How I Bootstrapped a Company to 50k/mo Within the First Year

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

Hey Indie Hackers, I’m Mark. I’ve been building all sorts of online projects since I was a kid.

Currently I’m the CEO and Founder of FirstBase. We have made it easier than ever for foreign startups to set up a company and bank account in the US.

FirstBase is a company dedicated to breaking international barriers and driving opportunity for business owners. We offer tech entrepreneurs a way to quickly and easily break into the US market.

Our MRR is $50K at this point. Since our launch we’ve grown >20% each month.

Homepage

What motivated you to get started with FirstBase.io?

I started getting into tech when I was in high school. A skateboard friend recommended the book Zero to One. I then spent the whole year reading about startups, founders, and business models.

I truly believe that the best work is made in a collaborative environment.

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I began to realize that the startup opportunity wasn't equally distributed around the world, and I also knew how hard it was for some founders to accept payments online when running their business. So I started FirstBase with the idea to make it easier for founders from all over the world to open a company in the US.

Our company helps technology businesses get to the next level by setting up a company in the US. It gives them access to a giant market with access to venture capital and a great startup ecosystem. It’s also relatively easy to run a US company compared to other countries.

Pricing for FirstBase

What went into building the initial product?

We bootstrapped FirstBase from zero with no seed funding whatsoever. I stopped working on all of my other projects for a few months to focus on building FirstBase. I hired a design person to help create a concept, brought on some dev people (my friends actually), focused on building partnerships and our first ad campaigns. It took me about four months to get this all done.

I worked on everything myself for about a month after the launch. During that time I learned how to do sales, marketing, and partnerships. When FirstBase started making enough to pay a salary for one person (not me), I went for it and hired a customer success manager. It was still a mess, but at least I had some time to work on other things: new features, paid ads, marketing, and more.

As our revenue continues to grow we are able to hire talented people who enjoy building new features and experiences.

The FirstBase blog

What's your business model?

Our one-time fee includes all state filing fees, company formation, EIN, Post-Incorporation documents, the first year of registered agent fees, a business bank account opened with Mercury, one free tax consultation, several special offers and discounts from our partners, and lifetime support.

We are working hard to introduce new features next month.

What are your goals for the future?

We are focused on maximizing our recent momentum and building partnerships with great companies.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced?

Managing people is hard. In fact, the most talented people are the toughest to manage. It can be quite challenging to find the right approach and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. When I’m facing a management challenge, I reach out to someone more experienced. More often than not they are willing to help

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I assign themes for each day of the entire week, which I find to be very helpful in dealing with the complexity of running a startup.

It can be quite challenging to find the right management approach and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. When I’m facing a management challenge, I reach out to someone more experienced.

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

Hire early. Although it may sound like contradictory advice to Indie Hackers, I truly believe that the best work is made in a collaborative environment.

Where can we go to learn more?

I love chatting with other founders. Feel free to send me a line at [email protected].

Mark Milastsivy , Founder of FirstBase.io

Want to build your own business like FirstBase.io?

You should join the Indie Hackers community! 🤗

We're a few thousand founders helping each other build profitable businesses and side projects. Come share what you're working on and get feedback from your peers.

Not ready to get started on your product yet? No problem. The community is a great place to meet people, learn, and get your feet wet. Feel free to just browse!

Courtland Allen , Indie Hackers founder

  1. 4

    Cool business. I see you have one time fees and $50k in monthly recurring revenue. Is the recurring revenue from additional services beyond the one time fee? Or is there an annual renewal?

    1. 1

      $50K is our current monthly revenue from the one-time fee. We don't have any "recurring" revenue right now, even though we are now working on launching some subscription-based products. I should have used MR instead of MRR.

    2. 0

      @csallen same question.. given that they're not using the stripe verification feature, are you confident this information is accurate and not clickbait?

      It sounds great and all, and I truly wish FirstBase all the success in the world. but I've also just seen a lot of instances where companies greatly exaggerate metrics and I'm generally curious what Indie Hacker's stance is on verifying stuff like this.

      If I'm wrong here, then please don't take it the wrong way -- really appreciated what the author had to share.

      1. 3

        I'm confident it's at least in the ballpark. We have our methods (although we're not perfect and have been wrong before) and do care about accuracy.

