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EXECUTION Failure is not an option

astr0

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Dec 3, 2017
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Lviv, Ukraine
Paid & signed contract for office rent, on my partner sole-proprietorship for now. We would definitely have to make local LTD-like company to hire & stay legal cause of local laws, but that's long and not now...

The fun thing was that the office owner talked with us a lot and asked: "Do you have clients?". My extrovert partner was pretty much the only one that was talking with him, so he said: "Yes, definitely for a few months". Soon the talk went the wrong way when the business owner started to explain all the benefits of being an employee. I quickly realized that he's afraid that we would go out of business in months leaving his office empty again... Had to interrupt saying that I've done that before for almost a year, it's rough but well figure out something.

Later I was proposing to niche even more in the complex, better-payed and rapidly growing area where the competition is weak and pretty much overloaded with work anyway and StackOverflow won't help.
Parner1: Well, I don't think we would have problems with finding clients. I'm more worried about the hiring
Me: Do you know someone who we can not hire for X (much higher above average salary)
Partner2: Em... can we still afford it?
Me: Yes, but that's not necessary... If we would have no problems with clients that means that we would have unlimited clients. We would grow to 1k employees and will be looking for an island to buy in a year.

So a fairytale business plan for growing any service business with unlimited scale:
  1. Take every cent out of savings
  2. Find the best and the biggest office
  3. Take max debt in 3+ banks
  4. Find someone to design & setup the office asap
  5. Write all HR agencies that we need lots of employees. We offer +20% average salary. Their commissions would be 2x salary after an employee works for 6 months. Nothing up front, only contract. They usually take 1 salary, 50% upfront, 50% in a year, so that should be interesting.
  6. Hire all the top people we know to filter all the candidates from HRs. They would also be the management later.
  7. If we can't handle unlimited work after that - outsource it to other service companies here.
  8. Pay off the debts.
  9. Once we hire everyone, start buying other companies.
  10. Look for a nice island...

After we quit our jobs, there are two pills waiting for them
  • Get real and do what it takes no matter what
  • Get disappointed that everything is hard and quit
I honestly don't know their choices but need plan B and C for the worst case scenario...
 

astr0

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Dec 3, 2017
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Lviv, Ukraine
Week -5
week_minus_5.png

The best week so far, despite the bump.

NDA Project. Has finished the seed round. Actually, we have few investors messaging after the amount was closed and asking to sell more... Integration with a big partner went live today, around 5 hours ago and we already beat a previous best day like 3 times on every metric, including daily profit. Valuation is pretty insane now as the client sold only 10%, and that's 2 weeks of development for the core project (380 hours total)... Of course, the client works on marketing, connections and getting users all the time too. We also have one great "employee" (she's actually working for us full time as a contractor, but an employee on another dying company) whos managing social media, telegram, and customer service. We don't track paying users from the integration but got 178 unique directly. And that's was 163 yesterday as far as I remember. Got some converting traffic from Google too, but that's probably from searches directly by name.

Done
  • One of the 3 major tasks @ NDA, few small ones
  • Office furniture & tech shopping. 5 tables, 3 chairs, a drawer, an office hanger, and a router $1560. 2 months of office rent $1460/2. We picked furniture that was in stock, would have to wait for more than a month otherwise. Slightly more expensive options that we needed, but not that much. Should be delivered by the end of the week.
  • Transferring my responsibilities on 9-5 is 60%+ done. Only a few big & complicated parts left. Also done pretty much everything the clients and the boss asked to do before I leave. Want to maintain good contacts with them and minimize all the negative consequences of me leaving the team.
  • Made verbal deals with 3 service company owners to recommend each other to the clients in case they need such work. Chances are slim, cause we're almost completely in different niches, but who knows... Turns out that's pretty common, small companies even offload additional work if they are too busy and landed a client for a sale commission. Or just partner with another company temporarily for a single project. Looks like wins for everyone including the client.
Now
  • Electricity, ethernet, and better lighting in the office.
  • Buy monitors. Shouldn't be too much of a deal. Found used 24" HP pro series for ~$110 each, 100+ in stock.
  • Get my tech in shape. Both my 8yo overclocked PC and 5-6yo laptops are still fine for me. I can only notice significant differences between my home Ryzen 2700x on image processing, but that's not what I'm doing all the time. PC needs more silent cooling and probably won't maintain that level of overclocking with that, so I'm thinking of replacing the CPU and MB with used newer one, shouldn't be more than $100 and I would probably spend not less than $40 on cooling alone otherwise. The laptop needs a new/external keyboard and has a dying graphics card that surprisingly hasn't glitched for more than 6 months now for some reason. It was bought only cause of portability when I needed that, but I'm not a laptop guy, so 80% chance that it would continue to collect dust without fixing it (and it's too old to justify graphics card replacement anyway).
  • Start another big milestone @ NDA project.
  • Finish explaining my area of responsibility to soon to be ex-coworkers.

