Kyle Gawley (@kylegawley) was running a high-growth, venture-backed company when he ended up in the hospital partially due to all the pressure he was under. That experience led to some introspection, which I'll ask him about in this episode. We'll also talk about his new company, which he decided to build with a completely different approach to growth.
• Follow Kyle on Twitter: https://twitter.com/kylegawley
• Save three months by trying Gravity's SaaS boilerplates: https://usegravity.app/
What's up, everybody? This is Courtland from indiehackers.com and you're listening to the Indie Hackers Podcast. More people than ever are building cool stuff online and making a lot of money in the process. On this show, I sit down with these indie hackers to discuss the ideas, the opportunities, and the strategies they're taking advantage of so the rest of us can do the same.
Kyle Gawley, welcome to the Indie Hackers podcast. You're the founder of a company called Gravity. I think you are a solo founder and your company's bootstrapped, correct?
Yep, that's correct.
You've been, I think, growing your revenue at a pretty significant rate. You've been posting on Indie Hackers about how you three X’ed revenue during COVID.
We're going to get into that story, but first I'm going to ask you to do something challenging. I'm going to ask you to describe what Gravity does in a way where even people who aren't software engineers might understand it. Cause this is a business that's very targeted at programmers.
This is where I have a benefit because I can talk very technical to people and they understand it. But the non-technical pitch is I help founders and software companies save around three months of development time whenever they're building their software as a service web application.
I love that description because it's easy to understand as a lay person because you're just talking about benefits. Who is this? Software engineers and web developers. What is the benefit? I help them save three months of time.
But if you're describing it to your actual customers, if I go to your website, usegravity.app, it’s build a node.JS and react SaaS app at warp speed. Set up a new SaaS product without using other boiler plate…
It's very, very specific, which is probably what it should be because your customers actually know what you're doing, but anyone else who's not your customer is like, what the hell does any of this even mean?
Yeah, I was actually doing a webinar earlier today. They were reading the description on it, they were like, what how do you pronounce it? Sassy?
That's pretty funny.
Well, it's going really well. Are you transparent at all with your revenue numbers? Have you shared ballpark estimates or what they actually are?
I used to, I used to show them on Indie Hackers. I've kind of removed it recently because I've had some issues with copycats. I've been a little bit less transparent than I used to be. Usually doing around $8-10K a month.
Yeah, there's always a point I think where some companies will be transparent and then decide I'm pulling the plug on this. It's going to be substantial enough where I don't want to clue my competitors into how successful I am.
In a way that's almost a telltale sign that you are successful. It's like this guy used to share revenue, what happened? He must be crushing it. But also, it probably takes you off the map a little bit because people are so attracted to seeing these numbers.
If you do an AMA, for example, on Indie Hackers, you say like, I'm Kyle Gawley, I'm making, you know, X, Y, Z dollars a year or a month, people will click on that way more than they'll click on something that doesn't have the revenue numbers.
It's a sort of double-edged sword where you're less likely to get competitors, but you're also less likely to get customers or fans, or compatriots who want to basically help commiserate with you and talk to you and collaborate with you.
I did notice that as Gravity got better known and I was putting my, I was being completely transparent about all this stuff, people were getting in touch with my web chat going I'm going to copy this.
Then I've actually had some incidents recently where people have copied the product, they’ve even like off chunks of the landing page, try and replicate that kind of replicate the SEO strategy that I'm using. So, I'm a bit, I'm a lot more wary now, but what I'm getting putting out there.
That's super sketch. It's weird that people do this. I mean, maybe it's not weird. People are trying to succeed. They have a huge financial incentive. They see exactly how much money you're making. They’re like that would change my life.
Then they see kind of the facade of what you're doing. They look at your website, they look at your SEO strategy. They don't see what's going on behind the scenes, but they see what's kind of the outer layer of what you're doing. Then they assume that's all that you're doing.
They say, oh, if I do that, I'll also make $10,000 a month, and so they copy it. They copy your design and they copy the color schemes and they copy the language you use. As far as I've seen, 99 times out of a 100, it doesn't go anywhere because people who aren't imaginative enough or aren't strategic enough to do anything more than copy the outer layers, usually don't succeed.
