You made a product no one wanted, and in order to market it, you stumbled onto a product that lots of people wanted in a market where billions of dollars are spent each year (we spend about 10 grand a year on conferences, and we're a tiny company with a tiny marketing budget). You've now ditched the product people wanted, presumably selling it for a pittance, and went right back to a similar mobile app to the one you couldn't convince anyone to use, despite excellent marketing savvy.
It sounds like you guys are a great team, and I bet you'll make many great products in the years to come. I hope you'll also figure out that when the market speaks that loudly, it's a good idea to listen. I had the same problem for many years; it took me three years, from the time we first wrote the code, to realize that Virtualmin could be a great business.
Yes, you started with 300 lines of code... But then you modified it several times for different conferences, and enhanced it a lot when you really become popular. Only after that did you sell it.
As an event organizer, I felt like you guys were doing for free what I normally had to pay someone to do - manning the front door. It was very valuable, having you there and putting your logo on our badges felt like 100% win-win. Good luck with view.io
Event organizers paid how much for this?
At first I though maybe this was the 1990's but then I read netbooks.
Very confused. How dumb/lazy/cheap are conference organizers?
To try our initial beta on Feb 31, invite 2 friends that live nearby:
Also, the watermarks don't show up in Firefox; I almost assumed I needed to know the "secret codes" to get an invite.
The View app does look amazing - seems to basically be local advertising/information signage on your phone, as Philip K Dick predicted/feared, but (hopefully) more useful than typical ads (can you find ways to keep it that way?)
Suggestions: the example messages are great, but show them a little longer, maybe proportional to their length (I couldn't quite read some of them); and maybe somehow make your tag more concrete and specific (maybe 'what you need to know about where you are' - danger signs, like your "tow zone" one sum it up). Maybe something about "signs"?
I keep remembering that in my little community a business that just sold for >$100 million started out making steak fingers and selling them to restaurants.
nothing is impossible.
I live in South Africa and pretty much any trade show or event I have gone to in the last 4 years have had name badges printed at the door on admission. Or am I missing something here?
URLs in submissions aren't linked.
That said, this trend with spamming friends to receive an invite (thanks to UseHipster, LaunchRock, etc) is frustrating. Yes, it may increase your launch e-mail list, but it's an extra step that deters certain users (I gave up after being told to tell x friends to sign up).
Thanks for sharing your story!
If that's too drastic, why not add another stakeholder? Two more options:
First: you can make a strategic hire, like VP/Sales, or a "rock star" VP/Eng. This doesn't change the ownership structure but, with buyin from your partner, does put pressure on the company to manage itself properly. If your partner likes the new VP/Sales, he'll listen when the VP/Sales says marketing sucks and the networking conferences aren't bringing in leads.
Or, you could go whole hog and bring a third partner in. The dynamics of 3-person teams are very different from two-person teams, because you can vote bad ideas off the island. With a business putting 1.2MM or so away every year, you probably have a pretty compelling pitch; all you need to do is find a gap between you and your partner that deserves a board-level answer. It doesn't need to be 33/33/33 for you to win; 45/45/10 still breaks the tie you're in right now.
So, I ended up stoping negotiations with the BAs and focusing on raising a personal loan to buy him his shares.
Finally I was able to buy him out and signed with the BAs (who were extremely supportive in the process because they saw me manage all of this professionally... and I didn't use their money for my battle).
So, if you really don't hit it off with him, my advice is only one: "the sooner the better".
If you are having so many issues with your co-founder, the feeling is likely mutual. It seems as though he may be a control freak, so give him what he wants- total and absolute control.
Be honest. If you want to leave, bring it up with him privately; if he wants you to stay, he'll try to convince you to do so, but if he wants you out, he'll likely try to help you exit, either through LBO or through an outside investor. But, try to take the high road if possible. A current employee, client, or general peer may be your next business partner, so don't sneak off.
Don't go the legal loophole route if at all possible -- no one wins in the long term through method of exit, except the lawyer.
I can't count the number of times I've heard an employee (sometimes myself) looking for a change of scene say "I'm doing this place a real favour, staying on".
