I've mentioned a website I've been building a few times here but I haven't really talked too much about it. It's just not ready yet (Real Soon Now). But I'm going to start talking a bit about what I've been going through putting it together.
I'm just about to the point where I'm going to start doing what's called Beta Testing. That's where you have a mostly finished version of the product and you start showing it to people to bang on it and find bugs and just to see what they think. You see Beta a lot these days on the web, most notably at Google. Lots of their products stay Beta long after they're released. I'm not going to do that nonsense, my beta tests will be real beta tests. I want people to mess around, try things out, and expect it to break for a short time. Then it'll be released. Of course it's a web app so I'll be constantly adding things but when I get the sort-of core functionality ready, it'll be released. But what I'm working on now are the necessary but hard parts of a website: the server and bandwidth.
I'm going to be building a server myself because it's cheaper and because I can. Renting a server starts at like $300 a month for a basic system at most places. I can't afford that right now. I'm a sysadmin so I know how to build a good but cheap server. I've priced a good box out at about $700 after shipping from Newegg.com (the only online computer retailer I've shopped at for many years). The stumbling block I've run into is that I had two potential sources of free bandwidth that have both gone away on me. The ISP I used to run, Spinn.Net, was sold to a larger outfit a few months ago and all the people I knew there left so I have no 'in' with them now. I also thought I might be able to put the server in temporarily in the rackspace we have for our servers where I work at my dayjob but our guy in charge of Engineering said no for various reasons, but it's not my call and I respect his decision. So now I'm looking around. I'm going to talk to the data center we host our servers for work at and see if they might be able to do something for me. My boss at SpinnNet used to get people to let him do a ramp-up period where he wouldn't pay anything or he'd pay a fraction for the first few months until some revenue started coming in. Hopefully I can get somebody to do that for me. I'm not as good with people as he was though so I don't know what'll happen.
I'm doing this on the extreme cheap so it's presenting a great many challenges. Just coming up with $700 for a server was work. And everytime you see people talking about starting a company they always say flip things like "If you can't raise $10,000 for your business, you shouldn't be in business" which I think is dumb. I don't have rich friends, rich family, anybody who could give me that kind of money (or even half that) for whom the money wouldn't hurt them if I never am able to pay them back (a real possibility for any business starting out). I'll have more to say about that later. Maybe in the end that flip wisdom won't seem so flip but for now I'm counting on my cluelessness to get me going.
Tags: grommes, business, startup, web