Alex Preston / bookshelf

Make by Pieter Levels

Highlight [page 12]: If something doesn't seem to take off early on, it probably won't take off later, so make something new and try again

Highlight [page 12]: Startups, and life, are about constantly pivoting when things don't work out. If you don't take action though, you can be sure nothing will ever happen. Stagnancy kills. So ship.

Highlight [page 20]: The most important thing is to find ideas from solving your own problems. You do that by looking at your own life and observing what your daily challenges are. Then you see if you could make those challenges easier using technology.

Highlight [page 22]: When your company grows, and you stop becoming the target audience, you face a big risk of not understanding the customer anymore

Highlight [page 23]: Everybody's doing some kind of photo sharing app. These are basic ideas that everyone has. And they're too obvious. Everybody's doing them because everybody has the same problems

Highlight [page 23]: you need to do stuff that makes you explicitly very different. It will get you more unique ideas

Highlight [page 23]: Even if you launch and get competitors later (like I did) because they see you're making money and it's a good market, you'll still be in a better position than them because you're real. You've done it. You're an expert in the problem you're solving.

Highlight [page 24]: Get ideas from your life experience. Get outside. Become original. Do crazy stuff that you're scared off.

Highlight [page 24]: A lot of companies start not from the problem but from the solution. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make

Highlight [page 25]: Niches are specific market segments that are shallow enough to easily access, with not many players in there. Niches are a great start because they're usually too small in economic value for big companies to attend to. They're also the perfect size to market a new company towards

Highlight [page 27]: Let's say you captured only 10% of those 10,000+ hairdressers that focus on African hair, that could be 1,000 customers paying that $83/month making you a million-dollar bootstrapped company

Highlight [page 28]: Step by step you move closer to the entire booking for hairdressers market. Why do it step by step? Because you can easily go smaller again if you fail. And try to expand in another direction. It's like a lightning shock in slow motion, it tries to find the path of least resistance. Your company should be doing the same thing.

Highlight [page 29]: If you look at most big startups, their first idea was not earth- shattering at all, most of them. Think Uber. They started as an app where you can simply call a taxi. Right? Then it grew into an entire transport solution. The long goal is self-driving cars, that transport everything and to replace the entire transport and delivery industry.

Highlight [page 30]: Create a list of ideas and keep track of them

Highlight [page 30]: I have a few different lists. The first is for "Concepts" , that's rough ideas. Then if one of the ideas looks good, I move it to the "Promising" list. If I actually start executing them I put them in the "Building" list. Then if it's done I have a "Success" or "Failure" list. When it's a failure, I usually also write inside the card why it failed in a post-mortem that's one sentence long

Highlight [page 32]: The worst is to be with people that just confirm what you already think. The best is to test your ideas as quickly as possible. Even asking other people for advice is kind of bullshit. You can't ask "will this idea work" . You need to ask the market by building it! Nobody knows until you launch

Highlight [page 34]: You shouldn't be scared of sharing your idea because execution gives the idea its details and specifics. That means 10 people with the same idea will execute it in 10 completely different ways. The benefit of being able to share your ideas is that you'll be discussing them with everyone. Potential customers, vendors, suppliers, whoever. Everyone will have some input on it which you may or may not use as feedback. Again, the market remains the most important feedback though.

Highlight [page 36]: Spend the next 7 days making a list of problems you have in your daily life, they can be small or big, try to find 3 ideas per day, so that you have at least 21 at the end of this week.

Highlight [page 38]: While a decade ago development time was long and took lots of planning to get right, today we can go from idea to basic product in a matter of days

Highlight [page 39]: Users finally accept minimal interfaces and minimal functionality, as long as an app does what it says well. There are single-purpose apps now that just do one small thing very well. Many of them have been quite successful

Highlight [page 39]: Code has a higher potential to become an epic mess of spaghetti because there's less architectural planning involved. But then again, you can always rewrite code right? At least you've shipped. Users don't care how your code looks.

Highlight [page 40]: The reasons you should launch fast are to avoid inaction due to perfection

Highlight [page 41]: A first prototype should function really well. It's fine if there's some bugs on the side, but the core functionality should be operational

Highlight [page 47]: Bootstrapping has become an advantage. You keep your costs low, naturally. You get zero of the bullshit attached with VC money. You maintain full ownership over your product and its roadmap

Highlight [page 53]: stop asking that question "what do you use to make that?" or "how did you make that?" . It's an inherently stupid question. The question should be "why did you make that?" . The philosophy behind something is way more important than how they made it. You can copy their tools, but you'll never be able to copy their WHY (which is what makes people and their products great)

Highlight [page 56]: A web container inside some big company's native app is the real future platform for your web apps I think. Design for that use case.

Highlight [page 56]: If you have spare time, learn to do both web and native app development

Highlight [page 61]: Zapier is a web app that lets you connect most web apps you know with others. It's like the glue in between. It can simply transfer data (or parts of data) it gets, like from a Google Sheet, a received email or a Stripe transaction, and send it to another service.