Was seriously thinking of starting our own products instead of services. I know a lot more now from the NDA project, and we can definitely apply everything in a different niche. Probably could even finish my last MMO that turned out big failure if I knew it back then. Maybe the grass is really greener on the other side? Partners are holding me back, although they ok with the idea, just don't have enough money to survive for more than 6 months without income and I don't want to risk a lot more by paying them, so we currently have very limited number tries before going back to 9-5. NDA project won't cover it unless I exit, but that's too soon.
 

astr0

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Lviv, Ukraine
Goal: Largest project
$25K was the biggest single project we were able to close on my first service company 10 years ago. Just beat that with the NDA project, but that's a bit of cheating. The initial amount was way less, but after the client got funding secured he was willing to improve it. And we did a lot in almost every part of the project.

Goal: Cross recommendation partners
Honestly, now the number (that was chosen pretty random) looks very low. I just thought of who I knew that can do that and we still won't compete with each other. But competing and still recommending another company to the client is completely fine too in some cases. A "nice" number is also low, the wider web the better, but I'm not going to change the "official" targets along the way. Some dopamine from hitting them won't hurt. Would be aiming for 5/10+ really.
 

astr0

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Lviv, Ukraine
NDA project beat it previous best day 3 times yesterday. Today is 83% better and it's not over yet...
I'm actually a little afraid about it, cause we're moving 5-6 months ahead of the optimistic schedule we made for investors in our 3-page business plan... It's not linear so that's a lot faster. We still have a lot of operations done manually, and it takes the whole day now. The automation is ready (that was the big milestone for the previous week) but hasn't been fully tested yet and that's the most responsible part of the project...
It stopped burning money a week or two ago and this week was pretty profitable already. Hoping that users from the integration didn't come to only test new features, but will be using them regularly...
nda_week_5.png
Sorry, can't share the profits.

Fail. The milestone for the next two week is adding really complex functionality. Planned to do that in 2 weekends + a few evenings as I'm still on 9-5. Yesterday had to make sure that the integration would go live smoothly. Today worked for it for like 6 hours but had to rollback everything... Really have to plan 2 days with a clear mind and no distractions to get the core right. We have announced it in our roadmap till the end of the month.

Rumors say that my poker friend had stopped the development with a rival company. He hasn't told me anything yet, but that's a good sign for us - at least he's thinking. That company shouldn't be that bad, just a bit slow, so we probably can reuse close to 80% of what they've done already if the idea of selling it back to them fails. That would actually be even better as he wouldn't have to over-compete his friend (or a good connection, dunno)... Still too early to think that far ahead cause the projects isn't ours yet.
 
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astr0

Grinding
FASTLANE INSIDER
Speedway Pass
Dec 3, 2017
277
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Lviv, Ukraine
Week -4
week_minus_4.png

Is probably the worse so far.

NDA Project had to refund 4 clients cause of bugs. One was our (the wrong formula that made sense, but we stated another formula in the documentation and clients were relying on that). Two more from the data provider that we spotted manually, but too late. Can't find it automatically without data from a different source. Unfortunately, our users could lose money cause of this and probably at least one did... He was one of the most active users and now completely gone. The project can afford a more expensive data provider now and we had a long meeting with one yesterday, but I don't have time to implement it sooner than in two weeks...

Done
  • All non-business related tasks that were waiting for me to have more time or give them a higher priority
  • Fixed tech, really thinking of buying a decent laptop now or a dedicated PC for the meeting room.
  • Big milestone on the NDA project was postponed due to more urgent tasks
  • Interviewed a few candidates for my replacement on 9-5, haven't found a good one yet
  • More power sockets in the office (by making custom length extension cords)
  • The office had an ethernet wired, just configured our router and partners did all the paperwork for the internet.
  • Bought some of the furniture from the previous office renter. He left more for some reason, but that's fine.
Fails
  • Feeling really tired and burned out. 2 months of sleeping 5-6 hours and working 16+ seems to be my limit. Should've left the job in two weeks as normal people do and don't care too much about the boss, the client, the coworkers, and burning bridges.
  • Lost and depressed with Product vs Service thinking. Probably my worse trait kicked it here which is giving up on something after achieving better than average results. We're making money, we got inbound prospects reaching to us and everything seems well so far, but I've lost interest cause of that... That's why I totally need a partner to push me through this. We'll have to brainstorm this after my partners get back from a 9-5 week long business trip.
  • Haven't heard back from the recent three prospects. Counting them as failed so far, although we still have some chances with two of them. They may be waiting for us to go full time on this.
  • Re-read my NDA... I'm not allowed to disclose project revenue and expenses, which I did here in a few threads. It's a local agreement, so I'm risking to be sued for "potential loses" or "missed revenue". Pretty much every info I shared is public and the relationships with the client have to be destroyed for him to sue me, so I'm safe. Would still be better to tell him and point him to this thread or I'm risking of losing his trust.
Now
  • Figure out how to rest with so tied schedule. Probably will spend much less time on the forum. I don't want to repeat my first failure.
  • Buy more tech for the office
  • Last week on the 9-5
  • Think of a plan(s) to make products from day 0 idea work and much less risky. I'm am aiming high with this and services was more of a kick-started for stability.
  • More urgent tasks on the NDA project cause of recent failures. Big milestone postponed by a week, the roadmap adjusted and public already.

