Build it for you and scratch your own itch. Worry about customers later.
Building a software product is hard, and trying to sell it is even harder. However, if you are a coder or designer you probably enjoy starting and building new projects. As a coder myself, every time I run across what I consider a good idea I immediately get a domain name and start mocking or even coding an application based on this idea. I usually do this because often is a chance to try new technologies, it can potentially solve a problem that I might be having and because it is fun!
When creating these applications, there’s always the thought about building something that not only helps me try out new technologies and scratch my own itch, but also something that can be interesting enough for others to use it. I know what you are thinking now… this is the wrong way of doing things and it goes against the idea that you need to prove your idea before you start coding, blah, blah, blah. You see, I still believe in the idea that if you build something that is useful for you, chances are that other people will find it useful as well.
This is different from what most internet startups are doing, or are advised to do.
Most software startups don’t actually start a business to build something for themselves, to scratch their own itch, instead people start businesses to become entrepreneurs, to be independent, to do more meaningful things, etc… when this is the reason to start a business, you do need validation about your crazy idea because you don’t really have one, or you really don’t know if it will solve an existing problem. In this case you do need to find customers, you need to make sure that whatever it is that you are building or plan on building is something that people will pay for it.
Having fun and learning by coding new applications is something that most software developers enjoy, having in mind the possibility of creating a business out of it is OK too. Back in the day people used to say, do what you love and money will follow, I believe that. Everybody has ideas, everyone has an opinion on how to make things better, only a few actually do something about it. Opening a code editor and start coding an application that you know it will help you personally and perhaps someone else is very valuable and fun! When you build a product like this, it might not be the next Facebook but it has the potential to generate a decent income and become a lifestyle business, nothing wrong with that. When there are no specs, no mockups, nothing, nada, just a crazy idea on how to solve an existing problem and plenty of caffeine creates an interesting project and it could also be the beginning of a software/internet business too. If what you build is something that is at least useful for you then is not a waste of time, I would argue that in the case of software developers, this is a great way to play with new technologies, expand your knowledge, and just practice your coding skills.
Coding a web application that will solve a problem you have it is an application worth building.
Again, if you build an application that solves a problem you are having chances are that it will also help other people. You are the customer, you are the person with the problem and you know exactly what is needed to solve it or make your life less painful using technology. One of the main reasons I see people wanting to become entrepreneurs is to be able to make their own decisions and to be in control, my advice is do what you want, do what your gut tells you!
Use common sense and follow your gut.
All these popular methodologies such as lean startup, etc are good and they are useful when you are trying to figure out what to do or what to build, when you don’t know what problem to solve. It is a way of doing things to increase your chances of succeeding but it is not a guarantee either, nothing is! There are many people who want to start something but don’t know where to start, following the lean startup methodology in these cases is a good idea, no doubt about that. Customer discovery and building a minimum viable product is exactly what you need to do if this is you. In the end, use common sense, stick to business basics such as creating something that is valuable for you and if other people are interested in it then charge them for it.
What are you building now? please share your thoughts and continue the conversation in the comments section below.