Lee Hambley

Founder, Consultant, Software Engineer

Hamburg, Germany

As many of those close to me know, I’m bootstrapping a startup. The idea is so big, it has a potential to exceed 200 million users, and touch anyone who owns a television, or rather who wishes they didn’t have to.

One of my biggest observations from being this-far into the process has been the incredible the value, and immense risk of being a full-stack entrepreneur. Timothy Ferriss might be my mirror-image here, believing in the shortest possible working week, and outsource everything. My experience has been different.

I’m building a technology startup, so I’m my own bottleneck, I’m the traditional agile role of product owner, developer, QA and more, simply because those are parts of the process that are difficult to outsource.

My platform relies on some complicated software, but it’s only complicated because it has to work everywhere, and it has to be pretty reliable that is - reliable enough to satisfy MVP, and not cause me too many headaches after the beta launch. But it’s also complicated enough that I can’t trust a low-rent outsource (it wouldn’t work everywhere), and I can’t afford a big software house, either the time to write the specification, or the immense fees.

I could outsource the QA, but I have the luxury of a tight-knit network of QA and developer friends who will be more than capable of helping, and I have the same resource that every other web-beta business has, a beta-stage to work out the bugs, and, hopefully early-adopters who will tolerate the bugs I miss.

I could, possibly outsource the project management, but I’d effectively be paying someone to kick my ass and nag me… which I don’t always respond well to. Fortunately in this case, I have friends who are supportive enough, and know how to motivate me through mockery.

I’ve also spoken with investors, about money – and determined that I don’t need, or want their money yet… some of them just didn’t get it, some of them were afraid of possible legal ramifications, which suggests they didn’t get it, and some wanted too much for too little.

I have outsourced design, to a bright Serbian kid who is trying to make a career of being a designer, and does some pretty nice work. This was a no-brainer, because design isn’t something you can learn in a few days.

I guess the point here, is that even though almost everything in the list above is important, and that many people would recommend outsourcing, I’m going to recommend that you don’t.

Do it yourself, at least until you understand it enough to know that you’ll never be an expert, but I promise you that before you reach that point, you’ll learn enough to get by, and to make it work enough to get you through the short term.

Remember, if you’re starting a startup, the goal is to get it to market as fast as is reasonable, but sometimes that means doing it all yourself.

If I had the luxury of €100,000 to spend, I’m sure I would have gotten much further, I certainly would have been able to outsource a lot of it… but I also would never have the very fine-grained details on exactly how the system has to work, exactly where the money, problems and margins are.

On reflection, I feel like being a full-stack entrepreneur has made me slower, but with the benefit that I know my product better than I did when it was a bright idea 2 years ago. Does that mean my product 2 years ago wasn’t viable? Probably not, but I got lucky, the market hasn’t filled my niche yet, and I’ll be launching a better product because of my very close relationship with it.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Licences for my individual projects, and mini-code snippets can be found within each.