With developing software, I think it would be fun to advertise to investors as a fund, advertise to the general public as a software development firm that grows businesses and makes ideas come to life, and you take equity and ideas, develop software and grow the business and position it as partnering with the new business, and use investor capital from your fund. You'd bring together ideas, the expertise to develop software, and money to speed things up. And you'll have your hands on all parts of it, giving you lots of control and flexibility.
Thanks, @Johnny boy, I really missed the whole idea back then, probably was too tired...
Yes, partnering with domain experts that have a need and know how to solve it on a per-project basis AND operate as a fund on the other side is probably the best idea so far. Still can be optimized here and there, but looks very promising. More REP going your way :).

Really feel that I'm unable to help people here. For me, other's progress, ups, and downs are the best source for knowledge and information. So I'm automatically sharing mine in almost every post to back up my thoughts on the topic. Unfortunately, it almost always goes south ending up with a long me-me-me post that takes a lot of time to read and doesn't help at all.

On the other side, I feel I know enough so reading more would be a waste of time. Following the progress of a few software guys here, but more to cheer up for them and to help if they need anything.
My office thread really got attention and I'm grateful for every idea on that. Now, I'm really lost on Product vs Service dilemma, got a thread on the Inside and not sure if the forum would help me with that. Sorry for RANT, I'm a little depressed right now.

Thanks for reading!
 
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astr0

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Lviv, Ukraine
Things are getting better.

NDA Project got an app of the month title in a niched online magazine. They've also written a nice article on it and put a link on their main page. Free marketing for us.

The churned user is back but using the app much less (more carefully?).

The project also passed the profitability point without counting the seed round yesterday.
 
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astr0

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Lviv, Ukraine
This weekend set the new best days again for the NDA project.
Done some quick analysis and it turns out that top 5% of our users are responsible for 50% of the profits and total profits from the bottom 50% are less than the profit from the top 1 user. Glad we went with micro-payments, as we can still monetize small users and the biggest ones pay us more than with SaaS. Our LTV seems to be higher than we expected too, cause top 30% of the users already passed that point, but still not much data to be sure.

Just got first "profit distribution" payment from my share in the project. The feeling was like money just fallen from the sky really. $2k is not too much, but definitely not small for a share in young two months old product that's on the market for over a month only and made most of it during the last two weeks.

Been thinking lately on what to do next and thinking why I'm thinking of that as thing are going great, really.
I'm definitely thinking too much and probably rushing too much too.
Anyway, everything leads to this
Think of your end goals and build the business that can achieve it. And I've missed that.
I didn't had enough confidence to start anything except service business, cause that's something I know and have experience with. Not from a fixed mindset, more from evaluating chances to success and time & effort required. Totally needed partners for that to grow above freelancing fast.

Great members really helped me with motivation, having faith in myself, don't relying on partners too much, thinking less and much simpler.

So the current situation:
  1. Agreements with two partners who are a good fit for what we're currently doing. I don't want to fail them.
  2. Two ongoing clients with two products, equity in both. One is close to killing it, the other's just making some money on autopilot. Have some recurring income from them and a few months of service work to do.
  3. My E-Residency waiting for pick-up in the Embassy, my partners still not ready.
The end goals (combined):
  1. More free time and flexible schedule at some point. Really important for Mykola (M previously) as he's more for a lifestyle business.
  2. Enough income to not get back on 9-5. Probably all of us don't mind getting more than on the current jobs, but not hundreds of millions or billions. For me, the stability of this is really important so with a business it has to be at least 5-10x of my salary. Not that jobs are stable, but getting a new one is really easy while building a new business is not.
  3. Building something we would grow and care about. So that's a small enterprise.
  4. Early retirement is only Mykola's goal. Marian (DH previously) and I really love what we do and I personally can't imagine my life without building something. Anyway, an exit strategy or autopiloting it later is a requirement.
Typical service business doesn't do well with #1 and #4.
Our version of jumping into products we build is better but at scale #4 is still a problem as we would have many products to support with little equity in each of them. And a lot of employees to manage and low if existing exit valuation.
Own products can be the best (more details here), but considered "risky".

Why?

So the process of making a product is really simple:
Find a need -> fill a need/add value -> get paying customers -> scale
With software products, programming and marketing experience and after reading MJ's books #2 and #4 are easy.
#3 and #1 stand very close to each other. If there's a problem people are willing to pay for solving they will become paying customers of the solution. So the hardest part is finding a problem worth solving.

Let's get back to how we see it from the service business perspective:
Good idea + money + building it + marketing = successful product

We build it, give advice on marketing and help with improving the initial idea and some details along the way. And take some money for that.
We don't do all the marketing like actually managing ad campaigns, finding the best place to put them, designing banners, copywriting, free marketing, etc. I have some experience with that but would be better if the clients never know this as it's not our service focus, just adding more value.
So we only setup tracking for the funnel, do performance analysis, some split testing, CTAs, and the overall layout for banners.
On the NDA project, an employee/contractor is doing all the design work, managing social media and two community groups. Freelance copywriting is polishing everything the client pushes to her. They are not expensive.
So building it + marketing covered.

