Diversify? Double Down? A Deep Dive Review Into My Entrepreneurial Projects
My Year-long Lessons Learnt Through Consulting, Coaching, And Product Creation
How many projects is too many?
You should diversify your investments. Should you also diversify your career steps or entrepreneurial attempts?
In this article, I share the 3 types of projects I did last year, apart from consulting, and a review of each.
In my previous article, I wrote about my desire to start a business, why I chose consulting, and the ups and downs over the year. Similar to my previous 4-step ladder, this was another approach to step up towards a product venture.
What Other Projects Did I Try Over The Last Year?
Portfolio and case studies
A Coaching business
Product for PM aspirants
Portfolio and case studies
I felt the need to document the projects I'd previously worked on to showcase my accomplishments and learnings. A few words on my resume could encapsulate weeks of work. So, I wrote things down to make my skills visible through a portfolio of case studies. You can see this in my newsletter. I wanted to be known-well, even if not well-known. I wanted to be evaluated on my learnings, not on my years of experience.
A Coaching business
Over the past 7 years, I've helped over 100 aspirants navigate their product management job hunt. I liked helping aspirants towards MBA degrees or PM roles. And I saw a need for this help. So, I initiated a coaching business. I felt this was an intersection of market need and my skills. I had a system and an organized approach to the job hunt. I had research findings for each step of the job hunt process. But, conveying these insights to individuals became time-consuming. So, I wanted to scale my efforts by sharing coaching modules and content around it. This led me to produce content on Youtube and my newsletter, while also offering coaching services to those aiming for product management roles.
Product for PM aspirants
While coaching customers, I discovered a product idea. Aspirants often had questions about writing their resume. When I shared the essential skills a product manager's resume should showcase, I noticed many aspirants struggled with applying the information to their resume. I understood the customer journey for PM job seekers. They would often come back to their resume when they faced job rejections. Recognizing this pattern, I launched a product management resume checker. (Product here) Although numerous resume checkers existed, and many were free, I introduced a paid version. My product had a value proposition not covered by other resume checkers. I even built a freemium version of this product by using ChatGPT. You can see the product here.
What Motivated Me And What Drained My Energy?
Documenting my work was intriguing and relevant to my business, but not as mentally effortless as writing topics off the cuff. I found it hard to stay motivated to write a case study of an experience a few years ago. It is easier for me to apply the same analytical rigor and writing standards to analyzing the social media traffic of my posts on Linkedin, Twitter, or Slack.
I found building, launching, and iterating the resume checker product fun. I loved talking to early users and gathering feedback. I enjoyed its content marketing, too - it was a different flavor of marketing than selling my skills as a consultant.
I also realized I found using the latest generative AI tools energizing. I often picked up tasks that used them over tasks that didn’t.
Another Aspect I Loved As A Solo Entrepreneur
I loved identifying tasks I could delegate to freelancers or agencies. I found it similar to finding points of leverage and scaling my business by scaling the total bandwidth of my business.
I liked scoping out the work through documentation and video messages, defining review criteria, outlining the criteria to hire, and fostering healthy vendor relationships.
Ok, Do I Still Want To Develop This Product?
So, I thought of reasons I do not want to do more consulting. What about developing the resume checker product? Do I still want to do it?
I learned a lot while building this product. I learnt from creating and launching the product, gathering feedback, and devising both feature and marketing roadmaps. I anticipate even more learning as I explore the remaining ideas on my feature and marketing backlog, based on customer research. I’ve visualized my feature and marketing backlog here, using Zoho Analytics and WordArt.
But, I’ve realized it’s unit economics are not viable. Is it prudent to pursue a project I think is unviable financially?
Although my business understanding can guide me to stop the project now, but there are no brownie points for not trying a startup. Only for starting and succeeding or failing. Not for avoiding a failure by not doing some work.
If Not This Product, Then What Do I Want To Do?
In the long run, I'm drawn more towards building B2B products. So, how can I embark in the B2B product-building direction sooner? One approach is to collaborate on the resume checker B2C idea with fellow entrepreneurs, potentially meeting future co-founders. This might materialize if I join an accelerator, an incubator program, or participate in online communities.
But, this approach is not direct. It beats around the bush. My above approach expects me to work on one idea while hoping to find a co-founder for another idea.
How Can I Be More Intentional About Starting A B2B Product Venture?
But, if I want a more deliberate approach, I must identify both the idea and a technical co-founder.
Solving For Co-Founder
I can delay the search for a technical co-founder while gauging market demand. I can do that by building the MVP on my own by leveraging ChatGPT, no-code platforms like Bubble, and a "Wizard of Oz" approach. Reaching that stage would enhance my chances of enticing a tech expert to join as a co-founder.
Finding A B2B Idea
I could learn from attending ideation bootcamps, like the one by Sam Parr. Such a bootcamp might give me a framework or toolkit to apply to searching for problems.
I could reach out to a few dozen friends and work buddies and discuss their top 3 challenges or recent software purchases. Those insights could also spark inspiration for my next venture.
How Can I Sidestep These Challenges?
It seems whether I move forward with consulting, B2C product, or B2B product, there are many challenges in the path. Can I sidestep these?
I still have another avenue. I can research early-stage startups in Ireland. I can analyze each one, draft a case study highlighting my potential contributions, and reach out. There might be some startups whose vision resonates with me. Amongst those, there might be a startup that needs my expertise and is excited by my passion for their vision.
This will teach me about the problems faced by businesses. It will help me find potential co-founders. So, I will continue to hone my skills. But, this cannot be a fallback option. Getting a job in an early-stage startup is difficult. I would need to go all-in for several months. I need to decide whether I want to go this route and go all in.
What About Focus As An Entrepreneur?
Over the past year, my focus has been scattered. I have not done a good job staying focused on one project. I liked the flexibility. I liked learning from the breadth of trials. But, we are supposed to diversify our investment portfolio, not diversify our entrepreneurial pursuits.
Over the last year, I've made headway in each area, but it might be premature to gauge the success of each. One year of 3 projects means only 4 months of each project. And if the project needs 6-12 months of work before a reflection, then it might be premature to gauge its success.
Yet, since I’ve spent an year in this direction and invested a lot of money and effort, now felt like an opportune moment to review my direction.
I know of Peter Levels, who has advocated for 12 projects in 12 months. I even spoke to an entrepreneurial friend attempting this in 2023. However, I'm uncertain if I executed that strategy effectively for my projects.
Entrepreneurship typically demands an unwavering commitment. Entrepreneurs are expected to be deeply and irrationally invested in their one idea (or problem). My approach has been more measured, even maintaining a satisfactory work-life balance. I am not sure if that is the right approach.
What Will Help Me Emotionally Commit To A Direction?
Perhaps I'm overly cautious, approaching ventures with an MBA mindset, analyzing and second-guessing every move. This might be why I hesitate to invest fully in one and only one direction. I penned these thoughts to help me think, hoping it would guide my next steps.
I’ll write more about my next steps.