Nathan Rosidi has bootstrapped his side project, Strata Scratch, to 2500 users and over $1,500 in monthly recurring revenue. In this episode we discuss the lessons he's learned from past failures, how to prioritize what to work on when you're getting ideas from so many different people, and why it's both a blessing and a curse to be able to take things slowly as an indie hacker.
Cory Zue (@czue) made over $26,000 in profit from multiple side projects in 2019, including a printable place card business and a Django-powered SaaS template. In this episode Cory explains how his journey began by taking a sabbatical from work, he lays out his plan to reach financial independence by 2023, and he shares some tips for ensuring your indie hacker journey is an enjoyable one the whole way through.
Alexandria Procter (@alexprocter101) is the last person you would ever describe as timid. When the bureaucracy at her college in South Africa failed to address a massive student housing crisis, Alex taught took things into her own hands, learned to code, and created a startup to help. In this episode, Alex and I talk about the personality traits and the economic realities that drive people to take risks and solve problems. We attempt to answer the question, "What do founders in the developing world have that founders elsewhere do not, and vice versa?" Alex also shares the incredible story behind how her startup, DigsConnect, has grown to find over 70,000 beds for students in just two years.
Jane Portman (@uibreakfast) is no stranger to making money online. Not only has she run a successful consultancy for nearly a decade, but she's also published 4 books and become a leading authority on UX and product design. So when Jane decided to start a SaaS company—Userlist— she was surprised to learn just slow and difficult the process can be. In this episode, Jane and I discuss the variables that makes companies faster or slower to grow, the importance of nailing your customer messaging so people understand what it is that you do, and her tips for how other founders can stick through the tough times to turn their side projects into successful SaaS businesses.
Vlad Magdalin (@callmevlad) might just be the most principled founder I've had on the podcast. "When it came to making hard decisions, I've leaned more on my morality rather than my business sense. That's what I regret the least." Sticking to his heart has paid off. Not only has he built a company that's changing and improving lives by the millions, but he's also grown it to millions in revenue and 155 employees. In this episode Vlad and I talk about the ups and downs of raising money from investors, the impact of building something that empowers your customers to create, and the compounding benefits of focusing on people and relationships over profit and product.
Pete Macleod (@petecodes) didn't have a cushy fallback plan when he set out to become an indie hacker. Eight months ago he was unemployed, and a few months after that he was working a minimum wage job with dangerous clientele. He figured his best bet would be to strike out on his own: "I don't really have anything to lose at this point, so I suppose I'll just go for it." Today he runs No CS Degree, a profitable online business that helps aspiring software engineers who don't have the stereotypical credentials. In this episode, Pete and I discuss his remarkable ability to get help from others, his techniques for rapidly learning how to create a successful company, and the reasons it was crucial for him to solve a problem he was passionate about.
When Dmitry Dragilev (@dragilev) looked at the personal lives of his business heroes, he didn't like what he found. "Horrible family lives. Just horrible personal relationships." He knew he wanted something different, so he made the conscious decision to prioritize his family life and build his business around that. In this episode, Dmitry and I talk about how he was able to bootstrap from $0 to $30,000/month in revenue working just 25 hours a week, as well as how his business JustReachOut.io helps indie hackers do PR with less time, effort, and money.
When Cesar Kuriyama (@cesarkuriyama) first got started, he had nothing but a dream of freedom, an app idea, and a rapidly declining bank account. When every dev shop in New York City turned him down, things looked dire. But through sheer persistence and a penchant to seize every opportunity in front of him, Cesar managed to create an experience that people loved, give a talk on the TED main stage, launch a successful Kickstarter campaign, bootstrap his app to millions of dollars in revenue, and even get it featured in a Jon Favreau movie. In this episode we break down Cesar's improbable path to success, and in the process discover why you should never give up as a founder.
In the span of two years, Arvid Kahl (@arvidkahl) and his partner Danielle Simpson (@SimpsonDaniK) went from new idea, to $55k a month in revenue, to selling their business, all without hiring a single employee. In this episode Arvid and I discuss the ideal market size for indie hackers to target, the importance of building with a specific audience in mind, and the vital learnings from Arvid's past businesses that contributed to his recent success.
When John O'Nolan (@JohnONolan) set out to create Ghost, he made an unintuitive decision for a mission-driven founder: to use his skillset to tackle the *obvious* thing to work on, rather than chasing the most *interesting* thing to work on. But 8 years later, and perhaps as a direct result of that decision, Ghost finds itself in one of the most interesting places of any indie business I've had on the show: reinventing online publishing in the the midst of a crisis for journalism, and making close to $2M/year while doing it.
Robert James Gabriel (@RobertJGabriel) never had it easy growing up. Before he was finally diagnosed with dyslexia at age 17, he had teachers counsel him to drop out of school and was told he would never amount to anything. But with some positive encouragement from a few helpful mentors and individuals, Robert found his way, learned to code, and became a prolific indie hacker. In this episode Robert and I discuss the psychological effects of being trapped inside both negative and positive feedback loops, his strategy for coming up with dozens of product ideas, and the story behind how he bootstrapped his app Helperbird into a six-figure business that helps others with learning disabilities like dyslexia.
When Taylor Otwell (@taylorotwell) first sat down to create Laravel, he had no idea it would be the seed of an ecosystem that would revitalize an entire programming language. He was just building it for himself. In the years to come, his "build it for myself" strategy would continue to pay off, resulting in numerous million-dollar products such as Forge, Envoy, Spark, and Nova. In this episode Taylor and I discuss his strategy for turning his own problems into a source of product ideas; how to have extraordinary impact as a solo founder and self-described "regular guy;"and the almost-unfair benefits of building goodwill, trust, and community around your products and ideas.
Dave Sims (@floifydave) has bootstrapped two tech companies to millions of dollars in annual revenue, and with the help of his wife and co-CEO, he's running them both at the same time. With his latest business, Floify, he's proven that you don't have to know a ton about an industry to discover an opportunity and build a valuable idea… but you do have to learn, and learn rapidly. In this episode, we discuss exactly how Dave came up with his idea by keeping his eyes open to problems and opportunities in everyday life, how he built the right product by learning from his customers and even going so far as to shadow them in their places of work, and why all business is about relationships.
