Developing something without a clear monetization strategy in mind needs to be financed as well. How can we keep ramen-profitability to build this out further?
Today I talked to an old friend and former colleague of mine. We were catching up, and shared all the projects we were working on over the years.
We both are big fans of software projects with the potential to generate some side income or even passive income. Communities such as Hacker News, Indie Hackers, and Product Hunt are on our daily reading lists.
I have been inspired (like many others) by Pieter Levels' work, and think back to one of his popular posts "12 Startups in 12 Months".
Struggling with Finishing & Shipping
We both agreed that we have struggled before with finishing our projects and actually shipping them, which are coincidentally two of the main points Pieter outlines in his original post as well. Seeming to not have learned enough, or not having gotten enough motivation from his work, and the work of makers who followed his footsteps, we realized we needed something more.
Collectively Starting Up
Or CoStarting, is the idea which we started to toss around. It would be helpful to have a community or group which would help us to actually launch our projects. A sort of accountability mechanism which would put artificial pressure on us to JUST LAUNCH IT
Too often have we found ourselves over-engineering the newest idea, working on it for months only to lose steam and the product never actually seeing the light of day. And worse, never actually having had the chance to get any feedback from actual users.
We quickly realized that what we wanted was not entirely dissimilar from something like Indie Hackers for example. A community which we could document the progress on our individual projects, gather feedback from the community and iterate quickly. But rather than still being a lonely cog in the relatively large indie maker gear box, we would prefer a more intimate approach where we commit to each other and hold each other accountable while building our projects in the open. On top of the encouragement and help we would provide each other, we thought that a framework which put additional pressure on us to launch would be beneficial. And what better way to do that, than to put some money on the line?
CoStarting - The Entrepreneur's Self-Help Group
So, what if we could find a few people who all desire to build their own products, but are in need of a sort of self help group for the lonely entrepreneurs? We get everyone to commit hard dollars to the launch of a new project in a set timeframe.
The goal is for everyone to launch their own project in the given timeframe, if they succeed, they don't lose any money. If they don't launch, their stake will be distributed to the ones that launched Successfully. For Example:
- 5 People Starting 5 Projects
- They each put some money on the line, in a shared pot
- Fixed duration (e.g. 1 month)
- If all 5 projects are launched at the end of the month, nobody looses any money
- If only 2 out of the 5 launched, then the two successful participants would receive the shared pot
Pretty simple, however, the core of the idea is motivation, encouragement and collective help to get everyone to launch, not the hope to make a quick buck off the others misery. So we talked about a shared equity pool, or commitment to share a dividend with each other once a project becomes profitable. That way everyone is aligned on the upside and are encouraged to help each other to make sure every project succeeds.
The Power of the Group
Besides the pressure and accountability mentioned above, we believe that this will have a similar format to a mastermind where we would be in constant contact through something like slack, meet regularly to help each others progress and benefit from an overlap in skills which will be complementary to each other. We are believers in the mentality that we are stronger together, and that tribal thinking can accelerate the individual but also the group.
Since we want to embrace openness and build in public mentality we also decided that such a process should be highly documented and published throughout the entre duration of the project. With all this, and our call running later into the night, we came up with a pilot project proposal we agreed to participate in.
In the true spirit of tending to over-engineer, we found ourselves quickly talking about the potential of this Startup Collective Community which helps individuals launch projects, and lost track of the point that we ourselves wanted to benefit from this. So we dialed back, and decided to just try it ourselves, just the two of us. So here is what we came up with as the very first "Cohort" Requirements.
- Putting $100 down (let's start small) + committing 10% of each others companies to the pool
- 1 Month Timeframe
- Everyone blogs at least once a week about their project
- One group conference call per week, recorded and published to YouTube
- Public Slack channel for communication and community building
1st Session: Idea Sizing Session & Goal Definition
- Introduce Ideas
- Help each other in sizing the idea to make sure they could be done in the timeframe
- Define Success Criteria: E.g. Launched publicly, Got on Product Hunt, got first User, generated Revenue
- Discuss plans for week 1
2nd - 4th Session: Execution & Progress Check-ins
- Report last week's progress
- Present next week's plan
- Progress Sanity Check - Get feedback from others on your progress
- Ask for help on specific issues
5th And final session:
- Launch report: What happened at the launch?
- Recap: The entire project
- Outlook: What's next?
We will put together a very simple website explaining what we are doing, showcasing the individual projects, and links to the blogs and/or YouTube channels, of each project. It will also give an outline of the cohort timeline / curriculum as mentioned briefly above.
Each project showcase would ideally have the following:
- Project Description
- Business Model (this does not have to be fully thought out, but at least how you think this may be able to make money in the future, or a description how this will help a bigger picture to make money)
- Scope - Outline of the plan for the duration of the cohort and potentially a list of planned milestones
- Goals / Success Criteria
- References to all channels the project uses (Blog, Youtube, social media channels, etc.)
- "I need help with..." list, which shows issues the individual currently has, and where the community might be able to help (e.g. design a logo).
- Update Feed. Each of us will commit to post regular updates to twitter in a list about their project for a quick update overview. E.g.