From Side-Hustle to Business: How Typesense was Boot-Strapped and You can Boot-strap your Business Too
All of us rely on the power of search engines each and every day. Jason Bosco, co-founder of Typesense, has the goal of democratizing search through his innovative open-source SAAS. Typesense is an open-source search engine that is typo-tolerant and lightning-fast.
We invited Jason on to the show to learn more about his history and how he was able to turn Typesense into a full-time job and business after just being a side-hustle for many years. Jason also shares some tips, tricks, and advice for others who are interested in either going full-time with their side hustle or want to get into open-source SAAS as well.
Jason has a great story and years of experience as a software engineer. After graduating from the University of Southern California, Jason held positions of VP of Engineering at Dollar Shave Club and the VP of Technology at Verishop. He is also the co-founder of Wreally, a boot-strapped SAAS business that builds niche digital products.
Throughout this variety of roles, Jason learned to balance the two sides of his brain: working with code and software, and then working with people and people management. Both skillsets have been useful in growing his boot-strapped startup, Typesense
Building Typesense: A Boot-Strapped Start-Up
Jason and his co-founder started working on Typesense back in 2015. They had experienced challenges working with competitor products like Algolia and EasticSearch. Prompted to solve pain points they had themselves, Jason started working on building Typesense in his spare time.
Jason always had an “itch to code,” as he describes it and always coded as a hobby. So, while many people would be exhausted coming home from their full-time job to work on additional projects, Jason loved it. As he shared with us, “doing something I loved didn’t feel like additional work to me. And that was how I was able to work on the projects I loved.”
Using all of his spare time to build Typesense, they started to get some traction. Working with real users on the open-source platform was encouraging and inspired him to keep going. Typesense began getting real traction in 2020, so Jason made the leap, quit his job, and turned a side-hustle into a career.
Even though Jason had worked on other side-hustles and projects in the past, he knew that Typesense offered a real opportunity to build a business. He shared, “search as a problem space is huge and the market is huge.” From a business sense, there is a “broad scope for adoption.” Because of this, he felt confident that there would be a strong market of people looking for solutions to the very pain points he experienced and set out to fix.
Considering Investment: When and How to Scale
Most start-ups need to answer the question: how and when are we going to scale? After all, it’s not enough to have just a brilliant idea, or even other people who support your brilliant idea—at some point, you need to start bringing in money.
Jason is careful not to scale too quickly. Despite being approached by a number of VCs (Venture Capitalists) interested in investing, Typesense is not ready yet. Jason wants to scale carefully and slowly, ensuring that they don’t grow at a sustainable pace, or growing as “organic as possible” as he shared with us.
Organic growth looks like making the effort to grow through customer revenue alone, instead of relying on investments. This is partly because of their commitment to democratize access to technology and not have to significantly increase prices, like many start-ups have to do when they grow quickly. Slow growth is also favorable because it gives the technology time to “marinate and bake,” as Jason described it. Time allows issues to be worked through and all the pain points resolved.
Jason also sees benefits to keeping a small team, just him and his co-founder. With an infusion of cash investment, there would be an expectation to grow and add the team. But, as Jason shared, “the communication overhead is significantly large and I worry it would slow down or process.” While they are open to investments in the future, Typesense continues to move along at a slow, steady, and thoughtful pace for now.
Tips for Entrepreneurs and Open-Source Coders
Jason’s story is inspiring and what he’s been able to do with Typesense is an inspiration to entrepreneurs, in general, and software engineers more specifically. Jason’s diverse experience working in start-ups gives him the expertise to advise those who might want to follow in his footsteps. Here is some of his best advice for entrepreneurs who want to take their side-hustle full time:
Don’t get bogged down in the details.
Jason is committed to “keeping things super simple,” and not get stuck nit-picking things at the coding level. Instead, “review happens not at the code level, but at the design level and then the feature level.” This allows them to move quickly and make changes, with any potential issues being caught in testing rounds.
Don’t jump in right away.
Even if you have an idea or side hustle you are excited about, move carefully and don’t quit your day job just yet. A lot of times things can take longer than expected to work out, and you don’t want to have that time pressure on yourself. Work on your projects on the side and see what sticks. Jason shared that “the thing that you need to spend your time on will manifest itself.”
Make yourself useful and build networks.
If you are just starting out in the open-source SAAS field, start small and build connections. Connect on GitHub or join a Slack or Discord community to learn about projects that you can help with. Make yourself useful by identifying and solving pan points, build rapport, and grow your opportunities from there.
Jason’s story teaches us a few things. First, there is no end to innovation in the open-source SAAS space! Typesense is evidence that the “status quo” doesn’t have to remain—new technology and the power of open-source can solve pain points and create something of value. The second lesson is that it is completely possible to go from side-hustle to business—it just takes some hard work, dedication, and careful planning.
We’re super grateful to have had Jason on the show! If you want to learn more about him, feel free to connect with him over at www.typsense.org. You can also connect with us on Twitter @thewritingdev to learn more about uplifting and exciting devs-related news and initiatives.
If you want to watch the complete episode, check out the YouTube link below