The Indiehacker's dilemma (AKA existential crisis)

The Indiehacker's dilemma (AKA existential crisis)

I'm the guy trying to build 52 startups in 52 weeks.

I am now 13 days into this challenge. My first 2 "products" are done.

The first one is a landing page: I made it for me, because the idea of going on a holiday with a ragtag bunch of do-no-good builder-type people sounds romantic to me.

It was going to be epic

I probably didn't take into account the fact that random people might not want to go on a holiday with me. And pay for it too!

I got zero signups.

The second one is It's an analytics tool that shows a live timeline for each visitor to your website. It looks like this:

Pretty colors

I tried to use as many "out of the box" services as I could, like Auth0 for authentication and Stripe for payments, but still I lost valuable time.

While building it, I was scared of all the wrong things.

"What if they're going to spam the database and make billions of rows and I'd have to pay thousands of dollars in AWS charges". Better spend 2 days protecting against it!

my elaborate defense mechanism against spam

But actually, the worst thing that can happen is that no-one cares and there are zero rows in the database.

I worked on it for a week from a hipster coffeeshop, coding about 12 hours a day, and the minute it was finished I lost all motivation. I think I got scared what people would think.

This is a recurring pattern for me and I'm trying to drill down into this feeling and find out why it happens.

Then I discovered Hotjar already exists. But an indiehacker friend gave me some hope again:

There's always room at the bottom. I like that. I think I'll settle in here for a while. I can live as a bottom feeder eating the scraps.

Then I saw a tweet about Plausible, a privacy focused analytics tool. They were bragging about how they only collect aggregate statistics. And then I was like, what the hell. I'm promoting the exact opposite. I'm not evil like Google, but still.

What if the market is moving towards more privacy and people actually don't want this level of data.

But you can keep going with thoughts like this. It's never ending. At some point you have to just get over it.

The problem with Indiehacking as a community is that we make it sound easy and appealing, as if there is a process that you follow and if you just stick to the plan for 1 year it's all done and you're successful. $1k MRR after a year no big deal.

Life as an Indiehacker, easy peasy

The reality is that there are no rules and it's a dog eat dog world. Sure, everyone is friendly. And it's nice to meet new people and help each other. But in the end you have to find something people will pay you cold hard cash for. And that's not an easy thing to do, not by any stretch of the imagination.

In the gambler community (aka probability practitioners) there's this thing called the multi-armed bandit problem.

If you play the slot machines in Vegas, you decide after every play if you're sticking with the current machine or switching to another one.

It's also called the explore/exploit trade-off, and it's a problem us humans have been dealing with for forever.

As a hunter-gatherer, if you found a spot with some game and berries (but not a lot), how long do you stay there? At which point do you decide to try to find a better spot, and potentially starve to death or get handsomely rewarded with the juiciest meat?

So what I did, by saying I'm going to build 52 startups in 52 weeks, is saying I'm going all in on the exploration phase.

As always in life it's a fine balance to tread. It's easy to give up too quickly. Or to only make glorified landing pages without any marketing at all.

On the other hand, I got burned before by falling insanely in love with an idea and literally working on it for more than a year non-stop with little to no outside validation.

Let me tell you, it's not a good feeling when reality finally settles in.

What is the way out? I genuinely don't know. What I do know is that telling stories works better than anything else I've ever done.

Obviously we're going a bit meta here now, but that is what I'm doing right now.

Instead of my default approach of locking myself in my room to code, I now try talking to people and writing about what I'm going through hoping that other people can relate.

You guys reading this, you are not my target market. You are builders, innovators. You don't need my half-baked solution.

You do however, maybe, care about my story. And you might amplify that story to people who do care about the product.

After 13 days of hard work, what do I have to show for it? $0k MRR and 0 users.

Trying to reach escape velocity at the moment feels more like forever being stuck at the bottom of the gravity well.

But I'm slowly assembling a rocket.