I’m a developer that started a SaaS startup.
I constantly hear from other developers that are interested in startups that they aren’t a fit for the job. They don’t have business experience. They don’t have an MBA. They don’t like talking to people. Maybe they even have social anxiety and would rather just stay inside and code.
My conclusion? For selling insurance or doing door-to-door sales, you are probably terrible for the job (really, just awful). For SaaS startups though? You just might be perfect for it.
The dirty truth of high-margin, high-growth SaaS startups is that you can build incredible value without ever leaving your house. You can build it without cocktail parties and sales dinners. You can grow it without having a clue or even enjoying “business.” Frankly, you can build it without investors.
It’s not easy. Startups are damn hard. But the hard parts can be learned and practiced much more easily than changing who you are.
Still, you might not be a fit for startup life, and that’s totally okay. In that case, rule yourself out based on other factors: risk aversion, interest/passion, co-founders, life situation, etc. Those are great reasons not to start a startup!
If you do want to start a startup though, you need to play to your strengths. Don’t try to run businesses that require heavy sales and in-person contact if you quickly burn out on that. Don’t run a business that needs a Don Draper to get off the ground.
Don’t run businesses that can’t be grown through social media channels like Twitter (which has been huge for us).
Instead, pick self-service SaaS products to start with. Think Basecamp, RecruiterBox, Mixpanel, Heroku, and Campaign Monitor. Our business literally spends thousands per month on these products and we’ve never talked to anyone at any of them.
In the startup world, I think the reason YC has been hugely successful is they’ve embraced the developer as founder, and helped them focus on businesses they can thrive in. I still don’t see that in most other “accelerators,” and I don’t think startup cities outside of the valley will truly grow until more technical founders are leading companies.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that YC is the leader by a long shot. They’ve completely flipped the B-school understanding of what a business person looks like.
So, embrace your inner YC. Go out and build something. Turn that side project into a business. Use your skills in automation and product design to build things people want and can use without ever having to talk to you.
Find investors that are excited about your passion and talent, even if you are fucking weird! (on that note, have you met the average startup founder? They’re all goof balls!).
If you’re lucky and people want what you built, you can find better people to fill in the gaps in your personality. You can delegate.
You might realize you were perfect for the job all along, you just needed to find the right one.