My birdfind-app repo got its first commit on Nov 24, 2022, and last commit on Feb 2, 2023. In this post, I’ll put down some learnings from this experiment.
After Solvent Protocol got closed down, I wasn’t in a hurry to find my next job. I always like to take a few months of break between jobs to collect myself and explore. To give myself the freedom to think open-endedly about what I want to do next. This time I decided on being an indiehacker. If you need to learn what that means, here’s a definition ChatGPT gave me.
An indiehacker is a self-employed entrepreneur who builds and operates an independent online business, often focusing on digital products. They embrace a transparent and knowledge-sharing community while striving for financial independence and the ability to work on projects they are passionate about.
The product I was building was called Twips at first, but then I changed the name to Birdfind. The initial idea was that it would be a one-stop platform for finding people on Twitter—a search engine for Twitter users. You could filter the list of users using a multitude of criteria, e.g. followed by, follower of, follower count, etc. Later on I pivoted to a similar but slightly different product where you could discover Twitter users within a niche. It was an intense 2 months of obsessive building, and I loved it. But like all things it came to an end, the primary catalyst being Twitter’s new API policy.
Here are my takeaways from this 2 months journey, as bullet points.
- As a programmer, it was effortless for me to keep building features and obsess about getting the engineering right. I did not think enough about the business part of the journey, about the users and their problems. I should have kept the feature set of the MVP very small, and focused on doing sales and acquiring customers after that. Because true insights only come from interacting with the customers, and I did not do enough of that.
- When you’re building solo, there’s no one to bounce ideas off of or who will call you out on your bullshit. This can be a strength: you can move fast without any teamwork or communication overhead. But in most cases it ends up being a weakness, especially if it’s your first time building a business. VCs know this; that’s why they are wary of investing in solo founders, and they do have a point.
- Being an indiehacker makes little financial sense. You will make a lot less money compared to full-time jobs for a considerable amount of time, probably years. Even if you’re itching to ditch the 9-5 and dive into building a business, financially it makes a lot more sense to go for the VC funding route.
- As a solopreneur, you’re forced to limit your product’s scope and pace of development. For example, for Birdfind, I shied away from being a competitor to the big social media management apps because I knew I couldn’t build and maintain all those features by myself. I have noticed this trend across other indiehackers on Twitter too, all of their products are very small in scope, and in most cases that translates to losing out potential clients or dropping good ideas just because they are larger in scope.
- There are some high-quality educational resources about startups on the internet, it’s a good idea to go through them before jumping in. It doesn’t have to be thorough; just a week or so of learning is enough to get started. But it’s very important because there are some classic mistakes and pitfalls that everyone is prone to make, and these resources help you avoid just those. These resources include Y Combinator’s videos on YouTube and the book The Mom Test.
Given everything I’ve said so far, building something of your own is a very rewarding experience, especially once you have some momentum. It’s a lot of fun, and I think everyone should experience it at least once in their life. Working on Birdfind gave me a taste of the joy of building something, but it also made me more realistic about how to approach creating a startup and what to expect from it.