My physical transformation in the past month while building my startup, finding coders, raising $20k in funding, and running a Kickstarter.
Six months ago, I got an idea. I was burdened by the growing complexity at my day job as lead web developer, and felt like there had to be a better way. I read a statistic that the amount of information doubles every year, and I asked myself how I was going to deal with the next 10 years of information, and the explosive growth of complexity.
I realized then, we’re going to need tools to deal with the growth of complexity in the future. So I got to work. I quit my job right away, and started consulting so I could own the intellectual property of what I was building. Over the next six months, I worked with emacs and org-mode, building something I could be proud of.
Three weeks ago, I quit consulting to pursue this full time. In doing so, I’ve really made an effort to make sure everything in my life adds to my efficiency in doing what I love. I refuse to fail because I didn’t push hard enough, or work smart enough.
Your Physical Health Drives Your Mental Health
Unhappy programmers make for horrible, unproductive programmers. My overall health is priority number one in my startup. If I’m not performing at my peak levels, I’m not going to be competitive in the marketplace. So I’ve researched on a few books, and found the best information I could get.
Give freely, always enter conversation and interactions wondering how you can help the other person.
Take time away from everything, to disconnect and sit in silence.
Walks on beach to reflect and come up with new ideas.
I try to implement one piece from each of these quadrants daily. That means I have less than 14 hours a day to work on my startup, and so much the better for that. This means I’m always asking myself how I can leverage other people, and be more efficient with the time I’ve set aside for my startup.
Instead of running around, perpetually working at a low energy level, I’m fully charged in intense, focused effort daily. And I’m happier, healthier. These are all non-negotiables. I’m in my startup for the long haul, and I insist upon optimal happiness in my life.
PS My Kickstarter Project Just Went Live, Check it Out Here, And Thanks!
I’ve been working on a few big projects recently, and became frustrated with the inertia built into launching anything big. Sometimes it seems like things will never be ready; like there’s just too much to do.
So I decided to take a break, and really challenge myself.
The Challenge: Building a $500 / mo Product in A Day
For some reason, I’m most motivated by absurd goals. Could I really find a market, pick a niche, and build a product in a single day? And what about marketing?
I decided that a single day wouldn’t afford any time for marketing, and so decided to just focus my efforts on finding a simple market inefficiency. That is, finding a pain point from within the web.
Deciding to Build Something Small
I decided to build some sort of plugin for an Open Source web project. I’ve noticed a real inefficiency here. All the good programmers are out there building the next Twitter, not making life easier for the businesses using Open Source software.
But which Open Source web software? To find out, I pulled up Google Trends, and searched for my potential targets:
As you can see, WordPress turns out to be the great big old winner. It simply gets searched for more often than my other two potential targets combined. And it’s growing like crazy.
A perfect market to search for inefficiencies.
Total Time Spent Finding Market: 2 hours
Narrowing It Down: Finding Unserved Pain Points
The most obvious market for WordPress is within Commercial themes. However, this market is pretty damn competitive, with multiple companies already established making 7 figure incomes. I decided building a complete theme and finding a place to market it in a single day was too obvious a path.
Seems WordPress plugins may be an interesting niche.
So instead, I focused on secondary needs. What is the purpose of WordPress, and what’s a user’s greatest pain point that isn’t being served?
In my case, I decided it was figuring out what the hell to write about. Having run a company, I know that it can be a pain to write content about widgets every day. I mean, how much can a person say about widget x?
Problem Definition: Making it easier to come up with ideas about what to write about.
Having the Aha! Moment
So again, I began researching. How do writers aggregate data relevant to their topic?
The answer was by monitoring RSS feeds, twitter, news sites, etc.
So my product would put that very front end right into WordPress. Grabbing RSS feeds, and putting them directly into the WordPress backend.
This is going to be our product.
Product Definition: RSS feed aggregator integrated into WordPress with the ability to put excerpts into post automatically
Total Time Defining Product: About 30 minutes
Leveraging Existing Technology
So we’ve defined our product roughly. The question now becomes:
What existing technology can I leverage to solve this problem?
It turns out, there’s an incredible library for manipulating RSS feeds in PHP called SimplePie. It’s dead simple to use, and it’s got great examples. I build upon one of the examples and get my RSS feeds working in under an hour.
Plugging into WordPress
I don’t want to say WordPress is poorly documented, because it isn’t. However, it is pretty dry to read technical writing. That being said, my next job was to bring my nice SimplePie based RSS reader right on into the WordPress backend.
To do so, I needed to create a plugin skeleton for WordPress, and add a plugin for TinyMCE. These two meant I had to go back and forth between the WordPress and TinyMCE documentation to figure out how the two fit together.
But once it was all plugged in, I had a working prototype another hour and a half into my actual work.
Total time to build the actual product: 2 1/2 hours
Finding a Marketplace
This was the real opportunity for efficiency. As part of my experiment, I didn’t want to spend a dime on building a market or processing sales. As the day wore on, I decided this could make a great example for someone with absolutely no monetary resources.
So I began researching markets to publish my Commercial WordPress Plugin to.
There was my old favorite, the Envato Marketplace, but they charge a ridiculous commission structure. Something like 50% if you decide you want to retain control to your own product.
That’s just a little too high, even for me.
So I kept looking, and found this great site, wpplugins.com. Turns out they only want a 10% commission to add your software to their marketplace.
However, they insist upon all plugins being released under the GPL, and so I needed to go back and make sure all my code had the GPL inserted into it. However, I signed up for an account, created a zip file, and began writing the documentation for my plugin.
All told, creating some screenshots, writing up a description and cleaning up code probably took more time than writing the actual software.
Total Time Finding Marketplace, Writing Copy: 3 hours
Success! The product has been built and sent out in under a day!
Finally, Watching the Money Roll In
With the marketplace I chose, there was a delay in waiting for my plugin to be approved. However, from the very first day I had sales.
I chose a very low cost for my product, because I believe people don’t have a problem paying for something if it’s less work than pirating it.
That being said, my product is being sold at $14.95 per copy. If you’re interested, you can see a video of it in action below:
You can check out the final product, Content Avalanche here.