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36 Comments

Solo founders, what if you get hit by a bus?

What if you get cancer? Get arrested for protesting? Get abducted by aliens?

What safeguards do you have in place for your one-man/one-woman business, if any, to still be accountable to your customers?

  1. 36

    If I die, my customers would be the least of my problems.

    1. 15

      My favorite response to this question is from the Pinboard founder (http://pinboard.in/faq/#bus):

      What happens if the guy who runs Pinboard gets hit by a bus?

      The bus is likely to be fine. They don't go very fast and are designed with passenger safety in mind.

    2. 5

      Haha! My dad and I work together for one big customer, he’s said that to me before and I respond exactly this

    3. -8

      This comment has been voted down. Click to show.

  2. 11

    i have a sophisticated system where if that happens my wife will recieve a master pass to all systems, with clear instructions on what to do with what, by when, and in what order.

    these are my financial systems first, operations second, and then any details she'll need to ensure liquidity. i have a large life insurance that should carry her for a while. we have 3 kids, so, i can't fuck around and i'm a sole provider our entire married life.

    1. 3

      I am trying to setup something similar but for my personal digital footprint like drive, passwords etc. I would love to know if you have suggestions in how to build a system like that.

      Cheers.

      1. 4

        I use LastPass emergency access for this, it has all my passwords and I've added a document with instructions to recap the most important things. You can add people there and you can choose after what time of you not responding they should be granted an access (I have it set up for 3 days). The only disadvantage is that they have to have LastPass account as well.

        1. 2

          what happens if lastpass is hacked or goes down or dies?

          1. 3

            unless that happens right at the moment of my death, I can always switch to a different service - I'm sure there are plenty, lastpass is just convenient since i'm already using it

            do you have a better system in place? mind sharing?

            1. 2

              it's just manual. my wife has the system and it's cloud-based, but, local backup.

              1. 4

                what if you die together?

                1. 2

                  my living will has instructions for my next-of-kin or the executors who will follow similar, yet different, instructions.

  3. 10

    At a minimum make sure your customers can export their data from your online service.

  4. 9

    Not sure what you want to sell here but as Daniel put it, If I die, my customers would be the least of my concerns.

    1. -4

      This comment has been voted down. Click to show.

      1. 5

        No this ain't an ethical dilemma. If you think that your customers should have priority while you are personally brushing with death, fine. Just don't expect to receive equal treatment from your customers with roles reversed.

      2. 0

        Personal problems != Death.

        1. 1

          Figure of speech.

          My question is what if you're indisposed and unable to discharge your duties.

          Can't believe how everyone took it to the extreme and then basically barked sarcasm back.

  5. 4

    This is a great question. I think people are taking this the wrong way, or at least in a different way than I think about it.

    I'd guess that most of us, or a large percentage of us, are creating businesses that charge our customers on a recurring basis - yearly or monthly.

    With that in mind, when i think about what would happen if I die, it's not about whether my customers are able to continue with business as usual and keep using my software. It's about whether I'd continue to charge people without them realizing that I'm dead, not providing any support, not fixing bugs, but continuing to charge their cards while they send me emails and support requests that will never be read.. until they get mad enough to leave. I don't want people's money that I don't deserve, even if I'm dead.

    I've created a system that will take people's money, but i haven't told anyone else how to shut that system off. I think that's worth thinking about.

    1. 3

      Thank you for giving me a level-headed response.

      I was taken aback by how people can just callously wash their hands off their responsibility towards their customers like that.

      This is a perfect response, along with @mjgs response to allow customers to export their data.

      1. 3

        When I was running my SaaS it’s something I was thinking about constantly. I’m also surprised that others aren’t so worried about this even though people are relying on their products.

        The absolute minimum is to have a way for users to export their data. Ideally it would be an automated export to something like an AWS s3 bucket.

        For my SaaS it was a simple download button in their profile of their important data from the database in JSON. It was kind of basic but at least there was something. Theoretically they could have gotten a developer to recreate a similar site using the data.