The part we missing is Good idea + money.

Not that we don't have ideas or money. The first problem is that our ideas are coming from the wrong place. We brainstorm them, which means we guess the solution and hoping there's a need for that. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
Let's start with the need (probably have to re-read a chapter in Unscripted on that).
How to spot it?
  1. Problems you're facing yourself. Close to zero that can be solved with software.
  2. Needs you know exist from your experience in the industry. Yeah, some library ideas mostly for the open-source model. Some projects with HUGE entry barriers either because of pure size&costs to build or a requirement to be an authority in the industry (trading software).
  3. Looking for existing markets and finding one with a room for improvement and competition. The world isn't perfect so that's an unlimited source of ideas.
  4. Combining #2 and #3 by solving problems in one industry with an improved solution from another one. That's huge and that's what NDA project is doing.
So we can come up with good ideas using methods #3 and #4. They won't be that good as our client's ideas cause clients were thinking of them for a much longer period of time, has proven need either for them or their customers and believe in them enough that are willing to spend their time and pay us money for building them a solution.
Still much better than the ones from brainstorming. We definitely have to validate them before building the solution, but it's not that hard.

Now money... Do we have them or we don't? It's tricky.
We definitely have less money than our clients, who are successful business owners or businesses.
But we do have fewer expenses as we don't have to pay a service business for building the product. We are a service business that's building the products). Still, need some money for a living and for marketing.
Again, do we have them or we don't?
I have some, but funding my partners would be too risky. Not justified $2.73k / month expenses, not good for a "startup".
Marian has savings for 6+ months.
Mykola would be starving in a month without salary unless he sells his car and motorcycle. Well, not really, but pretty close to that.
We also have $32k in the company funds, which should be enough for 8 months without marketing, equity in one so far successful product and service work on it for, maybe, two months more that would probably double its profits.
But we probably still need more funding, at least for marketing and other expenses. Where to get it?
  1. Leave Marian on the job to fund everything. He won't bring much and we would definitely have to get him out asap and that would be easier with a service business.
  2. Split efforts and build a service company that's doing their products too. No way (right?) to build a small productized service company in our industry, so that would be more like two companies sharing the bank account. Twice harder, not good.
  3. Raise external investments. But who would invest in a company that doesn't even know what to do yet? Definitely, I wouldn't. Fortunately, we have two opportunities on this already...
Don't know where this road leads and we haven't decided anything yet. Looks more promising than staying in a traffic jam.
Scheduled a brainstorm meetup after my partners get back from the business trip.
 

astr0

Grinding
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A little RANT about FAITH and SCRIPT
Just said to my wife that we're thinking of doing products and thing's would definitely won't go nice and dandy from the start, but we'll make it eventually.
Talk quickly went south with her mentioning my previous "startup" failure, the fact that one of my partners doesn't have money for a living, that products are hard, that I'm too convinced we would succeed and that I'm bad with risk mitigation overall.
I deliberately brought it there by mentioning that I would probably need $30-$50k for that to work, and giving Mykola a loan is fine and may be considered as an investment in a product if I would think it's necessary.
She considers 0.02% a huge risk and that we should be accounting for that, yet it well less than the probability of dying in a car crash (1/103) or dying in a pedestrian accident (1/558).
Telling her that I foresee more possible short-term problems, but all of them are about losing partners didn't help.
Those are money we earned with hard work, we should keep them for the kids!
It doesn't matter that I can earn them in a few months, no. "It's too risky!".
Yet, she's completely fine with me working on this for 3 years (which is equal to not earning much more, even on 9-5).
Oh, and 4 times she mentioned that I would fail, lol. Well, she's doesn't actually think I would fail, but was aking to consider the possibility of a complete failure seriously. I told her that I'm actually planning to fail, and multiple times.
And I gave her a promise that she wasn't happy about:
I would never get a job again, ever, no matter what

I don't blame her, that's the SCRIPT. Get a job, avoid risks, stay comfortable, business is very risky.
The fact that she's also a software developer made it worse. It's hard for her to realize that a job is not stable, and there are people who really struggle to get it. We have not enough developers for all people who want to make money on them, so they are treated like kings, the salaries are pretty high and still growing and good software developer would always get a job. During soviet union, 30 years ago miners were in the same position here in Ukraine, now they're striking every year for not getting paid $200-$400 salaries for more than a few months and yet continue to work... Cause they don't see other options.

That got me thinking...
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.
WTF!? Are people that stupid?
He got a $28k proposal from a really large company that's in business for more than 10 years.
He got a $20k proposal from 20+ employee company that specializes on the technologies needed for his project.
He knows that for that money 3 to 5 people would be working on his project for a month.
He believed the project would be profitable, so giving equity was not in his interests, fixed price definitely looked cheaper for him.
Yet, he went with me and gave equity... A solo guy who he doesn't know at all, who has not much reputation, totally has to finish it during his vacation cause he definitely won't have enough time for that with his job, who honestly told him that he doesn't know all the required technologies and would spend 2-3 days from his urgent timeline learning them and also not good web developer as he wasn't doing web for almost 10 years.
That sounds really crazy, no? Like WHAAATTT crazy.
Yeah, I was too excited to see it right away.
What the heck our common friend told him??!!

