How I Went from Making Websites for Fun to Ramen Profitability

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

My name is Geert Jan Sloos, CEO and co-founder of PayRequest. Together with Bram, my co-founder and CTO, I created a no-code payment platform, where you can easily create payment requests and create your own payment pages.

I started creating websites when I was just 12 years old. When I was 18 years old, I founded my own web hosting company with over 1,000 customers, but only focused on Dutch customers.

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In one sentence, why should someone read this interview?

We hope to inspire someone to take on their journey to launch their own product and believe in it, even if it takes a lot of time and effort.

How did you get the idea for PayRequest and how did you get started?

I had already a hosting company, but I was searching for a service where I could send payment links and payment reminders.

After a conversation with Bram, we decided to build a simple service to create payment requests, not knowing that it would grow to a no-code payment platform that serves all markets worldwide.

How have you attracted users and grown PayRequest?

That is the hardest part of launching a startup, you can create a good product, but everything stands or falls with a good marketing strategy.

I have enough experience in online marketing, but promoting a startup worldwide was a big challenge for me. I was quite nervous when we finally launched on Product Hunt. Luckily it was a great success and we got our first clients and receive even more positive feedback.

You shouldn't wait for others to make a choice.

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We have a good long-term strategy, starting with content marketing. We also have a prominent “Powered by” badge on all our payment links and payment pages.

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

Our business model is simple. We do not have any monthly fees, upsells, or hidden costs. We only charge a 1% transaction fee on every successful transaction, and large volume users have a custom discount.

It's also a fair business model, because we only make money when our customers make money. This keeps us motivated to launch more features and improve our product.

We work together with leading payment providers like Stripe. Customers connect their accounts and we don't take any money from that. Instead, every transaction goes directly to their Stripe account.

In the first months of that method, we didn't have much growth, but in the last few months we've been growing more than 100% per month.

What's your tech stack?

Our website itself is built with GitHub pages which work with Jekyll and Markdown. It saves time to manage our website. We can also track all our commits via our GitHub project. Our edits we mostly done via GitHub Desktop and sublime text. However, as a framework for our dashboard and payment pages we use Symfony.

This all runs on a LEMP setup (Linux, Apache + Nginx proxy, Mariadb and PHP). Our infrastructure resides on a DigitalOcean Droplet.

Symfony was our chosen framework because of its many active modules and how low maintenance it is. For serving minified/combined css, javascript, and image management we use Webpack Encore. As a mail service we use Amazon SES, which gives us the opportunity to let users send mails with their own domain or just through our own domain.

Right now we're looking into the possibility to change our dashboard to a Vue.js application (a possible idea for a PWA), and also migrate our payment links to a Vue.js setup.

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Our biggest issue is deciding what's next. Do we want to provide some direct solutions to things customers want and need? And if so, is this a good step forward in our roadmap? Thats the kind of thing I think about a lot.

What are your goals for the future?

We want to expand our team with more employees to develop faster new features, and expand our marketing strategy.

In the future we want to offer more solutions to help businesses even more, like selling products online, tax compliance, customer management, pre-authorization, and so on.

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

I learned a few things the hard way. Like that you shouldn't wait for others to make a choice. Continue and improve yourself and your product.

If you start as a side business, never quit your job before you really know your startup has enough revenue to pay your own salary.

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Don’t get blindsided on one customer that promises mountains but only brings a small hump of sand. It takes a lot of time but above all it wastes your energy!

As an indie hacker, at what point in your journey so far have you needed the most courage?

PayRequest is my first worldwide business. It's much harder for an indie hacker from a country where English isn't the first language. To be honest, I had to google what "courage" means! :-) But I write many blogs for our site to improve my English.

I hope that I can motivate other indie hackers to start a worldwide business, even if their English is not so great.

Has COVID-19 impacted you or PayRequest at all?

COVID-19 inspired us to offer something to our users.

PayRequest launched Donation Pages to help businesses around the world to raise funds in times of COVID-19.

Currently, we still charge no fees for donation pages.

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

We always look critically at our product, but learned how important it is to ask loyal customers how you can serve them better. They always know the best way to improve your product.

If you start as a side business, never quit your job before you really know your startup has enough revenue to pay your own salary.

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

Find a co-founder! You can not do marketing, support, and development all by yourself.

Also get feedback from your network! Feedback is vital.

Depending on your background, it's always a good idea to invest in yourself. That can be with online courses like learning a programming language, or buying books about entrepreneurship. Find a way to invest in your own progress.

Where can we go to learn more?

Every month we write a new article on Medium and post regularly new updates on our Twitter.

Feel free to leave some questions below in the comments section.

Geert Jan Sloos , Founder of PayRequest

Want to build your own business like PayRequest?

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. 2

    How did Geert meet his co-founder?

    1. 1

      He was a customer from my first company.

  2. 1

    Interesting story and congrats on the business and thanks for sharing your story! How would PayRequest differentiate from the competition? What is the main advantage? I found a few mature ones online: Zoho invoice, Vyapar, Horizon ERP, Tally Prime.

  3. 1

    Great interview, congratulations. One question, what was your growth hack to reach the 1000 customers on hosting, Facebook ads ?