What’s an example of a side project that turned into a profitable business?
Entrepreneurship, Go to Market Strategy, Product Management, Starting Up Oct 31, 2018
That’s a great question and one that I definitely have some experience with! From 2006 to 2009 I was a co-founder of a web development product strategy company called Upthought (they’re still around today doing kick-ass work). In 2008, my partners Patrick and Lucas and I were starting to get a little bored with doing the same type of project over and over again. We were building products and websites for other companies and were very involved at both the strategic level and tactical level. Often times we were so early working with founders and companies that their concept was just an idea, which we had to bring to market. Later that year, in 2008, we decided to build our own product. We brainstormed ideas and one that we thought of that we believed might be a viable revenue generator (but we had no idea yet how…) would be to build a Bracket Voting product. Think NCAA March Madness, but for any topic, digitally.
Fast forward a couple years and we had a viable business that we turned into Votion – which raised funding and continues to be a successful business. (Plug: if you are looking for an amazing way to drive brand awareness or customer engagement, look no further than an Interactive Bracket campaign).
We started nights and weekends on the side while we’re doing consulting projects for other people, and turned this side project into a viable business. In the early days, we spent probably 10 to 20 hours a week each on the concept. We launched something very rough to the public in late 2008 / early 2009. But, because we launched quickly we were able to get got some feedback from the market, and then actually started getting approached by enterprise customers who wanted to actually pay us to use our product. Pretty awesome, considering we hadn’t yet figured out our monetization strategy!
In fact, we didn’t even know what our go to market model was going to be. We initially built a consumer (b2c) based website with public brackets that anyone could create. Our first client who paid us came in and asked if they could white-label the software. Of course we said yes, and so that became the start of a long journey to becoming a SaaS platform.
In the end, this side hustle probably cost us some money, and it was a distraction from our day-to-day product and web strategy business. But it turned out ok all around. So yes, it is possible to take a side project and built it into something real. Just be ready for it to be a long road!