Despite running a successful design agency that caters to big-name clients like FKA Twigs, Stefan Endress (@stefanendress) has known for years that he wanted to build a product of his own and be an indie hacker. In this episode, Stefan and I dig into what it's like running an agency while developing a new product on the side, how to surmount the challenge of finding customers by focusing on people like yourself, and why bringing a unique style and brand to your business may be more important than having a unique product idea.
The no-code movement is picking up steam, with more people than ever building apps and businesses without knowing how to code themselves. Ben Tossell (@bentossell), the creator of Makerpad, is betting his business that no-code is the future of work. However, Sahil Lavingia (@shl), the founder of Gumroad, isn't so sure that code. In this episode, I hosted a lively discussion between these two thoughtful bootstrappers about code vs no-code. Which approach should a new indie hacker should take? What gaps in the market are opening up due to the changes in tooling landscape? And what does the future hold?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff (@anthilemoon) is working at the intersection of neuroscience and entrepreneurship to produce content that inspires, educates, and sustains makers like you. In this episode, we talked about how Anne-Laure builds free products that are good for the world while monetizing related products, how she juggles multiple career paths simultaneously by maximizing overlap, and how to combine multiple interests into a single niche topic that's unique and differentiated.
When Ryan Born (@_RyanBorn) first emailed me about becoming one of Cloud Campaign's early customers, I replied with a long list of reasons why I wasn't going to use it. Two years later, he's generating over $25,000/month in revenue and growing at 32% month-over-month! In this episode, Ryan shares he got out of his product-market fit rut by interviewing hundreds of people and learning more who is and who isn't his ideal customer. He also discusses the advantages of picking a niche, the ins and outs of running Facebook ads profitably, and how dipping his toe in the water of numerous marketing channels helped him discover which one was worth diving into more deeply.
Tyler Tringas (@tylertringas) may not look like Tarzan, but that hasn't stopped him from expertly swinging from vine to vine. Since we last spoke in episode 10, Tyler transitioned from founder to investor, sold his SaaS business, and is helping to spearhead a whole new approach to funding indie hacker businesses. In this episode, Tyler and I discuss the existing VC model and why it doesn't work for bootstrappers, a new funding model that bootstrappers should all be paying attention to, and why he's betting that "90% of startups fail" should no longer be the accepted wisdom.
Zach Resnick (@TrumpetIsAwesom) began travel hacking as a broke college student looking for a way to see the world without spending thousands of dollars on flights. Today he's used his vast knowledge of the travel industry to create EasyPoint, a concierge service and that's generated almost $60K/month in revenue this year. In this episode, Zach emphasizes the criticality of product-founder fit, weighs in on the benefits of working with friends, and reflects on the winding path he's taken to build a business that customers both love and pay for.
Dominic Monn (@dqmonn) created a marketplace for mentors where none existed, and quickly grew it into a positive revenue stream. What's more, he did it while enduring a 3-hour commute and working a demanding internship. In this episode, we discuss how Dominic leaned heavily on cold outreach to populate his marketplace, the joy of reaching out to (and hearing back from!) satisfied users, and the importance of planning when most of your day is already booked with a full-time job.
When Tyler King (@tylermking) set out to build Less Annoying CRM, he knew he was entering a crowded market full of well-funded competitors focused on astronomical growth. So instead he took the slower, surer path to success, and bootstrapped his way to 22,000 paying customers and over $2.6MM in annual revenue. In this episode, Tyler and I discuss his insights for making it work in a crowded industry, why he went from avoiding customer service to prioritizing it over everything else, and how he makes the tough choices when facing dilemmas that don't have an obvious answer.
Ghyslain Gaillard (@iamghyslain) of Indie London knew that he wanted to be at the heart of the indie startup scene in Europe, but when he couldn’t find his birds of a feather, he decided to start his own meetup from scratch. In this episode Ghyslain and I discussed the major benefits of getting energized with a group of like-minded indie hackers, why it's so worthwhile to ask others for help, and the practical value of cold outreach in growing your product.
Ketan Anjaria's (@kidbombay) path to success was paved with hardship. He was flying high in the 90s dot-com boom, until he lost his job in the crash. His funded startup won awards at TechCrunch Disrupt and earned him interviews with Time magazine, until it ran out of money and he had to shut it down. But despite the setbacks, Ketan always managed to rediscover his optimism and try a new path forward. In this episode, we discuss the importance of not giving up in accomplishing your goals, why community is an underrated foundation for building a business on top of, and how Ketan has grown his business HireClub 20% month-over-month to reach $30,000 in monthly revenue.
Danielle Johnson (@dinkydani21) is no stranger to the challenge of building an online business. So when she hit on a new idea for a product that could solve a problem better than the competition, she made sure to learn from her past mistakes and do things differently this time around. In this episode, Danielle and I chat about how she went from an idea to an MVP with 50 beta testers in just two weeks, her strategies for successfully launching her product multiple times, and why she and her co-founder are committed to building their business transparently.
Sarah Hum (@SarahHum) got a job working at a big tech company, in part because she wanted to learn how create a startup of her own. But it didn't take her long to realize the truth: the best way to learn is to dive in head first. In this episode, Sarah shares how she went from employee to founder, why she chose to bootstrap her company and travel the world rather than staying in SF and raising money, and how she's steadily grown her revenue to over $50k/month.
Louis Nicholls (@louisnicholls_) never intended to build the audience he serves. He just wanted to help people, even if it meant doing it for free. Thousands of email subscribers later, he's been able to build a successful course teaching sales to founders, and he's made over $40,000 in its first three iterations. In this episode, Louis and I talk about SaaS vs info products, the importance on starting small and making incremental improvements, and why "be helpful on the Internet" is possibly the best advice for startup founders.
Josh Wood is living an indie hacker dream: from freelance developer to co-founder of Honeybadger, a monitoring tool for developers that generates over $1M a year in revenue. Even better, he only works 30 hours a week. Josh joined the show to talk about the reward of switching from selling his time to selling a product, how Honeybadger filled a gap left by declining incumbent players, and why building a customer-friendly low-churn business is a solid way to achieve long-term growth, even if sales and marketing aren't your strong suit.
