A few years ago I discovered the website tinyprojects.dev. The website focuses on building project ideas into small businesses that generate a modest amount of revenue. For example, a one-item store or the silicon valley domains.
For the preceding several years contemporary business culture (1) has focused, in excess, on the concept of innovation driven ventures (IDVs) or “start-ups” (a la Bill Aulet’s definition in Disciplined Entrepreneurship). The idea of an IDV or “start-up” is juxtaposed with the “less interesting”, but more familiar, idea of a small to medium-sized business (SMB): art supplies stores, family restaurants, grammar schools, et cetera.
The fixation on innovation-driven enterprises is not entirely surprising, especially in a 15-20 year period of historically low-interest rates. All things considered, there is still something to be said about the seemingly endless mysteries yielded by power laws in venture capital. That is those laws which, perhaps by a humorous note of nature, are a property existing in the generator function of reality, manifest in markets, that time again produces the most bizarre companies and monetary payoffs.
Historically in the software world, small-scale enterprises fitting into the SMB definition are sometimes called Micro Independent Software Vendors (ISVs). These companies usually have fewer than 10 employees and do not attract outside capital to start or prove the business viability. Limited start-up capital is casual of the reality that ISVs do not charge into the depths of a total addressable market (TAM) deep enough to intrigue venture financiers (2). Yet, such companies do produce profits, create jobs, and yield value to the marketplace which they are paid in return for.
Unlike ISVs or IDVs, the projects built at tinyprojects.dev (“tiny projects”) are more informal and have qualities that imitate the animating force that drives the indie hacker movement. In the view of this author (his infinite ignorance hopefully acknowledged), the indie hacker community appears a natural parry in reflex to the preoccupation with using outside capital to build a business; thereto, a concrete option available to entrepreneurs who wish to avoid the consequences outside capital brings in dilution of ownership and erosion of decision making influence. This defensive redirection focuses on a different yet equally challenging avenue of building a business: bootstrapping.
Unlike indie hacker projects, however, the “tiny projects” do not appear to require a devoted full-time effort. More too, they appear to provide a single value proposition that is intentionally left unextended beyond the essential use case. Unsurprisingly, the humble properties of these “tiny projects” do not possess the strongest pull for traditional venture financing. As well, the “tiny projects” do not have a charisma that attracts passionate teams of competent designers and engineers to support the endeavor and help it grow (recall it is intentionally constrained). Despite these factors, however, there is a positive “exit” upside in the opportunity for such projects to be bought through an acquisition marketplace like Micro Acquire; Perhaps the buyer aiming to build on top of, extend or just let it run.
I would like to propose the use of the word “micro ventures” to identify the philosophy behind the “tiny projects”. A micro venture is a small bootstrapped project, built with low scale and as many existing tools provided by the market to address “uninteresting solved problems” (i.e. payments), for a highly targeted hypothesis/use-case, and intentionally limited feature set. Moreover, the business aims to generate a modest amount of revenue (<$10-100k per year) and will run either autonomously without intervention or to be sold to a willing buyer through an acquisition marketplace or a secondary market buyer.
I am sure someone with greater knowledge of the “taxonomy of businesses” has thought or written about this concept already but here is how I think about it. If you have another framing, I’d love to hear it.
Footnotes (1) In a reply I made to a LinkedIn post regarding points taken from Zero To One by Peter Thiel, I noted that the start-up world seems at a bit of an impasse currently (whether real or imaginary to me). The last 15-20 years have produced a common “canon” of knowledge of how to build and operate a start-up in absence of the “gravity” of higher interest rates a/k/a time-value of money. As such, the author (his infinite ignorance acknowledged again), wonders whether the playbooks of the past will not apply to the future in the same way - or perhaps history will delightfully rhyme but not repeat.
(2) Recall that venture capitalists are seeking a return profile between 10-1000x to profit via carry and provide a return to limited partners.