10 lessons from my startup journey so far

Written on 19th December, 2011

It’s almost exactly a year since I started documenting my startup lessons learned through this blog, and since my first post last November, I’ve blogged 26 times. I’ve been lucky enough to have fantastic comments on many of my posts, and this has always extended my learning even further by hearing others’ experiences and insights.

I thought it would be a useful reminder for myself to pick out the top 10 lessons I’ve learned. I hope it might be useful and interesting for some of you, too.

Let’s get started:

1. Getting regular exercise can improve your sleep

Over the last year, I’ve consistently had times when I’ve felt mentally drained but not physically tired. The single most important change I’ve made in the last year is to become disciplined about going to the gym, and to realise the value of exercise. I now go to the gym most mornings. It gives me a great start to the day and helps me sleep much better overall. Read the full article

2. Bootstrapping on the side is a great way to start

We’ve now built up Buffer to almost 80,000 users. We’ve been through the AngelPad incubator in San Francisco, raised a little funding, expanded the team to 3 and have great monthly revenue. Interestingly, however, it all started with me working on the side whilst working full-time. There are many benefits of working on something on the side. Read the full article

3. Achieve scale by doing things that don’t scale

One of the biggest influences on my attitude to building startups is Eric Ries’ Lean Startup Methodology. It’s all about reducing waste, and many of the concepts are easy to grasp but very hard to implement. One such concept is to do things initially in a way which is unscalable. One example: to begin with, personally email people instead of setting up an automated system. This is a key technique which, looking back has served me well, and looking forward will be important to keep reminding myself of. Read the full article

4. Embrace feeling uncomfortable

This post clearly resonated with a lot of people, as hundreds went on to share it with their friends and followers. It’s all about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and gathers my learnings from people I admire such as Seth Godin, Ben Yoskovitz and Tim Ferriss. The key takeaways are that there is no growth to be made in staying comfortable, but there are ways to grow without being uncomfortable all the time. My key question to you: “What are you doing to feel uncomfortable?” Read the full article

5. Learn to fear not shipping

Seth Godin attributes much of his success not to producing better than others, but to shipping more than others. I’ve learned that the main reason we don’t ship as much as they could or should, is that we fear shipping for so many reasons. In this post I attempt to turn the fear on its head and highlight why we should really fear not shipping instead of shipping. Read the full article

6. Enjoying every moment is a choice we all have

Perhaps the most profound lesson in the last year for me, and one that I consistently struggle with, is that enjoying every moment is a choice we all have. This is all related to living in the present and valuing day-to-day happiness over ambition. There is enjoyment to be found in doing customer support, and there is enjoyment to be found in washing the dishes. When you’re in this place, you have so much energy for everything and can achieve anything you want. Read the full article

7. First time founder? Beware of the social ideas

This particular lesson is one of the ones which took me almost two full years to learn. My premise with this is that if you’re a first time founder, you’ll struggle to raise funding for your startup, especially if you are at the idea stage with no traction. With that situation, you’ll struggle to build a startup which requires a long pre-revenue runway period. The conclusion is that you are far better off working on building a “tool” with immediate value you can charge for and no difficult network effects. Read the full article

8. Think carefully about your “coming soon” page

All startups begin somewhere, and more often than not it is with a “coming soon” page. I think it’s a very intuitive action to take when you’re building your startup, but with this article I question the idea of the “coming soon” page. My thoughts revolve around the lessons I’ve learned from Eric Ries’ lean startup concept and how I launched Buffer. I believe that in many cases, the “coming soon” page is a lost opportunity to validate your idea and avoid wasted time building something people may not want. Read the full article

9. Consider the different ways to bootstrap your startup

With some luck along the way and many mistakes made, I’ve managed to take Buffer from an idea to a cashflow-positive business with over 80,000 users, great investors and inspiring co-workers. To reach this point, I bootstrapped Buffer for 9 months until hit ramen profitability. I’ve learned a lot about bootstrapping, and in this post I share my experiences. Read the full article

10. 4 key steps to kickstart your startup

I’ve found that often the hardest part of creating a startup is actually starting. In this post, I try to distill what I’ve learned from many not so successful ventures and one somewhat successful one into 4 simple steps which to get onto the right path. It’s not that easy, of course, but I truly believe these steps are the key ones. The challenge is in having discipline and executing the steps. I include links in the article to help with that aspect. Read the full article

It has been an amazing journey so far, and I’m really thankful to all of you who have supported me over the last year. I’ve been lucky to be in touch with so many of you and I’ve had some incredibly useful comments here on the blog. I’m planning many more posts in 2012 about more of the lessons I’m learning and experiences I’m having, and I look forward to your company.

Which of these lessons resonates with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Photo credit: scott_48074