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43 Comments

I don't care about market research I'm just gonna build what I like

Recently I've been really struggling with market research and being the inexperienced noob I am, I made a lot of mistakes. Everytime I tried my hand at it I'd get an absolutely tiny bit of a good indication, and then I would make a bucket load of uninformed assumptions about the market and start building (whether it be a nice landing page or a product).

I just got wind of yet another set of incorrect assumptions I made, that nobody in the market really had a need for it, and that was soul crushing.

I realised that all this is just taking away from the fun I have while building stuff. What I really like is building stuff for fun, especially using tools I haven't used before, to learn something new. Like recently I built a toy programming language for myself just because I was bored. Nobody asked for it, it's not good enough to solve anybody's problems, I just loved doing it. And you know what? I learnt bucket loads while doing so! Here's the link if you're interested in how I did it.

So I don't care if the market needs it, I'm just gonna build a smart ATS like thing for hiring developers that I have an idea about. I'm gonna use Supabase and Tailwind CSS for it because I've never used them.

If people like it and it's good enough that they wanna pay for it? Amazing! If not, no worries I might just open source it. I'm still gonna learn 2 new things!

I love to build stuff, so that's what I'm gonna go do!

  1. 17

    Here's the thing with just learning the next cool thing around the corner -- you'll soon realize it's just a a bunch of BS combined with lots of buzzwords.

    So if you go this route (just learning stuff), make sure you don't do just simple projects. Add complexity, just to test those shiny frameworks you'll be learning -- so at least you'll learn their limitations.

    That will prove insanely powerful in the long run, when at some point you'll decide you want to capitalize on your experience.

    1. 3

      Yes that is a good point and I'd just like to stress that and I don't just use any shiny new tech. I carefully pick and choose them if I think they can help me in the future. For example Supabase is massive for replacing my backend in the future, saves a lot of time and effort. Similarly with Tailwind for UI.

      And I DO go into depth with these tech. For example I used rust and LLVM to build my programming language I just mentioned, and I discovered parts of those tech I hadn't even heard of

      1. 2

        Cool! The fact that you don't use shiny new tech is a very good thing 😎
        Seems you're definitely on the right track 😁

  2. 9

    I think it's important to separate out "building a project to learn something" and "building a project that you want to turn into a business." These two things have fundamentally very different goals.

    There's absolutely nothing wrong with building a project for fun and to learn something. You just need to realize that it's very likely that it will not turn into a business. The goal here should be to learn something new, e.g. a new technology, and not to make money.

    Building a project that you want to turn into a business has a different set of concerns. You ideally want to build an MVP as quickly as possible so you can test the market and see if people would actually be interested in using it and paying for it. Engineering takes more of a backseat here; marketing + distribution is the real problem you're trying to solve.

    I think it's good that you're building stuff for fun again (what's the point in doing it if it's not fun?). And building stuff and learning new things also strengthens your skills, so it's ultimately beneficial to do.

    1. 1

      That's a great perspective :)

    2. 1

      "building a project to learn something"

      But I'm not! 😅

      I'm building because I like to build (when I'm in the mood). Learning happens because I cheat my shiny new toy syndrome to make me learn new stuff.

      I'm totally fine with it not turning into a business. I've makde like a 100 projects before for fun, neither of which are good enough to turn into a business and I'm cool with that

      1. 4

        Hahaha, I think that's totally fine as well! As long as you're upfront and honest about what your goals are, there's nothing wrong with building stuff for the sake of it.

  3. 5

    I can appreciate this post. I think what you are communicating is that you enjoy the spontaneity of thinking of an idea and immediately building the solution. This is not the best approach if you want to maximize revenue and/or make the side project your full-time income. However, if you're interested in the thrill of testing your business instincts and coding new technologies then this can be a respectable approach. Of course, there is a middle ground approach that could make you more money as well as satisfying your peculiar itches.

  4. 5

    The big issue for me isn't so much market research, as a desire to solve my own problem. In other words, too often I have been responsible for a product which I myself do not use. So I have absolutely zero clue what should or shouldn't be in the product. I would go so far as to say it's not enough even to have a "lighthouse" customer. I've had people use my software and have been amazed to find they are jumping through hoops to do something which would be trivial to code. So I find the real acid test is using it myself. Again, not just beta-testing it with fake data, but actually needing to use the product on a daily basis. Only then do I really get to understand the parts of the solution which are useful and which are just "frill." I also find a lot more bugs!

