The Zero Stack Startup

Most of the founders I talk with on my podcast, The Build, didn’t start their companies with huge investors behind them. Sometimes, they had a stockpile of cash from a previous “exit,” or from a nest egg they saved up from a day job. But, most of the time, they just took the resources they had available to them and figured out how to combine them into a product or service that someone would love to buy.

During Season One of The Build, I spoke with Amber Wanner, the clever founder of a hybrid recruiting-matchmaking business called CandiDate. It’s not the first time I’ve heard of a company like this, but I found it totally refreshing that she dove in with nothing more than an Instagram handle and an e-mail address. So many other founders would have tried to stand up a huge infrastructure, build pitch decks about an “algorithm,” or try to build a Potemkin Village to make their company look massive.

Instead, Amber just focused on helping her clients find jobs and dates. With just her brain. That’s it.

Developers love to talk about the “technology stack” they use to build services. Personally, I’ve been using the “LAMP Stack” since about 2000: Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP. But a company like Amber’s requires no specific underlying technology beyond e-mail and a telephone. There’s “zero stack.” And it’s a refreshing way of looking at how you can build a company based just on what you know how to do well.

You can listen to our conversation here:

Much like the premise of Chris Guillebeau’s $100 Startup, I’m finding that some of the most effective businesses I encounter lately require very little upfront investment, few technical requirements, and only a handful of prospective customers. (2820 Press launched with no mailing list and just three initial clients. That was all we needed for me to “quit my day job” and merge my freelancing practice into a full-time agency model.)

I’m working on Season Two of The Build right now, and you can subscribe in iTunes, with your favorite podcast player, or through good, old-fashioned e-mail. Likewise, The Build grew out of my own desire to create something new with just the skills and tools I had on hand.

After resisting getting back in to audio production for nearly a decade, I’ve been diving in full force—not just with this project, but with some fun client work we’ve been producing at 2820 Press. The Build started as a “zero stack” response to a challenge that I set for myself, but our studio’s been gradually filling up with more and more audio gear over the past few months. If you’re thinking about creating an audiobook or an online course, let’s talk.

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *