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Are developers unfit to start B2B startups?


#1

I recently wrote a blog post contemplating whether or not my background as a developer was enough to start an enterprise software company: dillonforrest dot com slash startup slash are-developers-bad-entrepreneurs {linked by @ian} (beginners can’t post urls, please forgive my janky space-delimited url hehe)

For background, I spent the last 6 months working on a startup attempt which didn’t work out.

TLDR: My theory is that developers are too removed from business problems that enterprise customers are willing to spend money on. So I’d like to move closer to the revenue and develop an expertise there.

What do you guys think about that?

I’m at a very serious crossroads in my career, so I’m actively soliciting any and all advice :smile:

Also, this is my first time at discuss.bootstrapped.fm!


#2

I think it depends on the developer, many B2B startups have been founded by developers. Also, B2B does not necessarily mean enterprises (500+ people companies). I do B2B with many of the businesses being only 1 or 2 people.


#3

Hey Craig, thanks for the reply! Curious, in addition to engineering, did those B2B developer-turned founders have any other type of expertise?


#4

(This is my first time contributing too :smile:)
I’d argue the counterpoint – that developers are the only people who are fit to start (single person) B2B startups.

Being a developer is a must-have skill, a necessary condition. But it’s not a sufficient condition. You also need to understand business: how to develop and retain a customer.

There’s lots of pitfalls associated with being a developer running a business (we get caught up on shiny new technologies, get fascinated by implementation details that customers don’t care about). But these are just occupational hazards: they’re not a reason to say that developers can’t start B2B businesses.


#5

Hey Leon, thanks for the input! Yes, I absolutely agree that solo founders absolutely must be able to code if they wanna sell software. My personal struggle is being far too removed from other painpoints of B2B customers.


#6

I don’t think you need to have every skill going in, but you need to have an ongoing interest in learning. If all you are interested in is writing code you won’t be successful. You don’t need to be a business or marketing expert to start, but you do need to want to be a business or marketing expert.


#7

Cool, makes sense to me. I agree that you don’t need to be a business or marketing expert, however I believe that it will help me immensely to be an expert in some domain which I’d like to enter. That’s what I’m planning to accomplish next – finding a specific problem that I’m very passionate about and becoming an expert at it. Or at least, that’s the hypothesis that I’d like to bounce with other people. heh.


#8

I think you can become an expert in the domain, as long as it is something you don’t really dislike. For example I sell software to hair and beauty salons but I am not a hair dresser and no one in my family or friends is. But the clients are generally really good to work with and it is a buzz when they call to tell you they are replacing their incumbent system from a large market leading company with yours :smile:


#9

Haha awesome!! :smile: Keep up the great work!


#10

Hi Dillon, great blog. I had fun reading your 9 mistakes, they are so true, especially since I’m in the same boat (also left employer, hating employment now, not really succeeding at a startup yet).

As a developer, I also asked myself if I am the right type to start a startup. After all, I’m more comfortable when I get code written rather than just sent a bunch of emails or talked to some people. That’s what I think is a problem. If yours is that you are removed from actual business problems, then yes, get closer to them, develop an expertise there and connect to people. Marketing is hard, so if you are closer to the market, I’d say that definitely helps.


#11

Hey Julian! Thanks for checking out my blog. :smile: Thanks also for your input!

It’s frustrating to have shitty jobs which make you reject employment, but I’m certain your startup attempt will, at minimum, be extremely productive and cathartic for you. Any financial success on top of that is a bonus. I think I learned more than enough with my startup attempt to make up for the shitty job, so although I regret I wasn’t successful, at least I’m still in a better place! And I think nothing but great things will happen for you too. :slight_smile: Keep it up!