up isn't easy and my people skills don't really make it any easier.

Oh well, someday.

sheikh_ishaan profile image
Ishaan Sheikh • Edited on

Almost evey week, 😄 but after validating and doing some research I drop the idea because someone has already did that or there is no such problem exist at all in the market.

kevinpeckham profile image
Kevin Peckham

So I do run a company now, a digital agency, but I can’t say I founded it… instead I worked my way up from my first agency job as a receptionist, then a project manager, then an account manager, Junior UX, Senior UX, UX Director, Creative Director, Junior Partner, Senior Partner, then I bought out the founder and am now the owner of a small shop. Along the way I also learned as many other skills as possible. Photography, content strategy, brand strategy, video scripting and story boarding, copywriting, audio production, design, business analysis, data architecture, bookkeeping, sales, marketing and of course coding, which I came to late but it turns out is my favorite of all the agency roles. This was not the quick path to the top, but I’m driven by learning and curiosity and traveling this path was a good set-up for managing all of those roles.

It isn’t always easy convincing leadership that you are ready to take on a completely different role, but at smaller agencies the results tend to be what matter and everything typically needs doing at once so offers to help another team are not usually turned down cold. You just have to be willing to work some extra hours, be humble and honest about what you don’t know, and work hard towards your own goals on top of the job description.

There are a lot of reasons why it is gratifying to be the owner of a business. But there are also many long days and nights, and I work most weekends and rarely take time off. And an unfortunate amount of your time will be spent working on sales — my least favorite of the roles. So it isn’t for everyone, and whether it’s right for you depends on really knowing yourself and what kind of life you want.

A service business like a digital agency is very different from a startup, and it’s certainly not a get rich quick scenario. But it can be a good life, an interesting life, working with other smart, creative people trying to design and build good things.

If you have the itch, and the drive it can be done, but I would recommend working for a few different companies like the one you imagine starting first. That way you can learn the ropes and avoid the new company trap of reinventing the wheel at every turn.

And make the most of your time on the way up by learning as much as you can about the other roles, and keep asking questions, and asking advice, and making connections… and most of all learn about yourself and don’t be afraid to suddenly take sharp turns in your career to pursue different paths than the straight track you started on… other people won’t always understand, but if it feels right to you, trust yourself: it will lead you somewhere interesting.

dinerdas profile image
Diner Das

It's a fleeting thought