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EXECUTION Failure is not an option

Discussion in 'Progress/Execution Threads' started by astr0, Mar 4, 2019.

  1. astr0
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    astr0 Grinding Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Because the idea is boring, not very innovative/blockbuster but proven to work for me and others.
    Yet another software development company, with new knowledge/experience applied.

    !WARNING! TLDR

    Have some possible points of failure, but if that happens I'll just have to repeat with different people... And that all comes from slight lacking of CENTS, so
    Control
    The worst part. Me and 2 more partners. Much better than solo, much better than more, worse than only one of them. And, being INTJ, I definitely need one (let's call him M) for his communication/engaging talents. Haven't met the other one (DH - dark horse) yet, meetup scheduled for tomorrow. But past experience taught me that not having 50% is VERY RISKY.
    Entry
    Everything's fine here. Not much money upfront, but pretty high monthly expenses for paying salaries to people doing nothing. Not very easy to get good clients. And, right now, competition for good developers (employees) is rather high in my city, but we'll handle it.
    Need
    The demand seems even higher than 10 years ago. We'll be focusing on a smaller niche with some approaches to get in front of the competition.
    Scale
    Definitely much harder than digital products, harder than physical products, but pretty doable with some strategies/systems applied. Doesn't require a lot of money to scale, but requires human resource and efforts to hire them. And more clients of course.
    Time
    Well... Services are harder than the products here, but it can be done. Shouldn't be done till it's big though.

    Things to keep in mind from the previous similar venture:
    • Try not to burn out. Working 16+ hours a day 7 days a week doesn't work at all.
    • Don't fall into trap of coding a lot to get more done to get more instant profits. I'll take that to the extreme and try not to write a single line of code here. Focus on a big picture, strategies, customer acquisition, planning.
    • Hire more aggressively. For example, a team of 6 can tolerate 3 idling employees with much less loses than a team of 3. A team of 12 can tolerate 4 idling with profits.
    • Manage client/work-flow better. Having no work suxx, having too much to deliver suxx even more. Losing an opportunity of returning client suxx the most.
    • Filter out clients more carefully. Similar to the above - stay in the niche, don't spend time trying to get shitty projects/clients.
    Long term
    • Finalize partner
    • Setup/half-setup everything
    • Get client/hire employees (chicken or egg? depends, but will try customer first; have an idea for the opposite too - with close to break-even friend-client)
    • Build first "scalable unit" (a thing we figured out on the past company, but haven't got there, unfortunately)
    Short term
    • Evaluate current partners
    • Decide/do legal stuff/corporate. Estonia/Malta corporation or work as a Ukrainian contractor for now (have a lot of issues). Not action faking, required by dumb Ukrainian laws...
    • Look for an office. Again not action faking: work from home is not the greatest idea for new employees on a new company; apartments as an office is proven to scare good employees away. Something not too expensive for 10-12 people will do for now. Smaller will actually limit the opportunities (been there before).
    • Decide on leaving 9-5 right away or keep 9-5 and hire from day 1. This one is a little tricky, on my first company we only had option #1. But now I actually much more inclined to option #2 since I can pay for living and pay a few salaries with my current income. Option #2 also looks more right to me from "how it should be done" perspective.
    Now
    I have a meetup with my potential partners tomorrow. Important stuff:
    • Get to know DH more, we haven't met before. They had plans with M to start a company in June, so I'm actually joining the boat here by wanting to partner with M too. M had me in mind but thought that I'm too busy with 2 kids and can't afford to lose a job... That turned to be almost the opposite. Oh, and did I mentioned that waiting June is too long for me?
    • Make sure we're on the same page with why? what? how? when?
    • They probably don't fully realize what they're up to, and that 80% of their programming skills will be useless, especially in the begininng. Scare them to hell with reality and check if everything's still fine.
    • Be quite offensive since I can bring a lot to the table from my bunch of failures :). Gut tells me that they need me more than I need them, but we'll see.
    • Would be great to get M, ok to get both, not great to get none, but I have two more options on partners (but not as great as M).
    • Discuss some stuff if everything else goes well. Finalize some plans. They had some plans too, will be interesting to listen.
    Done
    • Back to the forum
    • Very quickly looked through my notes from some books
    • Scanned my network for useful contacts. Will schedule a call with IT lawyer to get some bits of advice on the setup part. Found one strong customer lead (a bit too early, but it will be like winning a jackpot if they sign up).
    • Thought again on a backup partner just in case.
    • Quickly looked at the current state of the industry.
    • Done most of it on my 9-5. F*ck this is great. Still have a lot of important, but not urgent work to do. Spent only 1.5 hours on more urgent stuff today. Planning to work for 3-4 hours tomorrow. Having a flexible schedule is great, exploiting it feels even better! Not concerned too much about being laid off too early. I'm not irreplaceable but replacing me effectively would take a few months and definitely more than one good hire. Don't want to screw up the project though, our clients are great and people I work with are too (and I've hired half of them :rofl:). They just owe me a lot for saving the project during the past 3 weeks :rage:.
    Will be posting some status updates here, probably much shorter and not very often. Combining this together took little more than an hour and I'm expecting not to have a lot of time later on.

    P.S. A lot of things changed in those 10 years. Notably back then 20% margin was a bare minimum, now some companies are ok with only 7% (info from a bunch of drunk CEOs at the party). Mostly that's because average salaries in IT here have risen 50-70% since then depending on job position (juniors 300%). Will be tough as we need to aim much higher...


    Good luck & have fun everyone!
     
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  2. astr0
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    astr0 Grinding Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Adding some personal TODOs here since that's important too:
    1. Drink much fewer energy drinks. Current ~3 a day is way too much. The give short term productivity boost but deplete max energy levels in a long term. Not good for health either.
    2. More vegetables to replace vitamins from energy drinks.
    3. Get rid of 1-hour zombie mode in the morning. #1 is the main contributor to this. A glass of water and a few minutes of meditation worked will in the past.
    4. Free up some time. Suspend/quit all hobbies. Delegate most of the house-maintenance tasks to contractors and my wife managing them.
    5. Don't skip breakfast. Connected to #3, bad things happen when I eat in zombie-mode.
    6. Figure out what to do with ~$1.3k a month 0% mortgage(there must be a better word for this) for two apartments under construction (one of the investment hustles). If I stop paying I'll lose 20% of what I've paid already and that's quite some money. Doesn't bother me too much now, but that may well be a rent for the office or a salary for one more junior dev. Will keep paying probably unless I find a definitely better use for this money and 80% of what was paid already.
     
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  3. astr0
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    astr0 Grinding Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Quick status update

    Meetup went well
    • DH is pretty good technically and had experience engaging big client for his employer.
    • Why? What? How? Checked. When? can't be fully started before May, but have a lot to set up so it's ok. Also, M is going on vacation to the USA on April-May and has plans to visit conferences and try to get some leads/client.
    • They do realize that their programming skills are almost useless for now, and do realize that getting clients would be hard
    • They also have something to bring to the table: a lot of resumes of "failed" hiring candidates that M interviewed for his employer. Some of them were good ones but failed to meet other corporate policies. Also, they have a lot of leads (counted 7 in 2 minutes) from clients they previously worked with. Bonus: they are all from Europe and from our niche.
    • We're starting, 33% each

    Finalized
    • Two of us will keep 9-5 for as long as needed, depositing most of the salary to the company. One quits, haven't decided who yet, but not me.
    • Will incorporate in Estonia
    • Will hire as needed, a client first. Things may change depending on the client ("jackpot" type).
    • Need an office for 10-12 people, not very fancy, not very scary, in an OK location.
    • Figured out other contacts that might help with setup advice
    Done
    • Meetup
    • Quickly looked for an office. Surprisingly, nothing... A lot of ok small ones (30-40 m2) and big ones (180+ m2). We would need something like 50-90 m2. $10/m2/month average rental rate. But we thought this would be the easy part.
    • Quickly revisited my notes for an Estonian corp. Wanted to open it 2 years ago for a side hustle, but ended up using Payoneer card instead...
    Now
    Estonian and local setup.

    Concerns

    M has almost zero savings. Normal for just moving to his first own apartment or a sign of a sidewalker?

    Happy grinding everyone!
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2019
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  4. Patrick Jones
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    Patrick Jones growing Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Are you going for Estonian e-Residency? I'm working on that at the moment, too: Estonian e-Residency
     
  5. astr0
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    astr0 Grinding Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Yes,
    Thanks for pointing out, will be following your thread!

    I'm pretty sure Ukraine is even worse than Germany for SaaS. Like we can't even accept Paypal :inpain: and have to ask every client to sign a paper invoice for every payment :shit:(that may have changed in the last 2 years, but I think now business owner still have to print and sign all invoices himself).

    Good luck with your SaaS business!
     
  6. astr0
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    Little update
    Done
    • Spent some time researching taxes and other aspects of Estonian OU. Found an issue - it's hard to open a bank account in EU for Estonian company with Ukrainian owner: most banks decline. Scheduled a meetup on Sunday with my ex-partner on MMO project to ask for their current setup details. He runs a successful VR/AR company now. Also, found out that it's actually ok to work as 3 separate Ukrainian contractors if yearly turnover doesn't exceed ~80-100k for each.
    • Estimated setup costs for company, office and an employee workspace (mostly action faking).
    • Action-faked for a few hours playing with numbers in an estimated operational income-expenses spreadsheet. Our plan with staying on the jobs and hiring from day 1 looks quite well on paper. Also, the spreadsheet seems pretty accurate, lying only a dozen percent in our favor. Tested with Oziris and some other input data.
    • Renting an office is not an issue - I've just looked in the wrong place. Still fewer proposals than for smaller and bigger ones.
    Personal
    • No energy drinks starting from today. Feel constantly tired, but ok.
    • Starting to mix more vegetable food and eat more often (recommendation from a CEO that went from 90+ kilos to 65 in 2 years and feels great). My weight and fat ratio is ok, it's just for more energy.
    • Zombie/sleeping mode was insane and lasted for 2 hours today. That's dangerous: missed pedestrians on a crosswalk on my way to work...
    Concerns
    I'm putting a lot of time into this, they're doing almost nothing. Even don't answer to my finding in chat. Waiting for 2 more weeks, until we'll make our first deposits for company needs. If not much changes by then, I'll probably restart/continue the journey alone...
     
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  7. astr0
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    Was too concerned with partners, so had to think it over again.

