How We Quit Our Jobs to Bootstrap and Grow Our Own Business

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

Hi! I'm Scottie Schneider. I'm a fullstack developer and former military officer. Chris Davis, who works on product and is a Python developer, and Chris Goss, our marketer, are the other two co-founders.

Our SaaS platform, Followup Edge, takes inbound leads through an automated sequence of text messages, emails, and ringless voicemails that stop when the lead responds. Advertising agency owners and their clients use our product to increase the power of every dollar spent, and to gain prospect response rates of over 40%.

Our revenue chart is a good indication of the product's success. We've been growing 10% or more week over week since we began six months ago, and as of this interview we will clear 30k in monthly recurring revenue.

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What motivated you to get started with Followup Edge?

We created Followup Edge to solve a problem we faced in our ad agency — our clients weren't following up with the leads we were sending them, which was leading to strained relationships between the agency and clients. If the client didn't pick up the phone and call the prospects that we passed along, they would often turn around and blame us for a "bad lead" instead of taking ownership of the poor follow-up. This oft-repeated scenario ultimately decreased retention rates for our agency. Followup Edge grew out of that frustration.

Our initial hypothesis was that leads may prefer to receive and respond to client outreach in a variety of different ways, so by utilizing three distinct forms of communication (text, email, ringless voicemail) we could increase overall response rates. All three of us have experience in various forms of marketing and startups, which taught us to avoid anything that looked automated or felt spammy in any way. We considered stringing together the various communication components through Zapier and Active Campaign, but this approach lacked some key features that we needed in the product, such as the ability to stop automated communications from being sent to a lead once they'd responded.

All of the founders were working full time when we started in earnest, but Chris Davis and I quickly eschewed everything else in order to focus on building the product while Chris Goss kept the lights on through his job.

What went into building the initial product?

We've bootstrapped this thing the whole way through. The initial build was completed on Bubble, as it allowed us the flexibility to build what we needed virtually for free and without code. I had the MVP up in three weeks, and we pulled in our first revenue two weeks later. Further product development and iteration continues to this day — building a SaaS product never really ends.

Nobody will ever understand your business the way that you do, so the solutions we bought were never as good as the ones we simply could have and should have made ourselves.

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I went through a fullstack web development bootcamp the year before, which really helped me understand how web applications work. But don't despair! It is certainly possible to do what I did without that background.

MVP Tech stack:

Current Tech stack:

Near Future Tech stack:

  • Ember.js (front end, MVC framework)
  • MongoDB (database)
  • Zapier (integrations)

Key takeaway: Through no-code tools like Bubble, there's no excuse to not get started, even if you're not a developer.

How have you attracted users and grown Followup Edge?

A lot of our initial success and growth has been driven by partnering with an influential ad agency owner, Bobby Stocks, who we had worked with in the past. Chris Goss was instrumental in bringing us together, and it was a win-win for everyone. Bobby essentially gained a software development team and a custom-built solution to his problem, and we gained a very motivated affiliate and invaluable product feedback.

Early on, we determined that allowing ad agency owners to take a cut of the profit by upselling our service to their clients would be pivotal to furthering our growth. We solved their problem with follow-up, increased client their retention, earned them an added profit, and expanded our user base in the processes. Designing the product with this in mind drove our development from day one.

Understand who your actual customer is — sometimes it isn't the end user — and look for win-wins for that customer.

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To date we've done absolutely no marketing — our users have come solely from ad agency client referrals and the growth of their teams. You could say we've grown through affiliate marketing, but at the end of the day it's really just understanding who we're actually serving: the ad agency. We make their life easier, and in return and they get as many of their clients as they can on the platform. It's a beautifully symbiotic relationship.

Month Users
January 7
February 18
March 35
April 64
May 101
June 181
July 236

Key takeaway: Understand who your actual customer is — sometimes it isn't the end user — and look for win-wins for that customer.

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

We operate on a subscription model, and distinguish between individual accounts and team accounts. It's $200/mo for individual accounts, and $100/mo for each team member on a team account, with a 10 person minimum per team. Our first customer was Bobby Stocks and his agency clients formed the base. We use Stripe as our payment gateway because they're developer friendly and it's easy to get started.