But it's still pretty scary as the person who spent all that time creating all this stuff in the first place to see somebody else try to get what you've got.
Yeah, the product part I'm not so worried about, but it's the fact that this person has copied and pasted all the metadata from my HTML. They copied and pasted my FAQ's, copied chunks of my license.
You can do an HTML tag called the canonical URL. What's funny is it will kind of tell Google, like, hey, this page is not only one of many pages, but it's the main page. If anybody ever copies this page and they have this tag, this is the actual page that matters. Don't rank the other pages.
Often copycats aren't sophisticated enough not to copy it. So, they'll put in their code, the same canonical URL that points back to your website and not know that they're giving you the credit because they're just copy and pasting everything.
Let's talk about your journey to get to where you've gotten, because not very many solo indie hackers get here. It's something to be celebrated I think if you can get to the point where you're making a living. Are you full-time on this?
Yeah. I started this journey around eight years ago now.
I started another company. It was called Get Invited, and that was an online event ticketing platform. Raised venture capital. It was basically doing the complete opposite to what I'm doing now. I'd raised venture capital, had hired a team. I was spending a lot of time traveling and then trying to grow really quickly.
What happened was I had this bacteria living in my stomach, but the doctor took years for it to be diagnosed. This bacteria doesn't respond well to stress. I was getting mega stressed, like dealing with investors; an investment round had fallen through. I had to let half of the team go and I was relatively young and new to this. The stress was just compounding, compounding, compounding.
Then one day I actually was making my lunch. I started to vomit this black stuff. I Googled it. It was vomit and black stuff. It was like, yeah, this is a medical emergency. You gotta get urgent medical attention.
I went to the hospital. I remember just lying in the hospital bed, everything just went completely white. Then I woke up and had all these, the ECG of me had all these tubes in my arms, my mom was standing at the end of the bed, just looking completely horrified.
Then I remember just lying though that night thinking I'm either going to die or something is seriously wrong with me. My life is just going to change forever. I remember thinking, I've just been investing all of my energy and time into trying to build this big company. I haven't really been doing any of the other things that I want to do. I haven't been traveling.
I promised myself then if I got better, I’d go and do some travel and I would try and find a better work-life balance. That brought me to Thailand. I came to Thailand for a month and I met this guy who actually sat down beside me in a coworking space.
He used to go to my high school back home. As I was leaving high school, he was starting high school. I asked him, what are you doing? I used to work for a startup in Belfast and I didn't like it. I quit my job and moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand and become a digital nomad.
I was like, what's that? He was like, oh, you just travel around all these different countries and build your business. I found this idea really interesting. So, I went back home for Christmas and I booked a one-way ticket to Thailand. Then I spent a whole year just traveling around Thailand, Vietnam, Bali, Japan.
But I was completely lost because the company that I had raised this money for and was trying to grow it, I kind of realize that that's not the life that I wanted. I wanted to be traveling around. I want to have a lot of freedom.
Two years ago, I was in a coworking space and I knew I wanted to start another product. I wanted to build another SaaS product and I wanted to do it myself. I knew that the process of spinning up a new product, it was really time consuming. I knew I would have to spin up a few different products, try a few things to get it right.
I basically built this template, authentication Stripe payments, a user interface. The idea was I could spin something up really quickly and then it would save me a lot of time. Then I just showed it to this guy who was sitting in front of me in the coworking space. And he was like, what is this?
He was like, you should go on Indie Hackers and try and sell it. And I was like, what’s Indie Hackers? It’s this community of people, they're just building their own products. They’re not raising venture capital. They're just trying to do everything themselves. I was like, this sounds like exactly what I want to do.
Then I think I went on, made a few posts and talked about this boilerplate that I was making, and then sold three copies on Indie Hackers in the first month. Then I was like, okay.
Very cool. Where's my cut. I'm just kidding.
This is such a cool story. Let's get to the beginning of it. You were lying on your potentially your deathbed, right? You don't even know what's going to happen to you. You're trying to think about all the different things in your life that you wish you could have done. How long does that feeling last?