    I want a partner to:
    • Execute hiring from day 1 plan (keeping 9-5 income). Totally can't make it work without a partner.
    • Help with customer engagement. I'm not very communicative in real life, but have a pretty good skill to see through customers needs and wants (for software products at least) and picking up the domain knowledge quickly. Throwing a lot of technical details on them usually works too.
    • For brainstorming / having a different opinion. Actually, this may not always end well.
    • Have more employee-power from the start. Yep, employee.
    • Share responsibility for the current state of things and decisions that led there. This is huge for me.
    • Avoid "shining object"/"grass is greener on the other side" syndrome by not having an option to switch so easily.
    • Bring something with him: connections, expertise, experience, etc.
    • Just unexplainable/non-logical fear of being completely on my own. Probably caused by a simple fear of failure or just making a bad decision.
    I wouldn't want a partner to:
    • Be accountable. I'm pretty accountable with myself and can setup/join some accountability group if it's needed.
    • Avoid bad decisions insisted by a partner like not hiring, not scaling, not invoicing for additional work requested by the client, picking a huge unvalidated project for a startup, etc.
    • Have different vision/goals
    • Put different effort
    • Share profit
    Do I really need a partner? No.
    Would it be easier in a short term? Probably yes, especially by executing hiring from day 1 plan.
    Would it be faster to accomplish? Probably, but profit is shared.
    Would it be better in a long run? No, we'll fight each other.

    So while my "partners" are doing nothing, I'll make it look like I'm doing nothing too.
    Will try to start on my own NOW.
    The plan obviously needs a lot of corrections:
    • Ukrainian sole proprietor (contractor) would work fine in short term, no urgent need for a company. Will still apply for an e-residency just to be ready.
    • No need for an office for now. A smaller office for 6 people would be fine later.
    • A client first, obviously.
    • Will still try to hire as soon as possible to delegate low-level work.
    • Niche has to be changed - it was the partner's expertise. Mine is pretty small and very closed (trading/risk-management software).
    • Not writing a single line of code won't work. Will do my best no to fall into the instant profit trap.

    Not sure if it worth quitting 9-5 right away.
    On one hand, I have almost 2x average salary for the same position and quite often some free time. Unfortunately, I can't do anything I want with it and it's very unpredictable so I can't count on it.
    On the other hand, I'm pretty sure I can match/beat my salary pretty soon by working on my own.

    Can't ping most of my network for projects right now - they all know my boss and I don't want him and my coworkers to know anything for now. Starting an upwork profile and doing some portfolio work there while keeping 9-5 seems the best option. Until I hit a long enough project to justify hiring. Going from freelancing to hiring will be hard...

    Short-term
    Find a stable client / build a stable work-flow

    Now
    Find at least some work to build a portfolio

    Won't post status updates until first client or something major happens. This thread looks like a brain-dump already. 0 value.
     
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  8. Patrick Jones
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    Why do you want to hire people? Why not utilise freelancers?
     
  9. astr0
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    astr0 Grinding Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    My city is kinda IT hub with a high percentage of people working in IT. So no shortage for employees, although competition for them is pretty rough. Margins are not that great now, but back in 2009 our only employee was making $900 doing $2-2.4k of paid work. He was happy, had less before we hired him. Now developers with similar skills have around $1500 salary on average, but external rates grew up a bit too.
    Employees are easier to manage: their load planning, quality of work, amount of work. Also, good ones grow in skills faster than their salary requirements. Most huge companies here make a lot of profits only on this fact, bureaucratically slowing down salary growth while doing a lot of training for their employees. The only downside is idling costs (still have to pay salary, even if they're doing nothing paid).

    I'll definitely use freelances for work outside of my main expertise that has to be done, like design tasks.
     
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  10. Patrick Jones
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    I think freelancers are a lot easier to manage. Instead of employing one developer full time, I have 3 freelancers running on 1/3 load. The other 2/3 they spend on different clients. Or goof off, or whatever.

    With that kind of spread there is always someone available, but I never have to worry for a minute about having to have work for them.

    They deliver top work because their next gig depends on it. And because they work for different clients, they get insight in to many different techniques and processes, which means they learn a lot on the job. Of course what they learn from working for me, other people profit from. But that's a fair trade in my eyes.

    Them having their own offices/desks also means that my office cost is reduced to a desk and a meeting room - both of which I rent on demand.

    Working with freelancers is like running multiple servers behind a load-balancer.
     
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  11. astr0
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    I think I totally understand your point of view.

    You're building a SaaS and it requires a lot of different skill sets: design, backend, frontend, marketing, copywriting, etc.
    Your workload is not stable: some programming to prototype and build MVP, more for later iterations of product development, some non-programming work along the way.
    Being a web developer yourself you can manage freelances much better than a person without tech skills. You know what has to be done and how and just leverage their time to do it.
    So that's definitely much much better for you to hire many freelancers for different tasks instead of an employee with a fixed, smaller, skillset, who requires constant work, not easy to replace and brings a lot of troubles with him (more complex taxation, insurance?, office expenses and so on).

    However, I'm focusing on helping other people and businesses to build something useful for them or for their clients by offering full-scale software development services.
    Not all people have the skills required to manage an army of freelancers and actually control their work. Two projects might look completely identical to the client, but one of them might be full of crap inside. And you know how much time it might take to make some changes to a crappy code, compared to a good one.
    That probably doesn't matter at all for an MVP, but may greatly affect the cost of a project during its lifespan.

    So, compared to freelancers, my benefits for the client would be:
    • No tech skills required from the client at all.
    • Much less management (up to zero) and communication (one person responsible for the whole project instead of a bunch of freelancers), saving their time.
    • Projects can be done faster by paralleling tasks between developers. Also, developers will have better communication with each other than remote freelances. That contributes a lot to quality and time savings.
    • Expert work will be done by experts, low-level work by cheaper employees. Reducing costs for the client compared to hiring only good freelances.
    • We're even more concerned about quality. Bad quality means losing a client, that is much harder to find that a gig.
    • We actually want our clients to succeed with their projects. It's a synergy relationship, much more than just b2b. Happy with a one-time small project - our free referral. Scaling business using our project - more work for us. The project failed for a client - we just get paid and have to look for another client. Most freelancers aren't interested much in becoming full-time remote employees for one client. And not all want to build an agency and become more of a manager. So more work from a client is not that important to them.
    The only cons that I can think of would be:
    • It probably still be more expensive for the client than going with freelancers. But all the benefits should justify that. Also, it would still be much cheaper than hiring local developers in some countries.
    • They have to trust us. Replacing the whole developer team on an established project would be very hard for them.