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.
And this... He just stopped the project by the way. Gave up on the idea for now.

But who would invest in a company that doesn't even know what to do yet? Definitely, I wouldn't. Fortunately, we have two opportunities on this already...
The recent one shows it best.

Turns out there are people who believe in us more than I do.
Realizing that is the best motivation ever and I'm pretty sure it would last for a long time.

Enough thinking, back to execution mode
 
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astr0

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Surround yourself with successful people
Just had a 2.5 hours launch with the client and some of his friends who are all entrepreneurs and have offices in downtown.
Two lawyers from the "Legal porn" seminar, two product company owners and an owner of a service company who quoted $20k for the NDA project.
We had a more casual talk that soon shifted to "how is it going?" and discussions about other businesses and opportunities.

I wasn't asking any questions (except a few on E-Residency), yet learned a lot.

Interesting things/takeaways:
  1. A lot more business deals are done in our capital than in my city.
  2. They were asking me to introduce myself, but before I've managed to squeeze a word, the client introduced me "It's my friend Andriy, we have common interests, a common project really, and he has some his own things going on too". Haven't figured out why, but seems that last part was pretty important for him to say, as I don't really have things going on yet.
  3. The client told them that we've raised the seed investment and they were all honestly greeting us, no jealousy at all.
  4. Everyone was very open and told their further plans to everyone too.
  5. "You all are entrepreneurs here, so you understand that we should be adding value and innovate. Raising investments and doing the task list would lead to nowhere, no matter how big the investments were. Raising just enough can even be a lot better." - about a girl who raised millions probably spent them already and got heavily over-competed.
  6. I've heard the phrase "sell shovels" at least 3 times.
  7. They were all talking very high level, only on the big picture. Dived to details only to discuss failures, not opportunities. Same thing I've noticed in the CEO of Perfectial. That must be important.
  8. Noone except service company owner was in a hurry. They having a client's project launch soon.
  9. More insights about Estonian OU. The lawyers and one product owner have companies there, the service owner in the process of opening one too.
  10. Connections play a huge role. Even for me and the NDA project, most big things happened because of connections. But they were talking bigger. Like to make this opportunity or step possible we need connections with that and that business.
  11. Products are not that scary. One has "Bloomberg" for a niche, like data gathering, some calculations and selling the API access. Another one is 10-year old style, yet interesting, browser game with a crypto auction. They were thinking that our product with all of the features still in progress would actually be more complex.
  12. All of them, including my client, have multiple businesses and one "main" one. So building a business shouldn't be that risky, once you have a grasp on it.
  13. One of the product guys has a high price group-buying business/side hustle. From iPhones to real estate. Shared a dialog with construction company salesman of how's he doing it. "-We would like to buy 7 apartments. -Great! -But we would only pay for 6, one free. Take your time, think, calculate everything. Cya"
Also asked the client why the heck he picked me, especially when he knew the owner of that company.
His response was something like that: "Yes, but I also know how they do things. Your estimates were pretty close to theirs, yet you seemed to understand my position better. You quickly identified what's was really important and only you proposed to cut some of the initial functionality to make it in time. Despite the estimates, you were pretty sure we could do it. And you looked very techy too.".
My friend told him "He's 7x better than average senior developer", I used to joke like that after two seniors in a company we both worked for failed to deliver a pretty complex real-time calculation framework for one project in 2 weeks. Had to do it myself... in 2 days. Of course, that's just a joke, I've just had more experience in that field.

Scheduled a little alcohol meetup on Friday evening, should be interesting.
 
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astr0

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You can't hire yourself
Was added to my signature recently. It's from a talk with 260+ CEO on a Saturday party.
I was joking about his business and explaining our plan to him cause he's kind of my mentor.
How we would put marketing over sales, how we would compete for projects that no big company wants to compete, how we would have better margins than he had 5 years ago and a lot of happy clients to bring us more and everything would be nice and dandy.
He listened carefully and then said: "Yeah, as long as you don't start hiring".
Me: "Why? What's the problem with that? We would just find really good programmers and pay them more than you do)"
He: "You can't hire yourself"
And the plan went to the sewers cause I immediately realized what he means by that.

An employee can have a great skill and be really good at what he does.
But he would never have the same motivation as a business owner.
He doesn't get paid for the output.
He doesn't want to wait for the results to follow.
He wants to be paid now for 40 hours a week of work he has done.
And he won't overwork unless he wants to (and is getting paid for that).

Just good to keep that in mind.

Update:
Had a talk with the client mentioning we think of pivoting to products, but one of my partners don't have enough money for living and it's holding us back.
His response was very simple and genius.
Just delegate the work I have on the NDA project to my partner so he could earn some easy service money.
There's still some 5-figures of service work left.
He also thinks that this is a great idea and that he tried to lean me on that road all the way (which he or his project probably did).
Also got an agreement for doing more startup-like(bigger) projects together in the future on the same terms (discount for development in exchange for minor equity in the project). He got experience, money and a shitload of connections.
We would definitely learn a lot by working with him and it's zero-risk cause we're getting paid for what we do.
Did I mention that "hourly rate" with this heavy discount turns out to be a bit more than my partners currently earn on 9-5?
And that's still a win-win.
NICE.