In your shoes, I would tell your partner that you don't feel like you're being treated like an equal partner... If you don't have veto power on any hire in the company, that isn't right.
If you can't find consensus on strategic or tactical decisions, then I'd ask for a negotiated split. You could sell the whole entity, buy his half, sell him your half, or something more creative. If you can't come to an agreement, you could suggest a mediator. But I don't think you can do anything without his goodwill, so I'd work on getting that. The good news is that he's in the same spot. Hopefully he'll be reasonable... And hopefully next time you make sure to have rules in place for stuff like this. I've always liked http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shotgun_clause
If, on the other hand, you've already communicated specific problems and the importance of the problems and he hasn't shown a good faith effort in helping you resolve these concerns, then you may need to part ways or otherwise restructure the company.
Arbitration, litigation, and ultimatums all have their place in business, but sometimes the best case scenario is to just get out (dissolve, sell, etc.) Often times, the partner is just as upset as you are, so start by seeing if s/he'll privately buy your half, and if not, see if s/he's interested in shopping the whole company to new owners.
I understand that walking away from or selling a company with 5 employees and $2m in revenue isn't a decision that's a.) easy or b.) happens overnight, but it seems as though you've thought it through and are ready to move on.
One way or another, thanks for sharing, and let us know how it turns out.
If you want to try and fix the situation, you will need a major shake, a shock therapy, something to make him stop and realize that things must really change. Simply making small changes (like getting rid of that designer friend) is pointless. If he does it, it will be to silence you and to go back to his comfort zone. You need a larger agenda, things will need to be different after dust settles or you and him will be back to bickering in no time.
How much is the designer making?
Take some fraction of that salary and go out, without the knowledge of your partner and get better work done. Then come back and say "look at this collateral and web marketing design I had done - it cost 10% of [designers] annual salary and the quality is [n] X better"
I think a restructuring is in order. You can either leave (dealing with your half of the company in whatever way is necessary), or restructure the company so that you (as the person who seems to understand and run the business) have all of the decision power. Of course your partner will need something in return for this, be it cash, or the threat of leaving. Another option is to mutually agree on a 3rd board member for dispute resolution. Make sure this person can remain objective and make decisions that are best for the company.
Unfortunately I can't give you any advice on how to deal with your personal friendship with this person. You probably know best the way to amicably approach the situation with him.
Here's how you tackle the employee issue. Implement quarterly and yearly reviews and goals. If an employee is not performing they get a 1) verbal warning 2) written warning 3) termination. Make sure the employee understand where they stand at all times.
Good luck with the other issues.
Who knows? They say a change is as good as a holiday, and doing something different may also re-invigorate you to provide more energy back into the original business. I know I get better results when I have multiple jobs to think about than just one.
Working two jobs sounds too hard? Some people work three.
But I agree with the other commenter who said it sounds like mentally you've already 'checked out'. Go the whole hog for a while, and start treating it exactly like just a paycheck. You want to do other stuff? No one is stopping you, but you.
so once you have that straight in your mind, just divide and conquer all the available options, i can't give you specifics because i don't understand the stakes, but obviously this marketing person/friend of co-founder must go or be relegated to a lower authority or else the culture and quite probably the business will flounder. perhaps finding a different role for this person would be beneficial. things cannot stay as they are, that's for sure.
good luck on this and don't let this suck your morale down, it really seems quite the downer, but you need to keep a positive view on things. ultimately, if you don't get the terms that you want then there are always other options, including starting another company.
My one UI nitpick would be that clicking the "Read another random clue" button takes you to a random clue but that button is not present on the new page. I spent ~5 confused seconds looking for the button again before I noticed the link in the header. In my opinion the button should also be present on the clue page.
If you are looking for some content to get the site started Reddit recently had a huge thread full of hints and tips like this.
Can I at least log in with Facebook? Gmail? OpenID?
It should also be possible to submit a new clue from any page, not just the homepage, I spent a little bit of time hunting for a submit button near the top of the page.
