Soon after Univind closed down, I bootstrapped PrivaTutor. PrivaTutor was meant to be an online tutor marketplace. I hired several juniors of mine in college to develop the product. I acted as their project manager to make sure they made a great product. All the work was done remotely from each other's places. We collaborated the code using git/bitbucket. We had offline coordination meeting once a week on campus library. The product done greatly. It reached the minimum viable product (MVP) pretty fast. We deployed it eventually and started beta testing.
In this stage of beta testing, I kept promoting it to a specific target market of mine: college student. They're the perfect early adopters for this phase. Many of them are looking for a tutoring job to make some money. Most of them knows pretty well about technology. I expected lots of feedback from them. This part turned out to be not that easy. I kept fishing for as many feedback as possible while continuing the limited promotion and iterating the software.
All those activity were pay rolled from my own pocket. I kept burning money from the selling of NeoHoster to run this new startup of mine. Server costs, development costs, promotional costs were all covered by myself. I did a little calculation that I had enough fund to bootstrap it all by myself until the product reach the critical mass for me to start hunting for investment. My calculation was missed. My fund was running out long before I could brought the product to its critical mass. Privatutor couldn't survive its first year.
Just like what I think about the dissolution of Univind, I also never consider PrivaTutor as yet another failure of mine. This was all just a little more step for me toward success. Of course, I took another lesson learned from this experience, something that I didn't get from my experience with Univind. Below are some of those:
- Don't start a startup alone. Find a fully dedicated complementary co-founder. You would easily feel exhausted without anyone to complement your skill AND your spirit.
- If you want to bootstrap, make a really-really thorough calculation with your funding. Would you have enough money to keep your business running until you could either monetize it or finding an investor?
- It's not easy to gather feedback from user. Satisfied user would just use your service happily in silence, Unsatisfied user would just simply leave you. You have to find a way to stimulate user to give their precious feedback for you.