Playing on Easy Mode
Whenever I give advice to first-time software entrepreneurs, I tell them to play on easy mode:
- B2B not B2C
- Recurring revenue
- SaaS not self-hosted
- Established tech stack
- Make your version of an existing product
Number 5 is often overlooked because people love to invent new things. Resist the urge to make something completely new. David Cancel calls this Innovation, Not Invention.
Innovating on an existing idea is one of the best ways to increase your likelihood of making something people want.
Build yet another bug tracker. Build forum software. Build a help desk tool. Find a space where the existing products are ordinary and make something remarkable.
There are existing patterns for this. Here are a few:
- The Lightweight Product. Fewer features, but much better UX (Drip, Buffer)
- The Delightful Product. Give your product a personality and focus on the little details that make people smile (Freckle, Slack)
- The Single-Purpose Product. Do one thing exceptionally well with zero distractions (Pinboard, TinyLetter)
- The Opinionated Product. Take a strong stance on how a problem should be solved (e.g., budgeting software YNAB forces you to manually enter expenses so you’re conscious of your spending)
Very few software markets are winner-take-all. Find your niche and take your share.
You can build a formidable business off of a small twist on an existing paradigm with built-in assurance that that you’re solving a real problem.
The only variable on easy mode is your execution.