*not really millions yet, but we got some interest ;-)
TLDR: Jay and Patric met on Indie Hackers, collaborated on a quick MVP using Airtable and listing 50+ platforms and marketplaces which you can use to build a plugin business upon. The feedback from the IH community on the table was quite good (58 upvotes, 45 comments) so we decided to go deeper into the idea. In this article we share our stats and insights from the quick launch of our version 1 within one week. After launching we listened to the forum feedback talked to a lot of people and had a few calls. Now we built a small site which allows you to find any up-and-coming ecosystems to build your next side project on. Check it out here: Indie-Ignitor.com
If we would have met on Tinder instead of the Indie Hackers forum we would have had two babies and a dog by now…
Well, not exactly – but you’ll get the picture in a second. After we met, we were moving fast ;-)
How we met on Indie Hackers
When Jay posted his initial question about “Up-and-Coming Micro-Product Ecosystems” my interest was sparked. I was also interested in discovering untapped potential for a Micro-SaaS or plugin business. We connected through Twitter and Skype and scheduled a quick call.
A few days later our first call lasted no longer than 16 Minutes and 17 Seconds - not the kind of “first date” you would tell your friends about…
But instead of deleting his number off my phone and blocking him on all social networks it clicked. We were both quite enthusiastic about the topic and decided to give it a go and collaborate on a list of interesting marketplaces. Basically we wanted to dump our brains, get new insights and give back to the IH community too. So the idea of “WhichMarketplace” was born.
We set ourselves a deadline of one week to launch.
One week to research plugin marketplaces, app stores and platform economies which are worth sharing. One week to think about our “launch strategy”. One week while we were both busy with our daily lives, freelance businesses and other projects too. But in the end it turned out to be one of the best decisions to set such an ambitious deadline! Later we got the feeling we could have set an even tighter deadline too. We were moving fast ;-)
One of our goals was to gather information about at least 50 marketplaces. We just made up that number in the initial call and it felt quite intimidating and a big number at the time. But little did we know…
Jay suggested using Airtable and soon enough we were quickly accumulating row after row, marketplace after marketplace. While I was throwing in some marketplaces and their developer pages, Jay was adding “Creator Experiences” from Indie Hackers interviews and the secret sauce: links to “user problems” which need to be solved.
We called the spreadsheet “WhichMarketplace” tagged the entries by Platform-Type and Software-Type and added the logos for each one.
And boy what a great feeling! Working alongside somebody else again. Being enthusiastic about the same topic, seeing the progress in real time and just getting everything done in light speed. When working from home sometimes it can be hard to get yourself up and running and being your own best motivator at times. There is something great to working in a team too, but as most of you know and experienced – a team with an aligned vision is great - a team without a vision or motivation just sucks your life away…
So anyway, back to our story here…
Our collaboration was quite productive and focused. We used Dropbox Paper to share ideas and our launch plan and worked on the Airtable as our product. We actually had just our initial call and the rest of our conversations happened right within Paper or via Twitter.
The urgency of a launch date in less than a week just gets things done.
Jay: "The thing which struck me most about the collaboration was how seamlessly and quickly it all came together. We were both on exactly the same wavelength, prioritising speed and learning. That’s something I was really looking for when I left my job at a VC-backed startup where people would get into endless feuds about minute implementation details, and we never really had a real connection to setting and measuring goals.”
The launch of v1
While we were gathering the data about the platforms and marketplaces we brainstormed on how we wanted to “launch” the list in the end. As it was a brainchild out of the IH community forum so we made that our first priority. Impressing and giving back to our peers ;-)
Our main strategy was to post a short “Show IH” to the forum and reach out to our personal network to gather their feedback and maybe get one or another up vote too. In the end it turned out very well! On the Indie Hackers forum our post “Show IH: Which Marketplace? Discover new project opportunities in 50+ software marketplaces” gathered 58 upvotes and 45 comments. Yay!
However, this time we failed to make it to the Indie Hackers newsletter and our twin post “Show HN” only got 20 upvotes and was quickly lost in the limbo of HackerNews ;-(
During the launch day we circled back between reaching out to our network via email and twitter and coming back to the post to reply to comments and engage with the IH community.
Overall we received a lot of interest, awesome feedback and made some great connections along the way. Also a lot of people reached out or replied directly via email and Twitter to provide valuable feedback - thank you all!
The launch stats
Now if you’re curious to hear the numbers already, here you go… We managed to get:
- 1,063 visits to the Airtable spreadsheet
- 58 upvotes on IH
- 20 upvotes on HN
- 19 people to provide feedback and suggestions
- 11 people signing up as collaborators to add data
- 4 people signing up for future updates
- Requests for 16 additional data points about each marketplace
Learnings from creating and launching our v1 in a week
We learned a few things from our first “sprint” to create and launch a spreadsheet MVP. Some are quite obvious and for some the devil is in the details…
- Quick turnaround can be good to keep momentum. The deadline of one week pushed ourselves to focus and get things done. It is also great to avoid the usual idea-fatigue which kicks in if something is taking too long without any positive feedback from outside and you lose interest over time.
- It’s great to collaborate in real time on a shared vision: We worked quickly, needed less coordinating, and did more doing. Only possible with a clearly aligned and reachable goal!
- Indie Hackers Newsletter: We did not check at what days the newsletter is usually sent out (Mon, Wed, Fri) and we reached out to “pitch” Courtland (@csallen) instead of Channing (@channingallen) while the latter seems to be the one sending out the newsletters.
- Airtable charges per user! During the launch we just invited the people who wanted to collaborate and soon enough Jay got charged for topping out the free tier of his Airtable account due to the contributors. This took us by surprise as the version 1 was not planned to create any expenses.
