I am a sole founder (my startup is http://www.Swayable.com) and I don’t code. It’s not that I believe going completely solo is the way to do a startup (I have an Advisory board with some amazing, and experienced, folks). I just haven’t been around a lot of engineers in my career and haven’t found that great technical co-founder match…you know, that person you just click with, have a great working relationship, and decide to start a company together? Nope that’s not me. I have met amazing people: Marketers, PR, Project Managers, you name it…but no engineers!
I’ve been told to go to networking events, which I do, but I am not willing to give up equity, or settle on my vision with someone I met at an event for 2 days, or jump into bringing someone on board just because they can do the job, but not find out if they are a good fit. To me, finding someone I am willing to share equity with is a lot like finding a spouse – It has to be right, has to click and they have to really be a great compliment to my work style and passion. I am not going to find that after meeting someone or chatting for 2 days.
I had 1 of 2 options, with Swayable – give up on the idea, or project manage it and outsource the work and hope that eventually I’ll meet the right people to help build a great team. I went with option 2.
So here I am, outsourcing the bulk of my site, getting creative with crowdsourcing for the busy work and at the same time working my “day job” which is a co-owner of a marketing project management business. I am also a mom of twins and a wife. Needless to say, it’s a bit challenging but having a startup as a “hobby” (I define hobbies as something that doesn’t pay the bills) truly is my passion, some people chill in front of the tv at night, and I am reviewing new builds, sending feedback testing and documenting future dev needs… crazy as it is. I love it!
The hardest part for me has been some of the ups and downs of development. I have a fabulous outsource company (www.beyondsoft.com) that truly is making my vision a reality. However, the challenges with outsourcing your development is that you have to first find a great team/company to work with, then you have to know how to write a good specification document and you have to know what you want to build up front as if you go out of scope it can often cost more, (typically you can get a little bit of flexibility, but if you start changing scope to much it costs money).
You also have to stay on top of this daily, providing feedback, testing everything to death, and being super detailed in how you provide the feedback as you are the PM on this, you have to be the one finding everything that needs to be fixed/updated. As a sole founder this is all you.
I also learned a very good lesson during some of this. Design is clearly not my forte. I hacked together a design with my rudimentary Photoshop skills. I found that it was great for this beta version to get testing and feedback, but it was horrible at actually helping communicate visually what my site is about. I finally brought on a great designer to help bring the site to life. That design revision will be live hopefully by end of December. The design portion can help so much to make the difference between interesting/sticky and just plain boring. I am excited to see this new design come to life.
I am also learning that everything takes WAY longer than you expect. I am used to working on projects that I control the outcome, or there is a set date, like an event. But with development and outsourcing, you have to tack on a bit of time. If you are a dev and outsource you probably have a better idea of timelines for development, if your from a marketing/project management background wit no dev experience, your concept of how long things take is probably off like mine has been.
Swayable is not where I want it to be, yet, the next updates coming shortly will get it to a great place and with the iPhone application launching in a month or so, I’ll be getting closer to my initial vision. I just keep chugging along!
Most of all, I like the challenge of being a sole founder, but look forward to the day that I can hopefully have some great people on my team that can compliment my skillset, bring ideas and fresh perspectives and be strong where I am weak. I have faith that if I just keep building, testing, building that I will find the right team….