16
23 Comments

Grew my event-based business to over 4K users during corona. AMA!

Hey Indiehackers!

I’m Christopher and I’ve founded several different businesses including a board game, a marketplace platform, and a SaaS company.
In this AMA I’ll be focusing on the 2 software-enabled products:

Cueup - DJ booking marketplace

Cueup is a global platform for DJs and event organizers - the goal is to be the number 1 place to find and book DJs. I’ve been working on the platform since 2017, but 80% of the growth has happened within the last year.

  • 4.000+ registered users
  • Growing 300+ users / m
  • 100+ events / m
  • 20.000+ unique visitors / m

Moderation API - automated text analysis SaaS

Besides Cueup, I also created the Moderation API. The product can be used to extract or hide data like contact information in text, or run general analysis to detect sentiment or spam.

When the pandemic was at its peak, running an event-based business didn’t seem like the best bet. Therefore I started the Moderation API. It was born out of the tech I’d already developed for Cueup, so it was a quick launch earlier this year.

Hope I can help some fellow Indiehackers with valuable insights from many failures and successes 😊

AMA!

  1. 4

    Amazing products Christopher!

    Question: How did you manage to grow Cueup during Covid while most countries were locked down?

    1. 2

      Thanks a lot Danny!

      First, I guess there was a general trend that DJs had more time to look around for products like mine during the lockdown. So I tried to make sure to get noticed and provide what they looked for when searching on Google.

      I did this by creating content like blog posts or useful tools to attract users, and as some competition seemed to tap out - I saw my pages starting to rank higher - and signups increasing.

      One of the big hits was the DJ name generator: https://cueup.io/dj-name-generator

      I thought if I could make the product work during the lockdown, it would work even better after.

  2. 3

    Hey Chris!

    Really love your products 🔥 I'm mostly curious on how you're acquiring users / what platforms you use to promote?

    I'd also be interested in what you think are the biggest pros and cons of the very different types of products and business models?

    Looking forward to your answers ✌️

    1. 2

      Hey Mads, thanks for the question 🤩

      95% of users come from organic search on Google or from finding the app on the app store or play store. The rest is probably word of mouth.

      Earlier I was experimenting with Facebook ads for acquiring DJs, which worked pretty well, but not doing that at the moment. And lastly, manually posting in relevant Facebook groups, which yielded very mixed results haha.

      Pros and cons of different business models:

      Commission: in my opinion, this is the holy grail IF you can solve the problems that come with it. It scales naturally with supply and demand and forces you to provide actual value = happy customers = healthy business. But, it comes with some hard problems to solve, like preventing people from circumventing the commission fee and figuring out accounting when acting as a middleman.

      Subscriptions: works well in volatile situations and is easy to get started with. Probably the best option as an Indiehacker because it provides some amount of predictable income. I think most importantly is to make sure that your product provides tons of value continuously to justify a subscription - which can be hard.

      In my case, the DJs churn if they don't get any gigs for a month or two, but the Moderation API will automatically provide value every month, without me doing much.
      About this, I think running a marketplace is much harder than running a SaaS. With a SaaS, if people like the service - they pay.
      With a marketplace, you're dependant on countless external factors: like the supply and having 2 people agree on a deal and a successful execution of the deal. I just think it's awesome when it happens, and it makes it all worth it.

      1. 1

        Awesome, that all makes a ton of sense. Especially organic growth is nice because you don't really have to "work" for it (other than having an awesome product 😎) whereas social media tends to require a lot more effort to get people to actually sign up to stuff, even with a large following 👌

        Excited to see where it all goes from here!

  3. 2

    Hey Chris, super interesting they're totally different products but you're smashing it with both of them!

    1. Were there many challenges of getting more customers for Cueup but with too few events for them to find gigs?
    2. What made you want to build a text moderation tool? Was this born out of a problem you had with Cueup or something similar?

    Happy hacking 🙌

    1. 3

      Hey Dani 🤩 thanks for the kind words.

      1. I think balancing supply/demand is one of the core problems for a product like mine, so I'm working on it continuously. Ideally, there would be one team for growing the supply of events, but as a solo founder, I've decided to focus on one side at a time. Right now it's a bit too balanced towards supply, but hopefully not too long.