    So nowadays, I find that I'll only create a product if it's scratches an itch for me. If others also have the same problem, and want to use the software, great! But I'm not trying to solve some real-world problem that I have no experience with.

  5. 3

    I fell in love with this post.

  6. 3

    I did exactly the same thing, spent two years building a complicated but useful project. Didn't know much how to market. Thought I'd post it in relevant communities and it will take off from there without much efforts. Now it's completed but didn't get traction. It's heartbreaking but I'm trying hard and not giving up.

    1. 2

      What's your product about? 2 years is quite a lot of time

      1. 1

        It's a zero configuration end to end testing platform that allows to write, run and debug tests right from a browser.
        Zylitics manages infrastructure, code, test assets and everything else in between so that a developer/QA can just focus on writing tests and everything else comes out of the box.
        https://zylitics.io/

        To make this possible, I wrote a new language called ZWL. It has hundreds of easy to use built-ins that allow developers to automate their tests. It's mostly declarative and extremely easy to use. https://docs.zylitics.io/zwl/overview

        I built infrastructure support around it because every test runs on a remote machine having OS/browser of choice. Whatever developers choose, a machine is either found or created new on the cloud.

        It has a desktop like IDE to write, run and debug tests very quickly without having to exit from it.

        1. 1

          Hi, your homepage describes an extremely cool project. Seriously, it's almost unreal.

          Unfortunately, it feels like something for monoliths. And tech stacks have evolved from there. I'm not sure Selenium is what it was 5-6 years ago, when 80% of your app is APIs.

          I'm curious what your insights are, I wonder if this is why you couldn't get traction.

          1. 1

            Hey,
            Thank you very much for the appreciation. I think you mean because selenium/webdriver isn't capable of stubbing your api calls? Aren't those 80% calls part of the system and vital to be included in the e2e test?
            When 80% of an app is API calls, the network and methods to call have evolved too. For example zylitics.io use several microservices to work and I've tested it using zylitics itself and never felt lag or flakiness. Have also tested several big e-commerce sites and never required anything extra.
            I feel webdriver perfectly fulfils the primary purpose of e2e testing, i.e emulate an end user testing your app.
            Btw, it has started to gain some traction and I got a few good customers trying it.
            Please give it a try on some of your own product.

  7. 3

    You do you. You don't need to justify or explain anything to anyone.

  8. 3

    I think it’s the best way to get started, definitely how I did it.

    After a while, I really wanted to be successful and started incorporating bit and pieces of more « boring » and tedious marketing work. But only gradually, to keep the joy of building alive.

    Looking forward to your success!

  9. 2

    As long as it's aligned with industries you wanna learn about or have a passion for, I think you should just go for it.

  10. 2

    What if you partner with someone who enjoys market research

    but hates learning/implementing shiny new toys?

    Comparative Advantage x teamwork.

  11. 2

    I have seen devs say this before here. It's 100% fine. Build because you enjoy it and if you put it out there and the market likes it then it's a bonus. Nothing wrong with that. As far as market research is concerned I think you are better off taking the approach of talking to potential users about pain points and seeing what comes from that.

    My dev partner and I built an app once under the mistaken impression that there was very little competition in the market for what we were making. After we built it we did more homework and discovered it was actually a very crowded field but our app did great anyway.

  12. 2

    Refreshing take! I see nothing wrong with it unless you are running out of money ;)

    1. 1

      I've spent literally 99 cents on the domain name so I guess I'll be fine

  13. 2

    Cool point, man. Thx for the sharing. Just do it.

  14. 2

    Love the spirit.

    Keep it up, we should always have something we do just for the fun of it.

    I always write a few articles ever so often just because I feel like it. Not with any other motive, not caring if other people would read them or not.

    It's very freeing.

    But I try to balance it with stuff that I write after some market research, and with the goal to provide value to the user.

    I feel Balance is key, and I am sure you realize it as well.

    Keep going Faraaz, thanks for writing this post👍

    And feel free to reach out if you want help with market research for any of your projects. I am also learning by failing😅, would love to help in any way I can.

    1. 1

      Thank you! Balance is definitely key. Once the lockdown ends and we're safe like pre covid, I can go back to doing outdoor things that I did for fun. Maybe then I can resume the sometimes soul crushing work of market research.

  15. 2

    This is what's supposed to happen actually. Doing a startup is about taking the soul crushing feedback and using that to evolve your product into something (more) useful. First time right doesn't exist IMHO.