        Once you have a lot of customers you actually have to implement something a bit more involved so the downloads aren’t coupled to your frontend.

        The next step up is to have an open source version of the software so users could not only export their data but also self host. That’s what I was striving for, but it’s a very long and difficult road to pull that off successfully because in web development the ground is always shifting beneath you.

        I wonder if one of the reasons other business owners aren’t worried about this is because they don’t use and depend on their own products. If they did, they would also be worried, perhaps even more so than users.

  6. 3

    I cannot stand all those people here saying that "customers would be the least of my problems". You are either missing the point of this article or you simply don't care which if it's the latest, I think you should avoid anything to do with entrepreneurship. Go get hired at a company, you are probably smart enough.

    Let's travel back in past. Think about Dropbox, a company that started as solo-founder. You have all your family pictures there, pictures of your child making its first steps, saying "papa" the first time, pictures of you graduating, etc. How would you feel if you had no back-up of this and founder of Dropbox passed away with no plan for his customers? You lose everything you had. The feeling is just terrible and if you guys don't care, don't be an entrepreneur. Thanks God I'm sure this broken mentality won't bring you far.

    I may get the hate but I prefer to speak the real facts here.

    1. 2

      Spoiler alert: they simply don't care, their business is just a way for them to enrich themselves, which just exposed what kind of entrepreneurs they really are.

      There's no mention whatsoever of accountability, a plan for what happens if they become incapacitated and unable to discharge their duties, not a single ounce of responsibility, just a careless and cavalier attitude.

      And because they're so numerous, they think they're right.

      Well right and wrong is not a democracy.

      Having a plan for what happens to your business and your customers who rely on you can't be wrong -- and I'm shocked that it's shamed and condemned here.

      People who even care just a bit are downvoted and shamed and called stupid here.

      Makes me think this place is filled with uncaring, mercenary entrepreneurs who are just in it for the money, and if they ever get too ill to work etc., their customers can go to hell.

      1. -2

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  7. 3

    A spine surgery was enough to close my fairly successful startup, So what you ask is a pertinent question.

    There are several problems associated with the bus factor, one which remains unsolved and has far reaching consequences are - Secure transfer of encryption keys after death.

    As for my current one-man businesses, I try to keep the liabilities limited.

  8. 3

    Well, I suppose you can set up a contraption that automatically cancels billing if something bad happens to you.

    But, realistically, the way to to "solve" it properly is to not be a solo founder.

  9. 3

    Domains have paid for the next 25 years, and Debit is paying the servers. Support is already automated; what else one need? By the way, are you an insurance agent?

  10. 3

    Work with some AI who can do the handover to next of kin in case you got abducted.

  11. 3

    Well, personally I would have other worries if this happens :) But yeah, maybe make an app for this? Kind of like a distributed key phrase manager? When shit hits the fan or you die, people you trust will receive part of the keys/passwords and they could take over.

  12. 3

    You should automate you business as much as possible such that you don't have to be there anymore and can still extract value, through automation software, VAs, other team members, etc.

  13. 2

    Big companies regularly discontinue products with, sometimes, very limited concerns for how it will hurt users. Big companies also sometimes raise price significantly, which can be almost as disruptive as the product being stopped. Even quite large companies can be bankrupt, with some products sometimes being discontinued violently.

    So even if you use a big product from a big company, there are risks, and I think those risks are important. What I described above happens, I would say, in 20 to 40% of products every decade.

    I am not sure we should think so much about the quite small risk (around 0.5%) that you die between 20 and 55, or are severely injured, or go to prison (I think the rate of people who go to prison without being deeply engaged in a criminal activity is quite low, at least in Europe).

    Yes, in that case, there would be trouble, I believe the minimum is to ensure people get their data back, then, they will anyways look for another solution.

  14. 0

    Are you talking about “personal problems” or are you talking about “hit by a bus”?

    Which is it? As they are very different.

    I feel like you’re trying to make a point just for the sake of making a point. However now that you’re being heavily downvoted (because the point you’re making is ridiculous) you’re changing your message.

  15. 0

    What...what do you know?

  16. -2

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