Also the "Read another random clue" button disappears after a couple of clues. I then have to click the random clue link at the top right which doesn't make a lot of sense.
Clicked on "another random clue" after reading the first one. That disappeared on the following clues.
Having to use Twitter/any other common ID is going to cause people to shy away. Let me register for my own ID on your site.
Otherwise, I love the idea!
At the risk of repeating myself, trivia questions are a game, not a source of wisdom. They are a highly constrained genre: a good trivia question requires no special expertise, can be answered in seconds by a human, and - most important of all - has a single, unambiguous, indisputably correct, short answer. In other words, it is the least important form of knowledge. They call it trivia for a reason.
It is doubtful that Watson will be particularly better at answering such questions than Google plus a half-educsted human would be. It might be faster than that combo, but how often are fractions of a second of the essence when Googling? It might not require the human to do as much, but humans are a dime a dozen on Mechanical Turk.
Moreover, taking humans out of the search loop is self-defeating: Google makes money because a human must filter the results. Humans are susceptible to advertising. Watson won't click on ads that he glimpses out of the corner of his eye, and even if he did advertisers wouldn't pay for those clicks. So what is WatsonGoogle's business model?
IBM has little to no interest in or tolerance for consumer facing web sites. It tried developing a consumer web search in 1996 called "InfoMarket" and killed it weeks before launch (and killed off IBM's own web site search in the process as collateral damage).
While IBM does support a few sporting event web sites (which IBM has down to a routine), I don't see IBM doing anything with Watson facing the general public. Perhaps as a gimmick for a short period of time, but not a general service.
1. Living together doesn't necessarily increase productivity. If you actually started a company together, one of your homes/rooms would probably become the startup's 'home' anyways.
2. Living with him will quickly tell you how well you'll get along in the long run, something crucial to business. If you find out you don't work/live well together, you can move elsewhere next year.
TL;DR- Go for it, live with him. Worst case you learn that you don't really want to start a company with him.
Plus starting a company is enough stress, don't add to it by having the stress of rooming together.
For example, one ability definition would be for adding new files. It would check that the user's used space has not exceeding the user's plan allotment.
I hope this helps some, but I doubt you'll find a silver bullet gem or service because this requires some deep application logic.
37signals rightly makes designers addicted to their culture, but if you ask me, I don't like their products.
I bet there are tons of companies in Korea whose products I would not like.
General PM software gripes (jira, project, pivotal tracker):
1. lack of keyboard shortcuts: have to use mouse way too much. org-mode is so much more intuitive and efficient for task management once learned but lacks collaborations and no one wants to put in the time to learn it.
2. Difficult to get a clear picture of the overall status of projects. Project managers have to spend a lot of time gathering status updates and creating reports because we use so many different tools, and the built-in reporting generally sucks.
3. Lack of intuitive structure within data. An ideal PM platform would structure information in an intuitive way that to make it discoverable by people working on peripherally related projects.
Specific gripes w/Basecamp:
1. Don't get notifications when clients upload files, only when they post messages (they often don't understand the difference)
2. Checkboxes to send out email notifications are not checked by default for new messages. Clients always forget to do this, even when we remind them, and then wonder why we don't respond right away.
3. Refusal to use gantt charts. I get that 37signals has a philosophical objection to dependancies and detailed timelines in PM, but sometimes a gantt chart is the best way to visually display a project timeline, especially if certain milestones are missed and impact the rest of the project.
I think Remember the Milk has a decent solution for search, but obviously it's not nearly as complete as Basecamp.
Now, be ready to do something difficult: if you want somebody to stick around, you'll need to make them an owner. You've done one part, raise the money, but now you need somebody who can implement this. As such, be willing to offer them over 50% of your equity (what they're doing is more valuable than what you've done, honestly) and make them an actual co-founder. Let them make complete technology choices, even if he says the application will be written in Erlang and Haskell. Give them input equal to yours when it comes to product direction, not "I come up with all the ideas, you implement them". Anything less, and they're an employee and not a founder.
That's very important: you will not get a top notch employees unless a) you have technical founders b) you can pay them above market rate and give a significant equity chunk c) challenge them in a way that grows their technical skill.
