Jochen talks about building a side project that solves a real problem and brings in almost $8k a month.

What is TestingBot?

TestingBot is SaaS that provides both automated and manual browser and device testing for websites and apps. I've been working on it since 2013.

How did you get started?

I was 28 and had been working for a social networking company for 4 years. After I read the Steve Jobs Walter Isaacson book, I decided I wanted to start a company myself. As I was interested in automation software, and wanted to learn, I stumbled across Selenium. Selenium at that time provided basic browser testing.

While I was setting up Selenium, I realized it was a lot of work to set everything up correctly and maintain it. So I decided to turn this into a SaaS project, offering people a ready-to-use browser grid to do browser testing. It was pretty easy to fire up some VMs with Amazon's AWS. I was able to quickly create a custom Selenium grid with quite a few different browser versions.

Once I got a proof of concept running, I had to add all the extras: integrate user authentication (bill users for their usage of the grid), record the tests (screen capturing), create a VPN tunnel so that people can test websites not publicly available, etc.

While I was working on this, another company was already providing this service. Trying to be as good as that company was my primary motivation... learning from their product, thinking about ways to improve their product, making it faster and easier to use.

Where did you find the time and funding to work?

I never raised any money — everything was funded from my own funds. During the day I worked at my day job, and in the evenings and at night I worked on improving the service. On average, I worked about 25 hours per week on TestingBot.

Unfortunately, I didn't have anyone to help me, so when I stumbled across a difficult problem, I would end up spending a lot of time solving it alone.

How did you grow? What did you do for marketing?

As it turned out, marketing was the most difficult thing to get right. I preferred improving the product, so at times I neglected marketing. I tried Google AdWords, buying links, blog posts, and Twitter.

How did you monetize? What was your revenue?

The service charges a monthly subscription fee to use the browser grid. Customers are charged for the time they use the grid. Most of the money was re-invested in more hardware and in marketing campaigns like AdWords.

Overall, the revenue has been increasing since the start. Nowadays there's more competition, and it's difficult.

What do you feel has helped you, and what advice do you have for hackers setting out to be their own boss?

My main motivation was becoming as good as the main competitor. It still is a big motivation.

My advice is to work hard and spend a lot of time making your product fast and easy for people to use. Take special care in providing support, even for people who haven't paid anything yet. Good support is essential.

Also, try to automate as much as possible. Make sure you can do fast deploys. Have a continuous integration system for fast feedback. And use microservices — it makes it a lot easier to maintain complex systems.

What was your tech stack?

Java, Node.js, and Ruby.

Where can readers learn more about you and/or your company?

Visit the site at https://testingbot.com, or leave a comment below.

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