June 4, 2019

Are there any young indie hackers here?

Dmitri Kyle Brereton @dkb868

I'm a college student about to graduate in a few weeks and am trying to find relevant content/advice about how to succeed with indie hacking in these circumstances. However, most of the advice and interviews on the site are with people who are a bit older. Many of them are people with job experience who worked on something on the side and eventually quit their job to work on something.

A lot of the advice here just doesn't apply to a fresh college grad or anyone who hasn't had a full time job yet. For example, many people here got their idea or inspiration from problems at their jobs.

The only relevant stories I've really found are:
https://www.indiehackers.com/interview/building-levels-fyi-in-coffee-shops-and-growing-to-profitability-da7a4f5d63 by @zzz and https://www.indiehackers.com/interview/building-launching-and-learning-from-my-mistakes-as-a-young-maker-6a68eced12 by @tcodina

Are there any more stories here by younger founders with less professional experience? Or at least, anyone else in a similar position lurking around?

  1. 3

    Hi!, Kudos on graduating!!

    I'd say it depends on what you did during college and basically your life experience.

    I'm 29 so almost "not young" anymore, I currently work at a "startup" that's being fathered by a consulting company, however the skills for which I joined were acquired as part of private side projects that were not driven by any college classes or work related experience.

    For example, back in 2013 the Go programming language was new and relatively unknown however I wanted to learn it so bad because it just was something that was unusual, basically I tried to use Go for everything I was doing or for things that I had done; for example, past college class homework and subsequently some projects that I'd done at work but that I privately duplicated in Go.

    If anything, I feel that Indie Hacking is about exploring a new skill or project that you can subsequently leverage for a positive gain; not necessarily financial.

    Because you're graduating and just starting your career, I'd say to try and get a job (related to your career) but keep a healthy list of interests that you explore without expecting much at all, as you go on your daily routine you'll start noticing things that you could improve or that you'd do differently that might align with the mindset of others.

    In my case after a couple of years of doing contract work (non Go related) I happened to work with a client that also liked Go but that had not had a chance to use it, we connected on that topic and it led to my current role, which is Go on a daily basis (and many other languages).

    Perhaps not the answer that you were looking for but a slight different perspective.

    1. 1

      Thanks for this response! That's a fun story of how you became a Go developer. And quite an interesting perspective, I never thought of Indie Hacking as a way to attain general positive gain outside of making money.

      I really wanted to avoid working at a job because I wanted more free time to explore projects, but if enough people suggest getting a job then maybe I will listen.

  2. 2

    Hi mate! I'm 23, turning 24 this year - so approaching the tailend of the next stage of your life. I've spent the past two years running a startup called Tribefire; scaling rapidly, raising money from investors and then failing. Before that I worked for numerous other startups. You answered your own question: "many people here got their idea or inspiration from problems at their jobs". Exactly; and there's no hack around this. When I was in your position, I thought that being young was some sort of advantage that could be applied to building a great business. Now, having been through the past two years, I realise that I was very wrong: it's a huge disadvantage applied to building a great business, but it is a massive advantage that can be applied to learning quickly.

    At the end of the day, a successful product is the result of somebody realising a valuable idea and having the skills to execute on a solution (likely through code, marketing and design). The advantage of being young is that you are in the perfect position to develop experience to help you realise a valuable idea, and spend time learning important skills. And at the end of this process, you become one of these people you talk about who are the target market for most Indiehacker/startup media. Don't get distracted by looking for ways to skip this part of the process.

    1. 1

      Hey man, we're the same age! Regardless of your failure, you probably learned more in those two years than I did in the last two years of college 😂.

      This is a really interesting perspective that I haven't heard, because most people say that being young is great and the time to take risks and do crazy things etc. Now you're saying that being young is a disadvantage to building a great business, which I can definitely see.

      If you could go back in time, would you still spend all that time on your startup? Or what would you do instead?

      And I'm curious about what your next steps are going to be after this failed startup? Are you going to get a job somewhere to get more experience?

