Quick Chat with Reilly Chase of HostiFi

Episode #109

In the early days of his business HostiFi, it seemed liked the deck was stacked against founder Reilly Chase (@rchase). From encountering frustrating roadblocks while he learned to code, to getting banned from forums where his customers hunt out, everything he tried was an uphill struggle. Today, however, just one year after launching, he's pushed through and reached the milestone of $100,000 in ARR as a one-person startup. Reilly came on the podcast to talk about keeping expectations low in the beginning, making it work when you've chosen a small niche, and how to avoid giving up with nothing you're doing seems to be working.

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    Hey @rchase, can you link those books you mentioned?

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      This comment was deleted 2 years ago.

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        Perfect, thanks!

        I read MJ DeMarco's Millionaire Fastlane book too and found it better than anything else I've ever read for bootstrappers. Definitely gonna check out Tyler Tringas's book, too!

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        Thanks for this - I just ordered Millionaire Fastlane. Keep up the good work!

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        Super fast and awesome. Thank you @rchase

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        Highly recommend MJ DeMarco's book as well. It's a no BS approach to not only building businesses but also personal finance and life. First time I've heard it mentioned on the podcast though. @csallen I wonder if we can get MJ on here?

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            Totally keen to see this happen!

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    My Main Takeaways:

    • Leverage your experience: Reilly’s profitable business “HostiFi” is about networking, and prior to launching, Reilly had worked in the networking field for several years.
    • Where there’s a will, there’s a way: This was Reilly’s first product business, so he had to learn about starting a product business, while at the same time he had to learn how to code a full stack web app. This took several months but he triumphed, and launched the business.
    • Book recommendation: “The Millionaire Fastlane” by MJ Demarco
    • Start a product business: Product businesses can scale, but service businesses can’t (unless it’s SaaS, which is still a product).
    • Solve your own problem: Reilly’s business was aimed to solve a problem that he personally had experienced during his work as a network engineer.
    • Don’t have high expectations for your business: When you have high expectations you can over-invest time, money, and emotions. When you should be focusing on getting something out there fast and cheap, to validate whether it works, while not being attached to the outcome.
    • You can be scrappy, you don’t need to follow best practices: You don’t have to follow “best practices” to make money in tech. For example, Reilly’s website is half Wordpress and half a Python Server and they communicate via a shared database, but he still makes $8k per month from it.
    • Keep it simple and launch fast: Reilly had a lot more ideas that he intentionally did not include in the first version, he did this to get to market faster.
    • Starting a service business can give you ideas for a product business: Reilly got the idea for his current product “HostiFi” from an interesting technical problem he encountered (and solved) while doing work in his service business for a client.
    • The riches are in the niches: Reilly’s niche is a niche within a niche within a niche. He targets the users of a specific technology company’s hardware, and the specific users he targets are the IT Service Providers, this narrow niche gave him the perfect opportunity.
    • Direct Message > Broadcast Message: When spreading the word of your idea, it’s better to share it with people directly because it becomes more personal. Plus broadcasting it (i.e. sharing it on forums) usually comes off as spammy.
    • Make your marketing more personal: People respond better to personal-looking posts and messages.
    • Do things that don’t scale: In the beginning of your business, to get it started, you don’t need to be that smart, you just need to be persistent and to keep trying new things if something isn’t working. This is the time you can do things that don’t scale, in order to build momentum.
    • Learn the skills that you’ll need to delegate: When starting you may do everything yourself in order to scale. But this is also good because when it comes time to delegate (to a human or an algorithm) you will know how to teach them.
    • Reilly was fired for working on side-projects: Reilly had a job as a Security Analyst, but his company soon found out about his side-project “HostiFi” and asked him to stop it, but he did not, so they fired him.
    • eBook recommendation: “MicroSaaS” by Tyler Tringas
    • Reilly raised money for his business (after getting fired from his job): Tyler Tringas the author of “MicroSaaS” invested in Reilly’s company “HostiFi”.
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    I love that Reilly's first attempt to share his project on Reddit got banned and he didn't give up. Then it just got worse and he still kept going by keeping expectations low.

    As someone that's learning to code whilst also working on projects, this was an incredible episode to listen to. Also enjoyed reading MJ's book and Tyler's Micro-SaaS series of posts multiple times.

    Will be learning from you for sure, @rchase, and I hope it's ok to shoot you a message sometime.

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        Following - thanks dude :)

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    Gotta say I really love the quick chat series so far

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    This one was great! I loved the part about failing to make the product with Django and just making a WordPress app and hooking into is with Python for the bits you needed. That kind of scrappiness is great! The failed forum spammer turned to better channels was good too.

    Could you share a link to the books you mentioned in the podcast?

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    Hey @rchase 👋

    Fantastic episode about getting an MVP together and not going down the technical rabbit hole and over-engineering everything. I absolutely love the WordPress bit and having a series of background services/servers orchestrated by a python script. I can't tell you how many developers I've seen go down the path of spending MONTHS engineering a product (ORM refactors, mongo vs mysql, node vs php) when they have zero customers.

    The part where your employer fired you for having a side hustle angers me. You don't have to name names, but I'm curious if this was a larger or a smaller organization? Many don't understand how much an employee's side hustle contributes to business value in terms of lessons learned. Most employees will learn ten times as much from a side hustle compared to any number of conference trips or seminars.

    Anywho, also a big fan of Ubiquiti products as I use them exclusively here at home!

    Thanks for sharing, looking forward to chatting more!

    -- Jimmy

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      Reilly mentioned the company by name (so ballsy) in one of his comments - it's Sentinel.

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