    Small status update:
    • Browsed upwork for some gigs. Elance 10 years ago was better for an agency... A lot of small tasks and opportunities to sell myself to a 9-5 freelance. I know that small tasks can bring more or even a bigger project, but still, it doesn't look like the best place to find clients. Also, very few companies from Ukraine are present there, mostly tiny ones.
    • Reconsidered partnership just for a much smoother start and early steps. Still not sure if it justifies that benefits. If everything goes well, except partnership, we can actually figure something out. From having different responsibilities, different niches to just splitting a company into pieces and go our own ways taking employees and clients with us. And if it fails... well, we had more chances with the partnership.
    Chicken and egg problem becomes much more complicated if I start solo. No point in hiring a developer first and trying to sell him - he can do that himself. Having client first I would have a very difficult time hiring more than one person at a time (risk of bad hiring). I'm also risking to exchange my 9-5 for another job-business.

    Happy grinding!
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2019
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  12. astr0
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    Small status update:
    • We've (mostly my partners) finished a tiny project for a friend. Only some minor equity % as he does all the marketing and operations himself. It's already a little profitable.
    • Signed bigger project. Client honestly told me that had proposals for $28k and $20k, but delivery terms is an issue for him. Both companies estimated more than a month for delivery, he needs it in two weeks. My estimate was 27 days avg, 19 days best, 42 days worst so both companies were right :smile:. Since I'm on 9-5 job, I'm getting a vacation for the next two weeks to focus 300% on this project. Looks pretty doable in my opinion, and he's ok to deliver main functionality in 2 weeks and some minor stuff later. Partners were against it cause it's not exactly our focus/expertise and the terms seemed unreal to them. Also, I've insisted on % equity and some fixed payment with some penalties on a fixed part if not delivered in time and big penalties if not delivered in a month. The project might be pretty profitable with almost guaranteed 5-figure earnings and has 6-7 figure potential.
    • Fixed niche/focus/potential ideal customer/etc.
    • Researched lead gen strategies/competition/other stuff.
    • Haven't applied for e-residency... kinda always too busy to do it.
    Personal:
    • No energy drinks for ~3 weeks and I'm feeling great.
    • Morning zombie-mode has pretty much gone.
     
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    So 2 weeks passed.

    Done the project (almost o_O), got the fixed pay in full amount. Overdelivered a lot so the Client was very happy.

    Fun thing: we relied on a 3-rd party API which banned our trial account this Friday. The client wanted to buy access, but their subscription prices are 20x greater than he initially expected / is willing to pay. Found another good one already, but I'll have to implement it for free this time. A little lack of C in his CENTS project, but there are a ton of providers for the data he needs, so not a big deal to switch them if something bad happens.

    Note for the future: work more with clients during the "estimate" phase, so that we totally understand each other in every detail. On this project, the client totally missed like 30% of work (we haven't discussed it at all, it's really important and we both figured out that we need it after 2/3 of development was done) and around 10% he wanted to do in a much more complex way than I assumed.

    The client already did some marketing and we have a few dozens of people waiting for the launch in the project's telegram group which is quite nice considering that his market is like 10-100k people.
    He also found some investors who seem interested in the project (at least they have good money, so they value their time and they spend quite a few hours with him discussing terms, ROI, marketing and other stuff). Noone signed cause he still hasn't figured out exactly how much he needs to raise (low 6 figure to mid 6 figure) or if he needs to raise something at all (he's considering more of a partnership than investment now - like delegating the marketing/community management with all expenses). But my equity% already looks more promising than just bigger fixed price.

    Personal:
    • Back to 1-2 energy drink per day for the last week...
    • Had no time at all to spend with family
    • Surprisingly haven't burned out at all during these 2 weeks
     
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    Implemented new data provider which is 25x cheaper than the first one. Had to change DB schema a lot so that we could switch/add providers easily in the future (was using a schema that is very close to the first provider's API to speed up the development). Realized on the way that the first provider was calculating a lot of derived data and we have to calculate it ourselves when using other providers, but that's fine. The new provider also has more delayed data (he promised up to a minute delay, but we saw an average of 1:30 with max 5 minutes and once their server went down for 4 hours in the night...). That shouldn't be a huge problem for us, but not great either.

    Made a small tool in an hour parse telegram groups with potential customers, rate them by involvement and dump in a file for our marketing "team". They grew our group to more than 100 people in 2 days. Join rate is ridiculously high at the moment. And they have around 8k people to spam :innocent: :halo:.

    The client finally decided to go with rather small seed investment round basically to cover the marketing costs and to survive a few months in case thing won't go as we hope. He got verbally covered 10x amount, so there's a high change to raise everything the project needs.

    Since we no longer get a lot of stuff from the third party, we'll launch with much fewer features and will add them later. The client thinks that it's even better because his customers will see the progress and will be able to prioritize the features they need most. Also, it's more work for me, so we verbally negotiated not very high extra pay for larger chunks of work. Previously I agreed to do free support for a few hours a week in the scope of my equity%.

    Will deploy changes tomorrow, everything should go smooth because investors are already actively looking on it. That means that I have to deploy it alongside and switch after quick testing so they won't notice much difference ).

