Why I'm quitting my job to build an online business

March 30, 2021


I’m quitting a good job to go it alone: I want to build an online product that can generate revenue. Hopefully it will become a sustainable business.

UPDATE 20.05.2022: here’s a retrospective of what happened so far.

Why am I doing this?

I am doing this because I want to have freedom. Creative freedom, financial freedom and the ability to work on my own schedule.

Naval Ravikant, an indian-american investor and modern-day internet sage says the following:

You’re not going to get rich renting out your time. You must own equity - a piece of a business - to gain your financial freedom (source)

So that’s what I’m going to try and do: build my own business. I’m also going to do it alone, I’m going to be “a company of one”. I’m not interested in building a huge company, or taking on investment, or being massively successful. For a start, I don’t think I have the skills nor the discipline to build a hugely successful business. More importantly, there are costs to being successful. Running a large and successful company means being in a high pressure and high profile environment. Constantly. I don’t want that for my life.

There’s a good book about this topic: Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing by Paul Jarvis. He says: “You’re not a machine, so why would you run your business like one?”

The success of my business will not be measured by its profit margin, the number of employees, the size of the series A investment round or the market share. It’s going to be measured by how much freedom it gives me.

What type of business will I build?

I am going to build a small software business because it’s probably the thing I can do best right now. In the past few years there has been a growing trend of solo developers building products and businesses by themselves. Sometimes they are called “indie hackers”. I am joining their ranks.

I am convinced that more and more of these indie companies are going to be created in the near future. There are good reasons for this, the main one being: it has become easier and easier to build and run online products.

Some examples of this are:

Today, it is possible for one person to build an online business at scale, serving hundreds of millions of customers. A few years ago that would have been impossible.

This trend will only accelerate. I would speculate that every large software business that is over 20 years old is at risk that it will be replaced by a smaller and cheaper competitor. This is a race to the bottom, meaning that many of these companies will eventually be replaced by a team of one person!

But back to me and my business. I want to build a software that runs on a central server and that people can rent for a fee. The term for this is “software as a service” or SaaS for short. I find it very attractive because it means that I don’t need to do anything other than keeping the machine running, once it is built. I don’t need to pack my product into a box and ship it via mail, I don’t need to generate creative output (like videos or articles) to keep making money. I don’t have to rent out my time. I just have to make the machine in the first place.

So what is the product?

For the next 12 months I’m going to concentrate on an online scoreboard called keepthescore.com. I originally built it 4 years ago as a toy project and have been improving it ever since. Up to now it was a hobby project that I tended like others may tend a garden. There’s a great blog post exploring this metaphor here.

My garden product has slowly been accumulating users ever since I created it. Here is a graph of the scoreboards created per month since I put the product online. I have done zero marketing, all growth has been totally organic.

In 2020 I took two months off work and added some basic monetization. I regarded it as an experiment which turned out be successful: my hobby was suddenly making 500 USD per month. This was the point where I thought it would be a good bet to invest more time into it. The fact that the product is (still) pretty rudimentary yet users are prepared to pay is an indication that the mythical product-market fit is close.

I find it extremely exciting to be building something and to have real users at the same time. It means I can directly talk to my customers and sometimes even integrate their feedback on the same day. It means that there is a very tight feedback loop which I find highly motivating. It is something that I have missed when working in larger teams or bigger companies: sometimes the feedback loop takes months or even years.

In my old job I was a product owner. But in my new job I’ll have a multitude of roles which I’m very excited about:

Will keepthescore.com be my only product? I’m not sure yet. I will prototype and validate some other ideas in the next 12 months, so that I don’t have all my eggs in one basket. But more on that another time.

Why now?

One of my many favorite quotes goes like this:

“We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one” – Confucius.

My second life began on March 16th, 2020 when my mother unexpectedly died. My father had died of cancer three years earlier. It caused me to radically reassess what I cared about and what I didn’t care about. I realised that I spent a lot of time on things I didn’t really care about.

I decided to spend time more wisely. I decided to not put off big things for later … because later I could be dead. I decided to spend more time with my family and kids. Because my kids are young and I am the sun in their solar system and this time will be gone soon and it is never coming back.

Anyway, I inherited enough money to fund myself for these 12 months without worrying about paying the bills. I’m investing this money in my bet, in my product, in myself. I think my mother would have approved.

That’s all for now. Follow me on Twitter to keep updated.