In recent years, my interest in companies that build in public has piqued. The first time I recall encountering this concept was when Nathan Barry initiated the building of ConvertKit as part of a six-month web app challenge, where his goal was to progress from 0 to $5,000 per month in revenue. Although Nathan didn’t reach that goal within six months, he still launched a successful business, all in public. It is still going today, I use it, and annual revenue has recently passed $30 million.
A few years later, I came across Indie Hackers, a website about individuals building their products publicly. What I find fascinating is that these individuals spend some hours each week striving to build a business. Some find success, some do not, but they all appear to be striving to launch a product while transparently revealing to the world what they are constructing, how it’s being built, and providing updates on their failures and successes.
Building in public interests me for several reasons. One reason is that others share similar interests with me. As I read about what they are doing in blogs and on the IH website, it encourages me to believe that building a small business is a possibility if I put in the work. Along with being motivated, you learn from others’ experiences regarding what strategies succeeded and what didn’t and possibly use this insight to shape your journey.
Indie Hackers describes a four-step process to building in public and shares links to content that can assist you in each of the areas. The four steps are:
- Learn what’s possible
- Take the leap
- Build in public
- Grow and thrive
Each of these four areas is detailed to assist you in overcoming the common obstacles you will likely encounter. In the first step, “learn what’s possible” there are blog posts on inspiration, the basics of building a public business and what types of products you can build.
The second step, “take the leap”, has posts linking to finances, building a team, and coming up with an idea. While I often interpret “indie” as an individual, it’s not rare for two founders to collaborate on a project, leveraging each other’s skills to advance. In the case of Notic, I work with a co-founder on the project who greatly contributes to the motivation due to accountability.
The third step, “build in public”, links to articles on building quickly, launching the product, and finding the first users. All of these are deep topics. Here’s a real-life example:
I am currently working on a startup with a six-person team. The three software engineers/developers could only devote a few hours a week to building the product. Creating software, particularly to a high standard, isn’t a swift and straightforward task. We found that the launch date would be months away, if not over a year away. To get started more quickly, we met and discussed what other options we had, and the first idea was to go the no-code route. We quickly settled on Sharetribe, and a few weeks later, after some testing and working out a few business-related ideas, we were able to ship. A fully developed in-house system is still in the plans, but being able to launch with no code was simply a great idea. It might be that the product never gains traction, but at least we could test that sooner rather than later.
This single decision is only part of building in public. Naturally, we need to document and share our decision to opt for a no-code solution rather than launching our product. By sharing our experiences publicly, others may gain insights from our journey and even appreciate our work enough to register themselves.
Building in public is more than moving quickly. As mentioned earlier, several other steps are within that section to help you launch your product and find your first users.
The final step listed is called “begin growing”. This moves on to marketing and engaging with users, bringing them to your product and retaining their interest. Ultimately, we want them to pay for and use the services we build. More importantly, we aim to make their lives easier by using our services. The final aspect of this stage addresses how to handle your success. In an ideal scenario, your business only requires your full attention, and the revenue transitions from being active to passive as you acquire customers and word-of-mouth referrals. This additional freedom might give you what you need, or you might use that as a springboard to launching your next business, perhaps in public.
So where does this leave me? Well, I have previously mentioned another of my startups, which is a tool-sharing service for communities, but this website is Notic, specifically about a product that my co-founder and I are building called Notic Meet. Notic Meet is designed to help note-takers, or those that take minutes in meetings, to keep track of discussions over various meetings. We are excited to be building this project. Although Indie Hackers suggests moving quickly, we’ll take a slower approach in this case, as we are both still mastering C# and .NET to enhance our skills.
Additionally, given the customisation required, it’s challenging to construct this using a no-code solution. I’m good with this taking longer. The plan isn’t necessarily to make a ton of money, rather, it is to build a project and learn how launching a business works.