    Hired a one-time QA to test everything, I'm afraid there may be higher than average % of bugs cause of rush and 0 unit/automated tests. We'll go to production over the weekend and do an investment round on Monday.

    Kinda interesting how would it go. My share's percent of investment would be 2.5x of a normal fixed price for this project and evaluation% would be over the roof. Too good to be true, too good to be that easy.

    Hoping for the best!

    P. S. Already told my coworkers that I would leave in June so they can prepare and don't screw up our huge and complex project. Hadn't noticed the boss, it seems too early.
     
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    Somehow attended two local seminars in these two days (I'm not seminar guy and usually find everything I need online).

    On was called "Legal Porn": legal stuff for IT businesses. My client is a business partner with two experienced lawyers who were speakers there, so I've got an opportunity to say "Hi" from him and talk with them a bit. Basically, it was very cheap but long legal consultancy from people who know this business.

    Main takeaways:
    • No one cares about you if your small and haven't screwed up big
    • Estonia is a great residency for a company
    • There are issues with opening a Bank account in EU for Ukrainians, but after your company gets some history it's no longer an issue. Starting with Payoneer is fine. Also, there soon may be an option to open Bank account for EU company in Ukrainian bank.
    • Got confirmation that most things are as I thought they are
    • Got bunch of info on intellectual property rights, including useful ones like on using stock photos
    Another was on Business Development from a woman who worked for more than 10 years on BisDev roles in different companies, including BisDev Director in 200+ company who's CEO I know well. She started her business 3 years ago and it's pretty successful now. I've attended it more to meet with the Client and to discuss a few things as he was going there.

    Main takeaways:
    • Most Ukrainian IT companies are doing a lot of things wrong, but still profitable
    • I probably know more and have more experience with paid traffic than she is, but she's definitely great at building a brand and online presence. So later should be very important too.
    • Some, mostly outdated, sales and marketing info
    • Employees, real company culture and values are important
    • Confirmed that focusing on a small niche and killing it is a nice strategy
    Noticed a lot of business people on the first seminar, but very few on the second.
     
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    While reading through the forum noticed that I'm sometimes lazy to read long posts, so I'll try to be shorter here again.

    Done
    • Finally polished the UI
    • Tested everything with the new data provider - it requires more manual support work that previous one due to incomplete data in some cases, but the Client has no choice
    • The client sent offers to all potential investors he talked
    • Our 100+ audience almost brought down the server when we opened beta. Shitty VPS on an overloaded node with 2 cores from 200x phones won't take much more simultaneous users.
    Now
    • Finally, a slowlane relaxing tomorrow after 2 weeks of hard work
    • Bought Audit of critical code that involves moving money on Sunday from a company who has more experience in the field (I'm usually good with critical stuff, but not when working 16 hours straight for a couple of days). Going production after that, so probably no sleep night ahead. (Time to market is really critical for this Fad-thingy).
    • Investment round finalized on Monday. Mostly to cover my fixed price difference and bring the client to a zero-loss point. Offering 10% equity only.
    • Back to Comp3 tasks after that
    • E-Residency, lawyers approved
    • The website, cause even 2nd level referrals will probably google us first
    Set rough goals for the year to make myself accountable and see what needs improvement:
    goals_1.png
    Need help on setting up a numeric goal that would mean "Value Added"/"People helped". Currently, I'm using count small projects done for that because they help at least one person. But some big project can reduce pain points for a lot of people at once...

    So I'm stuck with that for now.

    Good luck everyone!
     
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    Little off-topic:
    There are lots of opportunities for local businesses here in Ukraine.

    Came to a haircut saloon:
    me: Can I have a haircut?
    employee: No
    me: Why?
    employee: We're busy
    me: Ok... so maybe later?
    employee: No, we have schedules till the evening
    me: So... maybe put me on tomorrow?
    employee: No, other girls work tomorrow, they have their own schedule.

    Tried to make a photo for E-Residency application, a guy took a picture and asked what size and proportions do I need so he can crop the photo. I've told that before the shot, but that's ok...
    Then I've noticed that he took a photo without any zoom. And I need like 2500x3200px 75% head, so there may be an issue. He said that everything's fine and copied the photo on a flash drive.
    Feeling lucky to work in a 2-minute walk to them... The result was 300x370 banner from the 90x.
    Immediately came back to them yelling WTF, got something that looks decent, still crap but will do...

    The point is
    • I'll never go that haircut saloon again, found a much better one in a 5-minute walk.
    • Loots of opportunities left on the table just by improving quality and customer service. No need to reinvent the wheel and think outside the box.
     
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    Week -9
    week_minus_9.png
    CryptoDividend is doing surprisingly great for such a tiny project. Got indexed by Google better, it shows part of the table right in the search. We've recently optimized it for a better Lighthouse score and that's probably the cause. 258 members in a telegram group. Pretty small, but unbelievable Ad and affiliate revenue.
    NDA project isn't doing that great. Got only 10% of funding secured atm, 3 days without users after launch. Got few paying customers after we got listed in directories and other marketing kicked in, but surprisingly none of the 80 "testers" was using it live. Turned out that we've removed some very important features when moving to a different data provider, glad that we have a telegram group screaming just that. Got to re-implement them fast tomorrow using 80-20 (more 90-10) principle. 10% in code, 90% on customer support cause it would require 9 times more coding otherwise :). Btw, an audit was free cause they've missed a very critical bug...


    Done

    • Company Name
    • Value array, value skew (not final yet)
    • Web Site layout, what should be there to sell (not final)
    • Partners are much more active now, partly cause they saw that much can be done in spare time
    • Made a pretty important decision to reduce tension in the future - each of us is completely responsible for one aspect of the business and has a veto right to override the opinion of the rest two
    • Probably helped someone here, and almost hit the first goal thanks to Andy Black
    • Some work on the NDA project
    Fail
    • E-Residency, cause we wanted to apply together for some reason and postponed it two times because of that. Final date: Sunday. The time is ticking...
    Now
    • Another hardcore 14h+ session on the NDA project tomorrow.
    • Slowlane Sunday
    • More stuff on the website and marketing for the company
    • Spend less time here
    • Got another prospect referred by the NDA client. His niche, not ours, I have no time for him, unfortunately, and my partners don't have skills to help him. Gone speak with him tomorrow probably, maybe we can figure out something.
     
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    TMF Rep Bank - the WHY?
    This one is pretty close to the completion and I thought it would be nice to explain why it's on the list.

    I like helping people, it makes the world a better place and leaves good long lasting emotions as the reward.
    However, there's a dark side to that goal. That numbers are not made up from head for no reason. I've noticed that I treat posts biased on the Author sometimes.
    And if haven't seen the author before then I evaluate him based on his Rep Bank:
    • Less than 200 - someone new here
    • 200-500 - not active member, or still new (I'll check Joined date)
    • 500-1000 - made some contributions, probably been here for a long time
    • 1000-2500 - done some valuable contributions
    • 2500-7000/8000 - probably has great threads
    • 8000 - 30k - active member, likely has a GOLD thread or few
    • 30k+ - I think I know them all
    So that goal has something to do with looking better than I'm really am. And that sux...

    To get there, I was contributing to the threads where I could provide some value. That happened to be the threads on programming and Intro threads where I thought I could help with some advice or just a warm welcome. I felt like I'm a little ahead in my journey, with 2 failures and some motion going on now than most new members here. And it's definitely a great idea to learn from peers close to you, who made some progress but are still not too far ahead to forget everything that brought them there.

    But then I've noticed that someone might be thinking that I'm more successful than I'm really am. And worse, really follow my (stupid?) advice.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not throwing sh1t on the wall in every thread, especially I avoid posting where some incompetent thought may affect someones critical, life-changing or worse life-or-death decision (there was a thread here recently...).

    I'll do my best to help my first follower and he's definitely got a huge mindset shift recently and has a rough idea of what to do next. I hope he's putting some effort too.

    It still feels wrong... To the point that I want to only contribute on topics closely related to my expertise.

    And I don't see a reason in this progress thread, to be honest. At first, I thought I could get some advice or at least validation here. But quickly realized that this forum is not a place to get this kind of help. The Market is.

    This thread brings no value to the forum. Even when it becomes a success story, do people can learn something from my goals and my rough tasks/progress to achieve them?

    Thinking of dumping this thread and start something that would provide value later, on Day 0 and probably on the Inside. Like a collection of detailed how-tos to drive over all the bumps that would definitely get on our way later. Good that we've chosen an off-road vehicle to the Fastlane ;).

    offroad.jpg

    P. S. Yeah, it's me-oriented post in my progress thread, right :smile2:
     
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    Week -8
    week_minus_8.png
    CryptoDividend No Changes. Have a bunch of useful features to implement and the design is ready. Unfortunately, my partner who did the frontend is on vacation in the US and don't answer in any communication channels for some reason, another partner is working on this, but slowly cause he hasn't written a single line of code in that website frontend before. And I'm too busy with another project...

    NDA Project
    Has high chances to take off very soon. Already quite profitable in 2 weeks. Haven't raised full seed investment amount yet, but it already covered development expenses (me) and heavy marketing for 2 weeks. Reimplemented all the missing features after moving to the cheaper data provider and much more. We were contacted by a huge player in the industry with an offer to integrate our product to his web site in an iframe. It's a win-win: we get some share of their quite large user base, they get a refresh of their platform and "affiliate" commission from us. We were ready to implement this integration, but a few days later we were also contacted by App Accelerator of a rival network to the one we're currently using with a pretty insane offer. Basically, they want us to integrate with their network and would cover all the required development and marketing costs to launch with no other obligations than a promise to do it, which is really sick. They gave us a hint of a possible amount and requested detailed expenses planning for the committee. We'll get a response on Monday and that would be the top priority if everything would go fine. So we tried to negotiate with the first well-established player to also cover part of development expenses since we are pretty sure that he needs us more than we need him. Their CEO's on a business trip somewhere and no one else could make that decision, so we're waiting there too.
    We're also launching a massive marketing campaign on Monday basically on every channel in a niche we can think of. That would probably decide a faith of this project short-term.
    Update: Got integration funded in less than a day, on Sunday, directly by the CEO. They would also do some marketing on their side. Looks like we were right and this can bring better results than we initially expected.

    Done
    • All 3 of us applied for E-Residency
    • 40h week on 9-5 and 44h week on NDA project, another fixed-price coming next week
    • Was pretty much absent here
    • Recommended a bigger company to the referred prospect. Much slower, more expensive, but would probably do the job for him. That doesn't count as a failed sale ).
    • Investigated where to buy stuff for the office: few used monitors, tables, chairs, router, and some minor items.
    Fail
    • Company website and marketing ideas/plan. Don't know when I'll do it, the NDA project is moving too fast...
    Now
    • Learn how to code for the rival network
    • A lot of work @ NDA project
    • Another 8-10h work session tomorrow(today) that would probably violate 80-20 principle, but every hour spent on final polishing now would contribute to the ROI from ad-spend.
    • Slowly look for an office
    • Probably delegate the company website to someone
    • Ask the mentor for detailed marketing advice... Re-evaluate it. Find cheap&good enough copywriter to prepare everything.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2019
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    Week -7
    week_minus_7.png

    I'm a bit drunk but got to post this on Saturday night...

