Build apps not businesses.

“Weekend projects” are the staple of many, many developers. I’ve had my fair share. While many are greeted with positive feedback, there are often negative remarks.

A common one is that you should be building a business. Worrying about money. Changing the world. David Heinemeier Hansson of 37Signals is known for lambasting businesses that seem oblivious to the concept of profitability. I don’t really agree with him. I think that you should spend time doing fun little projects. Many fun little projects. Recognize that most of them will die, but that one or two may do well.

There are several benefits to the “make apps not businesses” methodology:

It’s fun.

Way more fun. Building businesses may be arguably more rewarding, but it’s nice coding and designing and doing what you love without worrying about terrifying words like runway, churn, and “vision.” Building in the short term and for yourself comes with little stress. Not so for building businesses.

It’s fast.

A couple hours and you’ve created something non-trivial. Something that’s useful to you. In a short period of time after that (perhaps after a Show HN: post and some feedback) you’ll know whether your idea has legs. If not, that’s cool. But if it does, you have the chance to turn it into a business. Not a billion dollar behemoth but something that gives you passive income and makes you proud to show it off.

It’s the ultimate resume.

I’ve gotten more job offers because of the stuff I’ve built than the schools I’ve attended. I think the same goes for most people, especially in the startup space. Little goes to show off your passion for something more than tens of hours spent over a weekend building and launching something to the world.

Go out and build something. Worry about building apps not businesses, and maybe one’ll end up turning into the latter.

Originally posted to my (now defunct) blog on December 28th, 2010.

Founder and CEO, Gumroad

Founder and CEO, Gumroad