- Choosing Airtable might have hold back some potential collaborators as we could not prominently feature any sign-up form or info box to spark interest in collaborating. The separate tabs we used were just not visible enough to get noticed by most visitors and created unnecessary friction for one of our goals: find collaborators.
- Be aware of our network fatigue! You can reach out to your network only so many times before they hate you and put your mail on the spam list... So you got to be aware and actively decide if you want to send them to your post on Indie Hackers, HackerNews or any other platform you choose to publish. This time we skipped ProductHunt but that would just add another platform to steer attention to. Decide strategically what you want to push.
Now after we launched quite successfully and sifted through the feedback it was quite clear that there was at least some interest into the topic and our list. But how to proceed?
We had a Skype call, discussed the feedback and decided to move forward with 1-on-1 conversations next. We came up with three types of potential “users” for our list.
- Entrepreneurs who want to start a Plugin/Extension business from scratch
- Entrepreneurs who already run a Plugin/Extension business and want to expand their offer to other platforms or marketplaces for growth
- Investors who are looking to buy SMBs in the Plugin/Extension niche and need data
Our goal was to learn what features and data would be absolutely necessary for a paid product. What do we need to build to monetize this and who would be willing to pay for it?
During the course of two weeks we reached out and called a few dozen people to gather more insights. We had a lot of great conversations and got additional feedback on the idea and the underlying need.
In the end we were not able to pre-sell anything during that conversations – however, the actual need and desired value became much clearer to us. Also, with each conversation our confidence grew that there is value in the topic and we might still discover a way to make it worthwhile for us to continue.
A recurring theme was the added confusion after reading the list: Great! But what should I do next?
People were interested in the opportunities which might hide behind those marketplaces, but having 66 of them presented to you as new options makes the decision to choose one even harder. We needed to tackle that problem too!
Learnings from calling and reaching out to interested users
- Most people are willing to give feedback if you ask nicely
- Some prefer email due to timing constraints while others quickly jump on a Skype call with you without hesitation
- It takes time to look up and get some background on a person before reaching out with a personalized message
- Although there feels like there’s a lot of activity with investors purchasing small internet companies – see Kevin McArdle, Thomas Smale and Bryce Roberts – it’s difficult to find an extensive list of them!
Building the version 2
As a result from our conversations we decided to go back to the original idea of putting up a really easy to use resource of marketplaces and platforms. We added some of the requested features and data points and extended the page with two important pointers. Most people were lost after reading the list, we wanted to give them a clear path what to do next. And also we want to earn some money.
To answer the most-common question of “What should I do next?” we added
- A list of tools, e-books and courses which help you find, plan and actually take that next step which is needed to build a successful plugin/extension business on one of the marketplaces.
- Access to historical “growth” data on the marketplaces so users can look up and actually see which marketplace or platform is currently exploding within the last 12 months, where are silver-bullet opportunities due to lack of supply and which platforms are already saturated and might be too risky.
In terms of monetization both of those options help us sustain the cost of creating the platform and gathering more data. Some of the content products are affiliate products where we earn a commission on each sale. The access to historical data is an “early bird” pre-sale as of now, since we started collecting the historical data just now.
The whole site is built with React and Reactstrap (Bootstrap 4) and hosted on Firebase. To optimise for speed and new features, the data is sitting in a simple JSON object on the client-side. The main table is done with React Bootstrap Table 2 which makes building tables embarrassingly easy – highly recommended.
Introducing our second version: Indie Ignitor
Today we’re proud to show you a sneak preview of our site:
We choose the name for a few simple reasons:
- It’s conveying “starting”, “launching” as well as resonating with “indie hackers”, “solo developers”, “solopreneurs”, etc.
- We wanted to keep ourselfs options for future changes by not choosing a name including anything like “marketplaces” or “platforms”
- The domain was available, and well: Emojicons!!
Our next goal is to reach 10 pre-sales for the “Extended Insights” product. The default price is $149,- for three months access to all current and historical data. But instead of charging monthly or yearly we are now offering a VIP lifetime deal to you as early birds who are interested in the data and want to use it right now or grab the deal for any future projects. The early bird offer is only valid during our launch days.
If you are interested yourself or maybe know somebody who could use the data to make the next step in his indie journey check it out here: Indie-Ignitor lifetime deal for $149,-
We plan to launch on HackerNews, ProductHunt, BetaList and several other “startup related communities” in the next days. We believe in constant effort rather than the single big bang launch. So if you have any ideas where we should promote and launch IndieIgnitor too - let us know in the comments!
While we were talking to a lot people, working on the site and gathering data we had a few more ideas how the data and the concept itself could be useful for indie developers and marketers as well.
- Offering “hands-on” expert advice on the platforms from experienced developers and people who already have a product on the particular marketplace. Essentially somebody helping you get off the ground quickly while avoiding common pitfalls.
- Implementing instant “growth alerts” for any particular marketplaces you are interested in. Also including newly added marketplaces which match your criteria.
- A straight forward algorithm to pair interested developers with matching platforms and marketplaces where your skills and interests align well to the platform.
- An “untapped-niche detector” where we find possible business opportunities which match your skills and interest by sifting trough user needs, ratings, comments and requests on some of the platforms.
- and many, many more…
Now what? Call to Action!
Check out the new data at Indie-Ignitor.com
If you’re interested to stay in the loop with updates and new marketplaces added, sign up for the newsletter here.
Got Feedback, Suggestions or Ideas?
If you like the site or think a friend might benefit from seeing it, please do share the link.
See you around!
Jay and Patric