Churn has been very low up to this point, so revenue has steadily increased each month without fail. Followup Edge operates on the profit-first model — we know how much we can spend on the business at any given time as a percentage of revenue and we pay ourselves first.

Month Revenue
January 970
February 1170
March 4170
April 6754
May 11950
June 15689
July 30000

Key takeaway: By using the profit-first model, we ensure that we're profitable (and, thus, stable), which in turn allows us to continue growing.

What are your goals for the future?

Team: I'm looking forward to hiring a developer — currently it's just Davis and I doing all the day to day work and support, which is taxing. We could certainly use the help - but we're holding off until we can actually afford one under the profit-first model. It should be in the next few months.

Revenue: Growing at this rate, we'll be over 200k/month by the end of the year. We'll certainly need to keep raising our game to make this happen, but this is our benchmark.

Product: I'm hard at work on v3.0 of the web platform, this time fully coded. As we've scaled, we've realized that our architecture needs to be reconstructed. An app is also in the works, and should be out by end of summer.

What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

Most of the mistakes I made early on happened because I doubted my own abilities or those of the team. I initially spent thousands of dollars on solutions that I thought we needed (e.g. custom code that I didn't think I could write). I was capable of doing it but didn't take ownership of the task. That ended up costing us money and time. Nobody will ever understand your business the way that you do, so the solutions we bought were never as good as the ones we simply could have and should have made ourselves.

Most of the mistakes I made early on happened because I doubted my own abilities or those of the team.

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On a personal note, the amount of stress I experienced was more intense than anything I've encountered, and I spent four years at West Point and went on to serve in the Army. It was critical for me to face my own inadequacies when it came to stress management. There were times when handling things poorly as a founder negatively impacted our finances, as well as relationships with my business partners. Both are vital to succeed. In the end, I had to take ownership of my failures and acknowledged the areas in which I was deficient and needed help or improvement. Coming to terms with some of my own shortcomings has not only enabled personal growth, but also helped us grow as a team.

As the say: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

My co-founders describe me as an "engine". I'm a freak for deep work and can crank out 10 hour days of actual production seven days a week for six months. This has been a skill I've been cultivating for years, starting at West Point.

Davis is the steadfast "glue" that holds us together. His advice and feedback continue to ground me, and he's the sort of person that will stay up all night to ship a critical feature. We would have failed multiple deadlines without his productive force.

Goss has been behind the scenes constantly pulling the right deals together, and guiding the product from the user's perspective. If he hadn't paid the bills, brought the needed people together, and steered us away from focusing on the wrong things, I wouldn't be writing this article today.

None of this could have happened without all of us, together.

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

  • Stop researching and go build something.
  • Build first, then worry about scalability. You simply can't anticipate every problem that 10 customers will bring, much less 100.
  • Good developers are not interested in your ideas. Go build something on Bubble, or get some cash/customers to pay a technical co-founder.
  • We lie to ourselves and others in order to explain why we haven't done/sold/produced/built what we want. Taking courses, looking for a co-founder, conducting market research — these are all necessary, but are never a substitute for action, even though we want them to be. When in doubt, do something!
  • Make mistakes, just never the same one twice.
  • Every bit of advice has an opposite and equally valid counterpoint. Find what works for you.

Where can we go to learn more?

https://followupedge.com

Happy to help in whatever way I can, so ask away below!

Scottie Schneider , Founder of Followup Edge

Want to build your own business like Followup Edge?

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. 6

    The comments have made this the most interesting thing on IH all month.

    Everyone saying the site is ugly, the video sucks, the numbers must be ah, "aspirational"... and yet IH says the revenue is verified at 27k/month. It looks like this is a case of someone who shouldn't be able to succeed but is succeeding anyway, and that's one of the surest signs of a learning opportunity there is.

    I plan to read everything Scotty has written here very carefully and see if maybe there's something I can take away from it and apply to my business.

    1. 1

      The take away from this is that all of that revenue is from existing customers. So I wouldn't take this as any kind of inspiration unless you already have about 150 paying customers this type of thing won't work for you.

    2. 1

      This comment was deleted 2 years ago.

  2. 4

    Really expect me to believe that you make $27k/month from a website that is literally just a (terrible quality) youtube video with 150 views and 1 dislike?

    The video itself is incoherent and rambling. What actually is this product ? Looks likes a really cut down basic CRM.

