agraddy.com (Anthony Graddy)

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1. NumbersQ | 2. NetRiv

12 Startups in 12 Months (Open Source Edition)

12 Startups in 12 Months (Open Source Edition)

My goal for the next 12 months is to launch 12 startups and release the source code for each startup under an MIT open source license.

  1. Background
  2. History
  3. Philosophy
  4. Open Source
  5. Schedule
  6. Final Notes
  7. Progress Report

Background

I've been a full-time freelance software developer for 15+ years with the ultimate goal of eventually transitioning to running my own bootstrapped startup. During that time, I've built numerous online apps and online store customizations for clients, but I've never launched a successful startup of my own. Most of my startups have failed due to poor marketing.

In 2020 and 2021, I rebuilt an SaaS service that I had built years before. One of my biggest weaknesses is marketing and I was determined that I was going to use the service as a tool to experiment and learn marketing and advertising. At the beginning of 2022, my goal was to spend a little bit of my free time each day optimizing the advertising for the site. I absolutely dreaded working on the advertising and just about every part of my body seemed to despise working on it. I started realizing this was not going to work. The SaaS never crossed $100 / MRR (for those not familiar with MRR, it never averaged more than $100 per month in revenue) and I decided that it was time to focus on a different approach.

I had a few other ideas for services that I wanted to create and started reexamining the best approach for potentially marketing these services. In the process of research, I came across Plausible.io and their story of creating an open source analytics product. I've always been a big proponent of open source software and their story really resonated with me and seemed to line up with one of the ideas I had (taking on a market incumbent that offered a "good-enough" service for free).

However, I had other ideas I wanted to do as well. As I was investigating ideas in the IndieHacker community, I came across various posts about 12 Startups in 12 Months and it all seemed to make sense. I decided to combine the concepts of 12 Startups in 12 Months with the open source concepts that Plausible was implementing and have created the: 12 Startups in 12 Months (Open Source Edition).

History

Many people over the years have taken on the "12 Startups in 12 Months" challenge. For those of you not familiar with the challenge, it started in 2014 when Pieter Levels announced the goal to launch 12 startups in 12 months. I remember hearing about Pieter's goal at the time and thinking "that sounds like a crazy idea but is a really impressive goal." Pieter ended up launching 7 startups before deciding to focus on the startups that were really taking off.

After Pieter, there have been other people who have taken inspiration and started their own 12 startups in 12 months. Most have not completed the challenge but many of them have successfully launched new ventures out of the challenge. Here are just a few examples of others who have taken on the challenge:

There have been others who have done different variations of the 12 in 12 challenge. IndieHackers has a 12 Startups in 12 Months Group. Overall, most people who have taken on the challenge have experienced various levels of success.

Philosophy

Different people have different reasons for taking on the challenge from wanting to focus on finishing things, to working on launching, to increasing probability of success, to quickly working through ideas. My thoughts are similar, I have a tendency to have a lot of ideas but I often enjoy the planning and building but the actual launching and marketing aren't as enjoyable. By having a set schedule, it will force me to launch and market.

I generally prefer to listen and learn over share and promote, but I know that sharing and promoting is an important part of modern marketing. By launching 12 startups, it gives me a built in excuse for promoting because I'm simply giving updates on the challenge I'm working on. What would normally feel awkward to me, will feel more natural because I have a built in reason for sharing (it is part of the challenge).

With all the people taking on the challenge over the years, one concept I haven't seen mentioned is quantity vs quality. There is a really fascinating story from the Art & Fear book about a ceramics class where half the class focused on quantity and half focused on quality. At the end of the session, the group that focused on quantity ended up creating higher quality work than the group focused just on quality.

Jeff Atwood had a great blog post breaking this concept down: Quantity Always Trumps Quality. He mentions "Quantity always trumps quality. That's why the one bit of advice I always give aspiring bloggers is to pick a schedule and stick with it."

Another important concept, that I think ties into the 12 in 12 challenge, is Parkinson's Law which basically states that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." By having a set schedule with aggressive goals, it focuses the work and increases output.

Some of the reasons why I believe the 12 Startups in 12 Months challenge has been successful for many of those taking it on is because it forces "Quantity over Quality" and also harnesses Parkinson's Law to increase productivity.

Open Source

Each startup that I launch will have the source code released under an MIT license. I'm approaching the open source portion of this project strictly as "open source" not "open contribution" similar to the SQLite approach: Open-Source, not Open-Contribution

One of the unique approaches I'm going to be taking with these startups is that they will have a unified login and billing system. Once you have created an account for one service, you will be able to login to any other service without creating an additional account. The startups will have a unified billing system so that you will receive a single monthly charge for all the services you subscribe to.

This unified login and billing system will not be open source. The open source version of each startup will include a login system, but it will not be the unified login system.

Schedule

I'm officially announcing the start of this challenge on Friday, July 1, 2022. The goal is to launch a startup on the last Wednesday of each month.

The plan is to also update revenue numbers each month for each project that has launched. My commitment is that you'll get 12 posts on the last Wednesday of each month. It may be a one sentence post of "I've failed" or it may be a "Here is the next launch" or it could be "I've pivoted." No matter what, I'll be posting at a minimum 12 times.

Here is the launch schedule for the next year:

Final Notes

Looking at others who have taken on the challenge, it seems like many of the people would come up with startup ideas from month to month. I already have a list of 12 different startup ideas (I actually have more than 12 and am having to decide which ones to focus on).

Many of these projects have arisen from other needs that I've had over the years or services that I have wanted where the solutions in the marketplace didn't really meet my goals. I've also learned that the more you build, the more you realize new services that you wish existed. My assumption is that building these startups will spur even more ideas.

I have a strong preference for simple and basic services that do what they say and do it well. There is a tendency among startups (especially those with venture funding) to continually add more and more features which in turn both raises the price of the service as well as the complexity. I believe there is strong demand in the marketplace for simple, affordable solutions.

I'm excited to get started - talk to you soon!

Progress Report

This section will be updated with links to the startups and should follow the schedule listed above.

Startup 1 - NumbersQ

Startup 2 - NetRiv

Startup 3 - Launch Goal: Wednesday, November 30, 2022