Paul Knittel

12 lessons from building my first startup

July 2014

12 things I’ve learned building my first startup Documaps. This was my first experience in the startup world and I learnt so much from it. This is just a small brain dump of some of them. If you are just starting out hopefully a few of these points can help you out :)

  1. Outsourcing is tough… just throwing money at problems isn’t as easy as it sounds. I was lucky enough to get $20k funding form iLab so I was able to pay for outsourcing for a few different problems. However it turned out that outsourcing took much more effort that expected. Interviews to find the right person turned out to be a time consuming task, not to mention the regular checkins to make sure everything was on track. And then at the end of the day the work they delivered was just never up to the standard I expected. Luckily after switching form oDesk (website to find outsourcers) to local consultants I was much happier with there results (in sacrifices of higher costs). Either way at the end of the day outsourcing was time consuming and not as easy as I imagined before hand.

  2. Building something people need is difficult… Something people like is easy.

  3. Execution is harder than I expected.

  4. Building a startup is more than just building a product. A startup is a business. Yes obvious right? But too really understand this point I think someone needs to hold a gun to my head and ask me…

  5. It’s all about solving a real problem. A problem people are ready to pay money for.

  6. All these extra things like blog posts, getting into newspapers, etc take a shit load of time.

  7. Choosing a good co-founder is hard. It really is like getting married. Choose someone you want to work with everyday, someone who pushes you to do that one extra step everyday.

  8. Marketing is a real thing. You don’t just put something online and people start using it.

  9. Design isn’t everything. Pretty products help, but often don’t make or break a startup in the bigger picture. Design can be a competitive advantage, but a product needs to be more than pretty to have a real use.

  10. I hate require.js (yup, don’t even want to go into details here).

  11. Stop rebuilding the product for perfection. Start simple and iterate many times. Always have something working online.

  12. Communicating ideas is difficult. A good pitch like the original Dropbox video seems like it’s easy to make, but beneath the surface is a shit load of work. Might be right he first time but usually takes lots of iterations.