Solo Founders

Vishnu Mohandas‘ blog post Persisting as a solo founder immediately resonated with me, after discovering his content on the HackerNews front page.

After 2.5ish years of building my own business (to date), I can acutely sympathise with each of his challenges and observations in designing, developing and selling his vision.

Overwhelm is never far away, and given a foothold, can quickly unravel the carefully balanced mindset required to sustain, let alone succeed.

Tracking numerous technical threads across clients and products, practicing rapid decision-making, managing relationships old and new, maintaining a continuous learning mentality, juggling financial and time pressures… All the while remaining productive in your primary creative and technical disciplines… Bringing a product or business to the marketplace is not for the faint of heart.

Once I accepted the loneliness and the lack of a financial cushion I had to figure out a way to keep building without burning myself out.

— Vishnu Mohandas

One of my biggest learnings was to embrace the need to quite deliberately manage myself, as one would expect a dutiful leader to manage his troop.

Some of the lessons can feel so simple, yet hold the most value. My key learnings to date have been:

  • Ask for help when you need it: It’s a fallacy to think you will go far alone, so practice mutually beneficial collaboration frequently
  • Design dedicated downtime: This will never happen by accident, so ensure proper recovery and previous headspace
  • Learn to respectfully say “no”: If you’re ambitious and productive it comes natural to want to take every opportunity. But know that overwhelm can quickly revert good intent to a disservice and ultimately disappointment.

It took me approximately one year to recognise and truly internalise each of these key learnings.

The spark of inspiration fuelled by sincere ambition can ignite a beautiful and compulsive momentum. Though unchecked speed can quickly become unstable and unsustainable.

Remain conscious of your workload, capacity and well-being. Favour patient, sustained growth with timely bursts of effort for meaningful returns. Just because you could do more, doesn’t mean you always should.