Building My Dream
Written on 12 May 2022
It's sad how we stop chasing our dreams as we grow up.
Some of us wanted to be an artist. Or an astronaut. Or an inventor. I dreamed to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to build a company that would change the world.
But society wants us to conform. When we take the risk to share our fragile ambition with others, most would crush it as quickly as they can.
"Who do you think you are?"
"You will never make it!"
"Go get a proper job."
Or just a condescending "lol".
Year by year, we lose faith in ourselves, choose the safer options, and change ourselves to fit in. We start thinking, "who am I!" And that's when the dream will forever remain a dream.
You know what? It doesn't have to be that way.
Steve Jobs once shared in an interview:
When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world-try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. But life-that's a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact. And that is everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it-you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.
I'm no Steve Jobs. Or Elon Musk. I'm like you - an ordinary person whose dream has been knocked out of him.
Well, until now.
After seven years at two great tech companies, I'm back to chasing my dream.
I'm founding a software startup.
Woah. Why now?
I want to walk out of a trap that I had always wanted to avoid.
For the past seven years, I have been a good employee. I worked hard, got promoted, and made more money. Then I got a car and started eating nicer, more expensive food. Also, I experienced and learned many things that would help me when I start my company (e.g tripling team size, layoffs, acquisition, management). Life has been comfortable.
But that is the trap. The golden handcuffs.
I have heard many stories of people who got too comfortable at their job and gave up their entrepreneurial dream. Also, collecting experiences is great until it becomes an excuse to not take the leap. I was losing the hunger to found a company.
Thankfully, I got a push from my good friend, now cofounder, Swee Kiat. He raised my ambition and rekindled my old dream. Earlier this year, he left his cushy Google job after a year because he didn't want to get too comfortable there. He reached out to me about starting up together. With him being an engineer and me being a marketer, I realized we form a great team. And we have known each other for more than half our lives.
(Fun fact: We both attended the same Entrepreneurship Program in school. We have come a full circle now.)
Besides that, I'm turning 30 this year. Maybe the big three-zero makes people more introspective. If there's anything I would regret at the end of my life, one of them would be not pursuing this entrepreneurial dream.
What's the plan?
Whenever Swee Kiat and I tell people that we left our jobs to start a company, everyone tells us it's exciting. I really appreciate it, so please don't stop. But at the same time, not having an income after several years of good income is scary. I sold my car, canceled several subscriptions, and stopped taking Grab regularly. I'm more mindful of how I spend.
So our plan is to move fast, build something people will pay for, and turn it into a company.
Over the past few months, because I still had a full-time job, we have been meeting on the weekends to discuss ideas and talk to potential customers. When there's an interesting problem that we want to solve, Swee Kiat would build a quick prototype and launch it on subreddits. Our process looks like this:
- Discuss ideas
- Build a prototype
- Launch it on subreddits
- Speak to people who signed up
- Evaluate the idea
We have already iterated over five ideas so far. Our latest idea, Dashibase, has been the most promising so far.
Dashibase helps developers build better web applications faster.
Consider all the modern tools we have nowadays. Ghost is great for blogging. Stripe is great for building payments. Linear is great for tracking issues.
But building web applications is still quite a nightmare. Developers have to go through boring and repetitive tasks. Creating the dashboard UI, setting up user authentication and its UI, managing payments, building user impersonation, etc. All these are necessary yet they don't add much value to the actual product. Developers waste time building and maintaining all these when they could be building features—proper value—for their users.
Now imagine having a state-of-the-art infrastructure and modern interfaces by default to build your web applications. You get to focus on the core of your product.
(If this sounds like it would solve your problems, let's chat. We already have a working beta for you to try.)
It has been quite a rollercoaster ride since we started working on Dashibase. Here's a quick timeline:
- Day 0, 17 April: We came up with the idea.
- Day 4: Swee Kiat built the prototype. We put up a landing page and posted it on Reddit.
- Day 5: One person paid $29 to try Dashibase!
- Day 9: We launched on Product Hunt.
- Day 10: 2 more paid signups!!
- Day 12 We got invited to interview with Y Combinator (YC)!!!
- Day 14: We made our beta free so that more people can use it and help us build it out.
- Day 15: YC interview at 2 am.
- Day 16: YC rejected us. (Here's our experience and advice.)
- Day 19: We shipped some product updates requested by early users. (And we have more in the works.)
- Day 23: Supabase featured us in their monthly newsletter and drove a ton of signups.
We currently have 105 users who have created 44 dashboards in total. It's not amazing but it has not even been a month. :)
Follow our adventure
We are just getting started. And the road ahead will be long.
We will be sharing as much as we can. Both ups and downs. So follow along via my newsletter or Twitter.
Someday, we hope you will join us on this adventure. By using Dashibase to build your dream products to change the world. Or by working on Dashibase to enable millions of people to build their dream.
Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently - they're not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. - Steve Jobs, 1997