I've had a similar experience where I was like, I don't really know if I'm going to survive this. It was very striking at the time. It was like, well, what do I want to do? How do I want to live the rest of my life? That wasn't that long ago. That was a few months ago.
Now I've completely forgotten about it. I’m back into my sort of normal habits doing what I would do if I'd never had that experience. What's it been like for you?
It completely changed my life. I mean, it changed my whole approach to business, it changed my whole lifestyle. I’ve spent the last few years, most of my time traveling or living in Thailand.
I completely changed my diet, cause I had problems in my stomach. I went plant-based. I’ve stuck to that for five years now. It basically, it changed every aspect of my life and it's still, it's still affects me every day.
Sometimes if I find myself slipping into this a negative thought pattern, I always bring myself back to like, I was sick for five years and I was in a lot of pain. I was vomiting every day. Before this all came to a head in the hospital, I lost my four top teeth. They basically just disintegrated because I was puking so much.
Anytime I like feel myself getting into a negative thought pattern, I just bring myself back to this time. It was like, think of all the suffering and that night in hospital where you just felt like everything was going to end.
It's crazy that a lot of these changes have lasted for you because they are such firm commitments. Like buying a one-way ticket to Thailand, that's a thing where you make that decision upfront and you buy the ticket and you get on a plane and you fly away.
You don't have to keep making that decision again every single day. You're in Thailand now, you're living this lifestyle and the decision has been made versus other types of decisions that you make, like dietary decisions.
You do have to make that decision every single day. Every single day you have to decide, what am I going to eat? Those seem to be the hardest kinds of lifestyle changes to maintain. But I think in your sort of corner you have this obviously really horrible, traumatic experience that you went through that can kind of serve as a constant reminder.
Even if you're like, ah, I don't know if I want to eat more plants again today, that steak looks pretty good. You can remember, well, I don't also want to be vomiting and in the hospital.
To be honest, I think for most people, the idea of traveling around the world, trying to build a business, it sounds pretty stressful. It's expensive to travel. It is it's full of uncertainty to build a business.
Maybe let's talk about the finances of that. How did you finance moving to Thailand and traveling the world for years while trying to build an online business?
It's not actually that expensive to live here. You can probably have a very luxurious lifestyle in Thailand for like $1,500 a month.
Yeah. I've heard, I've heard stories of people living in Bali for like $20, $30 a day, and that's everything. That's housing, food, Wi-Fi, transportation. Which is absolutely nuts to me cause I lived in San Francisco for 10 years and in Seattle for another year and it's like $20 an hour to survive here.
Yeah. Like if you're trying to bootstrap in San Francisco, your runway is going to be so short. If you just move to say Bali or Thailand, Vietnam, then you can extend that runway by like 10 or 20 X.
Exactly. I guess it's kind of an ideal, stressless way to be in indie hacker, if you can combine it with being a digital nomad. But then there are other stresses of travel.
For example, I grew up in Atlanta. I was there until I was 18. Most of my family is in the Southeast. All of my friends up to that point lived there. Then I lived in Boston for five years and I went to SF for 10 years.
Every time I've moved, it's been kind of a clean break with the social structures and the people that I've known there. I still keep in touch and we'll see each other every so often, but I know I have to form entirely new social connections.
I imagine if you're being a digital nomad and traveling around, it's kind of the same thing where it's like probably none of your family live in Thailand or Southeast Asia. How are you making friends? How are you nurturing a social life for yourself when you're in a place where you're not connected?
It is difficult. The first year I was doing this, I was moving around a lot. I spent two months in Bali, a couple of weeks in Vietnam. That was challenging. It wasn't very productive because you have all that stress of moving to a new place, trying to find somewhere to live, trying to find the places to eat, et cetera.
Whereas now I tend to spend most of my time in Thailand. So, I'm probably more of a digital expat than a digital nomads. But what you notice is, if you spend a lot of time in couple of different places, you'll see the same people, kind of moving around that circuit.
I’m making friends with local people who are constant here, so every time I come back, I have Thai friends they're always here, which makes it a lot easier. Because every time I do come back, there is a different group of people. Still a few expats that are here, long-term and I find that environment is much more productive for building a business than constantly moving around.