    CryptoDividend
    No major changes, a partner is still working on changes, but they are nowhere near to completion.

    NDA Project Seed investment is over 20%.
    Integration with a major player is done on our side and we got paid for it. Unfortunately, we found 8 bugs in their software, 5 of them were fixed in a day, but 2 critical are still there and we can't go live before they fix it. Done some deeper analysis - they have around 700 paying customers, which is great but not awesome.

    App Accelerator is not responding, and I have an idea why - cause of our marketing plan. But we were not ignored by 2 other bigger investment funds and another one contacted us directly. All want to wait for us to get more data and that's reasonable, but if we're profitable why would we need an investment?

    Our marketing went pretty badly. We had around 20 paying customers before the campaigns, got around 40 during the campaigns, but it seems that most of them came from free sources. And we burned $1.2k which makes our CAC around $60 and it's really bad. Even more - the client has negotiated media buying prices and almost halved them, so normally we would have had $120 CAC. And one traffic source that costs $600/week has insanely high bot traffic. I know cause they definitely have JavaScript disabled, Bounce Rate more than 96% and Avg Session less than 2 seconds.

    That failure somehow made my client realize that I know something about marketing... So we made a $200 PPM campaign that brought us 1.5k visitors with 0.12% CTR. That's very low, but our product is uber niched and very hard to market properly... We also did a "spam" messaging campaign over 260k users/bots for FREE. Our volumes 2.5x-ed after that, but the results are impossible to track at all cause of the marketing channel.

    So currently we have around 100 paying customers, 260+ daily unique visitors and profits allowing us not only to survive but cover 2x monthly expenses. We also passed $1k daily revenue today, but margins are very small so that's nothing major. Although moving ahead of our investment offer plan is pretty nice.

    Terminated our cooperation with 2 girls that were luring telegram users to our group and hired one unstoppable girl to manage our telegram and twitter EN community. We've got 30 true twitter followers with her in less than a week. Looking to hire someone for CN and RU community.

    Although we got some investments and profits, we've decided not to distribute them now. "Entrepreneurs work for free" once said R. Kiyosaki and it looks better to spend that on marketing than to pay for my 124 billed hours at not-very-profitable rates.

    I don't have an idea about our LTV yet, but from experience with similar affiliate projects, we definitely can get 1.5-7$ CAC worldwide, not $30 or $60. Gotta grind in that direction. We're niched and that would be very challenging to laser focus our audience...

    Done
    • 52 hours billed and like 10 free @ NDA project.
    • Read/liked a few posts here.
    • Gifted 6/12 MJ books to 4 people who have high chances to change their lives in my opinions and 2 friends cause they were jealous...
      • 1 Unscripted to CEO of 260 employee outsourcing company. He got money, but not... Unscripted.
      • 1 TMF to my current client cause he's money chasing a lot.
      • 2 to my soon to be ex-coworkers. One almost gave up after a 1-year long failure, another have high chances to succeed but no ambitions/goal/why/etc.
    • Talked with 260 CEO about my plans. His only objection was "why the hell do you need partners?". My answer was "cause I have 24h in a day and I need 6h of sleep". And I've instantly realized that it's an excuse... Can hire someone for more hours. The reality is I'm just too afraid of starting something on my own and I don't know what to do with that.
    Fail
    • No time for Comp3. I actually feel like doing more products that services. The grass is greener on the other side??? No office stuff, no web site, no marketing, no meetings, nothing...
    Now
    • Finish integration on NDA (waiting for bug fixes on their side)
    • UI/UX polishing/improvements on NDA project.
    • Insane tracking on NDA
    • Youtube influencer in the nice would publish a video about us with $250 worth give-away. We'll see how it goes.
    • Trust Comp3 to the partners cause NDA project almost has enough revenue to hire 3 of us as dedicated devs at our future company's rates... And it definitely has a lot of meaningful progress to do.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2019
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    Week -6
    week_minus_6.png
    Really have no time for the status update, so I'll keep it short

    NDA Project has raised more than 50% of seed investment, have more than 260 unique users online daily and growing, have more than 120 paying customers, ~170 people in telegram group including some well-known people and influencers in the niche. We're not running ads currently, so growth is purely by word of mouth and directory listings. The fund that dumped us came back and asked for a little smaller proposal. They do board meeting each Monday. We don't really need them anymore, but that's basically free money, so why not? We'll reduce some marketing expenses and send them 70% proposal soon, maybe next week. Big player fixed everything on their side and we should be live tomorrow. Everything's going great so far.