    Very fishy

    1. 3

      Hi Dave,

      You won't find anyone over here that will debate the points you've made. We know the lander leaves a bit to be desired; we agree -- the product is rather simple when you think about it. Our growth feels surreal at times, we constantly pinch ourselves.

      But that's actually the point of sharing with the community. We want folks to see that, even without doing everything "right", it'll work out if you focus on the important stuff.

      If you've got specific questions on how we create value for our customers, we'd love to hear them. Thanks for checking us out.

      1. 1

        So what does your product even do ? I can't see what it even does for your customers. That's why this story doesn't make sense tbh. Hundreds of people buy a product that does something with replying to leads ? The demo doesn't really help either.

        1. 2

          The product sends out automated drip campaigns comprised of sms, email and voicemail messages.

    2. 1

      Traction on a video and slick marketing doesn't translate to revenue. A good product does. I don't expect you to believe anything, which is why I made sure our revenue was added as Stripe Verified. But hey man, whatever floats your boat.

      1. 1

        Yeah but your site doesn't explain what the product does. So how does anyone know that's it's good ?

        1. 1

          You need to read the article and not just the headline, revenue and link. They actually don’t have that many customers, first of all. He clearly explains that his clients all know each other and are referring one another, and so the fancy landing page isn’t necessary. He also said no marketing was being done because this. There’s more than just the Tai Lopez approach to business.

          1. 1

            And this isn't it. I'm not even sure this is a viable business.

            Why are you mentioning Tai Lopez ? If it's to discredit marketing a business then you truly are a fool.

        2. 1

          We don't externally market it, it's growing by referrals and by our customers.

  3. 4

    Really doubting the numbers here. They basically have no website and no traction at all on their youtube video.

    Like a lot of the posts on this site, this falls under "fiction".

    1. 2

      It's Stripe verified. Stripe don't lie

    2. 2

      Check out our Stripe Verified revenue would be all I have to say. This is a good lesson - we focused on building the value, not content... the app, not the website. This is living proof that the idea of shipping quickly and refining over time is a good way to go.

      1. 1

        This comment was deleted 2 years ago.

        1. 1

          Click on the anchor next to his name.

        2. 1

          Go to the product page and filter by monthly revenue. Set the revenue to at least $27, 000

  4. 2

    This is very inspiring! I think a lot of us get lost in the plethora of tools and frameworks etc. available and forget that at the very beginning it is all about proving a problem and providing a possible (not the necessarily the best) solution for it. I will certainly have a look at bubble as I am not a developer and that could be a great bridge.

    Once you have significant MRR like you do, better understood the problem and loyal customers, there will always be a way to refactor it, find a developer, co-founder etc. because you have proven the problem and it went from an idea to a business. That changes the game completely.

    Thank you very much for sharing.

  5. 2

    Ridiculously inspiring, helpful, and transparent, Scottie - thank you!

    The profit-first model is amazing. Will you use it forever, or have you considered raising money?

    1. 1

      We're not 100% opposed to raising money, but aren't planning on it. I was inspired early on by Derek Sivers' article 'How To Get Rich', and keeping as much of the company as possible is one of the core tenants.

      1. 1

        Gotcha. Just found the article: https://sivers.org/d1r - it is inspiring for sure. Thanks for sharing!

  6. 2

    Damn, that's incredible! I'm more impressed by the $4k MRR in two months?! And using Bubble, without writing any code! That's super impressive. That makes me think that I really need to build a Bubble plugin for my product.

    1. 0

      Thanks Nathan! Yep, old paradigm of 6 months to MVP is changing. Bubble's a great tool and I highly recommend.

  7. 1

    Nice article, Scottie and IH! My question:

    For a given end customer an ad agency brings to you, they take a cut of the profit monthly or only once? How do you calculate it?

    1. 1

      It's every month - best thing is we don't calculate it. The ad agencies mark up the service since they buy in bulk - and in most cases are able to break even or make a profit on it. That also means that we keep 100% of the revenue that comes in

  8. 1

    I'm curious what api's you use for your app, do you do it all through zapier, or bubble integrations?

    1. 1

      We're really all through zapier, and we built a custom zapier app as well to interface with our application. In V3 next year I'll likely expose a public api as well.

