Originally posted in Starting From Zero
I had lunch with a really interesting entrepreneur a few weeks back, and it's turned out to be one of the better connections I've yet made networking. Since getting as far down the road with my last startup as I did (before it went belly up) I'm keenly aware of the difficulties founders face. Which makes me want to help other founders when I meet them. Gratis.
Turns out, he felt the same way. So we've been trading our services in kind, and it's been enormously helpful for both of us.
Don't Be So $$ Hungry that You Miss Great Opportunities
Arturo Garrido is the founder of Shouta Tweet and Twitea.me two cool social marketing tools that help causes rise above the din on Twitter, and help people without smartphones or computers, get connected to Facebook and Twitter. We bonded over terrible food at a cafe in Palo Alto and shared our startup horror stories. Before the lunch was over, we'd realized we each had some core skill the other really needed, right at that moment. Arturo is a programmer, and I'm a software designer with strong business-marketing skills. Two halves of a good team. But since we were both bootstrappers, we also couldn't afford to hire each other.
Rather than be handcuffed to our need/desire for cash, we decided to exchange work product, quid-pro-quo.
Do the cost-benefits analysis.
You might be saying, that sounds great but you just don't have the time to work on someone else's startup, you're too busy working on your own. But actually, you do have the time.
You have all that time you're not tearing out your hair trying to figure out why all your images stopped loading in an app (you let the domain expire).
You have the time you're not trying to figure out why users only come to your website once, and why revenue has suddenly plummeted (problematic UI).
You're crazy not to make the time.
Domain Expertise is Expensive to Acquire
Think about it this way, if you're a business woman, how easily and quickly can you write a basic business plan? Do it in your sleep, right? And if you're a designer, you can knock out a great design in a day–two tops. That's because you know what you're doing.
But how fast can you figure out why the demo version won't install on a new tester's iPad? How easily can you figure out why your WordPress login has suddenly disappeared? You might burn hours or days with those problems because you don't have the expertise. It's even likely you'd end up leaving the blog down for a week or two, or pull the app from the iTunes store. This is not a good solution.
The same is true for engineers who try to do revenue modeling if they've never learned that skill. Or design a website, or run a useability study. The time it takes to ramp up, acquire the skills and the knowledge are the very drains on resources that plague the DIY entrepreneur.
But they don't have to be, if founders helped out founders. Just lend an hand–don't worry about pay. It will come back to you in kind.
Here's a formula to follow:
Time it takes to figure out & accomplish task not in your domain expertise
– Time it takes an expert to do it for you
Time you can spend doing something in exchange for that help
I know, I get it, we're bootstrappers for a reason. We like figuring it out. We are control freaks. But honestly, make a value decision about what to figure out, and what to outsource to a buddy. Then return the favor.
So make a friend in the community! Find another founder that does what you do not, and buddy up. Exchange expertise. Meet once a week for coffee and talk through your ideas and problems. Trade work product. Sometimes not doing it yourself is the best DIY strategy.
To meet other technology founders, check out Starterpad.
To find other entrepreneurs (or any kind of business person) to have lunch with, go to Let's Lunch.