Take a look at a successful engineer at a top-notch Silicon Valley company: they have a job with brand name recognition, they do something they love (a _very_ important motivating factor for an engineer: they will not stop working on say garbage collection algorithms and start working on "GroupON for X" for a paycheck), they have a technical manager, they're earning above market rate (with performance based bonuses), they have stock which may not be a significant percentage but is 100% certain to be worth something.
The money you have isn't sufficient to pay an engineer a market rate salary. The problem you're solving is likely not very technical. The upside potential is likely unknown and it's almost certain than an employee will see very little in the case of a typical exit. The only kind of employee you can hire in this case is somebody who can't get a stable job elsewhere: you'll be giving him legitimate experience to put on his resume in return for his work. That isn't a bad deal if you can accurately identify potential (and if you are unable to give them more responsibility and a higher salary in a year, ready for them to leave as soon as get find something else) or have enough money to hire and fire many times (with "trial periods" and the like), but this isn't your case. You can't identify potential, you can't afford to try and fail until you luck upon somebody with potential.
What you need is another founder, who can insert the critical technology DNA, re-state your problem as one technology can be (intelligently) applied to and who has the same stake as you in the company. This person can also identify further talent (including the kind of talent you will need: engineers who have great potential, but are green and need _any_ kind of experience; they need experienced hackers to mentor them).
Where do you find this person? Problem is that you can't, unless you already know them. That's why companies like YC are very fuzzy about founders who have known each other and have a strong bond. Is there an engineer you've worked with (in a business role) who the company has pulled all stops (before) to keep, but who secretly yearns to have more of say in the product (and not just do what a product manager tells him)? Is there a classmate from college who absolutely wowed you? Is there an engineer you hear great things from your unknown-quality engineer friends? That's the person you want.
Again, I'd also like to state this isn't just about the money, other than the fact you've been able to raise funding has set you aside from most "idea" guys (to whom my general response would consist of a crude ASCII drawing). Just having money, doesn't mean you can get great talent: you must be ready to offer is challenge, responsibility and product ownership (and that means giving up a large part of your mental and monetary stake in the startup). Expect most people you reach out to to reject you (but I'd imagine you are ready for this and have experienced this plenty in the process of raising funding).
If neither you nor the person who wants to join the company are developers, then I would pause until you've found one. 250k is not a lot of money to build anything non-trivial, and you'll burn through it unbelievably fast if there's not a founding member who is highly technical and can evaluate how good other technical employees are going to be. If you're paying salaries and other expenses, 250k keeps a team of 5 going for like 6 months. It usually takes 3 months to raise a follow-on round, which gives a team of 5 three months to build something exciting enough to raise follow-on investment. If it's you and one or two technical co-founders, you can run an awful lot longer. If you're just paying spartan living expenses, you can get it as low as 5k per person per month (in the valley).
If you take the money, chances are you'll fail. Are these experienced investors who can afford the loss? Are you okay with losing that money? If they can deal with it and you can deal with it, then I suggest you take it and stay very thrifty for a while while you figure out what's what. Get them to invest in you and the space, not in this particular product idea (since it will likely change and you want their support if that happens).
Personally, I'd take it. Money's great and you can get a lot done in a few months. But only if you're willing to commit. I spent 3 or 4 years working in a space I didn't care that much about because once you have a employees and investors, it's really hard to let go.
As for steps:1) Figure out what you want2) Find a badass developer cofounder3) Take the money4) Developer starts building product while you start securing first customers/users/partners, adjusting the product as you go based on your learning from talking to people
HA HA HA based on what? It's an idea.
1a. Ask people you know for referrals of coders they trust. Hit up local networking events. Try to find people through yourself and others you know and trust before branching out to regular hiring ways.
2. Get a corporate attorney to help set up your company and the appropriate paperwork so whoever you hire, sign the right paperwork needed. This is important.
3. Build the prototype, and haul ass. Consider talking to an IP attorney but in all seriousness, $250k isn't much. If it's going to cost you a significant amount of money, perhaps hold off on the IP registration. Don't take my word on this though, consult a few different IP attornies for better advice on that.