Mubashar Iqbal (@mubashariqbal) has always been a maker first and an indie hacker second. That much is obvious from his track record of building 80+ side projects. But recently, he's taken his "work on things you love" mindset and applied it to a business of his own: Pod Hunt. In this episode, Mubs and I discuss strategies for crafting successful consumer-facing products and he shares his thoughts on why you should always prioritize product-founder fit.
Patrick Campbell (@Patticus) grew up as farm boy from Wisconsin. But after getting tired of working in bureaucratic environments, he cashed out his 401k to bootstrap his own business in 2012. Patrick joined the show to discuss the importance of finding the root cause of problems in your startup, to talk about why pricing and churn are major levers of growth that shouldn't be ignored, and to share how he grew ProfitWell to over $10M/year in revenue.
Steli Efti (@Steli) knows more about sales than anyone else I know. He's also the founder of Close.com, a profitable all-in-one CRM tool doing many millions in revenue, so he's the perfect person to answer the question: What should founders know about sales? So in this episode, my goal was to extract as many founder-specific sales tactics as I could from Steli. Whether you're growing a business now, or it's something you hope to do in the future, Steli's advice isn't something you can afford to miss.
Justin Jackson (@mijustin) has spent a lifetime as an entrepreneur, working on products, hosting podcasts, running communities, creating courses, and more. But it wasn't until he created his newest business, Transistor, that he fully realized the power that comes from choosing the right market as a founder. Justin joined me on the podcast to talk about the advantages of solving a straightforward problem, the importance of finding the truth in the early days, and why it might be worth it to wait for the right idea for the right market.
Being an indie hacker is the ultimate responsibility: If you don't get things done, nobody else will. It's up to you consistently execute well, day after day. But how exactly you do that? Nir Eyal (@nireyal) joined me on the podcast to answer that exact question. After years of research into what separates those of us who execute on what we commit to doing vs those of us who get distracted or lose motivation, he's broken down his findings into a process any founder can use to become "indistractable."
Justin Mares (@jwmares) is the founder of not one but two companies in the health food space, each of which he's simultaneously bootstrapped to over $10,000,000 in annual revenue. In this episode we covered why you should avoid having a scarcity mentality when coming up with an idea to work on, how to alleviate market risk by running a smoke test, and how Justin was able to rapidly grow his businesses by bringing growth know-how from tech to the industry of consumer packaged goods.
Harry Dry (@harrydry) is the founder of Marketing Examples, a fast-growing showcase of successful startup marketing stories. Since launching the site a few months ago, he's grown his email list to 5000 subscribers, won product of the week on Product Hunt, and is approaching $1,000 in monthly recurring revenue. Harry joined the show to talk about reducing the risks of being a founder, how to grow your Twitter following, and the importance of building the product that only you can build.
Jeff Meyerson (@the_prion) is the host of Software Engineering Daily, a popular podcast that averages 20,000 downloads a day. It's also a successful business that generates close to $60,000/month in advertising revenue. Jeff joined the show to talk about the business of podcasting: What goes into producing an episode? How do you ask great questions? What's the best way to grow your listenership and land lucrative advertising deals? And what lessons from podcasting apply more broadly to all indie hackers?
Ben Orenstein (@r00k) is the founder of Tuple, a remote pair programming app for the Mac that fills the void left by ScreenHero's disappearance. Ben joined the show for a second time to catch us up on Tuple's progress as a profitable pre-launch business. We talked about the benefits of creating a public roadmap that you can share with customers, the importance of learning by selling, Ben's gameplan for Tuple's public launch, and why it's important to focus on growth long before launch day.
What happens when the money you're making from your side project eclipses your salary from your full-time job? Tommy Griffith (@TommyGriffith) found out in the best way possible when he began generating six figures in revenue just a few years after he started teaching people everything he knew about SEO. Today his business, ClickMinded, generates over $40,000/month. In this episode we discuss the best ways to bootstrap an email list, why it takes 1000 days for a side project to replace your salary, and how a taste of freedom can make you unemployable.
Jessica Chan (@thecodercoder) is the founder of Coder Coder, a collection of resources that help self-taught web developers learn to code the same way that she did. Jessica joined the show to share how she came up with her idea and got her first users, how she grew her Instagram account to 30k followers and her website to over 60k visits per month, and how she plans to make a living from her business as an indie hacker.
When Chris Savage (@csavage) and his co-founder started their business, they were convinced that they'd be able to sell it within six months. They never would've guessed that 13 years later, not only would they still working on Wistia, but the business would be $17M in debt. In this episode we talk about pivoting from a bad idea to a good one, prioritizing long-term thinking from the very beginning, and how Wistia turned $500k in losses into $6M in profit in a single year.
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.
Sam Parr (@TheSamParr) describes himself as a midwestern small business owner who discovered the Internet, and his journey from running a hot dog stand to building a media empire seems to prove that. His current business, The Hustle, generates 8 figures in annual revenue from newsletter advertising alone, a feat Sam attributes to great copywriting, relentless experimentation, and the massively underrated power of email. In this episode we talk about how founders can build profitable businesses by resisting the urge to make their tech businesses more complex than they need to be, why it's important to borrow lessons from businesses in other industries, and the art of getting help from others by swallowing your pride and making specific requests.
Joe Howard (@josephhhoward) is the founder of WP Buffs, a productized service business in the WordPress space that he bootstrapped from $0 to over $70,000/month in revenue. We had a quick chat about how Joe launched his business and found a paying customer in just a few days, how to make more money by raising your prices, and why it's important to keep things simple as a founder.
As the community manager for Product Hunt, Ben Tossell (@bentossell) saw over 80,000 new product launches and met hundreds of inspirational makers. So when learned that he could use a new breed of tools to make his own products without learning to code, it felt like unlocking a new superpower. Many dozens of apps and Ben created Makerpad, where he creates tutorials and collect resources to help others like him become no-code makers. In this episode we talk about how Ben grew Makerpad to over $100,000 in revenue in 6 months with almost no expenses, and why he has no plans to go full time on such a successful side project.