    1. 1

      Yeah that's fair. I just don't need something soul crushing at the moment. Lockdown still hasn't ended in India and I just need something fun. There's only so much mindless consumption of content I can do before i run out

  16. 2

    I'm in the same mood at the moment.

    I've spent the last two years building a product that I still strongly believe in, but made many mistakes and did not get in business with a person that was right for me. End result is that project is now fast asleep. I'm battling against the feeling of having wasted all that time, even though I know that I really did not.

    To get back on track, I'm willing to create something new, in a space that I know pretty well: note-taking. I've been writing for 10+ years and love information/knowledge management. On the market, I see many complementary tools, but none that regroups all "I need". So I'm willing to scratch my own itch.

    My gut tells me to start building right away because I love coding/tech and I'm really bad at validation and marketing. But it's probably a mistake.

    I suppose that I should look for a co-founder that would take care of the other side of the business, but I'm super hesitant because of my last very disappointing experience...

    1. 2

      Well if you want to make a business then starting by coding is definitely not the way to go

  17. 2

    I 100% agree with you here. While I do love building products for a market, tinkering is fun. Only in software will you find people telling you not to learn something new or experiment. If you were building hardware projects or doing woodworking, everyone would be nodding along.

    I actually wrote a post a while back that you might dig. https://www.polluterofminds.com/its-ok-to-build-to-learn/

  18. 2

    Hey @faraaz

    "If people like it and it's good enough that they wanna pay for it" is a great mantra.

    Like you say you'll take something from it either way like learning or money if it has a market willing to pay for it.

    I'd say it can't harm to set up a page on gumroad or a Stripe payment - and if people want to pay that makes it easy for them. And if it takes off then you know you're onto a winner and no harm if not.

    You'll get as equally value by enagaging in communities about it - exposure, clout, Dont forget HN as that your peers right there
    etc

    You'll also benefit from not just talking about it in Dev.to but the appropriate Reddit like /r/tailwindcss/ (4k+ members) Subreddit or r/developers (5.8k Members).
    s
    DM me if you want and I can send a list of dev, programming communities you can use to target.

    Best of luck buddy!

    1. 1

      These are really good ideas than you so much!

      1. 1

        No problem @faraaz. Happy to help!

  19. 2

    Hi Faraaz,

    If you have not considered this already, you can also pair with another Founder who already has an idea and is good at market research and other businessy(?) side of things. Many of them already have a problem they want to solve and would love to pair up with someone technical.

    You can probably look at something like Startup School of YCombinator for this. Of course, like you mentioned, I understand that you enjoy working on new products and solving problems. But, there is no reason that you should not be able to combine that passion with a successful business outcome as well.

    Either ways, all the best with your next product!

    1. 1

      That's actually a fantastic idea! I can learn the other skills from the cofounder who knows them better and still focus on the tech area. I might do that in the near future

  20. 2

    I’ve recently realised that I have been conflating “coding is my hobby” with “coding to make my next business” I’ve been doing the former while thinking I’m doing the latter.

    So I’ve done the opposite to this and banned myself from writing any code for my current project until it’s making some money.

    Good for you making an equally strong choice in the other direction though.

    Sorry for a dumb question but what’s an ATS?

    1. 2

      I am also going down this road. I have always coded the whole thing and put it out there and nobody used it. I mean it's not wasted time, i can always point to those projects when I am interviewing as proof that I know what I am doing but I did not build any businesses.

      This time i will do the true indie-hacker way. I have a cheap domain name, i will create a simple landing page with a form for email address collection. Then run some ads on FB targeting my potential customers.

      If that works, then I ll build it. If not i ll move on. No big deal. I have about a dozen ideas on a google doc that I want to try out so the faster I can get through them and test the waters, the better.

      1. 1

        Awesome, sounds very familiar - best of luck and keep us posted on how it goes

    2. 1

      Applicant Tracking System is basically a tool to keep track of applicants for a job. Their data, the status of their application etc

  21. 2

    FWIW, I think an ATS for devs sounds pretty cool, especially if you build in a really nice shared coding window for technical interviews. I went though about 40 job interviews with companies across the country so we did remote interviews. Each company had different ways of handling it from just having me code in VsCode and asking for remote control of my machine when they needed to add something, to more advanced custom built solutions but still didn't have nice IDE features like autoindent/autocomplete etc. I feel like if you built a competent version of that it would be pretty awesome!

    1. 1

      The coding window thing sounded cool to me too initially. But after I did the market research I found out there's much better solutions out there that really solve the problems. You might want to check out CodeSignal. They have a very nice editor

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