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I'm not sure if I'm posting this question in the right area or even site. This question goes to Jeff Atwood primarily.

I know you guys say you did not use any investors to start up but clearly you're paying for renting servers and who knows how many other costs such as disk, data redundancy, bandwidth, software licenses using BizSpark, etc.

So how much realistically did it take you first two employees alone (even jeff before he hired employee #2) to start this up monthly?

I'm asking because I'm looking to start up a .com (something not even developer related). Even though my site is not related, I am taking the same approach, no investors (and wifey doesn't want to get a loan or take any "risk" hehe yea right) and wondering how feasible this really is when trying to start up something with no money backing but solid plan hopefully when we sit down to create it. The fact is there are many start-up costs for even a site doing 1.5 million hits a month period.

By knowing start-up costs for this site and others who attempt to start up without any money in pocket it will give me a sense for reality.

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I bet Papa Spoelsky rolled it. – AndyMcKenna Jul 22 '09 at 4:25
eh? do not get you. – user131892 Jul 22 '09 at 4:34
He's crudely implying that Joel Spolsky was the initial investor in StackOverflow. – Kyle Cronin Jul 22 '09 at 4:41
ah, so there was an investor! yea, I don't think you can just start a site like this without some cash flow. – user131892 Jul 22 '09 at 4:42
He's saying he thinks Joel Spoelsky provided the initial funding, which seems plausible (he owns a very successful software company, so he's probably got money to invest in this site). I don't know that they've ever talked much about their specific financial situation though. – Kip Jul 22 '09 at 4:42
@Kip: no, those details are pretty hush-hush, so I would be surprised if Jeff provided investment or revenue data; however, I don't see why operating costs would be confidential, since he's already blogged about some of them already. – Kyle Cronin Jul 22 '09 at 5:02
I've read some of the blog posts but they don't really paint a good picture of the true start-up costs in lets say the first 1-2 months to get it live – user131892 Jul 23 '09 at 1:39
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Reading through the SO blog and Jeff's blog would be the best way to get a feel for how they put things together in the early days. On the podcast Jeff mentioned many times that he was ashamed of how little he could pay Geoff and Jarrod in the early days. Since both of them have now been brought on full time, it seems that they are making enough revenue to make it worth it for them to switch.

As for servers, initially they were renting. However, since that Jeff has done a lot of that work himself. Yes they pay to have their servers put into a rack at server farm, but they own the servers. See here for some of the thinking that went into this choice.

If you're trying to extrapolate this information to what it will take to create your own startup, there are many factors that you should consider.

  • Joel had already created one, now very successful, startup without investment capital
  • Joel and Jeff had very high visibility within the community they were launching a product for
  • Jeff had experience generating money from Google Ad-sense or something similar (I expect Joel did as well)
  • Joel had experience hosting the joel-on-software forums and the related job site (which now factors into SO as a money maker as well)

I'm sure there are more things that were working in their favor, and even with that said Joel wrote an entire article about how they broke all his rules for running a successful software company and were successful because Jeff, Jarrod and Geoff are "smart and get things done".

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I guess they will never reveal their true costs in sum but would be nice to know – user131892 Jul 23 '09 at 1:41

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