Jason Fried (@jasonfried) doesn't intend to be controversial or to change people's minds, but he seems to end up doing both of these regardless. Since launching Basecamp in 2004, he's grown the business to tens of millions of dollars in annual *profit*, and gathered a collection of strong and often counterintuitive beliefs along the way. In this episode we discuss how to take advantage of building an independent company, when to focus on a product and when to let it go, how to learn from the past without fooling telling yourself a false narrative, and the importance of blazing your own path as a founder instead of blindly imitating others.
Dianna Allen (@diannamallen) is the creator of Budget Meal Planner. In just two months, she's gone from having an idea to getting thousands of signups, articles on Lifehacker, and three #1 milestone posts on Indie Hackers. In this episode Dianna shares the story behind how she came up with her idea, validated it, and got her first users, and we break down what's made it so successful so far.
Rather than pursue a traditional career, Hiten Shah (@hnshah) decided to follow the choose-your-own-adventure life of being a founder. Since then he's launched more than 30 products, including five multimillion dollar products and a few spectacular failures as well. In this episode we talk about embracing and reflecting on failure, making better business decisions through research, the importance of sharing and teaching what you've learned, and how to make sure you're working on what matters.
Pat Walls (@thepatwalls) joined the podcast to talk about quitting his job and going full-time on his bootstrapped business (Starter Story), how he launched a second business (Pigeon) and found his first 10 paying customers in under a month, and his strategies for juggling multiple projects at the same time.
Eric Zhang dropped out of school to pursue his startup, got accepted to Y Combinator, and found traction in the open source community. But when he found himself no longer excited to show up to the office, he realized something crucial was missing with his business: a workable business model. In this episode Eric and I discuss his decision to quit his startup and how he ended up helping grow a bootstrapped business to over $100MM in revenue in an industry rife with well-funded competitors.
After leaving his post as employee #2 at Pinterest, a teenage Sahil Lavingia (@shl) raised millions in funding from high-profile Silicon Valley to build a unicorn startup that could change the world — Gumroad. Today he lives in tiny Provo, Utah, spends much of his time learning to write and oil paint, and runs Gumroad as an indie business with the goal of making himself happier. In this episode we talk about what happened in between, and the lessons Sahil learned that can help every indie hacker create better lives for themselves by building more "successful" businesses.
Although Aline Lerner (@alinelernerllc) graduated from MIT and worked as a software engineer for years, some of her most impactful learnings came from the time she spent working as a cook and moonlighting as a recruiter. Putting all of her experiences together, she realized that hiring in tech could be so much better, and so she started Interviewing.io, a company that has since grown to millions in revenue. In this episode we talk about finding the activation energy to get started, juggling the 50+ responsibilities of being a founder, how to build a team of people you're lucky to have, and how to win big by starting small.
Although Adam Wathan (@adamwathan) dropped out of college (twice!), he's one of the most voracious learners to ever appear on the podcast, and he's built a wildly successful business for himself by teaching others what he's learned. We cover Adam's journey from college dropout to software engineer, the lessons he learned from his first "failed" business, how he creates free content to build an audience, and the techniques he's used repeatedly to drive millions of dollars worth of demand for his books and courses.
Despite being an introvert, Rosie Sherry (@rosiesherry) knew that she needed to build a community that software testers deserve: the Ministry of Testing. In this episode, we discuss how Rosie created a community so tight-knit that people have its logo tattoo'd on their bodies, how she grew it to $1.2M in revenue without relying on ads, and how she did it all while raising and homeschooling 5 kids.
When Ben Orenstein (@r00k) decided he wanted to start a company, the biggest risk in his mind was a hurdle he'd already cleared: not deciding to start in the first place. In this episode we talk about the early days: how Ben met his two co-founders, came up with an idea, sold over $8000 in pre-sales, and grew revenue to ramen profitability, all before launching their product.
Through his consultancy, thoughtbot, Chad Pytel (@cpytel) might be the only first-time founder who's turned hundreds of ideas into actual SaaS products that people love. In this episode, Chad shares his thoughts on the advantages (and disadvantages) of consulting vs building scalable SaaS products, how he grew thoughtbot from nothing into a 100-person consultancy on track to generate $20MM in revenue this year, and the lessons he's learned from 15 years as a first-time founder.
If it isn't fun, Allie LeFevere (@AllieLeFevere) doesn't want anything to do with it. It just so happens that, in a world full of undifferentiated products and fear-based marketing, fun and humor are the missing ingredients that founders need to set their brands apart. In this episode, Allie shares the fundamentals behind solid brand marketing that every early-stage founder should know, how to sell more (and have a good time doing it) by using fun to connect with your customers, and the things she's learned as the founder of both a scalable product business and a digital marketing agency.
Danielle Baskin (@djbaskin) gets really excited about new ideas. So excited, in fact, that she can't resist bringing them to life by making them into products. Then turning those products into businesses. Then never shutting those businesses down. In this episode, Danielle shares the lessons she's learned starting 23 businesses since 2007 and continuing to run all of them in parallel, indefinitely.
Derek Andersen (@DerekjAndersen) and David Spinks (@DavidSpinks) have a lot in common. Each of them felt alone in what they were striving for, brought together like-minded people, and ended up growing communities and building businesses around them. After a string of startup failures and hardships, Derek turned a small support group of entrepreneurs into the global community for founders that is Startup Grind. David turned a small group of community builders into CMX, the premier community for community builders world-wide. In this episode, we talk about why every founder should care about community, and how bringing together like-minded people can be a productive first-step for any new founder.
Mark Fershteyn (@markfersh) always knew he wanted to start a business, but there was just one problem: He didn't know what that business would be. Of course, this wasn't enough to stop a determined founder in his tracks. And so, fueled by raw optimism and a refusal to lose, Mark embarked on a years-long journey to build a promising business, discovering and overcoming dozens obstacles in the process. In this episode, Mark shares the story behind his business, Recapped: recovering from failures and false starts, dealing with the stress caused by a dwindling bank account, finding product-market fit through sheer persistence and faith in what he was building, and learning new things about himself in the process.
