The Slow-Cooked Side Project

The Slow-Cooked Side Project

How do you grow a side project from a weekend hack into a steadily simmering product that delights users for years to come? In the years after a friend and I created Wejoinin, we realized that what had started as a fun Rails side project had taken on a life of its own - an accidental startup. But did we really want to take the leap into becoming entrepreneurs? No way! Instead, we chose to slow cook our side project and grow our community on our own terms. This talk is both a story and a practical guide to growing your passion project on your own terms, harnessing the power of your "no"s, yet saying "yes" to the things that excite you!

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Andrew Hao

July 11, 2018
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Transcript

  1. The Slow- Cooked Side Project Turn your hobby project into

    a smashing success* @andrewhao 1 / 78
  2. * success 2 / 78

  3. * success 3 / 78

  4. 4 / 78

  5. * success 5 / 78

  6. * success 6 / 78

  7. 7 / 78

  8. * success 8 / 78

  9. * success 9 / 78

  10. * success The satisfaction of learning & self-improvement 10 /

    78
  11. * success The satisfaction of learning & self-improvement The joy

    of creating something valuable 11 / 78
  12. Part I: How to start 12 / 78

  13. How to start Find a problem Find your problem 13

    / 78
  14. My task: Coordinate signups for a vigil event across several

    campus groups 14 / 78
  15. My task: Coordinate signups for a vigil event across several

    campus groups Highly manual process. 15 / 78
  16. How to start Find a solution Can it be solved

    with technology? Aggregate information from disparate sources? Digitize a previously-manual work ow? Automate a tedious task? 16 / 78
  17. My solution: Build an online signup sheet for the event!

    17 / 78
  18. My tech stack: PHP, MySQL, and a little technology known

    as AJAX 18 / 78
  19. How to start Make it useful ASAP Otherwise it sits

    in a corner, gathering dust. 19 / 78
  20. Coded in a sleepless evening 20 / 78

  21. Tons of ugly code. 21 / 78

  22. And Googled to hack together everything else. 22 / 78

  23. The signup process went smoothly and the event was successful!

    23 / 78
  24. How to start Success metrics Did it solve your problem?

    Are other people interested? Who else needs to know about and use your project? 24 / 78
  25. Feedback: "Can we use it?" - other campus groups 25

    / 78
  26. Part II Sustaining your project 26 / 78

  27. Fast forward to 2006... ⏳ 27 / 78

  28. 28 / 78

  29. Hello Rails! Very hip! Insanely productive! 29 / 78

  30. Reframing the problem: Coordinating volunteers is dif cult! 30 /

    78
  31. Coordinating volunteers is: Paper- or email-based Highly manual & error-prone

    Unidirectional No single source of truth 31 / 78
  32. Round 2! Solve a more general problem 32 / 78

  33. Round 2! Solve a more general problem ...in a technology

    I want to learn 33 / 78
  34. Sustaining your project Find a partner Misery loves company Align

    your values 34 / 78
  35. hack 35 / 78

  36. hack hack 36 / 78

  37. hack hack hack 37 / 78

  38. hack hack hack launch! 38 / 78

  39. Unsupported viewing environment Your system is having trouble playing this

    video. For more information, see our Help Center. 39 / 78
  40. Sustaining your project Launch strategically Reddit. Hacker News. Craigslist. Product

    Hunt. The local coffee shop. 40 / 78
  41. Launched within our networks With the friends and groups we

    were a part of 41 / 78
  42. Sustaining your project Have low expectations You'll never be disappointed

    42 / 78
  43. "If we get 100 users, this will have been worth

    it" 43 / 78
  44. Yay success! We launched Something That Is Kinda Useful! We

    learned while we were at it! Our friends like it! Maybe 10 users like it too! 44 / 78
  45. Sustaining your project Viral loops Does your product have a

    pathway to organically grow? 45 / 78
  46. (Oh my goodness, we have users) 46 / 78

  47. Users have wants! "Can you add Feature X?" "This would

    be perfect if you just did Y" "I would pay money if you did Feature Z" 47 / 78
  48. P-R-E-S-S-U-R-E 48 / 78

  49. You have a choice: Do you want to run this

    as a startup and work hard and actually maybe make money? 49 / 78
  50. You have a choice: Do you want to run this

    as a startup and work hard and actually maybe make money? If so - read "Lean Startup" by Eric Ries 50 / 78
  51. This is not that talk. 51 / 78

  52. Life goes on We're full time students. 52 / 78

  53. Life goes on We're full time students. Maybe you're a

    parent, 53 / 78
  54. Life goes on We're full time students. Maybe you're a

    parent, or work multiple jobs, 54 / 78
  55. Life goes on We're full time students. Maybe you're a

    parent, or work multiple jobs, or have relational commitments, 55 / 78
  56. Life goes on We're full time students. Maybe you're a

    parent, or work multiple jobs, or have relational commitments, or life is just crazy 56 / 78
  57. Sustaining your project N-O 57 / 78

  58. Sustaining your project Do one thing, excellently Keep a laser

    focus on your little product. 58 / 78
  59. Vision "the easiest way to build a signup sheet" 59

    / 78
  60. That means: Always free No ads (initially) Prioritize experience Be

    good. 60 / 78
  61. Sustaining your project Be cheap Stay on the "free" side

    of freemium 61 / 78
  62. Service Cost Linode $35/mo Google Analytics $0 New Relic $0

    Sparkpost $0 Bitbucket $0 Slack $0 Cloud are $0 Bugsnag $0 62 / 78
  63. No money no problems Not charging money relieved us of

    pressure to perform for users 63 / 78
  64. No money no problems Not charging money relieved us of

    pressure to perform for users That means we can work on our own terms 64 / 78
  65. Sustaining your project Guard your time Rule of thumb: No

    more than a couple hours a week. 65 / 78
  66. Sustaining your project Keep your job Most things fail. You

    need your Real Job. 66 / 78
  67. Sustaining your project Guiding principles Are we having fun? Are

    we learning? Do we still have a life? Are we proud of the work we've done? Do we have at least one passionate user? 67 / 78
  68. Part III: The future 68 / 78

  69. Fast forward 11 years... ⏳ 69 / 78

  70. We kept it running with minimal effort! Rails 2 to

    3 to 4 to 5 upgrade(s) Rewrote test suite, full functional test coverage Wrote our own CI deployment pipeline Traf c more or less slowly grew each year Built Elm, React components of the system 70 / 78
  71. If you're not doing well... Say goodbye You had a

    good run. Put the product to rest. 71 / 78
  72. We made the decision to put up ads and test

    a freemium model Support this for the long haul 72 / 78
  73. The future Pay for things you can't do yourself We

    contracted out design to a real designer 73 / 78
  74. The future Find out what the users think Software analytics,

    customer interviews. Are you solving their problems? 74 / 78
  75. Customer interviews Calls, in-person interviews Chat widget/Slack chat 75 /

    78
  76. The future We had a few interns! Giving back to

    the community 76 / 78
  77. In conclusion Find a problem - yours! Get it in

    front of people Say no - so you can say yes! Always be learning ❤ being creative 77 / 78
  78. Thanks @andrewhao wejoinin.com With inspiration from: Re:work: Jason Fried and

    DHH The Lean Startup: Eric Ries 78 / 78