Austin has a strong startup culture amid a large community of software developers. As part of that culture, there is a lot of talk about entrepreneurship, new ideas for SaaS businesses, and avenues for securing funding. It’s an exciting place to launch a company, and an entrepreneur can plug into the community for new hires, feedback, or even cheer leading. On the flip side, all the talk about hockey stick growth curves and successful products puts pressure on developers and entrepreneurs to succeed now and fuels a sense of failure if your business idea hasn’t yet achieved success. Worse, the disdain held for “lifestyle businesses” means more entrepreneurs dream of an out-of-the-park product rather than growing a small business.
But it’s no secret that 50% of all businesses fail within the first five years. Trying for the one-shot home run product–with or without funding–translates to even higher odds your business will fail. In contrast, taking a service business approach with a breadth of offerings enables you to grow a client base while seeking opportunities from your client work for new software products.
At minimum, you want your business to provide a reasonable income and involve an area of business that excites you. When my daughter started college at CU Boulder (another great town for software startups) last year, I wasn’t thrilled with her choice of major. But when the university’s president addressed the parents in an orientation, he advised us to encourage our kids to follow their passion, because finding work they love would lead to success.
That’s great advice for entrepreneurs, too. Figure out what it is you want to do, then seek the path to get there. I wanted to write code when I started my business, but without a portfolio of past work, nobody was going to hire me to create software for their company. So, I went door to door and sold website services which at least in some way allowed me to write the code I loved.
As we grew, we looked for opportunities to create new yet sometimes woefully unsuccessful products. And we kept on learning and improving both our services and the products that were finding some success. January will mark our 12 year anniversary, and in addition to earning enough for a comfortable lifestyle, I’ve had the pleasure of working with over 500 clients in varied industries, and I’m thrilled to be the developer behind a great ticketing software.
That’s the kind of start-up culture I’d like to see more of here in Austin. Less dreaming and more working at your passion. Because if you can make ends meet and love what you do, finding a path to a moderately successful product is icing on the cake.
My entrepreneurial journey began in 2000 and continues today as I steer the development of our flagship SaaS product, ThunderTix.
A Yankee transplant living in Austin, I am fortunate to be surrounded by other developers. My passion is business, and I love learning and sharing anything about software and product development.