Natalie Nagele (@natalienagele) is not a fan of following "the rules" when it comes to building her company. In the 18 years since she and her husband Chris started Wildbit, not only have they grown it into a profitable operation that employees almost 30 people, but they've done it their way: with remote a team, 32-hour work weeks, numerous product launches, and an obsessive focus on the happiness of their customers and employees. In this episode, Natalie and I dive deep into what's she's learned running a tech business for almost two decades, including why she thinks you should learn from others' experiences but not their advice.
Matt Verlaque (@MattVerlaque) is no stranger to hard work. But when he decided to leave his job as a fireman to build a tech business, he embarked on a path of learning and uncertainty very different than the world he'd known. In this interview, Matt tells the story behind how met his cofounder Jake, came up with a business idea, learned how to code, overcame a stagnant business model that wasn't working, and built a profitable business that generates over $65,000/month in revenue as a first-time founder.
Not only has Jason Cohen (@asmartbear) bootstrapped a software company from $0 to over $1M in revenue, but he's done it four times! The stories behind Jason's successes are plastered all over the Internet for anyone to find, so I decided to take a different approach: I skipped Jason's backstory and instead proceeded to squeeze him like a sponge to extract every ounce of advice I possibly could in the hour we had together. The result is a wide-ranging discussion about the best path for reaching your first $10k/month in revenue, the lies we tell ourselves as founders, and why you probably won't take the advice that Jason (or anyone else for that matter) gives you.
The anonymous "AJ" (@ajlkn) is one of the most prolific and multi-talented creators I've ever had on the podcast. His rare combination of developer expertise, design skills, and product sensibilities have allowed him to release a string of popular products that have racked up millions of users and downloads over the years. Maddeningly, AJ also has a knack for the business side of things, having grown his latest project Carrd to $30,000/mo in revenue as a solo founder and developer. In this episode we dive into exactly how he works his magic, analyze the most important decisions he's made with his businesses, and discuss the role that luck plays in any founder's journey.
After spending years pursuing a career in science, Lynne Tye (@lynnetye) shocked her family and colleagues by dropping out of grad school. Thus began a months-long journey of discovery and experimentation that eventually saw her managing 150 people at a high-profile tech startup. But when Lynne realized the fast-paced startup lifestyle was not for her, she quit that, too, and began her search all over again. In this episode, Lynne shares the story behind how she took her career into her own hands, learned to code, and started a business doing what she loves.
Twenty pages into reading his first business book, Peldi Guilizzonni (@peldi) closed it for good and told himself, "This is not for me. I'm never going to start a business. It's insane." Not long after that, he rolled up his sleeves and got started building Balsamiq Mockups, which would go on to employee dozens of people, serve thousands of customers, and generate over $6M per year in revenue. Over ten years later, it's still going strong. Learn about the path Peldi took to get where he is today, why he's a legend among bootstrappers, and how he's building a business that's meant to last.
"Whenever you work for a big company and they don't help you work on your ambitions, you start doing something on the side. That's what always happens." In this episode, Tim Soulo (@timsoulo) details the winding path he took to quit his job, build his own profitable online businesses, and eventually become the Product Advisor and Chief Marketing Officer of Ahrefs, which generates over $1M in revenue per employee.
"It doesn't necessarily feel that real at times." Dominic Wells (@human_proof) didn't initially set out to create a million-dollar business. However, he was so determined to find a way out of his job teaching English that he would write blog posts on his iPad in between classes. In this episode we dive into Dominic's winding path into building and scaling a profitable Internet business, why affiliate marketing is a great way to break into entrepreneurship for engineers and non-technical founders alike, and why the best advice is to just get started.
At first, Rob Walling (@robwalling) didn't know what he wanted to create — he just knew that he was tired of working for other people. After he spent his savings to buy an online business, however, he found himself in a do-or-die situation. In this episode Rob tells the story behind how he dove into the deep end of what would become almost twenty years of building online businesses, culminating in the 8-figure sale of his email marketing company Drip. We also discuss Rob's latest project, TinySeed, the first startup accelerator designed for bootstrappers, and why he believes now is a better time than ever to start an online business.
Ajay Goel (@PartTimeSnob) loves to code. He also loves to grow profitable Internet businesses. In 2003, Ajay transitioned from making websites for clients to building his own email marketing application, Jangomail, which he eventually grew to over $5M in annual revenue and sold to a private equity firm. He then retired to a life of luxury, conversation, and relaxation, and lived happily ever after… or did he? In this episode, we dive into the pitfalls of bootstrapping vs fundraising, the strategic decisions that differentiate big wins from HUGE wins, and why Ajay felt the need to come back for round two with his new business GMass.
Daniel Gross (@danielgross) has a tendency to view pretty much everything in life as a game. So when it came time to start a new business after selling his first startup to Apple, he decided to make it into a game that could change the world. In this episode, Daniel talks about what it takes to build a massively impactful project, how to minimize the effects of luck, and the habits you should develop to become a more successful founder.
After helping dozens of startups grow their businesses, Julian Shapiro (@Julian) knows a thing or two about growth. In this episode, he shares some strong opinions about why every company should run ads, why e-commerce is more promising than SaaS, and how you should prioritize your focus as a founder to ensure you start a business that can grow.
Rather than jump immediately into writing code, Andy Cook (@AndyGCook) and his cofounder Nelson (@nelsonjoyce) began their journey by spending weeks talking to and learning from potential customers. This wasn't their first time around the startup block. But to their surprise, when they finished their product and it was time for people to start using it, nobody wanted to. Learn how they iterated on their idea to turn it into a business that now generates hundreds of thousand of dollars in revenue.
Cameron Yarbrough (@yarbroughcam) and Keegan Walden (@keeganwalden) created a company that combines software and coaching to help leadership teams improve their job performance in a measurable way. In this episode, we discuss how they've applied their own teachings to their roles as founders, and how they've grown to become to the kinds of people who can work together to build a successful business.
Joel Hooks (@jhooks) never found it easy to spend his life working for other people. So when he came across an inspirational book that told him he could learn to code and build his own company, he embarked on a fateful journey to do just that. Learn how Joel helped start a sustainable business that connects programmers to educators, and how he bootstrapped it to over $3 million in annual revenue.
David Rabie (@daviderabie), the founder of Tovala, set out to build one of the most complex businesses imaginable: a hardware device, a software application, and a food prep and delivery service all-in-one. In this interview, we talk about how he approached this challenge one step at a time, from carefully crafting the minimum viable product and making the necessary sacrifices to get to the next step, to shipping a popular product to thousands of paying customers all over the country.
James Clear (@jamesclear), the author of Atomic Habits, knows a thing or two about forming successful habits as a founder. In this episode, he talks about how he developed the habits he used to help grow his website to over 400,000 subscribers. We also go into detail about the methods and science behind habit formation, and how any founder can develop the habits necessary to do their best work.
Shola Akinlade (@Shollsman) knew that the online payments process in Nigeria was broken, and that he was in the perfect position to help fix it. However, numerous challenges stood in his way, including broken financial infrastructure, unreliable internet, and users that had little experience making online payments. Learn how Shola overcame the odds to build and grow Paystack — Stripe for Africa — to over 17,000 merchants processing over $20M per month.
When Christy Laurence started designing her mobile app, she knew nothing about building tech products or launching startups. In fact, she didn't even know that fundraising an option. Driven by her optimistic nature and love of learning, she traded web agencies for development time in exchange for her marketing skills to get an app built from scratch, and went on to make impactful connections with dozens of influencers who helped her spread the word. Plann generated over $10,000 in sales in its first week, and today is at an impressive 650,000 downloads with growth showing no signs of stopping.
After her co-founder left the company, Christine Spang (@spang) found herself in a difficult position: deciding what to do with a product that wasn't selling as much as she'd hoped, juggling several different projects competing for her team's time and attention, and rebuilding the team's morale to get the company moving again and foster a great culture. Learn how she overcame the odds to turn Nylas API into a profitable product with over 200 paying customers.
When Ben Halpern (@bendhalpern) decided to start another business, he set a very unusual expectation: He gave himself 10 years to succeed. In this episode, we discuss how Ben's patient approach and obsession with understanding things from his users' point of view helped him grow as massive following on Twitter and parlay that into fast-growing online community for developers.
When Mathilde Collin (@collinmathilde) started her first company, she knew she wanted to create a great place to work and to improve the lives of her customers. The product was just an implementation detail. Learn how she picked up the skills she needed to succeed, and built a 100-person company with over 3600 happy, paying customers.
Ryan Hoover (@rrhoover) has always been a product person. In a few short years, Ryan built an audience of tech enthusiasts from scratch and grew it into the massive and impactful community known as Product Hunt. Today, he's working to bring Product Hunt to profitability after selling the company to AngelList. We also talk a bit about the maker and entrepreneur communities in general, and the similarities and differences between Product Hunt and Indie Hackers.
When Brian Jagger (@briansjagger) became a casting director, spending hours copying and pasting and editing file names, he knew there had to be a better way. Learn how Brian and his cofounders took advantage of years of learnings from past failures to build a successful business in the film industry and spread to new markets one city at a time.
Nat Eliason (@NatEliason) knows exactly what he's good at. He puts SEO-focused content marketing at the center of every business he builds. When friends started asking for help growing their own businesses through search-optimized content, it was just the validation he needed to start Growth Machine. In this episode, Nat talks about how he hit profitability immediately and grew revenue to $85,000/month in under a year.
As Intercom's Chief Strategy Officer, Des Traynor (@DesTraynor) knows a thing or two about building a successful company. Over the past 7 years, he's worn almost every hat there is to wear. In this interview, Des explains how Intercom got to where it is today and what he's learned along the way, from marketing, to product development and feature prioritization, to hiring, sales, and developing an effective vision that people can believe in.
Katie Keith (@Barn2Media) sees small ideas as big opportunities. In this episode, she explains how she and her husband left their full-time jobs to go into business on their own, how they found an endless stream of client work, and how they transitioned into building WordPress plugins that generate a sustainable stream of income and allow them to live their lives more freely.
Mike Taber (@SingleFounder) dives deep into the steps he took to develop a viable idea for a company, validate it with actual customers, secure thousands of dollars worth of sales before writing any code, build a product from scratch, and get it into the hands of his first customers.
JT Marino (@johnmarino) made the unusual journey from software engineer to mattress tycoon, and he did it without raising a dime from investors. In this episode, JT provides mountains of actionable advice about how to bootstrap a business through every stage, from pre-launch product validation up through hundreds of millions in revenue. Learn how Tuft & Needle convinced their first customers to buy mattresses from a brand they'd never heard of, hired top performers on a limited budget, navigated a risky relationship with Amazon, competed with the venture-funded clones they inspired, and much, much more.
Psychologist and founder Dr. Sherry Walling (@zenfounder) might know more than anyone about the psychology of being a founder. In this episode she talks about the relationship between trauma and entrepreneurship; how to deal with stress and loneliness as a founder; the best methods for staying motivated through rough patches; and how she's building her own online business into something that allows her to do what she loves without trading dollars for hours.
When John Doherty (@dohertyjf) got laid off from his job, his gut told him not to go out and get another regular job. In this episode, John talks about how he built up a name for himself in the SEO world, used his reputation to land lucrative consulting deals, and self-funded the creation of a product that generates nearly $300,000 per year.
When Joel Gascoigne (@joelgascoigne) started Buffer, he had no intention of doing things "the way they've always been done." Learn how he helped lead the way by running a remote team, by being transparency about revenue and salaries, and how grew his business from $0 to $18M in revenue and 70 employees along the way.
Saron Yitbarek (@saronyitbarek) runs three podcasts, gives dozens of talks every year, runs a blog, a weekly Twitter chat, a conference, an online resource for teaching people to code, among other things. In this episode, Saron explains how she parlays her advantages in one arena to move into another, discusses her tips for being inhumanly productive, and discusses the psychological breakthrough that taught her when to say no to adding more work to her plate.