Also, talk to a lawyer. If you are taking $250k from friends you need to have contracts/agreements in place. Don't take money on a handshake. One or both of you will get burned at some point.
I don't know if these friends are seasoned investors or just people with money but if they aren't familiar with the startup world make sure they know what they are getting into. They could lose all their money by the end of the week and they need to be prepared for that (make sure your agreements are in place before you start spending in case this happens).
With $250, I'd say you got about 4-6 months (assuming 4-6 engineers) of runway. That means you need to have a good prototype in 2-3 months and be ready to start pitching real investors. So I go back to my first point, start building.
Network, hustle, hustle.
In that order.
That should help you to undestand how that person is thinking, and how will he react in different stressfull situations.
$50 if you're desperate but don't let anyone else know
There's cl-mongo (MongoDB), cl-tc (Tokyo Cabinet), de.setf.cassandra (Cassandra), chillax and clouchdb (CouchDB), etc. etc. [Some are more complete and performant than others, but you can find a usable CL binding for almost any NoSQL db. Use a search engine and/or ask on IRC or comp.lang.lisp for pointers.]
Building an ad server that'll meet the needs of larger online advertisers can be a real pain, especially if it's just a single component of your business.
If I were you, I'd see if I couldn't just extend the open source version of OpenX with a custom plugin. If it turns out that you can't, well -- you can still learn a lot about ad servers by playing about with OpenX's code.
- Everything needs to be lightning fast. You don't have time for 15 calls out to MySQL to figure out what you're going to do. NoSQL is your friend here.
- Relating to the above, implement a timing/profiling system that operates in production early on. It'll save your life more than you think.
- Keep track of budgets and ads served per advertiser in a way that's quickly accessible and can handle being shared. Hint: if you're going to run more than 1-2 campaigns, you don't have time to hit your DB every impression to get this.
- Make sure you fully understand cookie mechanics, especially relating to third-party cookies.
- The amount of events in online advertising is enormous compared to other fields, so make sure your reporting can scale horizontally.
- Understand how TCP and HTTP connections work and what stages they go through. You're going to have more connections from more different hosts than most normal load profiles, so optimizing your web stack and load balancing is critical.
Then you would have a web front end for admin.
Additional features, like confirming the widget in use by member sites would be another set of spidering servers.
IMO this is a very fun technical problem to solve. Lots of moving parts and opportunities to optimize .
Some pointers on programming language choices for technology would be great.
Kleinsch you have some very interesting thoughts, is there any other way I could reach you and talk in more detail?
Also - wtf of the day:: Last submissions was exactly a year ago!http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1147085
Depending on the details, probably some combination of:
Groovy on Grails, Tomcat, HornetQ, CentOS Linux, PostgreSQL, Redis, Memcache; with the possibility of falling back to plain Java (or even going native with C++) if necessary for performance critical stuff. If absolutely necessary, maybe Thrift for cross-platform RPC.
Note: I'm not making any claim that this is objectively the best stack available in any universal sense. But it's what would be best for me, based on what I know and am productive in.
I'm comfortable in a few languages / frameworks, and each has their merits. If I'm building something with a dataset that I think Django's ORM will work well for me, and having its admin will be a benefit, then Django it is.
If not, almost certainly I'd drop into Tornado + Jinja, and an appropriate backend store.
For some other tasks, PHP might be the right answer.
I'm doing a lot with Django right now, so I'm probably more fluent in it than anything else, but Tornado is really sexy. Kind of a toss up for me.
My observation is that it generally depends on what kind of people you work with (their experience and their geekiness matters the most), you prefer stability over bleeding-edge, what support you expect from the community, and more importantly, what the technical requirements are for your application.
The language itself (PHP/Python/Ruby/other.) has almost the least impact on what you should choose, in my opinion.
(The movie won't be available till next year, sorry.)
Anything complex will require back end services with may be written in whatever language/framework is best suited for the task. Tie it all together via REST and message queues and find the best solution to each problem.
