This is a very hands on guide to starting a web based startup, without having much money. This is a very personal tale! Once you have been bitten with the “I want to start a startup” bug, you can not but do this. Probably you have no money, or no co-founder, or even no idea. No problem. I did not have any of these when I started. Though by no stretch of imagination I can call my startup successful yet, I am glad that I started. This is a brain dump of what I learnt in these four months.
I have no money
Most of you would have been working in a company for a few years. Do you remember who called you the maximum number of times? Oh yes, the pesky loan companies. It is time to go one of them and take a loan. Of course this is a somewhat risky strategy, what if your startup does not work out? But then you must be trying to get an idea you believe in. And if you do not believe in your idea, who else will?
The second question is how much money should you take. I believe that you should take the maximum loan the bank is offering you. When your startup succeed, the penalty of a ten thousand rupees for prepaying would not be a big problem, but if you run into rough spots, it is always good to have cash reserves you can draw upon. The other option is to calculate what money would it take for you to become profitable, and double it. I took a loan of 4 Lac (which was the maximum the bank was willing to lend me), and pay back a little less 11 Thousand each month.
I have no co-founder
Leave your job and tell every one about this. This is a very strong indicator of your commitment to your idea. If you are willing to let the co founder work part time with you, a LOT of people would be interested.
I have no idea
Look around you. Do you find something broken? Or visit hundred random famous
sites in next two hours. Make a note of what is wrong with them. Decide fixing which will make you most money. You have your idea. Or you can go to 5 startup ideas on 42topics.com blog, and get a ready made idea.
Source control, bug tracking etc
In a company you would have your build systems, bug tracking system, source control system all set up. Now you can either pay a good deal of money each month on these utilities, or go to Assembla.com, which has a very generous plan with all these utilities built in for free.
Getting your app designed
If you are a programmer, you have no sense of color. Live with it. So you need some one else to design your UI/webpage. Go to 99designs.com there for a few hundred USD you can get a lot of designers competing to designs for you. You can choose from the designs and only have to pay the winning designer. If you want to save even more money go to Digitalpoint forum and create a competition, you will save some money but the results would not be as good as 99Designs.
Hosting your web app
A lot of people I know start with a dedicated server. You are not going to need a dedicated server for a long time. Save your money and rent a VPS instead. I recommend Slicehost if you are looking for a VPS. They have plans starting from 20USD. Or ask in your framework’s forum and use a shared hosting which specializes in your framework. For my Django sites, I use Webfaction.
Marketing your web app:
If you are a hacker, you probably do not know anything about marketing. Yet this is the part you can not outsource. Learn SEO. I recommend Aaron Wall’s SEO training program. At 100$ per month it is not cheap, but for me this has been worth the 100$ per month. If you are marketing to a Web2.0 crowd, try to get profiled on Techcrunch, Mashable and other similar sites.
I hope these ideas have been useful to you if you already are running a startup, or have got you excited about starting a startup in India.
Here is to more startups in India.