Tell us about yourself and what you're working on.
I'm Maxime Germain, a 24 year old Frenchman living in New York, and KeplerBot is part of my new company that I just started. It's a smart Instagram tool to help you grow your followers by engaging with them in a non-spammy way. It's used by a very wide range of people, from small companies to NGOs. We were able to reach 100 clients in 6 months.
How'd you get started on KeplerBot?
While I was working on ArtList, I wanted to quickly grow our social media presence. I was performing manual actions to promote the app every so many hours, and then I proceeded to replicate them programmatically: KeplerBot was born.
I only used it for our Instagram account, which just reached 100k followers.
How long did it take you to build KeplerBot?
It was not a classical process. I built the core of the algorithm in a couple months. It had no interface, and it was made only to replicate the specific actions I'd been performing.
As more and more friends wanted to use it, I had to build an interface. It took me 3 weeks to set up the website, payment system, and all the rest. I used Ruby on Rails, Redis, Sidekiq, and AWS.
How have you grown your revenue and user base?
The core of KeplerBot's customers are friends or people in my network. Early on, all of my friends wanted to use it, and I had to find a way to finance the growing costs. As the service provides immediate results, it's not super hard to convince customers to pay.
I started by having my closest network of friends paying 3 months or 1 year in advance over Paypal. I was setting everything with no interface on their side. At that point there was no online product to be used. As I had more and more people asking for it, I built the website and its interface using Ruby on Rails, the Stripe API, and Payola (a Ruby gem for subscriptions).
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I started with a high price point, as the service was very premium. It was $80 a month. After 2 months, I figured out a way to reduce server costs, reduced the price to $25 a month, and offered free subscriptions to everyone who'd paid the $80 rate.
From there, I grew the base by cold emailing a lot of people about the product. I began working with a marketing assistant (Arthur Puichaud) in March, who did a fantastic job at reaching out to people we would find on Angel List. Instead of "spamming" them, we would select 20 a day and send them a specially tailored recommendation for how to grow their Instagram account. We reached out to 900 people, who ended up converting into to 90 paying customers. It took a full month of work.
Currently, I'm developing a social media/SEO/sales strategy that I'll test in the upcoming months.
What was you goal for doing all of this?
I had coding and design skills that I wanted to use to create a product that would generate monthly revenue in addition to my main salary. My long-term goal is to have many niche products bringing in revenue so I don't have to work the traditional way anymore.
If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
I'd spend more time listening to my first users' feedback and quickly integrating what they asked for. It helps to build a strong early community for word of mouth growth.
What's your advice for aspiring indie hackers?
If the goal of the side project is to generate revenue, then think about something that brings immediate value to the customers. That value has to be easily measurable without too much thought.