Previously I wrote about what I knew I needed to learn in order to build a product. Occasionally I’ll get asked if I had so much to learn why was important to me to build Punchli.st alone.
I’m sure there is some deeper psychological reasoning but the easiest way to explain it is I don’t want to blame anyone else if this doesn’t work. Previously I have partnered with a few different friends to varying degrees of success. I have lost track of the business starts, but I can count with one hand the startups that are still around, zero.
I want to prove it to myself that I can do it.
So let’s talk about the pros and cons of starting a startup by yourself, but the first thing we should say is that this is only really a viable idea for certain types of businesses. Do you want to do a software startup? Great, read on. The other thing I should be clear on is that I don’t think this is a forever type thing. I have no desire to grow a business so big that I don’t get to leverage the byproducts of that success.
@geoff352 has told me multiple times that one of the key byproducts of business success and growth is opportunities for others.
Pro: You don’t have to argue with anyone. You don’t have to wait on anyone else’s schedule. You know what it should look like.
You don’t have to argue with anyone.
There is something nice about having a vision in your head and executing on it. Sometimes the loudest voice in a partnership will win. The key is while you might be able to move quickly because of the lack of debate you do have to consistently test your assumptions on the market. There is something special about not having to share the pressure of mistakes. That probably sounds counter-intuitive but for me, I like being in the fire and working through it.
Occasionally over the years I’ll think up a piece of furniture and build it. To be able to envision something, put the time in, and then have others appreciate, it is a special feeling. Not relying on anyone else is pretty liberating.
You don’t have to wait on anyone else’s schedule.
If your startup is a side hustle, I think having co-founders is usually a bad idea. Priorities change and ambitions grow, I have found that it is really hard to get on the same page for long enough with part-time co-founders. If you are going to start building something as a side hustle you really only have to worry about your schedule. You can go heads down on the weekend and you don’t have to worry about your co-founder not.
You know what it should look like.
About a decade ago I went to Future of Web Apps in Miami. Looking back at the event it was a hell of a line up: Joel Spolsky, Dave McClure, Gary Vaynerchuk to name a few but the talk I still remember vividly was Jason Fried. He had a ton of great points and still to this day I appreciate how his approach to business is still pretty counter to the typical startup advice. One of the things that still rings in my head was a comment he made around never hiring if you haven’t done the job yourself. His point is you won’t make the best hire you can if you don’t know what the job entails. For me, that has meant I need to learn how to be decent at sales to customer services before I can even think about outsourcing it.
Cons: You don’t get to argue with anyone. Things only move as fast as you, slow. You can potentially overbuild.
You don’t get to argue with anyone.
I think a lot of the beauty of a startup comes from the team becoming an actual team. The ups and downs solidify this group and are a built-in support group when you need it. Sometimes that group needs to say no to each other.
Being solo means you have to really be honest with yourself often about whether what you are working on is what is best for the business. It’s often lonely and you don’t get to high-five your team when you win.
Things only move as fast as you, slow.
I truly believe in the 10x developer, I have seen it a handful of times in my career to know it is true. So I know when I do software dev, something I just recently became quasi proficient in, it kills me knowing that what takes me days could be done by an expert in moments. I think the same is true in really anything from writing this blog post to deploying a server. If you are patient and passionate about what you are doing there is nothing better IMO than being able to do it yourself. Just know it can be incredibly frustrating at times.
You can potentially over build.
Since you don’t have to argue with anyone it is pretty easy to think you can code your way out of a problem. To me, the downside of this is actually the things you aren’t focusing on. Having the discipline to work on multiple aspects of the business consistently is really hard. If you go heads down on building for too long something will suffer.
I could probably write 100 more pros and cons but you get the general idea. I feel personally part of it is a phase for me and when I’m ready for a team it will happen but another part of me feels like this is prepping me to run a really great business.
Doing this solo comes with a ton of drawbacks, probably more cons than pros, but for me, I don’t think I would change anything for the world. Working with teams have been some of the most rewarding parts of my career, I love the camaraderie, but there is just something special about making the leap without the net.
Getting StartedApril 5, 2021
I started to create these little 30 second intros to Punchlist. I still think it is amazing that you can get a project built and shared out in just a few seconds. Here is the first one: Getting Started. I plan to record one for each of our integrations plus various parts of the app. [...]
New Feature: Video FeedbackNovember 1, 2020
Feedback usually takes the shape of two forms: very actionable task-based feedback and then less precise directional feedback. Both are valuable and typically relative to the stage of your project. Later in a project, you will get feedback like changing an image or fixing a typo, and that feedback is often better written because you [...]
New Integration and ExportOctober 1, 2020
We know seamlessly getting into the existing workflows of project managers is key to why it can make a huge difference in their projects. The key to that has been our integrations, and I’m happy to say that we have recently added Wrike to our list, which already includes Asana, Trello, Jira, Clubhouse, YouTrack, and [...]
