The Accidental Business

Years ago, I shared some blog posts about half-baked ideas for a bug tracker. I wasn’t planning on trying to build a business. I wasn’t even sure if I was going actually write any code. I just wanted to explore some interface ideas. Originally, I wasn’t even sure I’d share them.

But a strange thing happened. The idea resonated with folks. I began receiving emails about people who were curious about my intentions. Did I plan on building it? If so, when would it be ready?

Initially, my answer was a firm no. But little by little, the sheer amount of interest became overwhelming. A good friend offered to put up seed money. Other friends showed me how an open source model would likely kill it. One thing led to another, and I was lining up consulting work and quitting my job to start a business.

All too often, we’re in search of “the” idea. We wait to start because no idea is perfect. However, it’s often by taking action and letting ourselves go and just explore without expectations when things happen.

Since setting out on my own again, I’ve done just that. Outside of making sure the bills were paid, I didn’t have any expectations. I wanted to let myself go and just see where the wind took me. I hacked on a few things. Some of them had revenue potential, and others were just for fun. The only requirement for spending time on something was that it had to be interesting to me.

By just doing things and not second-guessing whether they’re a profitable use of time, I’ve been able to let some ideas percolate. I’ve been able to better understand where my heart is and where I want to direct my energy. I’m not sure yet if any of them will turn into businesses, but some seem like good little side projects.

There’s days where I feel like I need that one perfect idea that can be “the” idea. Then I get overwhelmed because I know precisely what it will take to make it happen. Instead, I’m going back to following my curiosity and sharing. I’m telling myself it’s alright to pursue small ideas even if it’s not immediately clear they could be a business or even make any money at all.

Emotionally, there’s less pressure. Less pressure means more enjoyment and a more open mind for when something has potential. It’s unlikely things will unfold like they did with Sifter, but I’m trying find a balance between letting things happen and making them happen.

I feel much more confident that I’ll stumble on the right idea than I do that I could force a good idea. Even if it fails, it’s more fun. And it’s letting my brain work the way it works best. I just move forward and let it connect the dots until I see something.

On a final note, there’s a time and place for exploration and there’s a time and place for execution. At some point, it’s important to focus and execute. The key is to just make sure that you don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself from day one.