In March 2014, entrepreneur Pieter Levels challenged himself to launch 12 startups in 12 months. To date, he has launched 70+ businesses, and only 5 of them are making money. That’s a 93% failure rate. But the 7% that remain produce $220,000 per month.
Similarly, as an aspiring author, Benjamin Laskin was told that it takes at least 10 books to achieve mastery. So what did he do? He wrote 10 books in 12 months. Ben has now published 20 superb novels.
Pieter’s story highlights that business is unpredictable – so it’s better to launch rapidly, see how the market responds, and move on quickly if it doesn’t work.
Benjamin’s story highlights that developing skill requires repetitive practice. And, the sooner you do the reps, the sooner you’ll increase your skill level.
Clearly, Pieter wanted to launch a successful business, and Benjamin wanted to write a successful book. I think that’s a given. But their approaches also suggest that most of their focus was on practicing. Actually doing the thing they wanted to do. Over and over again. Their approach led to learning and improving, which led to quality outputs. As a result, they both ultimately enjoy success.
So I’ve decided to steal Pieter’s idea – but double the number – by launching 24 startups in 2024.
When I first decided to do this, I planned to do 12. But it didn’t sit well. Most people who work on startups are either self-employed already or building on the side so they can later quit their job. But that’s not the case for me. I have a full-time job that I really enjoy and it’s relatively flexible. So my motivation is not to replace my employed income. But at the same time, I could get fired or made redundant tomorrow. I might develop an illness next week that means I can’t do the job any more. For some unforeseen reason, the role might change, and I stop enjoying it. Who the hell knows what’s around corner? What I do know is that relying on one income stream is a disaster waiting to happen. So my goal is to build a portfolio of income streams that increase my flexibility, security, and freedom in the long-term. Or, at the very least, develop my ability to create income streams – knowing full well that most of what I try won’t work.
I see my job as the bedrock of that portfolio. So I want to make it my own – to the extent that’s it’s possible in an employed role – by focussing on the areas in which I can contribute the most value and that I enjoy the most.
So when I decided to launch 12 startups in 12 months like Pieter, I asked myself, “why don’t I do this as an employee as well? I’m fortunate to work in a progressive team that would welcome new income streams. I think I can make this work.”
With that in mind, I decided to I would launch 12 “personal” startups and 12 “employer” startups this year.
What I mean by a startup
At this point, you’re probably asking something like: “how the hell are you going to do this?” That’s what I wondered when I read Pieter’s story. It sounds exciting – wildly ambitious – but is it actually doable? I mean – 24 startups in 12 months? With a full-time job and young children?
Allow me to qualify what I actually mean by a startup.
When Pieter started his 12 in 12 months challenge, he noted how some people assume that the goal of a startup is always to build the next Apple, SpaceX, or Facebook. In fact, the vast majority of startups don’t take off, and many of those that do started with small intentions. Take Pieter’s example of Dropbox. Drew Houston decided to build a graphical user interface for rsync as a side project. He probably did not start that project expecting or aiming to build an $11 billion company.
So what does “startup” mean in this context?
Pieter’s aim was to see if he could get market fit for each startup in one month, which meant “picking an idea, developing it and launching it to press.” He had no idea whether each idea would get any customers or revenue. But if he could get the thing out to the market in one month then he’d learn whether it was likely to get any traction very quickly – and move on if not.
That’s broadly my goal as well: build something, put it in front of a market, and see what happens. And do it 24 times this year.
If there’s no response from the market, so what? Even if I don’t know exactly why something didn’t work (after all, it’s not always possible to know why a market doesn’t respond to something), by going through the process, I’ll still learn something about how to build income-generating assets. Like Benjamin Laskin, I’ll be putting in the reps.
Look over my shoulder
Rolling project log
Here is an overview of each startup. I’ll also write a separate article for each one to explain the idea, what happened, things I learnt, and the next steps.
This is a service to help businesses automated processes using Zapier. Automation was a game-changer for my healthcare clinic. I’m pretty good at it – and understand the business owners perspective – so I thought this would be a simple and relatively easy place to start. It didn’t work out that way. Here’s the story.
This is my first attempt to launch a startup as an employee. Transformation Examples isn’t actually a startup – it’s the top of funnel name for what could become a business with multiple income streams – each of which I’d consider a startup in this context.
I’ve made some content, but have yet to publish it, as I need permission from my employer to share what might be considered intellectual property. I’m getting a bit twitchy that it’s now February and I haven’t launched any internal startups. If I can’t get permission to test this concept then I’ll need to find another approach – quickly!
3) Healthcare joint venture
I’m fascinated by joint ventures. Not in the spammy my way that online marketers do joint ventures. Rather, I’m eager to help people, businesses, and organisations utilise each others assets to get what they want – for a fraction of the investment of building it from scratch themselves.
There are many, many ways to do this – and I have plenty of wild ideas – but my strategy is to focus on small opportunities that the highest chance of working – even if the payoff is small. That way, I’ll build skills, momentum, and reputation.
So when my wife mentioned being approached to joint venture with another local healthcare clinic, I saw an opportunity. There’s clearly an opportunity, albeit small, but the other business were butchering it. Someone needs to take control, put the pieces together, and make it all work. The potential payoff is so small, it’s not the best use of time for my wife, as she’d have to learn how to do it. But I don’t care about the payoff. I just want to make do a deal that works, to any degree, for all parties.
So that’s what I’m working on at the moment.