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Why don't developers build more startups?

happydragos profile image Dragos Bulugean ・3 min read

A startup's first main hurdle is to build the product or a small version of it. In 2019 it can cost you anything from 50k to 200k and 3 to 12 months to get going.

With this in mind, you would think developer founded startups would pop up all over the place. Because as top 3 percenters, they could self-fund the product or even build it themselves.

But as you probably noticed, this is not a trend. More and more developers remain employed and less and less become founders. There is nothing wrong with this, but I've always wondered why.

So I've asked all my dev friends and a bunch of devs on the internet. There seem to be 3 main reasons for this.

  1. They say they don't have good product ideas or the good ones they do have are already taken;
  2. Even though they have great salary, they can't put aside much money;
  3. They are not convinced they can do it, because a big part of building a startup does not involve technical skills.

While all the above are reasonable answers, I want to express my thoughts on number 1, which was by a landslide the most common answer.

There seems to be this ingrained belief among developers that you have to build something innovative. That you have to come up with something absolutely new, and it's shameful if you don't.

In my opinion, this is completely wrong and harmful. Especially for developers. Developers have the best chances to build successful startups, and especially B2B SaaS startups.

Developer founded startups can compete very well, even with VC-funded startups, because they are (or can be) time-efficient & capital-efficient. This is because developers, with little effort, can become T shaped. Or if they can't, they can hire contractors for those positions, until they learn the ropes, or until they can afford to hire full-time.

This is one of the reasons YCombinator startups are doing well. They pick technical founders most of the time, and they make it in the long-run because of their ingrained efficiency mindset.

Circling back to innovative/unique ideas. You don't need them. If you do get one, it's going to be a lot harder to make it happen, because you have the educate the market, if it turns out your product is needed. Which is definitely out of your skill zone.

As a developer, your best bet is to go build a product in a market where real money is being spent already. There will be competition and you will have to fight. There is no shame in that. But there is shame in seeing competition and then backing down.

But know you have the advantage. Most VC-backed founders have to swing for the fences. They have 1 year and a half of runway to prove they are worthy of the next round of 1 year and a half. They have to keep paying the people they hired to be able to swing.

You are free of all that. You can build a business that makes 100K a year, 1M a year, or even 100M a year. You decide when to stop and when to step on it. Stay lean, keep jogging.

Lao Tzu said "The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long". Take advantage of that.

Why did I write all of this?

3 recent customers of Archbee came from one of my weaker competitors, who is probably shutting down from what I understand. They swung for the fences and lost. They even had 3-4 years in headstart. I didn't even have to compete, they killed themselves.

Willing to bet that a lot more will be weeded out through the years, in the same manner. And my strong competitors? I am happy to compete. I know where I have the advantage, and where I don't. I will happily compete even where I don't.

You should be happy to compete in a multi-billion dollar market.

So stay away from 'unique' or 'innovative' ideas. AI, cryptocurrency or self-driving startups or whatever is cool at the time.

Go to an established market, built a great product, be efficient, keep your head down, keep building.

Go 🚀my fellow developer. DO IT!

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