Side Project

From Side Project to Success: Lessons from 10 Startups That Started Small

In this article, we explore the journey of startups that began as side projects, emphasizing the crucial steps to follow for a successful launch.

1. Solve Your Own Problems

A surefire way to ensure the viability of your solution is to address a problem you personally encounter. By building something you would use, you align your project with authentic needs. Numerous multimillion-dollar businesses, like GitHub, originated from founders addressing their own pain points.

2. Validate Through User Engagement

Validation is key, and one effective method is finding users who genuinely love your product and use it consistently. Whether investing time or money, user engagement serves as validation that your product meets a real demand. This approach was exemplified by Trello, which evolved from an internal project to a widely used collaborative task manager.

3. Timing Is Crucial

Side projects afford the luxury of exploring the future without the pressure of immediate release. While it’s important not to let projects languish, focus your energy when the timing aligns for the best chance of success. Instagram, initially a simple photo-sharing app, seized the right moment to capitalize on the growing interest in mobile photography.

4. Internal Validation Matters

While external validation from users is pivotal, internal validation can provide unique insights. Craigslist, for instance, originated from Craig Newmark’s desire to keep up with local events. By tapping into the needs of his tech-savvy circle, the platform evolved from a local email list to a globally recognized service.

5. Embrace Pivots and Iterations

Twitter’s story is a testament to the power of pivoting. Initially conceived as a phone-based social network, Twitter emerged from the ashes of a struggling podcasting company. The ability to pivot, adapt, and iterate is crucial for survival and growth, turning a side project into a platform with over 330 million active users.

6. Creativity Can Lead to Success

Angry Birds, Rovio’s 52nd game, emerged from the team’s creative persistence. Despite numerous attempts, they kept believing in their ability to capture people’s imagination. The game, born from a unique bird design, became a global phenomenon, proving that creativity and perseverance can lead to success.

7. Listen to Your Community

Product Hunt, founded by Ryan Hoover, began as a simple email list among friends. By actively listening to his community’s needs, Hoover transformed it into a thriving tech discovery website, eventually being acquired for $20 million by AngelList.

8. Solve Community Problems

Unsplash, a side project by Crew, started as a way to engage their freelance community. By focusing on community needs and leveraging word-of-mouth marketing, Unsplash became a standalone success, saving Crew from financial challenges.

9. Build Tools for Your Audience

GrowthHackers, initiated by Sean Ellis, exemplifies the power of listening to your audience. A community-driven platform, it evolved into a suite of growth collaboration tools, demonstrating the impact of building tools that resonate with your audience.

10. Proactively Pursue Side Projects

These examples underscore the potential of proactively pursuing side projects that solve your own problems and those of your community. Even if you already run a business, the unpredictably exciting opportunities that arise from side projects can reshape your entrepreneurial journey.

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