All the modern Java tooling goodness minus the J2EE nonsense.
Man, I'd like to shake your hands.
Well, talk to them. Just don't do something you don't feel like doing. If you want to open-source your stuff do it. Put it under a business-friendly license and there should be no worries.
I guess, they just saw a lot of potential in your abilities. They're probably interested in powering up their work force a bit.
If you get a bad feeling about what they propose: don't do it. And don't make any decisions on right the spot. Don't let the pressure get to you.
If you should bring people or not depends on what kind of meeting it really is and what they want. Can you find out more about them? Well, they are talking about collaborating, so I'm fairly sure you don't need to bring a lawyer IMHO. I'd go alone.
The patent office needs to stop software being patented. UK patent law specifically excludes "programs for computers" but nevertheless the patent office still grants software patents.
I don't know the traffic levels on these sites (we don't track such things individually for each site) but I guestimate a collective volume of ~ 20-25k PVs/mo.
If you wish, we can run a (site-wide) promo of your landing page on all of the above sites for a few weeks. (You don't need to pay anything - at any time - unless you must ;-)).
Let me know if you're interested.
I recommend that you make your splash page/landing page better by adding more information, or even a few screenshots etc to hep encourage signups to your service.
However, this seems more of a marketing issue. You should focus more on your marketing efforts as well as, how your competitors marketed your product? Also you should consider contacting publications such as a food blog etc, as this will also help you acquire more signups.
In other words... DEBUG = False when you're exposing the rest to the world.
in the section called "Office Hours."
But basically the answer is no. Each company should go as fast as it can, but how fast you can reach a milestone like e.g. getting a beta in the hands of users depends on what you're building and when you started. Some startups can have a beta in the hands of users within a week, while others might take a year.
To paraphrase Einstein, a startup should launch as soon as possible, but no sooner.
Can you afford to quit? You say you are married. If you don't have kids, you'll need 6 months living expenses. Better yet would be to have a years' worth. I have heard conflicting reports on how easy it is to get unemployment if you quit. For now, I would assume that you cannot get unemployment.
Next, Quit or Don't?:
If you decide to quit - here's what you should do:
1. Give tons of notice. Since you don't have anywhere to go, you can keep earning money and be openly looking for a new gig. The fact that it's out in the open should alleviate some of the stress for you.
2. Figure out why you're so unhappy. Write down two answers. First, an answer that is well rehearsed. This is the answer you can tell your boss and co-workers so you don't blow up and tell them they are killing you. Second, an answer that is the real reason. If you're this miserable at a job you're going to have to do some serious soul searching to figure out why and you'll need a plan of attack to deal with these issues so they don't disrupt you in the future
3. Find the person who will be most upset about your quitting and manager your relationship with them. This will be huge on down the line.
4. Ultimately, be nice. You're leaving and the way you leave will stay with you forever in the minds of your bosses and co-workers.
If you decide to stay - here's what you should do:
Don't phone it in. The anxiety of being at a job that you hate and continuing to do half-assed work will crush you. Better to take risks on projects that have the chance to excite you and do great work for the company. If you're going to leave anyway, just find a way to politely decline the work you don't want to do and pick a project that has a chance to be a game changer.
Next, look for another job. I know this is obvious, although in my opinion, you have 3 ways to go with this:
Option 1: Get another job, any job. Call recruiters. Call everyone you know. Shotgun resumes. Apply to jobs you know you can get and get a new one. Once within the new job give yourself 6 weeks to determine if you like it. If you like it, great, you have a job you like. If you don't, move on to Option 2 or 3 and figure out how the fuck you're going to explain why you have been job hopping so aggressively. Just be happy that you have a job that doesn't make you cry. If it does, go to therapy.
Option 2: Figure out what your dream job is with extreme detail. I mean everything where is it? What do you do? Who do you work for? What your boss is like? How much you will get paid? Size of company, revenue, industry, etc. EVERYTHING. Write at least 3 pages on this and find companies and positions that match your target and go after them with everything you've got.
