Since joining Indie Hackers I've shipped a few small apps and done a couple of Product Hunt launches, and one problem that comes up each time is how to find those elusive first customers.
tl:dr; I built an open source search engine to help you find new customers.
Advice from people who have successfully bootstrapped includes cold-emails, building an audience before you launch, launching on PH and HN, and other early growth strategies. As a developer lacking sales and marketing skills I've found these activities hard to carry out, and not great for getting results. PH and HN launches carry a reputational risk and can fizzle out, even if the product is actually useful to people who aren't on those platforms.
Luckily there is a different approach. A solution that has worked for bootstrappers like @adriaanvanrossum of Simple Analytics, and @rchase of Hostifi. They found customers on social media by searching for people who were talking about the problem their app solves. This approach seems to work well for people like me who don't want to be "salesy" or do cold calls.
So I went looking for a something I could use to do this.
When I found Syften by indie hacker @akfaew I thought maybe this was a good solution, but their focus is on monitoring your existing brand:
Monitor mentions of your product, blog, website, email address or nickname.
I also found that their notification based workflow did not work for me. I wanted something with a tighter feedback loop. [Incidentally I have shared this feedback with them and I hope it's useful. Whilst Syften wasn't the right fit for me, you should certainly check it out - it's a deep product with a lot of options for search.]
The thing is, my apps each solve a problem, so what I really wanted was a simple dashboard of recent posts by people who have that problem. That way I could reach out to those people directly and say "Hey, I have a solution that might work for you."
What I really wanted was the dashboard that Adriaan shared in his tweet for growing Simple Analytics. He was finding people who were specifically looking for privacy focused analytics already so he could help them out.
Well, to cut a long story short, I couldn't find an app that did this, so I built it. Introducing CustomerFind:
Inspired by the image in Adriaan's tweet, I've hacked together a prototype of an open source search engine to help you find new customers. It's based off a fork of Searx, an existing open source meta-search engine.
If you give the beta a try I would really appreciate your feedback. 🙏
Thanks for reading!