I've always been interested in wondering how software companies happen. I find it extremely difficult once you're tied down with car, house, life etc. Funding is always the biggest concern.

To make this a bit more specific, I see two types. Those offering a product/service or those offering a consultancy company.

One things that bugs me about the product/service kind is that we all know how burning the candle at both ends is extremely exhausting. Coding for 8-10 hours in the day and then code in the evenings on your own stuff, doesn't last long. No matter how passionate you are about your idea, simply put, coding day and night is a recipe for burn out. Is this a defeatist attitude though? Can it be balanced?

A consultancy kind isn't as tricky in my honest opinion. I think once you have spent years and years in the industry building up relationships, contacts from contracting or moving around, and of course, being involved in the community, then landing your first project as a consultant I'm sure is easier than the product/service kind. I'd imagine friends then could join you as you take on bigger company projects, like an Agile implementation or TDD training, then off you go gaining bigger things.

Could you please specify which company type you're answering if you can't contribute to both. I'd like to hear everyone's experiences or ideas on any level for software company start-ups.


4 Answers 4


As a starter I suggest you to have a look at the book Founders At Work. It's a set of interviews of technology companies founders, including Joel Spolsky from StackOverflow (he was interviewed as FogCreek's founder, SO didn't exist at the time). Remember Joel is the author of on the most popular blog on creating a software company. You may want to read his old posts.

There is an interesting pattern in the book and in the story of others founders I meet:

  • Many successful software startups started as a consultancy company.
  • They later discovered the power and freedom of selling products instead of selling services (less scalable).
  • It worked because services was paying the bills while they developed their first product.

I started myself like that.

If you get inspired, I suggest you the excellent book The Art of the Start from Guy Kawasaki. Anecdote: my gravatar is a cropped picture of Guy & me at Bizspark European Summit.

If you are still motivated, I highly suggest you to start it, and stop worrying. Creating a software company is probably the easiest & coolest thing on earth to do for a developer.

  • 2
    'The easiest thing?' I'm a long time developer, and i still do not even have a hint how all these (often pretty incompetent) consultancy companies i worked with get a single contract.
    – keppla
    Jul 19, 2011 at 8:56

If you are still motivated, I highly suggest you to start it, and stop worrying. Creating a software company is probably the easiest & coolest thing on earth to do for a developer.

This quote from Pierre 303 is the most insightful quote you will ever find on how to start a software company. You can read a lot on the subject but this is like learning a lot on how to use a bicycle without ever trying do just do it. You'll bruise your knee, you'll work a lot but there's a great chance you will enjoy it.

Paul Graham essays are also very interesting. You should give it a try.

Overall, you will find a lot of founders, former founders and just random people giving adivice and selling books. From the Everybody is Free to Wear Sunscreen text:

Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

The best attitute to do is take all this advice, read it, take a lesson or two, and go out there making your own mistakes. Five years from now, come here again to give advice to someone else starting a software company.

Now, close this browser and just fecking do it.

  • Really like your answer, I wish I could upvote more than 1. :(
    – necixy
    Apr 15, 2011 at 13:22

You're worried about working one forty-hour week at "the day job" and another on your startup. I didn't do the moonlighting thing, I just jumped ship. For the first year or so I had a vision of what I was going to do that turned out to be completely unrelated to what I'm doing now.

I wrote a book, which is not a way to get rich, but is a great way to get clients interested in taking you seriously. I started a Mac application product, that got to public beta and then completely failed to ignite interest in its target market. Oh well, I learned a lot...

The important thing to note is that there is enough contracting work out there that you will not have a problem paying the rent while you build the business. Admittedly, you might have no money for anything else for a while. The great thing about contracting and consultancy is that even on less than a week every month, it keeps the wolves at the door and you can spend the other time researching, promoting, working on your product, or whatever.

Of course, if what you're interested in is specifically the contracting or consultancy, then you can spend the rest of the time doing more of that. Please don't make the mistake of thinking that setting up a consultancy is easy: people won't hire you if they haven't heard of you, and when you start out, no-one has heard of you. Quite a lot of what I do is app security consultancy for iPhone dev teams: to bootstrap that I used the aforementioned book, in addition to insinuating myself onto as many conference speaking gigs as I could manage. Each of those is unpaid, takes a lot of time, costs money, and is totally worth it.

A couple of general parting points:

  • if you really don't know what you want to do in your company, or even whether it's a product or a consultancy, you shouldn't start the company. You're going to need to work some late nights for no pay for a while, so it's only going to be your belief that what you're doing will change the world that will keep you going.

  • there's plenty of information on startups at the startups stack exchange.

  • Thank you for your great advice obviously spoken from experience. I didn't cross my mind to use writing a book as a way to sell yourself and install trust very quickly at a point of sale. Appreciate this Graham :). Mar 13, 2011 at 0:46

I work as a consultant and have tried to start companies that provide a service. For the former, user your connections at previous jobs, your friends and relatives for new business. Make yourself the go-to-guy for their dev work.

As for starting a company, find a partner you can trust (a partner you can trust) that has a complimentary skill set. He may have the idea or it may be you, just make sure you both have roles and a drive to see the project through.

Everything else is reactive.

  • Finding a partner you can trust - check! Thanks Dimitry. Mar 13, 2011 at 0:46

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