Today I launched two potential online businesses in one day. I wanted to write something up about what they are and why I did this.
Earlier this year I left a wonderful job at a wonderful startup in San Francisco with the goal of traveling for a while, then heading back to my hometown of beautiful Minneapolis. I wanted to try coding up scrappy MVPs of products while traveling, my rationale being that if something showed promise I could grow it no matter where I was. Travel proved to be too much dang fun and I didn’t build as much as I thought (ended up just traveling for shorter than I planned but coding less), but I did crank out the following two MVPs.
Project 1: VestGenius.com
This is a website where startup employees can go to enter their stock options situation and get a readout of info on their equity situation including vesting schedules, share breakdowns, and hypothetical tax implications of taking actions like exercising or selling shares. Best of all, users can opt-in to this data being anonymized and made part of an open dataset to promote industry transparency (a shockingly small amount of information like this is publicly available).
I’m testing two monetization avenues with the site. The first is a freemium model where a pro membership gets you extra features and access to a members-only chat channel (maybe members can help each other make better decisions). The second is a site sponsorship (can’t think of a more valuable user base to target than this). We’ll see if any of it works or if people find it useful!
I settled on VestGenius in a kind of funny way. I sat down with the list of company ideas I’d been keeping for years. I picked out the best ones, put them into a spreadsheet, and scored them in three categories: likelihood of acquiring users, likelihood of being able to monetize, and ease of building an MVP. I tallied the scores, sorted them by highest score, and VestGenius ranked number one.
I tried to be absolutely as scrappy as possible. Honestly it’s hard for me to release something with code this rough and this public. I kept thinking the web dev police’s sirens were going to start whirring outside my window. “Sir… uh sir… your entire front end can’t be a 1500 line long pile of archetectureless jquery slop. You’re going to need to come with us.” I just really like the ruthlessly minimalist approach of a guy like levelsio and at some point trying to be more levels than levels became a way of jokingly fighting against my tendencies to over-engineer before validating the concept. There are too many symphonies in web dev and not enough punk rock bands. If nobody cares about VestGenius my next mvp won’t be quite so crude though. I’ll try to fight against slow development any way I can, but not so much that I shoot myself in the foot like I did on this one.
Project 2: DecentralizedJobs.com
This is a job listing website that runs entirely as a decentralized app on Ethereum, but which also showcases some of my ideas on the potential of decentralized apps in general. Of the two projects this was actually built first, but I didn’t want to launch it without first building something more representative of the kinds of more practical and scrappy things I had envisioned. This one was a really cool learning experience but more experimental and admittedly kind of self indulgent to just let myself play around with cool new tech 🙂
It’s great actually getting this stuff out there and I’m so curious to see what happens next. I’m especially excited to sink into a rhythm now that I’m back home and to build better and more quickly without the constant very fun distraction of travel.
Will either of my projects get any users or make any money at all? Will one of them catch on and I spend my next few years building it? Will my crude code buckle and break? Will they fall flat and I’m on to building my next MVP?