  9. 1

    What benefits do you foresee moving away from Bubble, what limitations did you run into? How long do you think you could scale on Bubble if you continued to use it? I currently use Bubble for several projects so I’m curious to hear your perspective.

    1. 1

      Re: how long could we scale...
      Chris Davis and I disagree on this point - he believes we could build equally scalable products either way, I think not.
      I believe it depends on the use case - our app has a LOT going on with hundreds of thousands of workflows, date conversions, thousands of texts, emails, voicemails per day etc. For many apps that are a bit simpler, the answer could be Bubble for the whole life cycle of the product.

    2. 1

      Great question, I was asked this in the Bubble forums as well. Answer follows in full:
      "Zapier has worked fine as we scale, but as a dev I’d like to have a fully fleshed out API.
      As far as the move away from Bubble in the future, rationals are:

      *Testing! I can’t just yell YOLO! and deploy anymore. The lack of testing on Bubble has gone from a nuisance to something I just can’t live with.
      *Backend access and speed of troubleshooting. To troubleshoot the logs on bubble I have to search minute by minute - and the logs are slow. Not to mention it’s a black box.
      *Reliability of workflows. I’ve seen a lot of times where workflows in Bubble don’t pass information the next step needs. Since I can’t do anything about it in the code I have to rely on hacky solutions that don’t really work for me anymore. With code I can make sure things run synchronously when I need them to, and Error handling to tell me when things go wrong.

      Lots of love towards Bubble - it’s gotten us to this point, and I know they’re working on most of the issues I’m mentioning here. At this point, I need control and to be able to fine tune the inner workings of my app. It’s time for us to begin the transition towards something like that… I need to be able to run a test suite before I push a change. Currently, I don’t have this and it’s caused an unbelievable amount of heartache for my self and my other dev.

      I’m going to drop this here… for anyone reading this that’s making less than 30k MRR with a Bubble product, this is not meant to discourage you from using Bubble. Don’t be that guy who asks ‘how will this scale’ while having 0 customers. Build!"

  10. 1

    Great insight! I love the simple video you have on the landing page.

    1. 1

      Thanks Jake! Yeah we've been moving quickly - the front page isn't even mobile responsive yet 🤦‍♂️ 🚀

      1. 0

        Lol that's amazing. Very inspiring.

  11. 1

    “Every bit of advice has an opposite and equally valid counterpoint. Find what works for you.”

    Ironically, this is great advice! Reminds me of another quote I heard once, never underestimate the power of the situation. Every situation is completely different from someone else’s and even from your own past experiences. Only way to find out what works for you is action.

    Great interview..hope to hear an update in 6 months where you take this.

    1. 1

      Thanks!

  12. 1

    Email Question from Alex Z.: "Is your software only for agencies? How is it different from woodpecker, which is what we currently use for automated emails?"
    Answer:
    They’re on opposite ends of the spectrum - Woodpecker is for cold outreach, whereas FUE works with inbound leads to activate them.
    More info on our walkthrough here: https://followupedge.com/join

    We’re not just for agencies, anyone that wants to can sign up for an account.

    Thanks for the email Alex!

  13. 1

    Can you clarify what the business actually does? I find it hard to understand just from reading this post. You're selling leads to agencies and then the agencies are also paying you to remind them to contact the leads you sent? Is your pricing inclusive of also generating the leads? Thanks!

    1. 1

      We're a lead activation platform - so others send leads into our platform. We take care of the automated messaging to those leads. Our customers use us because following up manually on most facebook optins results in 10% response rate - using FUE results in over 40%, so clients get more return on their ad spend.

      1. 0

        Would you say Active Campaign is your direct competitor?

        1. 1

          Not really, no. ActiveCampaign is a great tool, and can be used to put together some of the functionality that we have. That said, many things we tried to do before building FUE we couldn't do in AC... cutoff times (not contacting a lead at midnight even if they opt in then), round robin lead distribution (for teams), stopping communication with prospects when they respond etc.
          We see people Frankenstein-ing (a customer's phrase, not mine) solutions together including active campaign - but it doesn't work as well as a custom built solution and is harder to implement.

      2. 0

        Got it, thanks!

  14. 1

    Great interview! Love how you found a problem, created a solution, marketed it and now enjoy the rewards and fruits of your labor! Awesome man!

    1. 2

      Thanks Travis! Appreciate the shoutout :)