Jan 4th, 2021

I have created quite a few startups that somehow or the other always seemed to miss the mark. There was a time when I was obsessed with just the idea.

A good idea is just one of the things that need to align in the perfect eclipse of a startup that will take off the ground. It is typically a set of criteria, and it is quite personal most of the time to the founder.

Here are the criteria that I developed over time that my product Proxies API checked most of the boxes:

a) It should be a product I personally need.

b) Ideally, I have used a third party product before in trying to solve my problem.

c) Even more preferably, it's ideal if I have actually paid for it.

d) It should be marketable, as against something that I need to sell in-person face-to-face. Being in India, the scope for this is very little.

e) It should not be a big business and the niche should not have a lot of large ‘platform’ style SAAS companies in it.

f) I should understand the field thoroughly and should be able to write about it quite a lot.

g) The product should not be commoditized (where the excessive competition has driven the prices down to let's say $5 per month).

h) It should already have some competition. I like the competition.

i) Ideally, I don’t want to depend too much on a designer, so looks or the expectation of an extremely beautiful UI should not play a part in it.

j) Ideally, I want to serve the developer market since I am one. So those ideas come with extra weight.

The last one, in hindsight, made all the difference. It checks most of the other boxes automatically, it turns out.

Developers don’t mind an unpretty UI. If fact, they will be wary if the UI is too dressed up. They only care about what the product does. They don’t need to be hand-held through the onboarding process too much. Heck, mostly, they are trying to figure out if they can code your entire product instead of buying it. I like that challenge too.

In the developer community, if something gets commoditized, it will become open source quite soon and, therefore, free.

My team and I understand the field fully, having worked for about 35 years as developers between us.

Developers hate to be sold to, and they would instead try it themselves and make up their minds and buy it if they really find it useful and are somehow convinced they can’t or have absolutely no time to code it themselves.

The third point, “Even more ideally, I should have paid for it “ — is one of the best validations there is for the need for the product.

If it beat my ego, and I ended up needing it so much that I didn’t code it, didn’t outsource it, didn’t use an open-source solution, it must be something.

It sets up a strong sense of confidence about the matter-of-factness of the need for the product and gives you the right perspective to build what is needed.

The result of all this thinking is my first successful SAAS product, Proxies API.

The experience is so much more pleasant and one of the things that I have noticed is the “impostor syndrome” I used to experience has disappeared this time. I belong in this niche. I KNOW this problem and I am confident in my solution. And that has made all the difference.

The author is the founder of Proxies API the rotating proxies service.

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