Bootstrapped Founder #139: Building in Public and Legacy

The Bootstrapped Founder Newsletter by Arvid Kahl

Dear founder,

Things I Found Interesting This Week

The fine folks over at TweetHunter have launched a $5000 Maker Grant, and I am overjoyed to see so many projects from Indie Hackers I know over there. I voted for a few, and I recommend to check out the voting page.

Talking about voting pages, the makers behind Transistor.fm crushed it on ProductHunt with their Free Podcast Website Builder. If you want to see a #1 ProductHunt launch done right, I guess you can’t find anyone more inspirational than Justin Jackson and Jon Buda. It’s a masterclass of building an audience and tapping into it for a launch.

And for your weekly dose of weird, here is an article about how a gene-editing experiment turned hamsters into hyper-aggressive rage monsters. The best part? The last sentence: “We don’t understand this system as well as we thought we did.” — now that is something every founder should take to heart.


📝 A QUICK SIDENOTE…

Before we get to today's issue, I'd love to point out that I have set up a way for you to earn exclusive perks (including the lost chapters of Zero to Sold) for referring new readers to this newsletter. I'd love it if you could help me out with that.

You'll find more information at the end of this newsletter — and not right now, because I bet you want to read the actual email. Enjoy!

Philip Larkin, the renowned British poet, famously decreed on his death bed that all his diaries should be destroyed. During his life, he even wrote five full-length novels and burned every single one of them right after completion. Larkin allowed for nothing but perfection.

Meanwhile, I regularly share the crudest drafts of my work on Twitter, talk about my mistakes, and share the hardships of building businesses. There are a lot of half-reflected thoughts on my Twitter timeline — definitely not the finely honed craft of a poet.

You can listen to this on my podcast, watch the YouTube version, or read it on The Bootstrapped Founder blog as an article.

If someone were to trace my social media history long after I’m gone — provided that we still have records or the means to access them — they’ll find a few finished works in a vast sea of experiments at all kinds of in-between stages.

Now, which one is the kind of legacy I want to leave behind? The curated showcase of refined masterpieces or the brutally honest —maybe even mundane— view into my laboratory, my den of creativity, reflection, and failure?

Legacy is a complicated construct. It’s an externalized view of yourself, a projection of who we expect to be remembered as by others who we will never meet. It’s a selfish desire, perhaps vanity, maybe just a fear of not having mattered. But no matter who you ask —the parents who see themselves in their children, the artist who thrives on changing culture with their creations, or the school librarian who makes the world accessible to eager and curious minds one book at a time— we all want to make a lasting impression on the world we inhabit.

When I was an employee, I didn’t consider this question much. Work was work, a means to an end, and my passion, my purpose, was something I was searching for in my private life.

Starting a business changed all that. In a short few months after co-founding FeedbackPanda, a SaaS business that helped Online English teachers be way more efficient at their job, I understood that the path to my legacy would be one of empowerment, teaching, and lifting up others to reach their most ambitious goals.

It was a very visceral experience: I had several customers thanking me for building a service that allowed them to make enough money to escape needing a second job. This was the best kind of cancellation notice. When you help someone pull themselves out of a dire situation into more stability for themselves and their family, you won’t be sad to see them go.

But being able to do this required FeedbackPanda to succeed. We needed a profitable business to empower these customers. If FeedbackPanda hadn’t been able to sustain itself, we couldn’t have empowered thousands of teachers.

We needed to have a somewhat finished product to make a difference.

While you try to figure things out, there is little chance for legacy.

Or so I thought — because I had not heard of building in public at that point. That quickly changed after our acquisition, and in retrospect, I’d have loved to share the journey of our business while we were building it.

Because building in public is a shortcut to legacy. Building in public turns you into a teacher for your peers, not just for the admirers of your success.


This week's episode is sponsored by Nick Gray!

Nick Gray bootstrapped his passion project – Museum Hack – and built it into a multi-million dollar company. He sold it in 2019 in an interesting way. Now he’s launching a step-by-step handbook that will show you exactly how to build big relationships by hosting small parties.

This book is extremely tactical, and extremely specific, to help you build your network (or even your friend group) in a no-BS way.

You know that well-connected friend who only exists in the movies? The one who throws the best parties and can set up any introduction you need?
Everyone wants to know someone magical like this who brings people together. The secret is: you can be that person. You should be that person. The 2-Hour Cocktail Party will show you how.

