Philippe Khin
You should build a business alone
21 April 2020
Hear me out, doing "alone" doesn't mean "doing everything"

When you're trying to build a business, the first thing you usually do is to seek for ideas, look for mentors or other people that have been already on this path and get advice from them.

You'll probably hear a million of times the saying: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.


This saying alone will put off a loooot of people from starting something. That thing can be anything, ranging from creating a YouTube channel, or opening a Shopify shop to drop shipping items from Alibaba or coding a full-blown web/mobile app from scratch.

The problem is that those people will hide behind this saying, and give themselves excuses for not starting something. "I have an idea for an app, but how on earth can I build it if I don't know how to code?" or "I have to first study from experienced people before getting into that business area" or simply "how can a project like this be done alone? need partners dude".

They will postpone everything, don't take even the smallest step to start that thing, and wait until someday, magically some ideal business partners will appear and help them out.

Just. Do. Something. Alone

Hear me out here, doing something alone doesn't mean that you do everything alone. I started to build my app SewaYou, back when I just graduated from college and start to dive into the web development world while having a full-time job.

I didn't have an idea what an API was and how CSS works back then, but still, forcing myself to learn all of these technologies help be become more resilient to new unknown challenges, and the strength to not give up when facing with a bigger challenge.

At that time, I didn't have any colleagues in my surrounding who I believe can ride along with me on this journey, or perhaps I just wanted to learn things for myself by building and coding all the app by myself.

I've learned how to deploy an app to the cloud, how to handle user requests, how to do email marketing, how to do basic design and it even took me a whole day to make the logo. Not only that, I give myself the room to learn how to create an animated promotion video using something like Animaker, and spend a whole week to basically make a two minutes video.

But all of these steps were necessary for me now to take a little step back and to see the global picture of the creation of the app and all the things required to grow it.

Only after that, I got enough maturity and sense of a long term vision for the app to be able to delegate some tasks to some freelancers. For instance, instead of spending time doing an ads picture/video for my app by myself, I just paid 10 bucks a freelancer to get it done quick.

People who rely on others to start something will never do it

My mantra is that you should start something alone. Period. You can disagree with me on that but a lot of people I encountered said they wanna build some world-changing app, and they start to brainstorm their idea, and talk a lot about it without any willingness to do something about it by themselves.

This is especially true for people without coding skills, as they think that finding a developer as their business partner will just solve everything.

Nowadays, there is a plethora of no-code tools (like Bubble, Airtable, Webflow, InVision) which help you build at least a prototype and deliver out there to the world to try it.

There are also many companies that run their entire ecosystem on no-code tools like above.

Without knowing how to code, you can just spin up a quick prototype that will catch the eyes of some people (devs or not) who will be willing to help you out. People will give more respect and consideration to you and are more likely convinced on the viability of the project.

Of course no-code might or might not replace a real app built with code, but my point is that you'll never attract some developers to join force with you with just an idea and some power-point slides. You still can pay and hire some freelancers but that will cost you a fortune. If you truly believe in your idea and want to see it out there being used by real people in the world, just freaking do something about it. Otherwise don't waste time and don't bother to get started if your first step is to find someone.

A real life example or someone who just failed trying to put off all the work to external vendors

A real life example that I encountered was one guy that I know who wanted to build a social network for sport coaches and junior athletes along with their parents.

He got some vague ideas about how the app will work, didn't have a clue on what kind of features he needed. Then, he ended up outsourcing the development of the app to some Chinese development company. All the communication was done via email. He also provided one example of another existing app, which kind of serve as inspiration on what he wanted to build.

His instructions to the external vendor company about how to build the app of his dream? None. No shit. Not even the name of the app. Ah yeah, no, he gave the theme color.

It was a bare "yeah something like this website".

Three weeks later, he got his app, with the source code beautifully packed in a folder.

He shows me a URL to where I can see the app, and then I checked it.

At first I was like "yeah pretty decent for three weeks of work". Then he showed me the example of the other website he gave the vendor for inspiration. I was so shocked ... but at the same time laughed so hard 😂

Why? Because it was an exact copy, fake clone of that other website. Everything was the same, except the url path and one part of the website whose color changed to the theme color he chose. Even the name and logo was the same...

The model was a full working web app, with authentication, feeds, the ability to post things etc...

The copy done by the vendor was a landing page, a dumped version of one page from the existing app, built with Wordpress, with all the main menus pointing to "#" (if you're a web dev you know what it means, otherwise it just does nothing when you try to navigate to that menu page). That work itself, honestly, might take like 3 hours to do it if you know how to do it, and not 3 weeks.

Three weeks wasted, and 1800 dollars thrown away! Damn dude 🤨

It was obviously a scam, but he couldn't do anything about that as he himself had no clue on what to expect.

This is an example of people who think money can do everything. The likelihood that their business will collapse even if they get some funding, is high.

You will end up needing someone. Or not

There are plenty of successful solo founders on communities like Indiehackers, who are either technical or non-technical founders. I myself so far did every aspect of my projects (I can't call it a business yet as it doesn't generate any income and doesn't get that much traction) by myself (below picture is an example of someone who made it solo).

No money wasted trying to get things done, with the benefits or learning a ton of new things in many areas.

One day, maybe, I'll need someone to get the app to the next level. Or I can just hire contractors/freelancers that would handle things out of my domain of expertise in which I have no interest at all (like legal, accounting stuff...).

Don't get yourself blocked because you thing that building something is out of your league. Break down the steps required to move little by little to that vision you have, and you'll attract people willing to collaborate. In the worse case, well, you outsource some part of the development of the business, but at least you'll have full control and mastery on the matter. You will be able to give the proper directives.

As for me, I don't know if one day I'll need some permanent member helping me out with my app SewaYou. If it's the case, at least I know how to lead the project given all the time I've spent on it and the multiple business areas that I involved myself.

Don't let the saying "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." stops you from starting something. Don't expect people to give up their time for your project, you should be fully responsible for it and be the parent of it and at least give its birth, as ugly/buggy/clumsy it could be.

© 2020, Philippe Khin