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The Joy of Making Something Anyway

One of the most important things a founder can do is just get started. Technical founders have a built in advantage here: while other people need to worry about convincing someone to build out their first functional prototype for them, people who know how to code just need to spend time. The tools to build platforms are all free and open source; the best operating system for web development is free and open source. All you need is any computer with an internet connection, and time. But even if you're not a coder, or you're not technical: everyone has the skills to build and create something that addresses a need, or that fosters joy and empathy. Everyone has the ability to sit down and make something.

The most successful mindset is probably not to think about it as a startup at all. Just build a tool that's actually useful for someone. Get their feedback; iterate and improve it. And only then worry about whether you can build it at scale with the time, team and resources potentially at your disposal, or whether it can be the center of a viable business.

And maybe it can't be viable; maybe it can't scale. Maybe you want to make the changes that would be necessary to make either of those things work as a startup. But it's completely okay if you don't: there's nothing wrong with building a tool as a hobby, or deciding that it was a fun experiment, open sourcing the code so other people can learn from it, and walking away. Or if you do run it as a business because you want to work on it full-time, it's also okay to decide that you want to create something that covers your costs, instead of shooting for the moon and aiming to create a trillion dollar behemoth. (Which of these is likely to be most successful anyway?)

If we let the machinations of the tech industry dictate what we build - for example, if we treat a "no" from venture capitalists as a value judgment on the thing itself - then only the things the tech industry finds valuable will be built. This kind of blinkered economic Darwinism hits tools for underrepresented communities most of all, but it also hits the products, tools, and communities at the edges of society, that are trying new things and tugging on the borders of culture. In reality, that's where the really interesting stuff is, and where the really interesting people are.

Maybe it can't be a full-time endeavor. Maybe you won't have kombucha on tap. Maybe there won't be nap pods and investors knocking down your door. But maybe you can find time and space anyway; you can brew your own kombucha in a jar; you can take a nap in your own bed; you can stay independent and refuse to take money from repressive regimes. It doesn't make it not worth it. And the communities, people, and tools that dare to be independent (or are forced to be and dare to exist anyway), are the ones that we need to exist the most.


Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash