Startups

The Startup Challenge: Setup Your Own Tiny Incubator and Practice to Launch

When our projects are close to the end, we forget about them and go to the next one, without even launching them. It’s time to stop.

Roberto Sannazzaro
Nov 30, 2020 · 7 min read
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Photo by Tom Swinnen on Pexels

couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine, sent me a link to an extremely interesting video regarding what I have re-baptized: The Startup challenge.

Pieter Levels explains the journey that brought him to bootstrap Nomadlist and while doing so, he talks about a framework he invented and tested on himself: the 12 startups in 12 months challenge.

The incipit

Pieter, the founder at Nomadlist, claims that developers, musicians, creative peoples have a few problems in common: finishing things.

When our projects are close to the finish, we forget about them and go to the next one, without even launching them.

We (I), can definitely relate to this, in love to start something new, but when it comes to finishing that old project our noses turn up…

The second (related) problem is launching, aka fear of failure. We often can hear someone saying things such as “till this is not perfectly-completed-shiny-brand-new-awesome I’m not gonna launch”, moreover, you can always come up with another little feature and fix for that small UI bug.

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Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

This creates a chain of events where we will (most probably) never be able to satisfy our imagination with reality, leading to the fear that our product is never ready to launch and users will never like it, so no efforts are put into the launch phase at all.

Pieter concludes that he will force himself to launch, working on a new startup every month (idea, development, launch), for one year. Naming this his Tiny personal hyper-fast incubator.

hile someone might say “those aren’t startups” I would like to say that someone started delivering DVD home-to-home, someone else, started selling books online, and another guy, started by building a social network to connect users interested in rallying for common causes, then:

The big vision happened after they found a market fit with their MVPs.

Count me in

As you already might have guessed I got pretty fascinated about this. And I decided I will “join” the challenge, however with some little adaptations.

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Screenshot by author.

What about those credits…?

Some time ago, for a project bigger than usual, I decided to apply for some AWS credits, and I was lucky enough to get granted 1000$ Under the program for self-bootstrapped startups. However, the situation ended up with me falling in both the inability to finish and the inability to launch.

On the other hand, I still have 1000$ and the ability to experiment with tons of AWS services and premium support without thinking too much about the wallet, and with the hope to actually, one day, have to pay some pretty expensive bills since my startup’s users needs resources.

What I need is a method

Being a 9-to-5 data scientist and investing a huge amount of my free time in full-stack development put me in a situation where I can somehow relate reasonably well to both words. Actually, my main motivation to invest in learning full-stack development would the ability to self-bootstrap and MVP and launch by myself. So what is wrong with it?

Turns out, what is wrong is the lack of a methodology combined with the inexperience in launching (and failing) multiple times.

That is the main reason I force myself to do “The Startup Challenge”, with a bit of twist of course!

The plan

I decided I will stick as much as possible with the “original” proposition of the startup challenge, building a new product every month, more specifically performing the following tasks every 30 days:

  • Get the idea
  • Figma prototype the UI
  • Blackboard/paper whatever architecture scheme with database schema and business logic
  • Coding
  • Launching (medium post + hacker news or similar)

However, I said there is a little twisting here: the main differences from the original idea are the way I decided to plan the first two startups I want to build: Grocero (in progress) and Linkr.

Micro-disclaimer: I am totally aware that writing a medium post doesn't really define as a launch. However, at this stage of the startup challenge, this is perfectly fine. I need to get the machine running, and eventually use the momentum. Currently, I am not sure about I will “launch” future startups, but as someone said:

You don’t have to get it right, you just have to get it started.

Grocero 🥬

The main idea behind Grocero (currently under development screenshots from the real app!!) is a marketplace where local, independent, and gourmet grocery stores can sign up and sell their product to users on the platform.

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Grocero’s landing page

Users can then buy high-quality selected groceries without the hassle to find good quality products.

ُThe idea actually comes from a problem I face every day: the inability to find good quality groceries in supermarkets and chain store grocery stores.

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localhost:3000 AKA where everything begins!

From a technical point of view, I consider Grocero a good starting point for my challenge. The web app contains a wide range of very common functionalities such as:

  • User/store login signin/signup
  • Display multiple items such as stores or groceries (card components, carousels…)
  • Shopping cart functionality
  • Sending an email to users/stores
  • NoSQL database to store info with relationships such as store → products, or user → stores

I consider this “startup” a way to again brush up and get everything together for the next steps.

Linkr 🔗

Linkr consists of a bio link tool, where users can have one link in their bio that redirects them to all their social media or content. Once a user creates its unique link, it can paste it into the Website field of their social media bio, then it is only needed to update their Linkr links, without changing the link in their bio!

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Linkr has not a UI yet, so you can enjoy this beautiful view of Burano, Italy. (Photo by Pixabay on pexels.com)

Again, this is definitely the most innovative startup idea you have ever heard. It is actually strongly inspired by Linktree. However, the reason I want to build and launch this startup is mostly educational, an app implementing this kind of idea, from the technical point of view, consists of a set of pretty common and important features, such as:

  • Fully responsive design
  • User signup and login
  • URL params, such as linkr.io/<YOUR_USERNAME_HERE>
  • NoSQL database to store information about users and their links

Additionally, an app of this kind opens possibilities for implementing a basic (keep it simple, it’s an MVP) analytics tool, displaying how many times and when a link has been clicked, plus it is also possible to gather system information for analytical purposes from the user with a tool such as this one.

Conclusions

Pieter Levels actually did not manage to finish his Startup Challenge, he eventually built 7 startups, and among them, two succeeded: Nomalist and RemoteOK.

The main way to evaluate the success of his startups comes from the combination of the definition of a startup by Eric Ries and Paul Graham:

A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty. A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

and

A startup is a company designed to grow fast. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup. Nor is it necessary for a startup to work on technology, or take venture funding, or have some sort of “exit.” The only essential thing is growth. Everything else we associate with startups follows from growth.

Which he condensed in the following sentence:

A startup delivers a new product and grows it fast

Hence, Pieter decided to deliver his startup, and then give himself another month to see if he can get market fit if it doesn’t work he would consider the project failed and he would eventually switch to the next one.

I will be posting my updates on The Startup Challenge on Medium, hence, follow me to stay updated ⚡️

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +756K people. Follow to join our community.

Roberto Sannazzaro

Written by

Business-oriented Data Scientist, full-stack developer in the free time. Fascinated by everything that merge business with tech.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +756K people. Follow to join our community.

Roberto Sannazzaro

Written by

Business-oriented Data Scientist, full-stack developer in the free time. Fascinated by everything that merge business with tech.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +756K people. Follow to join our community.

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