Balancing application risk and quality of life as a founder

Our vision of life as a successful entrepreneur

We all have a vision of what our life will look like when we get our SaaS to our version of success.

I know I pictured a relaxed life of working when I wanted to, and enjoying the life of luxury and bliss.

The reality of having a successful SaaS

In the final months of running my last SaaS, prior to deciding to sell it, things looked pretty different.

I’ve never been one to fall into the feature race trap. I’d rather solve one problem really well than solve 10 by doing the bare minimum. So once I had a solid product/market fit, I only added features that I’d get fairly high volumes of requests for.

This meant that when things were good, I had free time. There were periods of a couple weeks where not much was required of me, save for some quick support tickets.

The problem was that when things were required, it was generally urgent, and sometimes really not fun, or out of my control. Several factors contributed to this, including dependency on a third-party platform (LinkedIn), performing sensitive operations that would make for very unhappy customers if they went wrong, performing actions dependent on other actions where reparation could be very difficult or impossible, and a system with a lot of interdependencies and edge-cases that were seemingly impossible to surface in-app.

Being the only one capable of addressing these issues, some of which were severe, meant that any time I got an email notification, I had to be ready to do whatever I had to do to get to a computer and address it. It took weeks or months following the sale before I stopped feeling intense anxiety when I felt that notification vibration in my pocket.

So when things were good, they were great, but when shit hit the fan, it was incredibly high stress.

Over time this meant that even the good times became incredibly high stress because I never knew the moment things would change. I was solely responsible for about $100k a month of customers who were paying good money and expecting things to just work. And even if issues arose that were out of my control, the attention was on me.

That’s not a fun place to be.

Certain businesses are more stressful than others

A lot of this stress and anxiety stemmed from the nature of the product.

Many applications can get away with having issues for a period where most customers won’t even notice. And if things go wrong they’re easily mendable and don’t trigger extreme customer reactions. I know many solo founders who don’t have these issues to face, and it’s worth these considerations when considering what type of product to build. Regardless, the reality is that the greater the success, the greater the responsibility.

Danny Postma talks about this as one big reason he loves one-off B2C products.

So while the money may be great, the toll on your well-being may not be.

Considering the potential effects of a certain type of business

My vision of success has changed since I started that business, and it incorporates a more holistic view. It now requires a healthy business but also a healthy me.

This means I need to enjoy the process, and constantly be monitoring that, and quickly address any changes here. And as I consider things I may build going forward, the consequences of what could go wrong in such an application is a heavily weighted factor in my decision of whether or not it’s worth doing.

Without a healthy me, I suffer (obviously), the business suffers, my relationships suffer. And that’s not where we want to be.

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