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10 things I wish I knew when I started bootstrapping - (A developer's view)

After finishing with my master's in cs last June, I decided I wanted to create my own business.

Since then, I have created a couple of sites: https://peerpull.com (0 € in 8 months) and https://onsite.fun ( 2k € in 4 months). Here's a list of things I wish I knew before I started:

  • In many cases, you can test your MVP hypothesis with no-code tools that will be faster and better than whatever you can develop in a week.

  • Go easy on the domain name. Don't make it too specific if you think you might expand to a market that won't feel represented.

  • If you need to do outreach to contact your clients, choose a reputable email provider (e.g. Gsuite). Otherwise, you'll experience a higher rejection (bounce off, ending up in spam ...).

  • Don't reinvent the wheel. Too often I end up with issues on services that aren't really my core business... Specifically, images and videos are a pain.

  • I used this template from MaterialUI + ReactJS for both sites. That wasn't ideal given that it's a Client-side rending page. I had to refactor the thing to work with SSR for SEO. Speaking of the devil... SEO takes ages to kick in (i.e. a span of months).

  • I learned tons by developing my own backend (GCP nodeJS GraphQL MongoDB). Still no clue on how that would scale. My intuition is that it would have been better to use a service like Firebase for scale and security.

  • Distribution is king. Start trying to build an audience asap. Especially so if your target customer is other developers or IHs. In that case, working on boosting your Twitter presence will pay off.

  • Build in public. Your business gets more exposure and can interact with others like you. It helps with not feeling as lonely or a loser when things don't go right.

  • Building in public alone won't bring you exposure. Interacting with others and bringing value will (even if not in your target)

I hope it helps someone out there :)

Best,
Follow my journey on Twitter

  1. 5

    Distribution, distribution, and.... DISTRIBUTION

  2. 3

    In regard to the first point. I think it should be considered if the product is frontend or backend heavy. Your apps are bringing people together so the emphasis is on the frontend for which no code is definitely a good start:)

  3. 3

    The list is good, but i came here to comment about the speed.. so you built those two websites since last June? Alone? Impressing!

    PS.: Check out the images on onsite.fun, they are being blocked by AdBlock. I guess because of the weird name they have, like "https://dqqexa40r7vzg.cloudfront.net//eyJidWNrZXQiOiJvbnNpdGVmdW4iLCJrZXkiOiJsYW5kaW5nX3JlZ2lzdHJhdGlvbi5wbmciLCJlZGl0cyI6eyJyZXNpemUiOnsid2lkdGgiOjE3NDcsImhlaWdodCI6MTI0MCwiZml0IjoiY292ZXIifSwibm9ybWFsaXNlIjp0cnVlfX0="

    1. 1

      Thanks for commenting!

      Two notes on the speed:

      • Working full-time on these projects. Mainly on onsite.fun since Nov.
      • I work together with @joalavedra for everything but coding :)

      Thank you! I hadn't detected that issue. Weird has it's directly from AWS cloudFront. Will check it out :D

  4. 3

    Sounds like valid advice. Thanks for sharing it!

    Saludos desde Donosti.

  5. 2

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. 2

    Thank you so much for sharing this. As a bootstrapper who just launched my first website this is really helpful to know. I left the corporate world to solve a problem that I saw across-the-board and have been working hard to launch while reading as many tips and pieces of advice as possible. I really appreciate you taking the time to just share your learnings and share it with us. I hope to one day have the experience to do the same.

    1. 1

      I'm glad it's useful :)

  7. 1

    Solid advice, and onsite.fun looks awesome! I'll see if my current team wants to use it for a team activity :)

    I noticed a small typo on your landing page - "The team-culture platform that doesn't get on the way" --> "... in the way"

    1. 1

      Thank you @yoleg2, looking forward to it :)

      Appreciate the heads-up on the typo!

  8. 1

    Thanks for sharing Jaume, following you on twitter for more future interaction :D

    1. 1

      I appreciate that Brunor!

  9. 1

    Thanks for sharing @jamalavedra!

    I agree with you that we should build on public. But aren't you afraid that some copy you? And get to the market first?

    1. 1

      That's a fear I had to combat too tbh. That and exposing vulnerabilities lol.
      In the end tho, from what I have read, the thing that most often kills startups isn't competition but other struggles like lack of market, conflict between co-founders ...
      If the market is big enough for more than a handful of players, competition is nothing but a confirmation that it's a thing worthy to pursue. If it's a market where usually one player wins it all then it's rather a product and distribution competition, where building in public would help.

      I'm sure there're plenty of exceptions to this but I reckon this applies in many cases :)

      1. 2

        Thanks again for sharing your experience!

  10. 1

    I'd love to hear more around your experience with crisp.chat. I was thinking of using it for Adflow, but I have recently been on the fence whether something like Chatwoot would be an even better option. WDYT? 🤔

    1. 2

      @lorenzosignoretti It's nice to see something like Adflow is doable. I had a similar idea but my knowledge of ad copy is very limited so I ditched it. Something like this can be valueable as there are not many comparable services out there (or, I couldn't find them). And, these online marketing agencies are just shady (most of them).

      Did you think about an integration into Google Adwords etc.? After creating the ad copy, would be practical to create the actual ad campaign and get the CPC:)

      1. 1

        Thanks @HannesHolst for checking Adflow.ai out and for giving us feedback 🤩.

        As a matter of fact, a more direct integration with at least the OTT players (Google, Facebook) is on the roadmap. At this stage, you can already export the ads you created in an Adwords friendly format to upload it on the platform (we even have a guide for that!)

        At the moment, most of our focus development focus is around expanding support for more platforms. As we get more solid user feedback we'll increase the vertical focus with features such as direct campaign management and creation :D.

        1. 1

          Go for the integration. In my opinion, to create an ad campaign with Google Ads is something of a nightmare. Google Ads caters to professionals but not to casuals (like the person who just started an online shop and wants to promote it).

          1. 1

            Yeah it sometimes feels like you need some kind of a PhD 😅

    2. 2

      I used Chatra before and it works well, but it's very limited on the free plan and the UI isn't that great.

      Crisp has a number of features that I valued highly on the free tier:

      • It can be hidden on mobile.
      • You can see who's connected by location at any time.
      • You can video-call directly on the chat with only a click.
      • Has a mobile app so you can answer requests on your phone.
      • You can trigger it programmatically with js with no extra installations

      Hope this helps :)

      Love your live demo on Adflow btw, great job!

      1. 1

        Thanks for the insight @jamalavedra. I guess we'll be going for Crisp eventually 💬.

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