When setting out to build side projects that generate revenue, my partner and I prioritized three things above all else; solving a real problem, researching and understanding what customers want, and creating a sustainable business. The purpose behind what we build is to be accretive to everything else we do now, and into the future. While this is easy to write - it's quite hard to execute.
Throughout most of 2020-2022, the startup world was met with easy access to capital, too many ideas that got funding, and a glut of hiring. Now with layoffs growing by the day, a reckoning has come for overfunded companies without much to show for their burn. In this articulation of what we are building and why I wanted to go deep into what I call the slow-burn startup and how it plays a role in our ecosystem.
To begin with, the idea of a slow-burn startup is not new. The idea of "ramen profitable" comes from being able to cover the costs of a startup and be "profitable" but perhaps not pay all the bills. As long as a service provides value, people are paying for it, and care if it goes away - there is a reason to keep it alive and running. Bonus points if that service is accretive to something else you are working on.
Enough conjecture, let's get specific. Our first slow-burn startup is www.viewsource.to - a beautiful portfolio maker for developers (or simply put: dribble for developers).
Viewsource is an answer to the question "how do I create a beautiful portfolio site if I am a skilled developer without much setup and maintenance?"
Solving a real problem
When we set out to look at the space of developer portfolios we found a graveyard of startups that tried to make this work. Failed launches, products that don't work, and a completely underserved market. We wanted to talk to real potential customers, and since that is who we deal with on an everyday basis (after all that is our main business: GoFractional.com) we discovered what was missing. We heard stories of incredible developers who don't even have their own sites. We saw examples of developer portfolios that haven't been touched in over a decade. We kept hearing over and over that there was no one-stop solution for a developer to SHOW vs. TELL what they do and how. LinkedIn is great for where you have worked. A personal blog is a nice way to publish and share what you are writing (albeit hard to maintain and you need to keep publishing). Personal website makers are great for artists and designers (and many other things!) but not great for developers.
We built ViewSource to meet the needs of showing off what you have done professionally, what are you working on for fun, and where your proficiencies are aligned with what you want to do.
Creating a sustainable business
Our hypothesis is that if you create something people want, they will pay for it. At the start, ViewSource has two options for use and is a freemium product. The first gives you access to an incredible set of themes to control the look and feel of your site. It also allows you to add work history and projects as you see fit. You can even set up a way for people to get in contact for work. The paid tier allows more customization, access to premium themes, and more. The pricing model is simple; Free and Paid. At launch, this is $0 and $10 per month.
Optimized architecture serving static sites to end users, minimizing back-end services to publishing and updates, and building a portfolio engine that works all costs time and money. By focussing on profitability from the start, we were able to make design and strategy decisions that aligned with what it would take to run this business for the long term.
The slow burn startup means that for every X dollars we spent, we want to be making X+1 dollars in return. This instant profitability gives us a growth engine to experiment. It gives users solace that we will be around for the long term. It also provides a real value exchange in return for a platform that isn't found anywhere else.
Flywheel to all we do
Our core business that provides the resources to explore and build is GoFractional.com a place for companies that need senior product engineering help at a fraction of a full-time employee, for better output. This means that regularly we are always looking for great engineers. Great engineers need a better place to build their portfolios. ViewSource provides them with this solution while providing us with an incredible pipeline for talent. We can share ViewSource profiles with prospective clients, engineers can show off and find work elsewhere that doesn't align with our focus, and we can generally be an incredible schelling point for engineers.
Slow burn, long impact.
By not raising outside capital we are in control of our own destiny. We are looking at the next 24 months as a way to start this snowball of revenue rolling and continue it into the future. By providing the audience we respect (engineers!) a place to show off their abilities we hope to bring new full-time and consulting opportunities to them. By creating a revenue-generating profitable business, we hope to create the foundation for a long-term business that isn't impacted by market trends or urgency to grow at all costs. Our purpose is serving engineers by not overspending, and being around for the long haul.
If you are interested in what we are building and want to join this movement feel free to reach out - happy shipping!