      Thanks again for sharing this!

      1. 1

        Heh, I did drop out of uni to run Tribefire and I definitely think it was a vastly superior education :P

        I would 100% still have spent time doing it, because I got a bit lucky and stumbled into a market that was able to sustain us through a couple of years of business. In the end, the lack of experience came back to bite us but I learnt an incredible amount along the way. So I would do it again, if I were guaranteed to get as lucky again.

        However, I do think my story is more on the "outlier" side of the equation. It's not worth just rushing into a half-baked idea for the sake of it. The most important thing is, learn some valuable skills (coding or design or marketing or a combo of all). I did that while running a business, you could do that in a variety of different ways - but at the end of the day, that's what's most important.

        Currently I am working a job at a bigger company to earn money, while building products on the side. I now am a confident developer + designer, and also now have a general idea of how to execute. Thinking back, it was lunacy to start a business without at least my current level of competency. Sometimes lunacy works out, but most of the time it doesn't.

        If you think you have an amazing idea and the skills to execute, do it :) Otherwise, focus 100% on what you can do to help you come up with ideas and develop skills.

        1. 1

          This is so different from all the stories I've heard haha. Start a startup, learn stuff, fail, and now working at a bigger company and building stuff on the side. Sounds like a fun journey you've had.

          Right now I think I'm just going to jump in and see what happens for a bit. If it fails I can always do what you're doing right now and continue that way.

          Do you have a blog, twitter or somewhere I can follow your stuff?

          1. 1

            If you have the opportunity to dive in, do it. Just go in making sure your expectation & focus is to learn, rather than to succeed (in my opinion). Sure! You can find me on twitter: @userlastname :)

    2. 1

      This comment was deleted a year ago.

  3. 1

    Hey, Dmitri

    I am in the same boat as you

    I just graduated a few weeks ago. Finished college with a Bachelors in Biology

    Building my startup while working a part-time job

    I can see where you are coming from as I don't have enough "life experience" and the capacity to go solo.

    1. 1

      Very cool to hear. What project are you working on? Do you have a blog somewhere?

      1. 1

        Working on an SEO tool and my blog is outrankio.com/blog/

  4. 1

    Hi Dmitri! I'm graduating in about a month as well, so congrats to us :)

    It's really nice to see other young like-minded people on IH. As other people have mentioned, I strongly believe that experience plays a key role in starting a successful business. I've interned with different companies every summer for the past 4 years, to try and get as much experience before going out into the "real world".

    However, there are plenty of successful entrepreneurs in the early 20s. I guess serious and talented individuals can make it against the odds. Also, working in a team could possibly help overcome the lack of knowledge/experience.

    These are my 2 cents on the topic :)

    1. 1

      Hey there, yes it's nice to see other fresh graduates hanging around here!

      I think there are a decent amount of people who take the non-job route to starting a business, they just aren't as much in the IH community. But I do agree that you have to be pretty serious and disciplined to get it done.

      Best of luck man, if you ever want to talk more about ideas or anything let me know!

  5. 1

    Hey man! I’m 22 and graduating in December with a CS degree. Right now I’m working as a developer for a startup so that’s taking up a lot of my time but I’m still working on projects on the side... I agree with the other posts here about life experience playing an important role in inspiring a good product, so I’m working on not feeling like I’m in a rush. With that being said, MAN do I want to start something. Right now I’m sort of focused on understanding and being able to quickly implement important features that would be important for most web apps. I.E CRUD functionality with different stacks and user authentication. It’s not much, but it passes the time and hopefully it will let me develop more quickly in the future when I’m actually working on something bigger!

    HMU if you ever wanna talk business or ideas 💡

    1. 2

      Awesome, I'm 23! I definitely know what that life is like from my software internships. And that's kind of what I wanted to avoid by skipping the job route, but yeah having experience seems to play a key role in coming up with good product ideas. Learning to build stuff faster is certainly going to be useful when the time comes.