“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.” (Mother Theresa) - thanks, @Andy Black

P. S. Just to clarify: my partners have nothing to do with the NDA project, they voted not to take it for a "company", so I took it for myself and they were ok with that since we haven't "started" officially and I'm wasting my 9-5 vacation to build it. More details here.
 
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astr0

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Quick update:
NDA Project got titled app of the week on another online niched magazine. We're pretty much got China and the English-speaking world going and focused on Russia and South Korea now. Still no localization though. Korea can be huge from the feedback we got already.
 

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View attachment 24812
Yes, that has some changes. Some goals from the previous table didn't have much sense and was more a result of overthinking than of what's really important. I've also decided to not include specific business goals here, and focus only on what's really important.
The current version is more focused on finding opportunities and detaching income from time, I've had a job already.
"B2B win-win deals" is pretty much the only one synthetic goal, but that's just so I could keep that in mind and focus on it a bit more.

Many great people here suggested that I'm overthinking too much. That really helps in programming, but not in business.
A good example of it is my plan for the service company. It's was very detailed and should've worked. But once we got past the first step better opportunities appeared in front of us and the whole plan went to the trash bin.
We're pretty much dumping the service idea and switch to products, possibly with some external funding, so I'll leave the idea here. Feel free to execute on it if you wish:

Building a small-to-medium web app MVPs with a lot of optimizations on the delivery(building) part and some additional value added. Offering a big discount for equity for the products we believe in ourselves.
Small means no big companies compete for that, and won't actually take that if someone wants to build it with them.
It also means we won't have big teams and a lot of management involved, so the company structure can be pretty horizontal.
Marketing would go over sales as we need a lot of small projects, not a few really high ticket ones.
The main optimization on the programming side is that we would be doing everything with MERN stack (possibly some changes here and there depending on the project, but not too much) that means every employee would be replaceable with any full-stack developer and we can afford to hire less experienced programmers as they would grow up in skill pretty fast with doing the same thing all the time.
On the client side, the main benefits would be going as much full-service as possible so we can over-compete freelances really well and saving their time both in communication (more direct) and delivery (really short terms cause of the optimizations above). To get "higher hourly rates" for this, we would only charge a fixed price and have fixed plans, so won't spend too much time estimating and discussing that with the prospect.

For example, @Patrick Jones Satistime would fit into our middle plan which would be:
$10k, custom design, 2 weeks delivery or 50% money back, some advice on idea/features and with further marketing for free.
I think we could even get the idea a bit further and suggest Calendar integration from the start and some sort of mobile app too. 2 good developers would be working on this and we would outsource the design to a freelancer on the first day.

The only two concerns with that have been jumping in equity with foreign clients (complex from a legal side) and focusing on time with employees (they won't overwork if they have to, even with good bonuses).

Feel free to use&improve that, hope it has some value. Our final niche is narrower than "web apps", but that should work with pretty much anything, the focus is more a requirement for marketing and building a brand.


Decided to go with the flow
Like Aang on my new avatar :). From the first big client project, I've learned a lot on the business side of "startups". I've also made some really good connections with successful people. Initially, we thought that products are hard, risky, and blah-blah. It's not that hard really. Yes, we won't have an income from day 1. Yes, they may fail eventually. But we can mitigate the risk for that with picking the real needs to solve and possibly having an investor if we totally have to.
There a lot of opportunities for products around based on needs and wants, so we would have to filter them.
The filters would be:
  1. The problem can be solved with web/mobile better than with service.
  2. There is competition already and a room for us to take the initiative.
  3. We would have a competitive advantage on execution. That's probably would be the niche we picked for doing service business. It's pretty complex and the existing competition is weak. That means we can't be over-competed easily with more money and a bigger team. They must have experienced people too. This has just about the right Entry for us to pass and keep the competition away. It's a broader niche than the current client's project and I have non-compete on that, but it's really narrow (basically don't make a clone). Still better to tell the client what we up to, so it won't be a surprise. Don't think he would mind unless it's direct competition which we won't be doing anyway.
  4. The need and market for it should be enough to make for a living and the ceiling should be at least 10x higher, but not much bigger. That means we won't compete with big players but still can make for living on it even without taking the huge market share. Really good for the first project.
  5. Full CENTS. C is kinda tricky in that niche, we would always have to rely on someone, but it's interchangeable and not have to single one all the time. Think like making a physical product and sell it on Amazon, e-bay, retail and anywhere else but not on your web site. Little better than that, but pretty similar. S is tricky too, cause it's pretty limited for a single product. The niche is growing, so it's not a long-term issue. And there's enough Scale already to hit GOLD.
So yeah, a real need, advantage on execution, smaller products (B2C and B2SMB) cause B2Enterprise is more sales than marketing and a higher Entry that would be harder to pass at this stage.
I would definitely spend more time on marketing than programming with this :).

