This month marks the ninth year anniversary of our little company. We incorporated it with big dreams, and 9 years later, I can say three things with certainty – (1) Our dreams have only gotten bigger, (2) Even the tiniest of dreams take a lot of time, energy and effort, and (3) Life is wonderful (not to mention, challenging) when it is filled with dreams (and perhaps, more so with unfulfilled ones!).
I wanted to write a little about how the journey has been, and what’s ahead of us. If you have owned successful startups, you are not going to learn much here. But if you are like me (hopefully you are much better than me, though!) or are getting started in your journey towards building a successful company, you may benefit from some of my thoughts here, mainly because I am still on that journey and don’t yet have all the answers. Personally, I have learned a whole lot more from yet-to-have-made-it stories than actual success stories because I think folks tend to forget the difficulties once they have actually made it. So, they don’t end up sharing all the mistakes they may have made along the way.
When I started my company, my only aim was to build software products – day in and day out. Between my better half and I, and our daily walks, we discuss plentiful ideas and some of them actually do make a lot of sense. One of those ideas soon enough became work that we concretely planned and started executing on. But before that could happen, and while it was happening, I realized I had never taken off from work that I got paid for, and dealing with the reality of – I am not making any money, even if voluntarily so – wasn’t as easy as I had imagined. To be candid, it was extremely hard and that has been the most difficult part of the journey so far. So, I picked up consulting projects and while I immensely enjoy doing it, it also meant that our own product ideas had to take a back seat. That was the first challenge on day 1, and it is the biggest challenge in year 9.
Over the course of the last 9 years, I’ve led numerous projects from initiation to production, and have helped a number of my clients realize their dreams. It has been immensely satisfying, especially when I tell myself not to feel jealous about it! At a certain point of time, my wife actually told me to treat her like a client so I would meet her deadlines (they aren’t easy ones, not one bit). This year, we’ve gotten as close as we ever have to realize the first of our goals. While there is still a long way to go (I am about 65 APIs in, and have another 200+ to go), I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Like everyone else, we’ve had our fair share of challenges but not being able to do our product development work full time has been at the top of that list. There are a number of others as well. Being bootstrap funded, you don’t have a whole lot of money to play with, and the cost of running servers (even tiny ones), purchasing licenses for development tools (Insomnia, Trello, Slack, Jira, Mindmup, Weebly, Infogram, EC2, Heroku, RubyMine, IntelliJ, MongoBooster, Insomnia, +…), paying resources, etc., etc. is nothing short of overwhelming, to say the least. Last but not the least, credibility certainly doesn’t come cheap. For someone like I who lives life by the books, I haven’t always had the pleasure of finding help that shared the same ideologies. Add poor internet connectivity, not so perfect phone lines, and accents sometimes stronger than mine to this mix, you probably get the idea.
While it would have been nice, like real nice, to have not had any of these challenges, and cruised to our destination, I would have to accept that the satisfaction may not be the same after all. When we do reach our destination this year, and launch our first product (fingers crossed), and even before a single user signs up, we will celebrate. Oh yeah. We certainly will! While being successful will be measured in terms of the number of sign ups, there is an intangible aspect of this accomplishment that only my wife and I will understand. We’ve both given it all so far, and will continue to do so till we go LIVE! And once we do, we will celebrate, take a trip, come back and start our next journey. The next product.
Thanks to all my clients who have hired me, taught me and challenged me with exciting work. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to march consistently towards our dreams. I am ever indebted to each and every one of you.