Startup mythology demands that to create something great, you need superhuman sacrifices. You need to work for no pay, you need to put in 120 hours/week, you need to preferably sleep under the desk and live off pizza as a sole form of nutrient. As a result, you need to abandon your family and risk life without insurance.


We’ve repeated this story so many times that it’s starting to wear a little thin, but here it goes again: Basecamp was created with 10 hours/week of programming time and as a 3rd or 4th project alongside paying customers for the designers over the course of about 6 months. In other words, we didn’t drop everything we had to create Basecamp, and you don’t have to either.

There are plenty of startup ideas that can be done without millions in funding, thousands of man hours, and dramatic risk. But I can excuse people from failing to see them when blinded by press and popular opinion. Everywhere you turn it’s stories about how ever-younger entrepreneurs with nothing to lose are defying all odds and making mortal sacrifices to reach their impossibly unlikely goals and succeeding.

Did I say hogwash already?

How about you turn your perceived weaknesses into strengths. Embrace your constraints, work with limited budget of your own money and write less software. That’s how we built Basecamp on the side, next to the every day obligations of paying the bills and having a life.

It didn’t turn into a smash hit overnight either. We ran Basecamp for a year alongside our other obligations before it was doing well enough to pay all the bills and afford our full-time attention. Most good businesses didn’t become great ones within the 12-18 months that the poster boys of the startup lottery did.

So don’t despair, just start small. Reserve a couple of nights per week, a Sunday morning here, and a day from vacation time there. It’s never been cheaper or faster to build a web startup, it’s never been more possible to do it as a side-business.

That still doesn’t make it easy. Odds are you’ll fail. Just as odds are you’ll fail if you take millions of VC money, hire a staff of twenty, and spend 120 hours/week on it. But if lost opportunity is a risk when you try, it’s a guarantee if you don’t.