Option 3: Start freelancing. Be slightly less selective about the projects you take, but find a market that you are comfortable serving and do whatever it takes to give them what they want. Maybe even finding a few projects that pay $15 or $20 an hour will give you and your wife more confidence that you can quit. And if you do well you might be able to parlay those into an even more successful full-time side gig.
And when it's all said and done and you have your dream job, do something nice for your wife. Dealing with this type of thing really sucks for women and I think taking a trip with her and showing her that you're happy will do wonders for both of your psyches.
Quitting whiteout having something lined up OR not having enough cash in the bank is always a last resort but sometime if things are that unbearable it has to be done.
Also, this is not the last time you will be rejected for something you really really want start preparing yourself for that ahead of time.
My best advice is to try and get something going while you currently have a job (you said you have time to learn right? why not use this time to build something?)
I once reached out to Seth Godin for advice on whether I should try and get a job in tech or just run with the startup idea I had on my own. He told me to quit and start immediately. In retrospect I'm really glad I didn't go with his advice since I would have felt completely lost and unprepared after the initial rush of doing my own thing. Instead, I've worked on side projects in my spare time, and eventually one idea clicked and the company is taking off (feel very fortunate).
Go with your gut, but also make sure you feel in control of your life and have options. Stick it out, save money, and if you do quit, you will be more comfortable supporting your decision as well as your family.
It is never too late to start. ;)
Seriously: Don't work for $15 per hour. Learn what you need to learn in order to charge $75 per hour. Some of that may be technical, but I sense that a stumbling block is that you have not learned to ask for $75 per hour -- otherwise you would not be so "happy" with so little. Be less happy! Be pickier about your clients and make higher demands, of them and of yourself.
If you can do freelance work from anywhere in the world, then this advice is doubly true.
I know your concerns are mainly technical, but you've given us no idea of the type of business you're looking at starting. If your business idea is good enough and you think you can deliver then yes, I'd say go for it. As a single founder though I'd like to warn you that no matter how successful (or not) you get, it'll suck the life out of you like a vampire, so make sure it's something you're going to enjoy beforehand.
The great thing about freelance is that you can do it whenever YOU choose! If you decide to take a few weeks off from freelancing to study for final exams, you can do it. Running a business will not necessarily give you that flexibility.
Best of luck!
Starting business is not only about knowing what you want to do or how to do it , there is many factors you need to know before you start your own business, like business itself, law, finance and management.
Look for a good job in the same domain you want to start your business in and start planning your business accordingly, and try to get involved in everything required from you to succeed.
Having your goals set in early age is great.
I'm basically the same age (turning 19 in April) and doing contract work for $85 per hour right now (still in high school), but I have a job offer at a well-funded startup down here (Texas) that will pay a $105k salary as a senior software engineer once I graduate in the spring.
By allowing others to take advantage of you, you're supporting their ageism. Being great for cheap is detrimental to everyone. Either be bad and cheap or be expensive and awesome, proving in both cases that you get what you paid for regardless of age.
(Anonymous in case the company and/or my contracting clients who are paying more than $85 per hour are reading this.)
Historical precedents have been mixed. Games consoles have been allowed to retain exclusivity for software but not hardware (controllers, etc.). Printers haven't been allowed to reject third party refills.
The only way for there to be a clear judgement would be a trial.
Apple did it because they can. For their money vendors get development tools, marketing and distribution assistance plus, of course, access to the marketplace.
Its the same with supermarkets or big stores. Want them to sell your stuff? By and large you have to do it on their terms.
So, I don't think there's a legal issue at all, especially since Android exists and is doing well.
Don't be that guy.
Go to actual hacking events. Show people what you have actually done and are trying to accomplish. They'll respect you much more for it and they'll let their guard down. You have to earn their trust. There are simply too many people out there looking to take advantage of coders to put together their "revolutionary" idea.
Edit: Specifically, look for HN meetups and browse Meetup.com for language specific events.
http://wiki.hackerdojo.com/ -- Great volunteer run CoWorking space in Mountain View. Hope this helps.
Trolltech is (was) a Norwegian company. They still have development offices in Oslo.