      2. 2

        They actually do ask for verification before publishing the interview. So I had to send a few screenshots:)

        We are not using the Stripe verification feature because a substantial part of our revenue comes from other sources (mostly PayPal - we send invoices manually).

        1. 1

          Sounds good :) I think the whole MRR thing was difficult to understand.

          Thanks for sharing!

  2. 2

    My question is why would anyone want US-based company if he/she is outside of US?

    1. 1

      Hey Kishan. Foreign founders with a US company get access to venture capital, tax benefits, seamless payment processing, and a thriving startup ecosystem. These things help in building a great company.

      1. 1

        Ok. Thanks Mark

  3. 2

    Congratulations, I wanna know if sales tax filing is included or if you will add it in the future. For startups, sales tax filing for each state is a pain in the @$$ :)

    Here is an expensive example (I'm sure you know) https://www.taxjar.com/autofile/
    Just imagine If you can make an affordable solution.

    Thanks in advance

    1. 1

      Hey Sabri. As of right now, we are not planning to add this as a feature. Although, I agree that sales tax filings can be quite painful.

  4. 2

    Hi Mark, can you please tell me how your service is different from stripe atlas?

    1. 5

      Great question!

      1. We support residents of all countries.
      2. We also work with Wyoming companies (extremely popular among e-commerce startups).
      3. Our fee is just $399.
      4. We offer additional perks, e.g., free tax consultation. More is coming.
      5. 24/7 online support.
      6. We are working on adding some new features next month. You will be able to order other things such as bookkeeping consultations, ITINs, and more. People need a lot of different things after forming a company, and we are willing to give them a chance to get this done on the platform.
      1. 1

        Cool, thanks for the information.

    2. 1

      My question as well ? Great to have marketplace competition and alternatives especially given Stripes affiliation with Kushner.

  5. 1

    Hi,
    I would love to know where you went to teach yourself about sales, marketing, ads, and partnerships. I see you taught yourself this by doing it at the beginning. Could you share some resources? @Mark_Milastsivy

  6. 1

    what a lovely one

  7. 1

    Hi! Do you work with Russia?

    1. 2

      We do!

  8. 1

    Hey Mark. Cool Story! I have some questions if you don't mind.

    1. Did you have any experience with this subject previous to this company?
    2. How did you find out about this problem or the difficulties in this proces?
  9. 1

    I’m just trying to wrap my head around this business. First off I love the simplicity of the UI and the fact that you are targeting a niche in a service that’s basically a commodity.

    When I run the url through semrush or Ubersuggest the traffic is super low and the backlink profile is low quality.

    I’m just trying to understand how you’re getting customers so I can learn from your efforts!

    1. 2

      Thanks! FirstBase gets 600-1000 visitors per day, mostly through paid ads. We just started investing time and effort into SEO.

      We are using Google Ads, Bing/Yahoo network, Facebook ads, content writing, email marketing, strategic partnerships, WOM, and our affiliate program to generate traffic. Right now, we are trying out some new platforms.

  10. 1

    Great story Mark! I am actually working on a product where we can collaborate. I'll shoot you an email.

  11. 1

    Hey congratulations, it's really really rare for a bootstrapped company to reach that kind of revenue in only 12 months!

    " focused on building partnerships and our first ad campaigns" Could please share a bit more about this?

    Where did you advertise? Facebook ads / Google ads, other?

    Did you have previous experience with paid advertising? How/what did you target?

    Can you tell us about your initial budget and ROI on those ads?

    1. 1

      Hey Kevin. Initially, we only advertised on Google. I did have some experience with paid ads from my previous companies. For a few months, we only used "Search" campaigns and targeted people looking for exactly what we offer.

      Our current structure is much more sophisticated with lots of marketing channels:)

      Our initial Google Ads budget was ≈$1.5-2K/month, and we only got 4 sales. The second month was so much better, we've learned a lot from the Google Ads data and also rebuilt the UX part.

  12. 1

    hey @csallen, the first link to FirstBase in the article goes to FirstBase.co, instead of FirstBase.io :-)

    1. 1

      Good catch. Fixed.

      1. 1

        Hey Channing. You guys also uploaded the screenshots from a different website, can you update them?:) Thanks!

        1. 1

          Woops, sure. Getting on it.

    2. 1

      Haha at the beginning I was thinking: Their website doesn't fit their value proposition lol