Back to a status update:
NDA Project is still growing organically, but the growth changed. We had lots of new users before but less increase in revenue. Now user growth slowed a lot, but the revenue is increasing faster and more users are actually using it. This must a symptom of word-of-mouth growth. This week spent much more time on marketing than on programming as we're going to new markets at that's what important. To think of it, I already have income from this project that together with my income from investments covers my family expenses 2-2.5x. And we have a plan to potentially multiply the revenue 4-5 times in a month or two. Wonder where that would lead.

Done
  • Found a replacement for myself as an employee. He can start in a month. That was kinda funny and I don't want to turn this into RANT, but most candidates were... not that good. Web-only experience (my boss don't need that) and deploying on Amazon/Azure, configuring WebApi to talk JSON and to store session in DB seems to be the biggest accomplishment for them. Zero knowledge of what's required here like networking, low-level performance stuff, multithreading/concurrency, high-availability/high-reliability. Were using ORM all the time that we're using here too, but with MS SQL while we have PostgreSQL, and that scared them as F*ck. Yet they've posted their resumes and wanted a higher than average salary. The second best guy actually wanted 50% of that and was willing to learn, but the one I've picked had that too and more experience on what's needed here already. I've adviced him to ask for a bigger salary, my boss won't get poorer with that, lol.
  • Some ethernet in the office. 30-40 min to change the setup left from the previous renters with their cables and sockets. No power sockets yet and we would go for per-desk lamps instead of improving the overall office lighting. Will only change bulbs to the brightest one later.
  • Some minor programming tasks on the NDA project
  • Giving marketing ideas and thinking of strategies seems easier than coding, at least it doesn't take that much time. That was a relaxing week.
  • Last day on the Job. I would never get a job again, ever, no matter what.
Fail
  • The payment gateway for an NDA project had hard times for an hour. 8 payments were hanging in the air, 1 somehow managed to pass through in between. We have an automatic system that tries to refund if anything's wrong, but cause the issue was with the gateway itself so the refund also failed and it does one try only so we won't accidentally refund multiple times. Had to refund manually, 2 of 3 users affected immediately did what they wanted after that. We definitely need a better system to at least notify us of this isseu.
Now
  • Go with the flow, think BIG and high-level, don't focus on details too much, only if's there's a problem that has to be solved
  • Some work on the NDA. The most important is localization and that big milestone with complex functionality that I need two days 100% focus to code the core. The roadmap for both ends in 2 weeks. I would be free from 9-5 and have more than enough time to finish it.
  • Focus on surrounding myself with successful people. Still, a lot to learn from them. The first step would be to go to the alco&hookah meetup today where the client, lawyers, and a few IT business owners would be. Have to overcome my heavy introversion and try to make contact with them. Free legal advice on launches would be really helpful, and probably we can do some coding work for them too, they've kinda niched on that. My extroverted partner could help with that a lot, but he's still on a business trip and won't be here until Sunday.
  • I'm a desktop guy, but really thinking of buying a new laptop. Mine's pretty much dead and bulky/heavy 17". We would need to do some local presentations and getting feedback. Somehow, on my first two failures, I bought new laptops too... With the IT outsourcing to work from home and from the office, with MMO startup cause we were sometimes working with a partner in public places as he didn't want someone from his company to know (red flag, by the way).
  • Don't focus on small and not important things at all
 

astr0

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Attachment for the previous post. Had issues with it probably due to forum going down, can't edit the previous post too.
 

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A little update while I have some time.
NDA project had a new best day on Monday, beating the previous best day by almost 70% and going very well for the whole week. It's got announced competition coming soon.
One side-product from an established company in the big industry for our niche coming in weeks that we're pretty scared off as they would definitely have more functionality ready and more money for marketing. That would slow us down.
Another is our clone from guys in the same niche who has a different product coming in December and I totally don't see any chances for them.
Have to work 300% again to squeeze 2 months roadmap before the first competitor so we would look decent and at least our users won't switch to them. After that, we would launch bigger than ever marketing campaigns in Asia and Russia. It's being prepared already. We tested the waters and it seems like ads are better for Russia and influencer marketing from niche authorities better in Asia. Can't do campaigns sooner cause we know that 30% of people leave cause we still don't have one big feature and more than 50% cause we don't have localization (at least in English-speaking countries conversions are 2x better with ads).
We have 398 customers so far, 260-450 daily visitors with <10% bounce and it's still growing without any paid traffic source.
With daily profits we get now, my % is already pretty close to the salary I had and it's not tied to time. And by working 10 hours/day my service payment is close too ).