Integrations: Github, Clubhouse, and YouTrackAugust 16, 2020
Our goal with Punchli.st has always been to make the life a project manager easier. Gathering feedback to wrap up a project is often the most frustrating part of a project because you are often asking a client to do something they are not used to doing. Our first step was to make giving feedback [...]
Feature: ScreenshotsAugust 1, 2020
Punchli.st is most often used while a website is continuously changing. The beauty of our tool is that the feedback is never against a version of the website that is outdated. Previously, we often saw with screenshots or pdfs; feedback would come back after changes were made or would be conflicting with someone else’s feedback. [...]
Small Update: Sort OrderJuly 17, 2020
Depending on what you are trying to accomplish the way items are sorted on a page could confuse things. Recently we added two new ways to sort items in a Punchli.st project. First, you can now sort by position on the page. So regardless of when the feedback was given the list will show all [...]
Integrations: Asana, Trello, and JiraJuly 15, 2020
Gathering feedback on a web project quickly is fantastic, but if getting that feedback means a tedious amount of work to organize it in your project management tool for your team, it can feel counterproductive. Recently we launched direct integrations with Asana, Trello and Jira. Three of the more common task management systems. Now when [...]
File/Photo UploadMay 18, 2020
One of the main goals with Punchlist is to help project managers stay on top of everything they need to get a project done. Keeping track of documents and files is really hard. Then knowing what photo is for a certain section or copy for a particular page adds to the complexity. Happy to say [...]
Feature Update: Rich Text EditorMay 1, 2020
Being able to give clear concise feedback has a lot to do with how you can format your comment. We’ve updated our comment box to now support Bold, Italics, Bullets, & Inline Links. We considered adding more formatting but it is a fine line between being helpful and distracting. We’ll see how this goes and [...]
New Feature: @MentionsMarch 30, 2020
Earlier this year we rolled out team accounts so organizations could share their subscription with the rest of their team. This allowed organizations to have project managers and team members. Where PMs could create and manage projects. Now I’m happy to roll out the next step in this feature line. You can now mention anyone [...]
TeamsFebruary 18, 2020
Punchli.st’s focus is getting projects completed through collaboration. Having your team or client be able to be referenced and use the tool independently is key to that. I’m happy to say we recently launched the ability to invite Team Members and Project Managers to an organization’s account. Project Managers have the ability to create new projects and [...]
New Feature Update: Direct Linking, List-Only View, & ScreenshotsSeptember 27, 2019
🎯 Direct Linking to Items You can now link directly to an issue regardless of what page the item is on. We load the correct page of your project site as well as scroll down to the annotation. These links are public; you can reference the specific item with your team or client. 🗃️ List-Only [...]
New Feature Update: Pages and BreakpointsJuly 24, 2019
Screenshots and Pages One of the more significant UX issues we have seen over the last few months is that it was hard to know which pages had feedback already. It took a little hunting, and we didn’t do a good job of showing how to get to the page listing. Now we have brought [...]
Read-Only ModeJuly 10, 2019
Excited about this little feature since it came directly through customer feedback. Design Extensions in St. Augustine has been using Punchli.st to help get their client and team feedback. One thing they kept running into was feedback coming into late, so they wanted to be able to lock in all the feedback. We built a [...]
Marking Items Done & TopicsJune 16, 2019
When you are trying to get a project done getting your stakeholders to focus is key. The design has been approved and the last thing you want is to introduce the ability to change something that is baked. One of the key aspects of any review is to focus in on what you actually want [...]
First pass at video onboardingMay 24, 2019
tl;dr; I have a feeling you are going to see more video onboarding within apps soon; people don’t like to read. It is pretty easy to get up and running with a video onboarding, but if you don’t want to read and just want to watch you can skip to the end of the post [...]
Where am I heading?April 2, 2019
For the last 20 years, I have been talking to clients about getting their projects launched. Starting in 1999, my neighbor asked me if I knew how to build a website. I didn’t, but within a few days, I had something running on Homestead (I think that is what it was called, o.g. Webflow 🙂 [...]
My frictionless getting startedMarch 29, 2019
Until recently I had a pretty standard flow within my app. You sign up, create a project, share it out, and wait for feedback. I’ve talked previously about sticking to the critical path. I took a step back and consider how could I get a user to start collaborating on a project as quickly as [...]
How and what did you need to learn?January 16, 2019
tl;dr Everything. One of the thing that surprises people when I talk to them about building Punchli.st is the fact that I had never written software before. I’ve always had a technical slant to my work, but I always leaned toward design and strategy. So one of my fundamental goals with Punchli.st was to learn [...]