Quincy Larson (@ossia) explains how he's built freeCodeCamp into a community that helps millions of people learn to code every month by engaging in storytelling, encouraging open-source contributions, and focusing on accessibility to people across every income bracket worldwide.
From the very beginning, nothing has been ordinary about Claire Lew's (@cjlew23) company, its business model, or the way she came to lead it. Learn how Know Your Company has generated millions in revenue with a tiny team, how Claire has met with over 500 CEOs and business leaders, and what she's learned about creating a successful company.
When Vicky Hsu (@caffeinatedvee) began volunteering her time to help with HabitRPG as part of its community, she never imagined that she would one day end up as its CEO. In this interview, I talk to Vicky about how that transition came to pass, how she manages a thriving community to help build her profitable business, and the lessons she's learned along the way.
Steli Efti (@steli) has always had something to prove. After starting numerous successful businesses in Germany as a young entrepreneur, he moved to Silicon Valley to try his hand at the startup game, and was met with years of unexpected hardship and failure. Learn how Steli improved his psychology, habits, and skills as a founder; developed better relationships with the people he worked with; and went on to build a massively profitable SaaS business that helps sales teams sell more.
When the founders of Remix released a side project that unexpectedly went viral, they put their heads together and decided to turn it into a startup. Co-founders Tiffany Chu and Danny Whalen share how they were able to build instantly popular software, the mistakes they made and lessons they learned selling it to the governments who needed it, and how they grew from 4 founders and no customers to a 55-person team serving 275 cities and transit agencies across the world.
When Rand Fishkin (@randfish) was $500,000 in debt, he decided to save his company and the relationships within his family by… starting a blog. He went on to grow a massive audience and transform his services business into Moz, an SEO and marketing company the helped grow to $47M in annual revenue. Learn how persistence, a deep-rooted understanding of marketing, and genuine values that he refused to compromise on helped Rand find his way as a founder.
Katelyn Gleason (@katgleason) has been never satisfied with working for somebody else, and she's never been afraid to break into a new field and aim straight for the top. Today, she's the founder and CEO of Eligible, a rapidly-growing business in the difficult and highly-regulated healthcare and insurance industries. Learn how she used the knowledge she gained as a salesperson to develop a category-defining product, and how she goes about learning whatever is necessary for overcoming the next obstacle in her path.
Josh Kaufman (@joshkaufman) has read a lot of business books. He also happens to be the author of The Personal MBA, easily one of the best business books in existence. In it, he lays out the fundamental concepts that are core to every successful business, and in this episode, we talk about how he became the kind of person who was able to write this book.
David Smooke (@DavidSmooke) has been working with content since he got a job as a teenager at the local newspaper. In this episode we discuss the progression of his career from employee to contractor to the owner of multiple online publications, and we learn how he bootstrapped Hacker Noon and the @ami network to over 600k subscribers and 10M monthly pageviews.
Joel Runyon (@joelrunyon) didn't start out with a whole lot. He couldn't get a job. He had no business skills. He didn't know how to code. In fact, all he had was long list of things he thought he couldn't do. In this episode, Joel talks about how he was able to pull himself up by the bootstraps and create multiple successful businesses by doing the things he was most interested in, being persistent and doubling down on the things that stuck, and literally attempting to accomplish the impossible.
Austen Allred (@austenallred) was in debt after watching his company implode. Learn how he used his entrepreneurial experience to turn things around, and then went on to create Lambda School — a successful business that changes people's lives for the better. He dives into the details behind how to align your business' success with your customers' happiness, how to decide whether or not to raise money, the future of education, and the lessons he's learned from Charlie Munger and Jeff Bezos.
Isn't having a vision just fluff? Doesn't every business need to start with the practical realities first? Max Lytvyn doesn't think so. In this episode he tells the story behind how he and his cofounder started with nothing but a vision, and used that to bootstrap Grammarly into a massively profitable business with hundreds of employees.
Stephanie Hurlburt (@sehurlburt) shares the story of how she went from being an employee to being half of a 2-person startup that sells software to gaming companies, and all the steps in between. Learn how she quit her job, met her cofounder, landed lucrative contracting gigs, built a product, learned about sales, and stayed sane while doing it.
Starting an online business is scary. You're putting yourself out there and risking failure in front of thousands or even millions of people. Learn how Pieter Levels has not only faced his fears, but used them as motivation while building an empire of profitable businesses that cater to digital nomads.
There's some stiff competition in the email marketing space, but that didn't stop brothers Gareth and Jonathan Bull. Learn how they overcame some significant business and interpersonal challenges to build EmailOctopus into a profitable, bootstrapped business.
Even as a programmer, Vincent Woo never loved school or working at big companies. But he was enthusiastic in growing his side project, CoderPad, into a $2M business. Get his take on startups, luck, and why advice is bullshit.
Spenser Skates, the CEO of Amplitude, took a very deliberate approach to becoming a founder and left as little to chance as possible. Learn about the steps he took to prepare himself, and how he went on to build a multi-million dollar analytics business with 100 employees.
When he wrote the first lines of code in his dorm room for his personal to-do list app, Todoist, Amir had no idea that it would eventually become one of the most popular apps of all time. Learn about his winding path to building a successful company, and how he got there by doing things he loved.
What would you do if your side project made $30,000 in its first month? This is the exact situation that Dawson Whitfield found himself in after a long history of launching projects that didn't make it very far. The conventional wisdom is that it takes years to build a successful business, but in this episode we discuss why that wasn't the case with Dawson's business Logojoy.
Jesse Patel and his cofounder Mike built a product good enough to attract 20k new users/month with no marketing. But it's not all roses. Co-founder disputes, competitors and clones, money problems, and real-life responsibilities have kept them on their toes. Jesse doesn't shy away from describing any of the ups and downs that come with building a rocketship product.
When he started Hotjar two and a half years ago, David Darmanin never expected it to grow so quickly. In this episode, we explore how David's past failures, learnings, and jobs as a marketer contributed to the incredible success of his business today.
