Growing a SaaS App on the Amazon Platform to $550/mo

Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?

My name is Paul Dessert, and I design, build, and grow internet businesses. By day, I'm a full-stack developer and growth marketer. In my free time I create my own side projects. One of those projects is JungleFlip.

JungleFlip is a web application that helps people find amazing one-time deals on Amazon merchandise. It's popular with a wide array of people ranging from young adults to seniors. People love the treasures that JungleFlip digs up.

The site just broke the $500/month mark.

JungleFlip Site

What motivated you to get started with JungleFlip?

A few years ago I started a gift registry website. It was a quick and convenient way for people to create a gift registry and add products from any website in the world. It gained some traction, but the technology burden was immense. I couldn't keep up with it on my own. I explored the idea of trying to get an investor, but ultimately decided it would be against my main goal of independence.

I abandoned the gift registry site and began looking for a way to use my existing code base and build something new. One night, I stumbled on a department within Amazon called, "Amazon Warehouse Deals". It was great!

You're going to fail. Those that learn from their mistakes will grow and become successful.

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It is basically the "open-box" aisle of Amazon. Some of the deals were unbelievable. I found speaker systems, computers, parts for my truck, and much more. Most of the stuff was discounted 80% or more.

But there was a catch. It was hard to find the really good deals. Most of the items were only discounted 5-10%. I tried to manipulate the search filters to only show the items I wanted. It was hit and miss. JungleFlip was born!

What went into building the initial product?

I'm working a full-time job and have a family, so my development time is limited. I've built a lot of products in the past and they failed. I didn't want this project to end the same way, and I didn't want to waste my time on unnecessary features up front. I had to spend my time wisely on JungleFlip.

I studied the Amazon API and started writing code. The technical challenges were actually much harder than I'd anticipated. Amazon didn't give up all of the information I wanted, so I had to get creative.

I'm working a full-time job and have a family, so my development time is limited.

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Finding items on the site requires two passes through the API. The first pass retrieves product data, while the second pass retrieves the details. On top of it, Amazon throttles API requests, so the processing takes a really long time.

Over the course of two months (on and off) I got an MVP up and running. There were a lot of bugs, but I worked them out as I found them.

How have you attracted users and grown JungleFlip?

I'm not a big fan of "launches" for side projects. Part of the initial process is discovering what works and what doesn't. A "soft launch" allows you to correct issues or adjust your marketing message. Instead, I take my time and go slow in the beginning.

For JungleFlip, I started off by focusing on one audience. Resellers. There is a niche community of people that make extra cash by finding discounted items and reselling them on eBay, Craigslist, etc. I figured they'd be a perfect fit. Wrong. They were critical and skeptical of the service. So, I adjusted my target.

I cast my net wider and targeted men and women between the ages of 18-55. Then I crafted my marketing material at a subset of that demographic. JungleFlip has a "pet" section, so I created ads that were aimed at people interested in pets. I did this for the top five departments on the site.

I found my audience in unlikely places. I created Craigslist ads, small flyers that I posted in pet stores, and simply told people about the site at every opportunity.

JungleFlip Departments

What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

It's 100% affiliate income. I get a cut of each sale that I refer to Amazon. There are only two ways to grow revenue on this model. More traffic, or a bigger percentage on the back end. Since I don't have much leverage with Amazon, I have to grow traffic.

One way I grew traffic was by adding an email list feature. A user can subscribe for daily updates. Each day I send an email reminder when new products are added. This has been a big win and was easy to implement.

Simple, boring, and unsexy things make money.

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The biggest risk with this model is the reliance on Amazon. If Amazon terminates my partnership, my income dries up. I'm looking for ways to diversify, but for now, the risk is there.

My expenses are very small. I only pay about $30 for hosting (Digital Ocean) and about $40 for my email marketing subscription (Drip). I expect my hosting bill to increase as I add more traffic.

Here's a look at some recent revenue numbers.

Month Revenue
June 244
July 318
August 487
September 522
October 586

What are your goals for the future?

My goals for JungleFlip are to steadily increase traffic and improve the user experience. I want to find a way to retrieve data from Amazon faster and more efficiently.

This site is part of my 5x2000 goal: I'm building 5 products/services that will generate $2,000+ each per month. I currently have two projects earning income, but I need to ramp them up before I start anything new.

What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome?

My biggest challenge has been my mindset. I had to break free of the "coder" mindset and really focus on the business aspect.

Being able to code is a huge asset, but it only goes so far. Most of my time is spent marketing and running the sites.

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

When I start a new project I have the tendency to get distracted with technology. I'll read about a new language or library and I'll want to test it out. When I began JungleFlip I was hell-bent on getting it up and running as quickly as possible. That required me to use the tools I knew. It was a huge help.

I fired up a simple LAMP stack and started coding. I didn't waste any time learning how to configure a new development environment, learning syntax, or any other BS. There is a time and place for learning new technology. This wasn't one of those times.

I'm a fan of Justin Jackson, Brennan Dunn, and Nathan Barry. All three teach what they know and have been an inspiration. I recommend you spend some time reading their material. All three provide a TON of free information.

Having a spouse who is supportive is also a HUGE advantage. My wife plays a big role in this adventure. She's my editor, writer, researcher, and anything else I ask her to do. Having that support goes a long, long way.

What's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?

You're going to fail. Those that learn from their mistakes will grow and become successful. You're going to get discouraged, pissed off, and frustrated. When that happens, get out from behind your computer and talk to people. That's how you'll find the real opportunities.

Don't chase the latest technology. Just because it's popular this week on Hacker News does not mean you need to use it. If you're serious about shipping a product, stick to a tech stack that you know.

Simple, boring, and unsexy things make money.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can check out JungleFlip at www.JungleFlip.com. While you're there, be sure to subscribe to the daily update email list!

You can also follow me on Twitter @pauldessert and learn more about me at my website: PaulDessert.com

I'm happy to answer any questions in the comments below!

Paul Dessert , Co-founder of JungleFlip

Want to build your own business like JungleFlip?

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