I've done some traveling for Indie Hackers meetups. For example, I've been to Cape Town a couple of times and met a lot of the indie hackers out there. Toronto and the UK and all over the States.
It is cool when you get familiar with the place and like here's all the places to eat. Here's the part of town that I want to stay in, so when you come back the second or the third time, you're not going through this whole process of spending eight hours a day, just trying to figure out like how to live. You can just immediately set up shop and if you need to work on something, just start working.
Tell me about this process of coming up with the idea for Gravity. You mentioned that you were sort of working on, I think something to make yourself faster or to potentially just help improve development speed. Then somebody told you like, hey, this could be something people would pay for it.
Whenever I started this, I had no vision for the span of a business or any kind of commercial products.
I just wanted to create a boilerplate that made my own process of shipping products faster, because I just didn't want to be wasting a lot of time on every project, like setting up payments authentication, or all kinds of going stuff that the customers don't actually care about it.
I just wanted to deploy the boilerplate and then spend a month or two building the core MVP features. It was a classic case of I was just trying to scratch my own itch. Then I just had this serendipitous conversation with this guy who pointed out that yeah, people will pay for this.
My initial assessment was no, developers will spend the three months building the stuff themselves. A lot of them do, to be fair, but I think you've got this intersection of developers and entrepreneurs on Indie Hackers that can see the value of yeah, I could spend three months building this, but it's a huge waste of my time. I should just buy this off the shelf and spend those three months building the core features that their customers are going to pay for.
I think that that sort of fear you have that no one's going to pay for this because they can build it themselves as number one, super common. Number two, as you pointed out, like half true.
It's not true that nobody will pay for it, but it is true that a lot of developers will talk about the fact they're going to build this themselves or already are building something like this for themselves. It's easy to get discouraged by that.
It's very easy to start building something and look out and see like, oh, a bunch of other people have already built something like this. Even my ideal customer who hasn't started using this is just telling me they're going to build it on their own. Why should I even do this at all?
It turns out that most of the businesses that I talk to that are successful persist despite that. McDonald's is a successful hamburger chain despite existing in the world where people can make hamburgers at home. There were already other stores that were selling hamburgers.
It turns out that that's kind of true on the web as well for a large variety of products, at least any products that aren't social networks or sort of winner take all markets where network effects make it so that there should really only be one winner.
When you apply that thinking to anything, it doesn't make sense. You could say, well, people will just build their own email service provider or people will just build their own payment processor.
The smart people don't want, they want to build as little as possible and then they want to buy as much as they can or outsource as much of it as possible.
Yeah, exactly. This is the entire beauty of software is that essentially it's extremely scalable.
It might take me three months to build my own version of Gravity. Or it might take you three months to build a version of Gravity that I can use. But then I can pay you a relatively small amount for it because you can just copy the site, the software infinitely, right?
If you want to build, I don't know, a burger chain, you've got to make a hamburger for every person you want to sell a hamburger to you. You build internet software, a SaaS business, you don't have to do that. You can sell it for much cheaper than it was for you to develop over three months, which means that it's actually a steal for me to buy it from you rather than spending those three months on it.
I think the essential sort of calculus that people are getting wrong when they are afraid that people will build things on their own is they're just not valuing their time enough and they're not valuing other people's time enough.
They're sort of underestimating how much people are willing to pay $5 or $10 a month. Okay. I'll pay like, yeah, $15 or $35 or whatever it is rather than spending three months of my life building something that someone else could build. It's kind of a no-brainer.
Especially if you're selling to our developers, it's like, you can almost look at time and money as somewhat interchangeable. A lot of people who don't have time will spend money to gain time, and a lot of people who don't have money will spend a lot of time to get more money.
You're talking to developers. Software engineers, they have money for the most part. They're very highly paid professionals. They're just short on time, so they will exchange that money for time.
It's one of the things that I think a lot of people don't think about when they're becoming founders. Not only will your customers do this, but a lot of founders will do this as well, where they're trying to work on a side project and they're like, I just don't have time.
I'm trying to build this thing on the side of my full-time job. I've got a family and I've got responsibilities and friends and hobbies, how do I do this? Some of the smartest indie hackers I've talked to, rather than starting a business from scratch, will be like, well, I've got tens of thousands of dollars saved up. Why don't I just buy a business, get a huge head start and work on that? Trade in a little bit of money to gain yourself a ton of time if time is the resource that you’re short on.
I think a lot of people also underestimate what exactly they need to do to even just build the plumbing code for a SaaS. Gravity has about 15,000 lines of code to just do the most basic stuff like login forms.
I know everyone thinks I can build a login form in two hours, but whenever you actually think about all the security features and the things to do properly, it's actually a huge amount of work. And the same thing with payments, the same thing with user interface.
All these different features that nobody really cares about, or actually, well, the customers don't care about it are actually a huge amount of work to do properly. Then I think people probably start and then realize, wow, this is going to take, this is not going to take me like two days to do this, it is going to take me like three months.
Right because there's so many other hats that you have to wear as a founder, so if you can minimize the code part of things, then you can actually spend time marketing and selling your app. That kind of stuff is super important.
You clearly did that with Gravity. I'm looking back on your Indie Hackers product page. You got a timeline of all your different updates. If I go all the way back to January of 2019, you posted an update talking about how you just crossed the 30 user mark today. You finally had 30 users and then people were commenting and asking, like, how did you find them? How did you find these first users? And you said, oh, you know, 50-50 Indie Hackers and SEO at the beginning. Now it's more like 40% Indie Hackers, 40% SEO and 20% ad campaigns that you were running.
Walk me through your mindset back in the day. How exactly were you using Indie Hackers to find customers? How were you using SEO to find customers? How did you end up using advertising to find customers?
So with Indie Hackers, I was basically just posting product updates and then I was looking for conversations where people were talking about boilerplates.
The thing I was so surprised to learn was, if you go onto Reddit and you look for these topics that you're like, hey, I'm working on something, the people just don't want to know. But on Indie Hackers, people are open to, you're basically trying to sell to them in a way, but I think because you're going to give them something that they can see the value of straight away, they're much more open to it. I think there's a good sense of comradery in the indie community where people do want to buy each other's products and they want to help each other out.
It was a mixture of get involved in a lot of discussions, not just discussions about boilerplates. I was making sure that I logged onto Indie Hackers every day and answered a couple of questions about different things. Then keeping the product page updated, making sure I’m always posting milestones and then putting those milestones to Twitter, promoting all those achievements.
With SEO, it was kind of a happy accident because nobody else was building node.JS SaaS boilerplate. There were a couple of competitors that were doing Ruby on Rails stuff but I wasn't competing with them in search engines. I was able to get up to number one relatively easy just picking the right keywords.
The best channels for me have been Indie Hackers, SEO, and also Twitter now because I've been much more active on Twitter in the last year or so I do get sales via Twitter now.
Have you thought about hiring? Have you thought about bringing people on to help you out, or is it only just paying contractors and stuff to help you out?
I've thought about it. In my last company, I had two co-founders and we had hired people. My issue is I do like doing everything myself and I've got a data point that I'm extremely happy with by myself. The freedom that comes with being a solo entrepreneur is really appealing to me.
I know maybe six years ago, things are a bit different. We had a physical office. Everyone came to the office every day. That's not going to be the case now because a lot of companies are open to remote work. I still find it that there's a sense of freedom with being a solopreneur.
Do you feel like in a way that you want to build a team of people around you eventually?
Cause I mean, it's one thing to hire out of necessity and say, oh, I should hire because it's a good skill to have and it will help me grow. But it's another hire out of desire, like this feeling that like, I would really like to build a team of people to work with me and to have sort of a social lifestyle built into my business. Does that come into play at all?
I mean, some days I do think it would be nice to have a team of people that you sit and bounce some ideas with. But I know from experience that I’m terrible and managing people, so I just try and stay away from it.
What I find is a good replacement is just being active in the community and making friends with other entrepreneurs and then just picking up with them and bouncing ideas around.
I think whenever I am managing people, I get very stressed out. I don't like confrontation. I don't like dealing with issues. I’m just working on my own. I’m working with contractors because the dynamic is always very different to an employee. It means my stress levels are usually very low.
That’s actually a good point. Being in indie hacker in one sense is a way to, I guess, create a business that allows you to surround yourself with people that you want. But in another sense, it's a way to create a business that prevents you from having to deal with the burden of being surrounded by people in the capacity that you don't want. Then you can get your social interaction and make friends elsewhere.
Yeah. I think because I've done both, now that I’m super happy with Gravity because I'm actually back working on the product. Whereas my last business, I started working on the product and then I just worked on spreadsheets, dealing with investors.
Now I feel like I’ve actually come back to doing what I love, which is sitting thinking of the vision for the product and then executing the development, the design. I also enjoy some of the marketing as well.
You also had a stent, you know, before you did any of this, basically working in venture capital, which I think is ironic because you are now building a bootstrapped indie startup.
Have you ever been tempted to quote unquote, go big to raise a bunch of money and try to see if you could take Gravity to like scale rather than Indie Hacker scale?
No, because I've had that experience. At some point in the future, I may start something else. I may raise money and I may try and go big with it. But from experience that, that experience of trying to go big or go home, that's what stressed me out.
I felt like I never really had a sense of satisfaction from my work. It was always like, I’ve got to shoot for this milestone. Then when you achieve it, then next bigger milestone comes along. Whereas what I'm enjoying now is the very deep work that I’m doing on the product, thinking about other products that I can add, other things.
I'm very involved in the work, whereas I found with venture capital, it was just like, everything was just moving so fast. I didn't really enjoy it, but who knows? Maybe after this experience, I want to do it again and I'll do it differently.
It's pretty wise to be able to look at what you were doing. Cause I mean, there's two things to get caught up in. One of them is like, oh, every time we hit a milestone, we've got to go bigger and go harder. That's not very satisfying.
But then the other part of it that I think is very attractive to lots of people is I'm doing this huge thing and setting these huge audacious, ambitious goals. There's something that's satisfying about that.
To not get so caught up in that latter part, which is kind of like external validation, people will praise me for achieving this huge goal and to allow yourself to look at kind of the day-to-day, which is I don't like the feeling of always having some bigger goal that I always have to hit a never being able to be satisfied, I think is very wise.
I like that having this experience in VC sort of catapulted you in to being an indie hacker before you even knew what Indie Hackers was. Very cool.
Well, what's your goal with Gravity? You don't necessarily want to build a big team. You don't want to raise venture cap. You’re sort of cranking out code and building features and working on your marketing to grow the app. What kind of life do you envision for yourself?
I'm pretty happy with the life that I have right now because I’m able to travel anywhere I want, do whatever I want. I have a lot of freedom with the business. I can choose when I want to work, where I want to work. I'm very happy with what I'm working on.
I suppose the challenges for me are how do I grow the business? I'm looking at other products. I've built a product called Fire Lab, which is an automated user testing product. My strategy is to build more of these satellite products around the main boilerplate to provide other tools for people to solve different problems.
Testing is another thing that I find indie hackers just don't want to spend the time writing tests or setting up tests because it's always just low down on the priority list. I’m building Fire Labs so that they can just set up the tests in a browser in a couple of minutes and then forget about it. Then the tests will just continually run.
I like the idea that you've set up your life in such a way where you can keep building new things.
I talked to Sabba, the founder of a company called VEED, earlier this year. VEED is video editing software, but then you look at the other apps that they've bought or that they're building. They're doing media recording software and podcast recording software and a screen recorder and a web cam recorder and all sorts of different tools and things for adding effects to videos that aren't necessarily part of their core product, but it's kind of fun to work on because they've created a business where they don't have to just work on one thing and only one thing for the rest of their life.
I kind of have the same thing with Indie Hackers. I can build a job board or a co-founder dating tool or something else. You've got the same thing with what you're working on. There's not only all the freedom that you mentioned and the lack of stress, but the infinite variability to keep building and working on what you're doing and know that it all kind of contributes to the same.
You've been through quite a lot with this journey. Obviously, it started off in this sort of a scary, traumatic place, but now you've gotten to this point where you have all these great benefits and you're sort of a self-sufficient project building machine. What do you think other indie hackers can take away from your journey?
A lot of people are trying to get to where you are. They have no idea what to work on, or maybe they're working on something and it's not really seeing very much traction. What advice would you have for them?
The mistake I always used to make was the kind of classic trying to find this moment of divine inspiration for an idea to work on and then go and say…
I've done this even recently. I’d go and spend months building something. I know with Gravity, I haphazardly stumbled across this idea by solving my own problem. But now I have a very structured approach to things.
I've just read Arvid’s book, “Audience First,” which is awesome. I'm really into this process of finding the audience and then trying to find the problems. I did experiment with some stuff a few years ago.
I think before I built Gravity, I was just looking for something to build and I was going on to Reddit and I was just going to all these random subreddits and asking people what their problems were. I was in a subreddit for firefighters asking them like, what problems do you have?
They were like, actually managing our inventory is a huge problem. It takes hours every day and it's all done on paper. I was like, this is ripe for a SaaS product. I was like, what if there was a software product that just did it all for you? They were like, that looks amazing, but we have no budget. Okay!
I think just that process of just going into communities, talking to people, even talking to people that you would never normally talk to, like firefighters, just trying to find out what problems they have.
I think once you find the problem that's painful, the customer has enough money to pay a reasonable fee for it, I don't want to say the rest is easy, but it's the rest tends to fall into place.
I’ve built like 10 products in my career. 80% of them have failed, but the thing that I've noticed about the two that have been successful is they got traction early on. There was a very clear value proposition and people were prepared to part with cash fairly quickly.
I think just getting to that point where people give you some money as early as possible, once you figured it out part right and you know you're solving a valuable problem, the rest tends to fall into place much easier.
Yeah, I love that because that's the core thing you need to get right. You can get everything else right. You can get an amazing logo and just have the best marketing strategy in the world and a really well-designed website. It's a bulletproof product that's been tested and coded perfectly well.
But if you don't have a customer who has got a burning problem and they have the money to pay you to solve it, then nothing's going to work. If you do have that, somehow, even if everything else is broken, your business will make money and people will say yes when you ask them to buy your thing. I think that's the best place to start.
It's not surprising to me that you ended up selling tools to developers, especially indie hackers who are motivated to buy something because they understand how buying your tool will save them time and help them make money on the journey to making their own indie hacking business.
Yeah. The point you just said about the opposite being true is, like the first version Gravity was terrible. It didn't have any of the features that it has now. The code was, a lot of it was rushed to just get it out there and test it. But bizarrely developers didn't care.
The code still worked it was robust. It just wasn't as elegant as it is now. I was like, oh no, they're going to be put off. But they weren't, they were just like this solves a problem. I'll tidy the code up myself. Then eventually, once I got a little bit of traction and I fixed all those problems and then just gave them the updates.
Yeah. There's this concept of the early adopter, the visionaries, these are the people, the customers who are just so ambitious that they can look at a pile of trash and figure out like, oh, how can I use this to get ahead of everybody else? You know?
Or they can look at a brand-new app, they can look at Gravity when it’s in its earliest alpha version and it barely works. They're like, well, no one else is using this. I'm willing to deal with the rough edges. If you could find those people, you don't have to make something that's super polished or super nice. You can do that later and focus on like these visionary customers first.
Well, listen, Kyle, I think your journey is an inspiring one. I love talking to indie hackers like you, who essentially are just living the dream and not making a big deal out of it. You're not trying to be on the front page of TechCrunch telling everybody what's going on. You’re just sort of traveling and building cool stuff.
Hopefully, I can check in with you again on the show in another few years or months and see where you're at, but in the meantime, thanks a lot for coming on the show. Can you tell listeners where they can go to find out more about what you're working on?
Thank you very much for having me. If anyone wants to find out more, I'm most active on Twitter. My username is just my full name, @kylegawley. If you'd like to find out more about Gravity, it's just Gravity.app. I also have a blog on there where I do mostly talk about building SaaS products.
Cool. Thanks so much.
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