      I'd love to talk more. Where can I reach you?

      1. 1

        I totally get wanting to skip the job route! My boss spent 25 years in the industry before stepping out and starting his company. Without that experience he would have never started his company...

        BUT, while that experience is great and helpful I definitely don't think its necessary! I'm certainly not trying to work a 9-5 for the next 25 years. As long as we can find a problem and solve it for someone I think we'll be alright!

        I'm trying to get more involved with other people passionate about the same things as me, so I just added my twitter handle and email to my profile if you ever want to reach out in one of those ways! I haven't ever actively used twitter but I'm trying to change that haha.

        1. 1

          Let's do it! I'll definitely be reaching out. Also, you should open your twitter profile to DMs so people can message you there!

          1. 1

            Good deal. Oh, I didn’t realize that they were closed! I opened them!

  6. 1

    ... I .... can't ... help... sharing... this :D
    Please watch this. it is pure gold and oh so relatable to your current situation. You may have to get about 10-15 minutes into it though.


    1. 1

      I've watched this Paul Graham video 100 times, but I learn something new every time. Thanks!

  7. 1

    I am 21, and pursuing Bachelors in IT.

    Nice to meet you

    1. 1

      Hey nice to meet you, what kind of projects are you working on?

      1. 1

        I am working on a marketplace right now

        I looked at startupadvise.xyz
        are you on skype/linkedIn?

        1. 1

          My email is listed on my profile so feel free to contact me there!

  8. 4

    This comment was deleted a year ago.

    1. 1

      I've adopted a problem book instead of an idea book, as suggested by Paul Graham, and it's been working out great. Noting problems and gaps in the world makes you observe problems better, it's a skill you can train.

      Although I still do both, I find that the problem book more fruitful. Give it a try!

    2. 1

      Thank you so much for this. It's a lot more insightful than anything I was expecting in response here. I think it makes a lot of sense to get experience beforehand, especially after reading the many stories of successful people on IH that took this route.

      I've actually been considering applying for software jobs at very small companies in order to get some cash and experience, and possibly even find business problems that I can solve with a product.

      My background is in software engineering and I've done several software internships at tech companies so I know what that life is like. I really didn't enjoy having a job then because it just felt like I was spending the entire day waiting to work on my side projects at home.

      I really wanted to avoid a job after graduation because I'm very tired of having my time constrained by external forces. At the same time, if working somewhere will increase my chances of success, which I've learned is quite possible based on things you've said and things I've read elsewhere, then I'll work somewhere.

      I do think I have an idea of what's meaningful to me, and I may be classified has having a real burning passion, but I've also experienced how difficult it is to get good ideas without job experience and other interests.

      Thanks again for your advice. It will be very valuable as I figure out what to do next.

      1. 1

        This comment was deleted a year ago.

        1. 1

          If you train yourself to wake up 3 - 4 hours early and work on what gives your life meaning first that can often work better - no matter what happens at work your project progresses and you've dedicated your best energy to what matters the most to you.

          I started doing this at my most recent internship, and it worked well, though of course it wasn't that much time.

          Constraint gives life meaning. There is never enough time - that's life, choosing what to do out of an infinite number of possibilities. There will always be competitors - with more staff, better funding, early entrant advantage - technical restraints and challenges - best to embrace these as a creative restraints than to resent what can never be completely eliminated.

          Yes, but I would prefer the constraint of 16 hours a day than the constraint of 4 hours. I do acknowledge that there will never be enough time to do everything, but surely I can do much more with that time.

          most people will learn 10x quicker being around other developers

          This sounds like it assumes my goal is to be a better developer. My goal is to start a company, and I think I would learn from working somewhere small, but would also learn from just doing it.

          I appreciate your advice, and you may be quite correct, but I think it may be worth trying things out on my own at least for a little while and seeing how it goes.

    3. 1

      This is extremely, extremely good advice that I wished someone had told me three years ago.

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