Read the first four chapters here for free.

If you share your entrepreneurial journey from the start, you leave traces — intentionally! Unlike Larkin, who destroyed all of his writing that he deemed unsuited for publication, a builder-in-public does not need a perfectionist filter. Everything along their journey might have value for someone with similar ambitions. If you talk about your business decisions, you’ll help people struggling with their own choices. When you talk about how you interact with your prospective customers, you motivate other founders who wonder how to approach theirs. Even if you just found a new shortcut in a software tool, sharing that might speed up the days of hundreds, if not thousands of others.

Building in public is the antidote to the fear of not leaving a legacy, and I feel this every single day. I receive dozens of messages every day, and many of them contain a thank you note for something that inspired, motivated, or instructed someone on their founder journey. Today, long before I have to consider any deathbed scenario, I already know that my work has impacted others because they tell me.

And it’s not just my finished and polished work: founders tell me that one particular Tweet made them change their minds or that a reply to their question in a DM gave them the courage to commit to a project.

And I see this happening for many other founders who build in public. They make a measurable and immediate impact on the lives of other ambitious entrepreneurs.

This ambition lies at the core of building in public. If you build something and talk about it, you can’t avoid showing ambition. The act of sharing is a brave act of ambition.

And just this public display of ambition alone leaves traces that people are looking for. Students hungry to learn will resonate with any teacher, not just the one educational institutions placed in front of them. If your teacher is also your peer, just a bit ahead on their own version of your journey, then learning becomes part of your story. If you follow the journey of a fellow founder, their story gets interwoven into yours, particularly when you connect with them and build a professional relationship.

These relationships are the foundation for legacy.

They definitely are for me.

And I’m not alone — many people see their legacy as something they actively create and nurture, not a vainglorious end-of-life list of accomplishments. It’s more about building a legacy than having built one.

I don’t care how many books I sold or page views I had in any given year.

But what matters to me is the number of kind messages I receive from the people whose lives I had the fortunate opportunity to affect.

That’s why I open up my writing laboratory to my social media followers every day. That’s why I share what I’m doing, the thoughts, the choices, the mistakes, and the little wins.

When it comes to my work, I don’t mind running the risk of people ridiculing my drafts while I write them. I’d rather share sub-standard work that others can learn from in the hopes that, in the end, the work and the process combined create sufficient value for my readers and founder peers. I certainly wouldn’t do what Larkin did and burn my drafts before they see the light of day.

I want to teach through my work and the process that made it happen. I build in public because I know that somewhere out there, someone is one crudely tweeted insight away from writing their own book or starting their own business.

That’s what I want my legacy to be.

Thank you for reading this week's edition of The Bootstrapped Founder. Did you enjoy it? If so, please spread the word and share this issue!

Share with friends and get exclusive perks 🥰

I’d be very grateful if you could help me share this newsletter with more founders and creators. A rising tide lifts all the boats, and I want our community to benefit from my work as much as possible.

For that reason, I’m saying thank you for referring readers with these hand-picked rewards:

Refer 1 Reader: Get the exclusive Zero to Sold bonus chapters

When I wrote my first book Zero to Sold, I had no idea how ruthless editors can be. They cut several chapters from the book because —and I quote — "they didn't fit the flow."

Well, it's time to change that.

As a token of my gratitude for referring a single new reader to my newsletter, you'll get access to a PDF file with the missing chapters from my best-selling book on bootstrapping, Zero to Sold.

Refer 5 Readers: Get a personal shoutout in the newsletter

Showing gratitude can be a win-win situation. After you refer five new readers, I’ll give you a personal shoutout as a kind community contributor in an upcoming episode of the newsletter. You can also plug your project, if you like. Or you can plug someone else’s stuff and help them get more reach. Up to you!

Refer 10 Readers: I’ll answer any question in a video on Twitter

Here’s your chance to get my opinion on a topic of your choice. I will make a video answering your question and post it on Twitter, sharing my perspective with all of my followers. I’ll mention you in the post and video, of course.

Here's your unique referral link: https://join.thebootstrappedfounder.com/55ea6c5c

Or share via Twitter, Facebook, or Email

You currently have 0 referrals. Learn more at your Referral Hub.

