12 Startups in 12 Months September 27, 2020

2021 = 12 startups, 12 months, 12 cities

Cat McGee @catmcgee

Hi everyone,

I announced on Twitter recently that I will be attempting the impossible - launching 12 monetized products in 12 months from 12 cities.

I'm already a digital nomad and have been working on a few side projects but I am horrendous at actually shipping. I'm hoping that this challenge will change my mindset to 'ship ship ship.' I have people following me and looking forward to the products, but they're also aware that I'll be making them in 4 weeks each, so quality expectations aren't high (hopefully)!

The idea came from the amazing Pieter Levels who did this 6 years ago, and I've been inspired for a while. Thought I'd take the plunge and do it in 2021. Only reason I'm waiting is because I'm hoping to launch a rather big product around the end of 2020.

I'd love to hear if any of you guys have attempted something similar, and what your thoughts are! I'm honestly SUPER ready for it - I'm so excited!12

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    I've been on this journey. I managed to launch 7 startups in 7 months, then the motivation fizzled out a bit after not seeing much success. Then I restarted it, pivoted a bit, and now have a SaaS business that's doing decent MRR and growing (fingers crossed).

    Arguably, I wouldn't be here were it not for all the failures, semi-successes, learnings that I had along the way. So I think it was the right choice for me. I think this framework is especially good if you want to practice shipping / execution. Timeboxing and launching once a month really exercises that muscle.

    If I was to do it all again though, I would focus all my startups on a particular theme. There's a compounding effect that you'll get from doing this e.g. users of one product can also use another product, and this will lead to more of a growth engine once you are on your 4th, 5th, 6th product. For me, all my products were completely unrelated so I wasn't able to capitalise on this effect, which I regret.

    I notice you have an existing product related to coding interviews - that's a theme with huge potential, I would personally focus on building 12 products for that ecosystem.

    I'm not sure it will be that helpful but I wrote a little about each startup I launched, on my personal blog - https://blog.yongfook.com

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      Was to say the same about creating for an ecosystem.
      Find an audience you truly connect with and create tools for them. You will eventually also earn their trust, which will make your later launches better.

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      I agree with the compounding effects of building related products, but I think there's the danger that if you plan this way you actually end up doing long-term planning and building one large product with 12 interdependent features instead of really focusing on shipping things and seeing where that takes you.

    3. 1

      The theme tip is great, thank you! At the moment the ideas I have are all over the place, so maybe I'll try to figure out how I can tie them together somehow.

      I've been following Bannerbear for a while (congrats!), but had no idea you had also attempted the 12 start-ups idea!

    4. 1

      Good job with Montage. I just tried it, and it's really useful for a quick prototyping. I think you should invest a bit more on that project!

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    That sounds insanely challenging to me but if Pieter Levels did it, then I guess there is precedent. Good luck to you! My goal for 2021 is 1 startup, 1 year, 1 city. Not as catchy though.

    1. 1

      @stevenkkim yea, pieter has a great story! i first heard about him when he launched Nomad List back in 2014. @yongfook since you mentioned MRR above, thought you might find this interesting as well. between Nomad List and Remote OK it looks like pieter is now doing around $600K in ARR, and is about to launch his next related project, Remote Workers.
      ( https://www.nocsdegree.com/pieter-levels-learn-coding/ )
      for my part, am currently publishing a weekly startup ideas newsletter
      dubbed $5. vc ( https://5dollar.substack.com/ ) while working on the launch of a new social dtc startup and a student-learning productivity app. cheers!

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        Did Levels actually finish 12 projects? I see only 7 on his website here: https://levels.io/12-startups-12-months/

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          Nope, he didn't finish. NomadList took off and he spent his time on that instead!

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            That's a good reason not to finish 🙂

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              yea, but the other thing to make note of, he definitely had a penchant for one specific topic of interest -- 4 out of those 7 ideas were products focused on servicing remote/nomadic audiences -- which in parallel also helped him create a good initial base of users to launch NomadList with. 👍

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                Yep, that’s a good point.

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    Ooo this sounds fun. It will be a great learning process. Build to ship! 🛳️

    What is the hardest part of finishing a product for you?

    1. 2

      Mainly I just feel like it's just never finished. There is always more features or polishes or bug fixes!

  4. 2

    I like the phrase! Let me know if one of the cities are Oslo. I am thinking of doing something similar in 2021, let's keep each other accountable

  5. 2

    So great that people are pushing themselves so much and these story helps us to motivate and asking ourself that what on earth we are doing right now . Good luck with your journey .

  6. 2

    i am envisioning you at the end of 2021 being highly successful in this project.

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    Good luck, and happy travels!

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    I think it is important to note the distinction of building a startup or releasing a product. Even more, the difference between the validation phase and the launch phase. Selling a book, or any other info product, has nothing of building a startup. Releasing a landing page has nothing nor of product nor of startup.

    Each one has a different scope and they are all valuable steps in one's journey.

    Of course, you can use just the idea as a self-promotion stunt: releasing 12 things will force you to get a decent exposure at different circles, use the first 7/8 to gain an audience, followers and learn what you need to learn so the last 4/5 are actually able to at least try to make them a business.

  9. 1

    I'm attempting something similar (minus the 12 cities part). It was inspired by Pieter Levels as well. I heard his episode of the Indie Hackers podcast and started doing it.

    After 2 months I just finished my first side project ever. Normally my side projects only have 1 "initial commit" commit haha.

    I posted about the 3 lessons that I learned from finishing my first project here if you want to read the full thing https://www.indiehackers.com/product/most-gifted-books/the-initial-version-is-complete--MIB3p1eeAgjfN0Tbka8.

    The gist of it is: keep cutting features even when you think you've cut enough, how you do things for your day job isn't the way you should do it for an unproven side project (a.k.a forget about doing it "the right way"), and don't be afraid to do things manually.

    Hopefully some of those resonates with you. They all essentially boil down to "good enough is good enough."

    Good luck on this!

  10. 1

    I'm wary of launching a bunch of products and doing no promotion. Over time you'll discover the promotion part is 100x harder and wish you focused more on it :)

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