When I started on the entrepreneurial journey, I built a product from a borrowed idea. No wonder it flopped.
For a while, I was searching for a brilliant idea for a product. Then I happened to read Paul Graham and Drew Houston on this subject. They say, scratching your own itch is the best way to create the best product. Drew Houston proved it by building a billion dollar business by scratching his own itch.
I started looking inward. I wrote down some of the annoying problems I face. From that list, I left out problems I face once in a while. I focused only on problems I face often and those I thought I can solve with technology. I did this exercise many times. Thus was born my first product.
I love to write. I remember sending my pocket-money to a writing course when I was in 5th class. But the application returned. I don't recollect the reason for rejection, but my tiny mind couldn't fathom the rejection. I tore that application. Yet, I continued to write. I still write.
Sometimes I like to share what I write. So I blog. I tried most of the blog engines - Drupal, Nucleus, Mamboo, and of course the king of blogging tools, Wordpress. Though I am trained as a software engineer, like many of the Indian kids of the 70's, I don't enjoy fumbling around the technical side of blog engines. Worst is blog going down, when one of the post become even slightly popular.
I love to write. I like to share. But I hate to fiddle with blog systems.
I scratched my itch. I created a blogging tool that brings the best of dynamic blog engines like Wordpress and the static engines like Jekyll. Olai, the blogging tool that I created, supports XMLRPC API, so I can continue to blog using blog editors; it also generates static pages and transfers them to Amazon S3. Now I focus on writing and sharing.
Have you ever noticed the funny thing with scratching an itch? When you scratch one, you get another.
I'm introvert and shy. I hate speaking in public, in general. My nightmare, though, is asking a question in public. At times, I would gather courage and raise a question. I would rehearse, mentally, framing the question and it would look just fine. As soon as I would open my mouth, my tongue would become dry, my heart would beat faster, and my voice would become squeaky. Can I engage with the speaker without making myself a spectacle? When Vijay Anand posted an idea, in his Facebook group, about crowdsourcing questions at events, it resonated with me. It is a product I want and it is a product I could build quickly. I built it and called it WiseCrowd.
Building a product is okay. It comes naturally for a software engineer. The tougher question is, how to market it?
The best book I found in this topic is by Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares, titled Traction. This book and other blog posts helped me understand the available marketing channels to promote Olai and WiseCrowd. But how do I start with them? What tools should I use?
Google came to the rescue. I spent lot of time on Google and Product Hunt looking for marketing tools. Googling takes you only so far. Not every tool has a how-to guide. I was wasting time.
Do you spot the itch again?
Whenever I start using a new tool, I take as many screenshots as possible with copious notes for each of them. I did the same with these tools. I'm putting them together as an e-book. But first, I will post these guides on my blog. You can track the progress from Traction Tools For Startup page.
Is Paul Graham right? Is scratching your own itch the best way to build a product? I can't answer right now. I'm sure to find the answer soon.