How do you get people to notice what you're doing and sign up in droves? If Tobias van Schneider is any indication, the last thing you should do is try to fit in. Learn how his history of counterintuitive decisions, going against the grain, and having zero expectations has led to a string of successful products, and some pretty spectacular failures as well.
After a lifetime of hacking, Mike Carson hit on a very big opportunity selling .io domain names. Learn about the forces that made his massive success possible, the threats that almost killed his business, and how his life has changed.
Ever since he launched a profitable website as a teenager, Philippe Lehoux has had an uncanny ability to find something bigger and better to work on. Learn how a lifetime of experience as an entrepreneur has given him the confidence to move on from a business that brings in over $50,000/month.
Why is it so difficult to recognize product-market fit before you find it? And how do you find it, anyway? Learn about the struggles the team behind Segment faced, and how everything changed after they built a product that people wanted.
Most aspiring entrepreneurs assume they have to start from scratch. But when Kevin McArdle left his job at 38 with a wife, a mortgage, and 4 kids, he wanted to get a head start. Learn how Kevin and his partners at SureSwift Capital bought almost 30 companies in two years, and how they're helping to change founders' lives through 6- and 7-figure exits.
The founder of HackerRank tells the story of how he and his cofounder went from multiple failed businesses as brand new founders working from India to the creators of one of the most influential websites for programmers and tech companies.
Tracy Osborn once asked herself, "Should I learn how to code, or quit my startup?" You can guess which answer she chose, time and time again. Learn how relentless perseverance over time can help build a successful business.
What goes into creating a collection of online courses that reaches hundreds of thousand of people? Wes Bos explains everything from how he's built an audience and grown his massive email list, to his work habits and schedule, and a step-by-step walkthrough of how he created and launched his most popular course.
Few people have seen as many companies bought and sold online as Thomas Smale has. Hear the founder of FE International explain how he started his M&A firm and share the lessons he's learned about selling your business for as much as possible.
Reuben Pressman has succeeded at doing some very difficult things as an entrepreneur, and building a mission-driven company is just the tip of the iceberg.
In 2016, Mubashar Iqbal was named as Product Hunt's Maker of the Year for launching more products and better products than anyone else. In this episodes, Mubs shares his thoughts on what allows him to be uniquely prolific.
Moritz Dausinger started off like so many of us, releasing and then abandoning project after project. But when he launched Mailparser, something changed. Listen to the story of how he built, grew, and sold a profitable business as a solo founder.
Why do some products become habits? What keeps people coming back to apps like Facebook and Pinterest every day? Nir Eyal breaks down the step-by-step process any product can use to to become a habit, and we also dive into the ethical implications of this new super power.
Not everybody gets to work for the internet, floating from project to project and doing creative work that they love, but Dave DeSandro does just that. Learn how he's made a career for himself by building and designing widgets that tens of thousands of other developers have used on their websites.
The early team behind Intrinio got off to a very challenging start. In this episode, Rachel explains how being dedicated to their mission helped them stay scrappy and persevere through the hard times.
Learn how Scott Keyes grew his mailing list from 300 to 600,000 subscribers and $4M in revenue in two years.
Todd Garland went from being a blogger who published ads on his website to creating one of the leading advertising platforms on the web. Here's his story.
How did a company that nobody'd ever heard of find hundreds of beta users, and even convince them to pay for access? Wade Foster tells the story behind user acquisition at Zapier.
Growth consultant Julian Shapiro joins me for an extra long episode in which he shares a wealth of knowledge and stories about how to make your numbers go up and to the right.
Learn how Mike Perham turned his open-source side project into a business, quit his job, and grew revenue to $80,000/mo without making a single hire.
Alex MacCaw started Clearbit.com as a solo founder, and he's since grown it to millions of dollars in annual profit. Learn the marketing and sales techniques he's used to reach over 1000 customers.
Brennan Dunn has earned $20k/week as a freelancer, grown an agency to millions in revenue, started and sold a SaaS product, and makes over $100k/mo from his online courses. Learn how he thinks about business.
Patrick McKenzie divulges his wisdom around how to develop promising business ideas, find your first customers, convince smart people to work with you, generate more revenue, and stay happy while doing it.
Tyler Tringas talks about the difference between good and bad ideas, launching new products in days not months, finding your first customers one at a time, hiring effectively, and more.
Turning your skillset into a product that solves customers' problems is one of the best ways to start a business. Learn how Ryan Bedndar came up with an idea, iterated on his product, and found his first customers.
The point of marketing is to draw new people in to your business every day, but how exactly do you go about doing that? Laura Roeder, who bootstrapped her business to $4M/year, explains how to build an audience.
Thinking about becoming an indie hacker? Learn how to start, what skills you need, and the biggest pitfalls to avoid in this discussion I had with Clifford Oravec, author of The Epic Guide to Bootstrapping a SaaS Startup.
Learn how Nathan Barry grew his business by teaching what he knew, taking advantage of big competitors, showing up every day for two years, and treating direct sales as the answer to everything. Brought to you by Vettery.
John O'Nolan explains how he used his industry experience to come up with a simple idea, built a landing page that converted 30,000 email subscribers, and raised $300,000 on Kickstarter. Brought to you by SparkPost.
Josh Pigford went from having an idea to having paying customers in eight days. Less than six months later he was making $14,000/month. In this episode, you'll learn exactly how he did it. Brought to you by SparkPost.
Why is the VC narrative so dominant? Bryce Roberts, partner at Indie.vc, talks about why it's important to focus on generating revenue from the beginning. Brought to you by DixonAndMoe.com.
How do you cut through the noise and stand out among the competition so you can start landing your first customers? Garrett Dimon, the creator of Sifter, explains how he did it. Brought to you by SparkPost.
David Hauser explains how prioritizing selling early on, talking to customers, and rigorously testing marketing channels helped him bootstrap to $30M/year. Brought to you by DixonAndMoe.com.
Learn how Instapainting founder Chris Chen used a combination of SEO and content marketing to grow his business to $32k/month in sales.
Jason Grishkoff, the founder of SubmitHub, proves that being scrappy and doing things that don't scale (like sending 1000 emails) can lead to explosive growth.