There are dozens of myths about starting a business as a side project. There are thousands of prejudices about doing it on as a side gig. Today I'd like to talk about two of them. The first one is that there is no way to start a profitable startup on a side - one has to do it full time to get any tangible success. The second one is - as a solo founder best strategy to work on a startup is endless multitasking.

Time allocation

Start small

It becomes a rule that most of the software startups start with a minimum viable product(MVP) development first. Usually, if we think about the minimal product to prove product idea, it could lead to ridiculously small projects that do not require significant time investments.

For example, over the last few years, I've built a set of MVPs with a different level of success with every one of them, and I will possibly return to some of the ideas later on.

  1. Heepodoo is a travel agency, and it was built in a matter of hours. Typeform + DigitalOcean + domain, and I was ready to make hand-tailored travel experiences for people worldwide.
  2. Smartlyse is API based solution for data validation. The initial version was built during my 24 hours hackathon. Overall it took around 16-18 hours to build core logic and a bit more time to make UI look great.
  3. Perfront is a single stop solution for social network management. MVP was developed in less than 24 hours.
  4. Yarkly is my current project. This one is a bit bigger. I estimate it around 100-150 hours of work time. The project already seems to be a very fat MVP, but I made user research, and the risk seems to be acceptable.

Persistence is critical, or discipline equals freedom.

Many initial software projects do not require a lot of time, and constant time dedication eventually will lead to a developed product. For example, Heepodoo could be developed in a week with 20 min a day dedicated time allocation. More complex projects require much more time, and completion will take months or more, but in the end, it is still worth it for me.

Based on this, I believe the myth is busted, and it is possible to start and test a business idea on a side before going all it with it.

Focus on one thing at a time

Multitasking is expensive. Multitasking without extreme need is even more costly. Let me explain with a simple story about my friend Bobby and how he decided which way to approach his tasks in the task tracker.

Bobby's story

Bobby is an aspiring entrepreneur who is starting a startup, and he needs some help with task prioritization. At the moment, Bobby has 5 responsibilities. Each task took 5 min to be done. When the job is complete, it generates ten coins every 5 min. There are no dependencies between tasks so that they could be done in parallel. How should Bobby approach the execution, multitask, or do it sequentially?

Luckily Bobby is good at math and economic modeling. Hence, he decided to make simple models to compare and chose the approach that has better financial outcomes for his specific situation.

Multitask model

Before we start, we need to set up some constraints and make a set of assumptions to make it simpler.

  1. For our calculations, there is no task switching cost, despite the fact it is another way around in real life.
  2. Each task executed for a 1 minute at a time, and then execution is shifted to a next job.
  3. If the task was executed before all the jobs are done we count cash flow as a one for the full interval

Bobby is a big believer in visualization, so he tried to present data in different ways. After a set of trials and errors, Bobby came up with the following table, representing task execution.

Task 1 Task 2 Task 3 Task 4 Task 5
Time from start Progress Cash Progress Cash Progress Cash Progress Cash Progress Cash
5 min 20% 0 20% 0 20% 0 20% 0 20% 0
10 min 40% 0 40% 0 40% 0 40% 0 40% 0
15 min 60% 0 60% 0 60% 0 60% 0 60% 0
20 min 80% 0 80% 0 80% 0 80% 0 80% 0
25 min 100% 10 100% 10 100% 10 100% 10 100% 0
Totals: 21 min 10 22 min 10 23 min 10 24 min 10 25 min 0

The average task execution time from the beginning is 23 min.
Total earings are 40 coins.

Sequential tasks execution

In a sequential model, Bobby decided to be very strict and apply all the rules and constraints he had in the beginning. Moreover, there is not much to adjust. Tasks are executed one by one.

Task 1 Task 2 Task 3 Task 4 Task 5
Time from start Progress Cash Progress Cash Progress Cash Progress Cash Progress Cash
5 min 100% 0 0% 0 0% 0 0% 0 0% 0
10 min 100% 10 100% 0 0% 0 0% 0 0% 0
15 min 100% 10 100% 10 100% 0 0% 0 0% 0
20 min 100% 10 100% 10 100% 10 100% 0 0% 0
25 min 100% 10 100% 10 100% 10 100% 10 100% 0
Totals: 5 min 40 10 min 30 15 min 20 20 min 10 25 min 0

The average task execution time from the beginning is 15 min.
Total earings are 100 coins.

Bobby's conclusions

Having all the facts, it is clear that Bobby has to approach all his tasks sequentially. The sequential execution model not only generates more significant cash flow but also has lower average task execution time, so it means customers will have great new features faster.

Conclusions

There are tons of different approaches on how to launch a product in a fast and efficient way. However, two essential things help me stay aligned with my goals and ace them daily.

  1. Persistent time allocation for the project is crucial. Even 20 min a day will make a massive difference in the scale of a few months. Most of the startup ideas do not require substantial initial time investments before it will be apparent if the idea is viable or not.
  2. Deep focus and zero multitasking. In my case, focusing on a single problem at a time leads to much better results in the long term, even if we would neglect other factors that in favor of a single task focus model such as task switch costs.

In the next series

That is all for today. Subscribe to my newsletter, and you will get the next post from my startup diary. See you next time when we will talk about simple strategies to find the next billion-dollar startup idea.

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