Want to clone my startup? Let me save you $5,757.

In: entrepreneur| ideas

9 Jul 2013

Every now and then I’ll search Twitter for the name of my startup (“SideTour“) to see what is being said about our company. Today I took a look and found several tweets mentioning this posting on Freelancer.com.


As I write this, the average bid price (among the 34 bidders!) is $5757. While I’m flattered the submitter has set aside $3000-$5000 to rebuild the site that myself and four engineers have built over the last year or so (with the “possibility of adding new features with easiness”), I have some exciting news for them: you don’t have to spend that money yet.

I’m going to tell you how to clone our site for free.

We’ve shared this story a few places before, but when we launched our site in August 2011, we used a prototype that had taken less than two weeks to cobble together. The front-end was a modified WooThemes WordPress theme (this one) and we handled all booking and checkout through EventBrite.

If you want to start a website “similar to SideTour.com” I encourage you to do the same. Don’t even worry about “unique webdesign (authentic)” at first. Setup a site on WordPress.com, and link to some EventBrite pages. It will probably take you less time than it took us. Once you’re ready to launch is when you’ll realize something:

Building the website is the easy part of any marketplace or e-commerce business.

I’m proud of the progress our team has made towards evangelizing SideTour to hosts and helping them create absolutely amazing experiences on our platform. Or the hard work our editorial team has put into developing our voice and crafting a unique style of telling the story and adventure behind each activity. Or the marketing and partnerships we’ve done to help spread the word about what our hosts have to offer. But as the head of Product for this company, I can tell you, the product part is the easiest.

Do the hard part of starting a business first.

Say you have an idea for an online marketplace, or e-commerce business. Let’s imagine your site is already built. Now what? For a business like ours, you’d need to find some interesting hosts to create activities that people would actually be willing to pay for. You’d also need to find customers (who aren’t related to you) to purchase them. And if you get that far, you need to make sure both parties are happy with the experience and would want to do it again.

Those three elements (building supply/inventory, finding potential purchasers, and creating happy users) are going to be the part of the business that keeps you up at night. It’s going to be the source of every obstacle you encounter and struggle with and attack endlessly, until you finally (hopefully) make some breakthroughs and begin to see progress.

Regardless of your idea, since those three things are the hard part, don’t worry about dropping money on building the website first. Or finding the ever-elusive technical co-founder. Tackle the “Big 3” first. Just find the shortest, cheapest, dirtiest path towards patching some product together just good enough to see if you’re onto something.

Do that first and you’ll either find something worth investing in, or you’ll have saved yourself $5,757.

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Mark Webster

About Mark Webster

One of the Co-Founders of SideTour, former TechStar (NYC Summer 2011), ex-NBA'er, and past TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon Winner.