Highlight [page 64]: Website builder Carrd supports Stripe Checkout, which means you simply connect your Stripe account and you can accept payments on your landing page

Highlight [page 73]: Build for the web first, you can go native mobile later. Don't build on an MVP too long, a good rule of thumb is to spend max. one month on it and launch

Highlight [page 81]: MixPanel, which lets you tie specific events (like when somebody taps a button) to your analytics. That means you can track more specifically what people are doing in your app. The problem is MixPanel is crazy expensive. A cheaper solution is Amplitude, which does exactly the same and in most cases is free

Highlight [page 81]: Set up a little feedback pop up in the bottom left or bottom right of your app. Especially when your app is very new, it's like a super power to your app's development to get direct user feedback

Highlight [page 86]: A good app to capture videos to GIF I use is GIPHY Capture

Highlight [page 91]: The secret of getting on the front page of Reddit is to make sure your server can handle Reddit's insane traffic. There's a reason most of Reddit's front page is image memes from IMGUR. Because most servers crash before they even reach the frontpage

Highlight [page 91]: My server crashed when it was on page 2, then I asked my friend @aikedejongste to jump on Skype and help me in the middle of the night. He logged into my server and together we optimized it to handle the traffic. TL;DR we made all dynamic (PHP-run) pages into static HTML files and as it was running on NGINX server, it went fine. With 5,000 people on there, it was usable. A small miracle. You can always make your site dynamic again when the traffic goes down. But static is definitely the way to prepare for this

Highlight [page 92]: When submitting to Reddit, you need to pick a subreddit. It's probably best to first submit it a subreddit that is particularly relevant the product you're launching

Highlight [page 94]: A very common subreddit that people who make little functional apps/sites use is: In my case, as Nomad List and Hoodmaps were a bit more data-based, I submitted both to:

Highlight [page 94]: In terms of title, pick a title that's more general because you want to consider that it'll be seen on the front page: I made a site that lets you subscribe to food delivery for your pet

Highlight [page 99]: The way to get a journalist to write about you is to make it personal. How do you do that? Well. First figure out which journalist would actually be interested in your app and find it useful. Every journalist has their own style, taste and personality.

Highlight [page 100]: There's (tech) journalists who mostly write about cryptocurrencies, or only about travel apps, or only about bootstrapped companies. Find journalists that are relevant for your app by searching who writes about your competitors or apps in your industry. Just doing that, already gets you further than 99% of people who don't take the time. Shooting 1 targeted email can result in more success than 1,000 non-targeted emails to every single journalist out there

Highlight [page 100]: Luckily here's a few directories to find contacts for journalists. One website to find tech journalists in specific is lets you find a major amount of press outlets.

Highlight [page 103]: Most importantly: be concise. Keep your email to one or two sentences max.

Highlight [page 108]: A more recent strategy by many startups is to make every feature launch a special promotional opportunity. By adding new features and broadcasting them to press you can keep getting attention

Highlight [page 108]: Building up from that, many startups are now simply launching lots of mini apps with distinct functionality that before might have been a feature of their existing app

Highlight [page 109]: This is also called "side project marketing" . On my self-confident days, I think I had something to do with it when I tried to launch 12 startups in 12 months

Highlight [page 109]: Another famous example is Crew. They launched their side project Unsplash, a free stock photo site, which became even bigger than their main business. Then they did it again by launching, a calculator to see how much it costs to build an app. They got a crazy amount of press just by doing these two mini apps

Squiggly [page 116]: ads

Highlight [page 119]: One way of storytelling is building in public. The last few years, one of the most effective strategies to get promotion has been to "build in public" . It means to publicly blog, vlog or in any way communicate the entire story of building your product or startup from the start.

Highlight [page 121]: The most important tag is "og:media" and it lets you set a picture for each page on your site. It's very important to use this! A shared link with a picture on it gets so much more clicks than one without

Highlight [page 123]: You're going to screenshot this page and use that as the image for the original page users would want to share. That screenshotting can be automated with URL2PNG. Or if you want to do it yourself with a Headless Chrome script that screenshots URLs

Highlight [page 124]: Make sure that after people select new filters you add data to the URL of your page so that they can share the exact state of your page when they shared it

Highlight [page 125]: A good strategy to grow is to launch an API. This means you make your data (and sometimes features) on your site accessible to other startups.

Highlight [page 126]: on every website or app I have a small feedback box. You can set this up with a lot of services like Olark or Intercom

Highlight [page 127]: Sites that get 1,000,0000 visits/month often make $1 to $10 million per year if monetized well. Sites that get 100,000 visits/month often make $100k to $1M per year similarly. It's a very very rough rule but 1,000 visits usually means $1-$10 (if they monetize properly

Highlight [page 132]: So that's why especially now, it's more important than ever to focus on monetization. Monetizing a startup early on is the best thing you can do for yourself, your friends, family, society, and pets

Highlight [page 133]: What I mean is, if you have 1,000 people using your product actively, don't expect more than 5% to pay for it. Probably fewer. So your paying customer base is fewer than 50 people. Here's the challenge. A side project can be successful with 1,000 users, but it won't be a business with 1,000 free users. You need 1,000 paying users.

Highlight [page 134]: That means you'll need a side project that would have 20,000 potential free users. Think about this

Highlight [page 136]: This may limit your creativity, but I strongly suggest you build with monetization in mind early on.

Highlight [page 136]: If you do have lots of cash flow (and runway), you can experiment more. If you don't have monetization in mind it can often lead to more interesting projects, that might also have more interesting ways to monetize later on.

Highlight [page 136]: Here's the interesting thing though which you see with both entrepreneurs and artists alike. Often, their best work was when they were constrained by resources. Musicians usually make the best and most authentic songs when they were poor. Entrepreneurs made their best apps when they needed to make something successful and their was pressure to pay their bills

Highlight [page 139]: Native Ads are ads that don't necessarily come from some big ad network like Google. You write, design and sell them yourself and customize them

Highlight [page 140]: so they fit with your entire product's look, feel and, most importantly, objectives

Highlight [page 142]: One important note: always specify a native ad is in fact an ad by writing on it "Sponsored" or "Ad" . If you don't, you'll be breaking advertising laws in many countries

Highlight [page 149]: What should you offer as a subscription though? Well, anything really. Your app. A service. A forum. A chat group. A social network for a specific niche (like I did). Most apps people repeatedly use work with subscription revenue

Highlight [page 152]: I could have never built a chat and forum myself this fast so it made sense to use off-the-shelf tools

Highlight [page 153]: Job boards are B2B so you need relatively few customers and high prices to become profitable.

Highlight [page 154]: Start to see the pattern? You build something that's free, which generates traffic, and then add something that's either valuable to your users or businesses that target your users and either one of them will pay for it. Which lets you keep your free site up, which in turn generates more traffic when you work on it.

Highlight [page 156]: In general business theory, to compete with someone you either raise prices and sell a better product (called the premium strategy), or you lower prices, undercut them and sell an equal or lesser product but cheaper by reducing costs (called the low-cost strategy

Highlight [page 157]: See how Android took 80% of the smartphone market with a low-cost product while Apple took the other 20% of the market with a premium product. Apple makes more money with only 20% of the market than Android smartphones with 80% of the market. Crazy? Yes! The point is, in most markets, there's room for both a low-cost and a premium product

Highlight [page 161]: The greatest benefit to use Braintree over Stripe is that Braintree is available in a lot more countries than Stripe

Highlight [page 165]: When a customer asks for a refund, say sorry that it didn't work out (and mean it!). Then immediately refund them their money. Ask them why your product wasn't what they expected. This might be one of the most useful moments to ask for feedback as you might be able to avoid future refunds to other users. This is not a bad event, see a refund as a moment of critical feedback

Highlight [page 167]: A side project is great for your resume, but a business with revenue can change your life! If it works out, it means you can quit your job. You can hire people (or robots). Get an office (or work remotely from anwyhere

Highlight [page 189]: A breakup fee (sometimes called a termination fee) is a penalty set in takeover agreements, to be paid if the target backs out of a deal (usually because it has decided instead to accept a more attractive offer

Highlight [page 190]: There is no real standard but generally break up fees are 1% - 3%. Then again, that seems quite low to me. If a party is serious about buying, I'd just ask a 10% breakup fee just like the big companies do. You'll be sure it's a serious party.

Highlight [page 196]: The chart above by Tomasz Tunguz is an example of one perspective for SaaS (software-as-a-service) business valuations by a VC. It seems pretty accurate to me.

Highlight [page 201]: Make sure the non-compete is not too wide. Agreeing not to build another remote job board makes sense. Agreeing not to make another business in HR recruitment seems to broad and doesn't make sense.

Highlight [page 202]: How you structure your company before selling it might give you some legal benefits in terms of paying tax. For example, if your company is owned by a holding company that you own, the income from the sale might be only taxed as a corporate sale

Highlight [page 203]: For startups, the best, most fiscally attractive and still legit places seem to be Delaware, Singapore and the UK

Highlight [page 203]: Felix Krause made License Checker for Ruby gems, to quickly get a summary of what licenses are in use in your code. If you use PHP, there's PHP Legal Licenses and for JS there's NPM License Checker

Highlight [page 204]: In the case of startups, due diligence usually involves a financial audit where you show a profit & loss statement and bank statements, and give access to your merchant processor (like Stripe). As well as a technical audit, where you explain the tech architecture of your app, dependent services you pay for (like SaaS

Highlight [page 219]: There's millions of wannabe artists, entrepeneurs and creatives who have really great ideas, but never take the action to finish something, launch it and push it out there. The people that you know who are succcesful are usually not the best, but they were the ones getting over their fear and taking action