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Full-stack founders. Who are they?

Ivan Homola
July 5th, 2020 · 5 min read

Probably, many of you heard the phrase “full-stack developer”. This notion reflects a developer who is able to create a front-end, back-end, and database for the website. Those people are extremely valuable and it’s very hard to catch them. They are like pokemons 😅.

But, what about startup founders? How valuable are they?

Especially, If you are a solo founder you need to understand multiple domains. You need to know how to create a product. How to design it, build it, and sell it.

These skills take time to learn and you can’t stop following trends in each field because you lose traction quickly.

Ability to build a product

If you want to make an online project you need to know how to do that. There are plenty of no-code options allowing you to create a web or mobile app without knowing the code. However, I believe understanding the code is one of the best skills you can learn. I’m not saying you should be an IT expert or programmer. But, being able to code opens many doors and it helps you in other domains too.

Learning to code

I’m a fan of practical learning. I learn while I’m doing it. That’s why I used to be bored in school because they taught us things that nobody uses in real life. We had some programming lessons too but I missed the motivation to learn those things.

It changed when I got an idea to create a website. Suddenly, I got motivated and I wanted to know how I can create a new website. I got no money to pay someone to do it for me. I had to do it by myself. I started with simple HTML+CSS creating a front-end of my first website. I remember I was struggling for weeks. The code was horrible, the website looked hilarious but it worked! To speed up the whole process I found a guy who helped me with the database and back-end.

It was a kind of cool project at that time. The web was similar to 9gag but I was rewarding Facebook pages that shared my website content. Back then, Facebook didn’t limit post views created by Pages. We had like 1000 visitors on the website in one moment. It was awesome. Eventually, I sold the project and a new owner made a fortune out of it. But, that’s another story.

I went to IT college because I admire people like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. They all are entrepreneurs coming from IT.

The college helped me to understand IT but a real game-changer was the first IT job I had. I learned only practical and useful things and I got paid for it. I felt pretty confident in front-end development and databases after that.

This year I decided to learn how to code back-end of the web apps. It was something new to me, but looking back, I think it was quite easy. There are plenty of tutorials and frameworks that help you to learn code. I chose Laravel because I had some experience with PHP and the setup is very simple. By the way, there is a Laravel package called Spark which helps you to quickly build a new SaaS project. Check it out.

You should follow the series written by Tomas. He is writing about creating a new SaaS project from scratch from the developer’s perspective.

Ability to delight users

You want to create a product that would be a delight to use. User experience is important. Your customers must understand your product and they need to know how to use it.

I had assigned two UX courses at college that helped me to get better in creating user interfaces. I don’t feel like a UX expert but the knowledge I got helps me to ask the right questions.

A while ago, I designed a UI of a mobile game that was my passion for a while. I remember, sketching screens, creating prototypes, and asking for feedback over and over again until I was finally satisfied with the results. The user feedback is crucial because you as an author don’t see issues that others, not involved people, might discover. Prototyping and getting feedback is the most important part of the user experience.

I admit I have a problem with colors. I know a delete button should be red and a successful message should be green. But, I don’t see the difference between shades of the color.

That’s why I always searching for color palettes or using themes. Recently, I found this awesome project with beautiful color palettes to use.

You don’t need to create a perfectly designed app in the beginning. The key is to innovate on the go. I suggest following a few design/UX resources that will provide you advice on how you can optimize your project.

Check these resources:

Ability to make money

Ok, you can build a product. Do you know how to sell it?

The majority of solo founders I’ve met were IT guys enjoying building new projects but they had no idea how to validate it, find a market fit, and sell it. They think it sells automatically. They are wrong. It doesn’t.

The must-have skill of solo founder is marketing and sales. You don’t have to have a sales personality and be good at soft skills necessarily. You can take another approach and learn how to write or study SEO for example. Building an audience on social networks and PPCs are huge marketing channels too. Marketing is about finding your target audience using multiple sales channels. It’s a process of experimenting.

I wanted to get better in marketing so I decided to enroll in a paid marketing course taught by industry experts. It took 12 Saturdays and we went through one specific marketing domain every week. Online marketing is a big area and this course helps me to find out what niches I want to focus on.

Honestly, it doesn’t take much to get better in some marketing areas. You only need to read a few articles or check a tutorial or pass a course. Recently, I did the SEO course by Ahrefs and it completely changed my perspective on SEO. I knew the on-page SEO best practices but this course is focused on business SEO. I feel like an SEO expert after finishing it 🧐😅.

There are a ton of great marketing and growth hacking content out there. I think, you only need to learn it and try it with your project to find out what works and what doesn’t.

I highlight a few marketing resources from my bookmarks:

Summary

I respect all of you who decided to go on the indie hacker journey as a solo founder. It’s a tough road and I know it very well. I think a person who can create a product from scratch, design it, build it, and sell it, is like a unicorn. And, I hope there are many unicorns out there 😉

Let me know if you are one of them. I plan to do an interview with someone who is building a product as an indie hacker.

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