Jerry Alex

How a simple idea gave birth to OpenFounders

February 19, 2020

About a month ago I started writing a small side-project on OpenFounders.io.

There’s been a growth of founders sharing their journey while they build their businesses. It spans so many areas like bootstrapped businesses, solo or team based, venture raised or even no-code. The fact that more founders are publicly sharing got me excited.

However, it was hard to find an aggregate way of discovering founders in my areas of interest. I learned about different startup owners from too many platforms. I wanted a combined way to peek at their journey.

At the same time, I was learning how to develop front end SPAs. I had just finished React and Redux and wanted to put my skills to use — in production!

Brainstorming a solution to the problem

I came up with a few ways of solving this problem:

  1. Just make a simple twitter list. This is great for a proof of concept but didn’t help me build a web app or share founders who don’t use twitter.
  2. Make a Google sheet file and share that. An excellent way to prototype and easily shared. However, I still wanted to build an SPA.
  3. Build a web app with a backend. Hard to build and time consuming, but a great learning experience.

In the end, I chose a combination of #2 and #3, I wrote up a small list of founders in google sheets and shared that info. The engagement exceeded what I was expecting, so I decided to venture into building the web app!

Develping the solution

The idea was simple, create a React app that lets me find founders who share their journey.

This allows me to:

  • Learn the React framework
  • Deploy an SPA to production
  • Separate client and server logic
  • Meet other founders!

I generated feedback from the users who tested out my google sheets. They had several things that were pertinent to the success of the application:

  1. There had to be a way to filter based on some criteria
  2. There should be social profiles
  3. The list should be readble and easy to navigate
  4. RSS feeds to their blogs

Filtering on criteria

My solution to this was using tags. Assign a minimum of one tag per founder that allows the user to filter through. For example, a founder might be no-code whereas another may be a developer. If I wanted to just find developers, I would select the developer tag.

Social profile integration

This was a simple button included in the profile.

One idea I thought of was to integrate a social feed into an extended view. However, I felt that it would be slightly premature to develop this feature since I needed more engagement first.

Readable lists

I focused on having content transition vertically in a linear fashion. I reduce the width of the page to accomodate short reading cycles horizontally. I also simplified the colors dramatically so as not to cause too many distractions.

There’s literally only a few components on the screen: Navbar, subscribe hero, founder list.

RSS Feed integration

This is an exciting idea, but also one that requires more time and effort I would like to devote. Although this produces great user engagement and potential re-visits, it’s something I would like to explore down the line.


Jerry Alex

Written by Jerry Alex. Software engineer, fitness enthusiast && business guy. Let's chat on Twitter

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