Zero to Sold, The Embedded Entrepreneur, Find your Following

If you want to build a Twitter audience, check out Find your Following.

If you're interested in bootstrapping a business, grab a copy of Zero to Sold.

If you want to build a business from within your community, read The Embedded Entrepreneur.

You can find me on Twitter at @arvidkahl.

See you next week!

Arvid

You can sponsor an episode of this newsletter.

To make sure you keep getting these emails, please add arvid@thebootstrappedfounder.com to your address book or whitelist us.

Want to unsubscribe from all our emails for good? No worries, just click this link, and off ya go: Unsubscribe. (Reminder, clicking this link removes you from all our emails and you won't ever hear from us again!)

Our postal address: 113 Cherry St #92768, Seattle, WA 98104-2205


Older messages

Bootstrapped Founder #138: Parasocial Relationships: Imaginary Friends of the Social Network Age

Friday, May 27, 2022

​ The Bootstrapped Founder Logo ​ ​ Dear founder, two very interesting things have happened in my world this week. First off, ProfitWell, the bootstrapped business spearheaded by Patrick Campbell, was

Bootstrapped Founder #137: Should Freelancers Offer Free Trials?

Friday, May 20, 2022

​ The Bootstrapped Founder Logo ​ ​ Dear founder, Recently, I have gotten a lot of offers from freelancers and consultants to do some work for me for free. In an ideal world, we'd offer our

Bootstrapped Founder #136: Choose Your Own Adventure: Creator, Curator, Commentator, or Connector

Friday, May 13, 2022

​ The Bootstrapped Founder Logo ​ ​ Dear founder, People love to put other people in boxes. Metaphorically, of course. We do love our categories and classifications. On social media, we can leverage

Bootstrapped Founder #135: Scalable Customer Service for Bootstrappers

Friday, May 6, 2022

​ The Bootstrapped Founder Logo ​ ​ Dear founder, When we sold FeedbackPanda back in 2019 for a life-changing amount of money, we still ran it as a two-person business. Although we had over 5000

Bootstrapped Founder #134: Managing Expectations: Making Good (on) Promises.

Friday, April 29, 2022

​ The Bootstrapped Founder Logo ​ ​ Dear founder, Expectation management. What is that? It sure sounds like mind control. I don't think my expectations are anything that someone else can manage.

3 founder-proven ways to validate your ideas 

Sunday, July 3, 2022

To build or not to build 🤔 Issue № 43 | Jul 3rd, 2022 Hey bootstrappers, Where do your ideas come from? The muse often visits me at night, just as turn the light off to sleep. It's a tad

defense against Amazon

Saturday, July 2, 2022

PayPal's strategy revealed. Smart fabrics. 134 customer acquisition tech cos. View in browser CBINSIGHTS CBINSIGHTS July 2, 2022 Hi there, Here are this week's top research briefs. ICYMI

bliss, Made Up Studio, Commerce Caffeine, Allcontent, and EntryLevel

Saturday, July 2, 2022

All-in-one life management tool BetaList BetaList Daily bliss All-in-one life management tool Made Up Studio Create better digital products in less time Commerce Caffeine Library of tools and

Today's Digest: From zero to product. How did you do it?

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Your Indie Hackers community digest for July 2nd ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

What's 🔥 in Enterprise IT/VC #296

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Refocusing on relationships vs. transactions, founders who are more 🥩 vs. sizzle 🥓 will rise back to the top ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

🗞 What's New: Gaining attention on Twitter

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Also: Building multiple products simultaneously! ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

Startupy Issue #13: 10 things curated in our universe this week

Saturday, July 2, 2022

down the 🐇🕳️: feat. Tom Critchlow, the market for solutions, & weird internet careers ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

“I hope you feel free to do the things that feel like a balm to your heart.” 💖 ~Morgan Harper Nichols

Saturday, July 2, 2022

darling, pause for a moment... ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

MicroAngel State of the Fund: June 2022

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Fund success! Passed 2.7x total return & 50%+ cash/cash, annual experiment successes & growth optimization. Closing MRR: $26k ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

Klarna's valuation crash, Sam Bankman-Fried's domination plans, and a look into Waymo’s worst truck crash

Saturday, July 2, 2022

View in browser Note that we will not be publishing StrictlyVC this coming Monday in observance of the July 4th holiday. Hope you have a bright weekend.:) More Tuesday when we're back from our