I have been looking for a co-founder for several months and haven't found anyone I click with. Rather than going to meetups and networking events to try and find one, I've decided to just learn how to code and build the product on my own.
I'm primarily a designer and will have to learn how to code as a complete beginner. Is it worth spending another 6-8 months just learning how to code in order to build the product I have in mind? Or should I continue my search for a co-founder?
Yeah, I agree with SEO National, if it's just a simple website (as opposed to a web application with a lot of unique custom behavior) do it yourself. That type of thing isn't too hard, and it saves you the trouble of having to share your money with other founders.
On the other hand, if you are developing a full-fledged web app (the site is the product, and it's non-trivial) that changes things. 6 to 8 months is just enough time to be dangerous. You know how to put the pieces together to make stuff happen, but you don't have the practical knowledge and experience to do it right. You'll get parts of the architecture wrong and waste cycles dealing with things like that. That's where having a skilled web developer as a co-founder would pay massive dividends.
But having said that, it is entirely possible you could build an MVP version of the site and start getting real customers and real money. At that point, you can hire a web developer as your first employee, and give them free reign to rework it into the framework and architecture that it needs to be to grow and scale.
Of course, the other option, if you end up enjoying development, is just that you'll keep getting better and better in your skill set, and you'll be able to sort those things out over time (albeit a longer time period than if you had a dev co-founder or early employee).
The official answer to the question in the title of your post is a definitive yes. Single founders frequently make large, powerful, scalable web sites (and web apps) with a fairly high degree of regularity and success. It can definitely be done.
Hey Paul, as a single founder who learned how to code 6 months ago and just launched my first web app, I strongly recommend learning how to code.
- In 6-8 months, you probably won't become prolific in DevOps and scaling the back-end of the product, but you most certainly will be able to launch a MVP. With a working MVP, you can then validate your idea/product and finding a co-founder with whom you click should be much easier.
- If you build your own MVP, as the startup grows and you bring in more engineers, you'll have a much firmer grasp on the technical challenges and the whats actually happening "under the hood" of the app.
Here's how I did it:
- Month 1 and 2: Learned the Ruby Programming Language.
This was by far the hardest part. I started with Zed Shaw's Learn Ruby the Hard Way and stuck with it until the bitter end, even when a lot of things didn't make sense. After that, I went over all Ruby programs in codeacademy, which weren't as useful but still pretty good.
- Month 3 and 4: Started learning Frameworks, particularly Rails.
After I had some strong Ruby foundations, I started looking into frameworks. By recommendation, I did Michael Hartl's Rails Tutorial which was great. This took me like a month.
In the second month, I bought DDH's (Rails creator) Agile Development with Ruby on Rails and went through the step by step guide to setting up a rails project. Very useful.
- Months 5 and 6: Building projects and learning web app deploying.
After going through a few tutorials, the best thing to do is start building. This really is how you learn web development.
For deploying, I'd recommend learning how to use Heroku's command line tool, which is explained nicely in their website.
If you're curious about the website I ended up launching, you can see it here: TTbooks.io