It feels good to not have a job :)

Done
  • I and partner bought 2 used Lenovo T480s for ~$820, they $1800 new here. Mine got 820+ days warranty, 3 battery cycles, and 97% capacity. His 18 cycles, 99% capacity. Found out that they also have touch screens and 4G a few days after purchasing. I5-8350/16Gb Ram/256GB SSD/great keyboard/2 monitor support/light & rigid/10+ hours of web browsing or 6+ hours of working on the battery after some tweaks. Probably the best value for the money so far :).
  • Ordered 3 used HP zr2440w monitors for $100 each. They having some difficulties with delivery... for 3 days already. Would probably buy 3 more. It's really a steal, monitors of that kind are rare and ~$150 used here.
  • We got 90% of the furniture delivered, as promised
  • Some minor to-dos related to the office and quitting the job (that actually took almost the whole Monday...)
  • 70% of the big milestone @ NDA, some minor features too.
  • Eating more healthy now. Feeling some results in a week already (more energy, but getting hungry sooner lol).
Fail
  • Gave a $35 commission present to a bank by making transfers from the wrong card in a hurry(credit with 4% commission instead of debit with 0.25%). Not a big deal, but it flew away in 10 seconds :rofl:. It was P2P transfer between my accounts in different banks and both banks supports said they couldn't cancel it.
Now
  • Finish that big feature and test everything well as it's pretty complex and affects existing functionality.
  • Localization "framework" so translators would have time till the end of the week.
  • Maybe more tasks from the roadmap.
  • Remove the tooth... and it's scary cause I had an appointment for last Monday evening but after they dentist looked on X-Ray and my mouth he started to act pretty nervous, said that it would take 2-3 hours and he probably has to do it in the university where he works not in the clinic. Called someone and scheduled me on next Monday morning. I don't enjoy being at the dentist, but this time it's really creepy. He mentioned he would have to saw the tooth and remove it in pieces... Hope it won't take more than 2 days to recover. Switched weekend for Mon and Tue - the beauty of not having a job anymore :).
  • Think of more ways to defend from the major competitor. Do more research on what he has, assuming our niche product would be very close to its big brother.
 
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astr0

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I won't be posting money results after this one cause most of them probably would come from the NDA project.

NDA Project got competition on the way. One rival is live and it's not great. They focused on part of our functionality but done it not in the greatest way possible and probably they are using us and doing a lot of stuff manually cause our usage in that part dramatically increased. I know what they could do to over-compete us there, but they won't have time now since our next milestone would leave them in the dust. Another big one had their design leaked from the integration with the same big player that we're integrated. Looks nice and they, as we expected, plan to have more useful stuff than we have so far. Would be tough.

Seed investors got an opportunity of +50% exit and we can sell some of our shares too. Two big players got interested almost to the point of buying the whole project. We don't have a reason to sell and investors got around 18% ROI already and growing, so nothing happens so far.

Overwritten best day yesterday by ~10% and I've remembered 2740 from MJ's book. Our average is far from that yet, but we had some of those days.
Edit: looks like Today will set the best day again.

Done
  • Big milestone, lots of improvements, more automation, and part of the next milestone for NDA project. Still can't say about the results as the first 4 days were so-so, the last ones were really great, more than we expected from this.
  • Strategic marketing and scale plans for the next 2 months and the next 2 weeks.
  • 9-5 "free schedule" completely beaten by not having a job. I work less and much more productive. Laptop also helped a lot, had to work 5-6 hours on the battery from different places(usually car) this week.
  • In progress of re-reading Unscripted and somehow it seems different now. From the intro, I don't have a crazy expensive car, but I do have a car that I won't sell. Everything else seems there already.
  • Somehow my mom hasn't said a thing about getting a job as she did during previous ventures. Only asked where's our office, who's on my team and wished success.
  • Had a discussion with the client and poker friend during lunch. Turns out both of them dumped 6 figures each into software startups already with zero returns. This is their first really profitable project (poker friend is there as an investor). They had concerns about my partners cause of the pink glasses and zero entrepreneurial experience and offered some future cooperation if we would want some.
  • By going to lunches with cool guys somehow realized that I've started to eat more healthy. Vegetables do make me feel better and give more energy. The only downside is that I get hungry much sooner.
Fail
  • Another big refund to 5 clients cause of the same data bug from the provider we had last time... Figured out a way to avoid it without an external source of data and implemented it already. Requires some manual interventions and time window for fixing is not huge, but that still much much better than nothing.
Now
  • Somehow I'm uber productive without 9-5, so probably will finish the whole roadmap in the next week or two.
  • One of my partners left 9-5 too, I think I'll transfer the NDA project service work to him during this week and will move forward.
  • Launching a large marketing campaign after all the translations would be done. The framework and some translations are done already, waiting for contractors to do the rest.
  • Got a crazy good and bad idea at the same time. It's a platform, more specifically a trading platform. Definitely CENTS, huge need, etc. However, as usual, Entry... It needs $2-$3m investments for turnover bankroll. MVP can be developed in 2-3 months. Got 6-figures investments secured from poker friend and CEO friend, but that's not enough, they understand it and have connections to try to get more. I don't want to give more than 50% to investors, so seed valuation would be #1 issue. #2 issue would be that huge companies from Wall Street are also interested in doing something similar. We can get to the market faster, but they would probably destroy us with their authority later unless we would be able to grow insanely fast and secure the #1 position. Haven't told my partners yet and dunno if we should pursue it, as the chances of choking are really high...
Update: Yes, Today is the new best day, beat Yesterday by 13%. I have a bad trait to lose interest in something after achieving decent success. Now I know what can push me forward:
25091
just random recent motivational posts from project's telegram group after we rolled out the update.
 
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