    Done
    • Waiting for fund transfer to be paid for 152 hours @ NDA project and some profit % distribution
    • Complete UI redesign @ NDA project. Nice & slick. We've focused on the functionality from the start, but got 2 complaints about the "crappy" UI. UX stayed the same, we've nailed it, even better than the major competitors from our "testimonials".
    • Nice & useful tracking @ NDA. Still GAnalytics, but we have goals on everything now.
    • Told that I quit the job in a month. Boss was not very happy, more shocked, but welcomed the decision and congratulated me with being on "the same side". He also hinted that he may move one of his projects where he's just a middle man to us, cause his clients are not very happy with the current team (another small company in Lviv, 4 juniors and 1 tech lead working on their project).
    • Spent 3 days looking for an office. Found small & cozy one, will be free in a week. Nice & pleasant, owner, 24/7 security, great location, 73 m2 looks almost perfect. We'll start with another 2 team startup there, 4 people in total. Should be fine for 10-12 people growth.
    • I and one partner were approved on E-Residency, waiting for digital package arrival. The third partner application still not processed.
    Now
    • 3 major milestones @ NDA project: two functionality packages, on 3-rd party integration pending.
    • No website for the company, but we decided to do it later after we quit. Mostly cause of more work before quitting @ 9-5 and NDA project. Not great, cause I wanted to have some marketing presence asap.
    • Office stuff
    • Few urgent tasks @ NDA project
    • Few critical tasks on transferring my employee responsibilities to co-workers.
    • Have a discussion today with VR/AR agency business owner, mostly looking for cross-recommendation partnership and got a few questions on running a business in Ukraine.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2019
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    Another opportunity from the NDA project.
    Rather big Indian company wants something similar, but with very limited functionality.
    They currently consider two options: integrate us with fully custom front-end and very limited functionality or develop something custom from scratch for them.
    Of course, the client leans toward option #1, but, although my pretty loose NDA includes 2-year non-compete, he's ok with option #2 too with only that functionality and with some high commission for him for the sale. He also wants us to increase the budget for that, which is not very nice but ok if it's still a win-win-win situation.

    His transfer went fine, waiting for some decent money flying to us next week :p.
     
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    Pretty soon after informing my circle what I'm about to do things started to get some momentum.

    Has some chances of hitting double Gold or at least Gold + Silver.

    Gold/Silver
    My multimillionaire poker friend is currently starting a software product and outsourced it to a local company. They finally showed him something. Nice looking half-working crap full of bugs. He asked me to estimate that project for him. I've done something similar before, so could quickly adjust everything to our current rates.

    The total was 40% of what that company estimated and we have almost 2x of their rates. Math doesn't match, right? Yet, I'm pretty sure of the accuracy for this one.

    The fun thing is that he had failed 2 times with software products already, blowing low 6 figures on them. I've actually tried to finish one, more expensive of them before, made some progress in two weeks, but had no time to finish it back then (and I've told him that I don't have a lot of time beforehand)... Since that he thought that I'm unreliable and can change my mind whenever I like.

    Fortunately, he knows of our recent process so he changed his mind.
    Unfortunately, that company already spent 35% of their budget, so he'll try to get his money back by selling everything to them as their owner seemed to like the idea.
    And to start from scratch with us hoping to over-compete them cause he has more money and more domain knowledge in that niche.

    He's happy with our budget, but I'm thinking of a better win-win deal. We would do it when we don't have other clients work for 0 margin rates. Normal rate if he needs something done top-priority. All that for a small equity %. Same would go for his future projects.

    Cheaper failure for him, better results for us since he's aiming really big and not interested in a few K here and there. And we won't have to worry about ups & downs while we're small.

    He needs time to think, but I'm pretty sure we're at least got another client.

    Gold in the sky
    One, not the smallest fund had invested in the NDA project. They are pretty impressed with the progress on the development side (only me, half-time, while still on 9-5 lol) and asked my client for a referral. Usually, they are making their own very specific web apps for a very specific market in Asia and making good money on them. Currently, they outsource everything to China and not very happy with that... No offenses, but poor Ukrainian developers have almost 40% bigger average salaries for a reason.

    My client is in the same niche so can estimate their ROI very accurately. He thinks that they can profitably pay us even bigger rates than we currently ask and his nice commission of top of that. Meaning that would still be a win-win for them.

    That would put us pretty close to a well-known local "boutique" UI/UX company on rates and would give us a strong reason to hire & scale fast.

    Still, that's only "btw" talks now, but the client is pretty committed to selling us.

    Hope is not a business plan, but hoping for the best, worked last time ;)
     
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    First bump on the road.

    Got paid by the client... 25% less and it almost ended very badly for both of us.

    Me: Ok, so for everything done so far it would be X.
    Him: Yeah, but we're a startup, so maybe we should have startup salaries? Like Z (really low)?
    Me: I'm not your employee, Z is not an option.
    Him: Ok, then maybe Y?... For everything that was done and this major feature and this complex improvement in the next few weeks?
    Me: Hm... (calculating)... That would be Y+30%, I think. Look, we had an agreement, you know that I would have much less motivation if I knew I was working for Y, not X? I understand that I have equity, but X is really low already.
    Him: Yeah, but we have bla-bla-bla expenses, etc.
    Me: Ok, Y.
    Him: (pays cache)
    Me: (pause, mad, trying to calm down) You know that I'm starting a company with partners, right? I've spent 380 hours mostly at nights and weekend on this and won't give my equity to the company for nothing. I also can't fail my partners by working on your project after day X. So you better look for another service...
    Him: (shocked)
    Me: I would recommend A or B, they should be a little slower, but still do the job. I'm ok as your partner if we'll be working with them and I'm ok to sell my equity on day X back to you if you want, this project won't allow me to focus 100% on a company anyway. Also, I'm gonna finish really important stuff till day X, so everything should be fine.
    Him: How can we hire your company?
    Me: Well, we would have employees, office and other expenses. Since we're not distributing profits from the project anytime soon I can't go lower than W (which is higher than X, but lower than normal).
    Him: Ok, we can do W.
    Me: Great, then I'll give half of my equity minus current valuation to the company to compensate for the difference. My partners should be fine with that. But we should sign a contract this time...

    Lesson learned. Contracts, always, no verbal agreements. They are still hard to force, especially international ones, but from my experience, people are more inclined to follow them anyway.
     

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