      2. Yes! It was spun out from a problem at Cueup! Sometimes people would try to avoid platform fees by sharing contact details in the chat and make the transaction offline. I built the moderation tool to detect and prevent contact details in chat messages, and productized it when I recognized how it could be useful for other businesses.

      1. 1

        Nice, thanks for the detailed answer Chris!

  4. 2

    Awesome tool man! Congrats!

    I ran an event marketplace in the US from 2012-2017 which had a lot of overlap with what you're doing. Have you thought about adding some sort of pricing range to allow your vendors to update their pricing based on different dates/seasons/travel distance, and for people searching for DJs to attenuate results based on their budget?

    1. 1

      Hey Erik!

      Interesting with your marketplace, we should talk about it sometime.

      I've thought a fair amount about price settings - right now DJs can set prices based on an hourly rate, which will show up and affect search results.
      There's plenty of room for expanding the pricing though. I like the date/season dimension, haven't thought about that!
      It's an important aspect since it enables organizers to find and book someone in a single session, so I'd like to make sure it accommodates most use cases.

  5. 2

    Hey Chris, congrats on launching and growing these two products!

    It seems the world is coming back to normal and in Europe and concerts and gigs are commonplace now. This is great for CueUp I assume so what's your plan going forward with ModerationAPI? Growing the product based on your needs at CueUp or listen to its customers, or something else? :)

    1. 1

      Hey Raz, thanks!

      Yes, it does indeed seem to be what is happening now :)

      Moderation API lives its own life now, so I'd like to grow it based on use cases coming from customers. That being said, Cueup is also a customer, so we'll see 😄

      It has been a bit of a personal dilemma to pick a focus. I decided to work on Cueup at the moment as it started to require my attention and I also felt the most passion there.

  6. 2

    I love the idea of spinning out smaller projects from tech built for a larger project. Any other tech nuggets you might be able to mine from Cue up?

    1. 1

      Yeah, it's a convenient way to start a new thing.
      There's a pretty cool sound player (ala. SoundCloud) that the DJs use to show their mixes - maybe that could be a thing 🤔

  7. 2

    Hey Chris! Cool you're doing an AMA!

    What is the business model behind CueUp and is revenue growing at the same pace as signups, or did the ratio change in the last year?

    1. 2

      I've been trying out different models and currently there's a commission model (a cut of the DJ's payment) and a Pro membership for the DJs. The revenue pretty much comes 50/50 from the 2 models.

      The revenue does scale with signups, but unfortunately not at the same pace right now. This is probably because one side of the marketplace has been growing quicker than the other (more DJs signing up than events being submitted).

  8. 1

    How did you build the Moderation API I'm really interested to hear stack, etc cheers!

    1. 1

      Hey! Thanks for the question :)

      Initially, it was a huge amount of regex expressions for the data detection, it did the job for the time, but was not accurate enough.

      So then I developed some new models on top of Spacy, which I can highly recommend: https://spacy.io

      Today it also uses some 3rd party APIs like GPT-3 for the newer models.

      The tech stack consists of, Next.js, MongoDB, and Flask.

  9. 1

    Both products look great, great ideas + the execution looks really good. Congrats. One note on cue up, the dj photos are not showing up in your hero section which makes it look much worse.

    ---

    Some additional ideas, just personal opinions on your landing page:

    [1] The logo is a bit intrusive to me .. a bit too large, squished together, and being italicized gets too much of my attention. I think a plain text version would look a lot cleaner and let your visitor focus on the site.

    [2] I would change the landing page to be a bit more "experience" focused rather than "sales" focused.

    Most people who are looking for a DJ want excitement -- I would try to incorporate some video footage of DJ parties that feel a bit more aspirational instead of logically trying to sell your service... i.e. instead of having text telling me about wedding DJS, throw up some videos of an amazing looking wedding or party (i.e. https://www.pexels.com/search/videos/party/)

    Thinking about emotion a bit more.. instead of "find DJs for parties and events", I would do "your search for the perfect DJ ends here", "find your perfect DJ", "amp up your next event").

    "Cueup is the easiest way for you to book a great DJ for your event." is great -- "Start by telling us about your event, and get prices from the DJs in your area." is not really necessary.

    Look at the airbnb homepage as an example, there isn't too much text on it .. but it makes you want to explore some of their options and to dive into the pages. So sharing some popular nearby (if you have the user's location) or just generally popular DJs on the homepage is probably a good idea too.

    Something like "recent books in [user's area]" would also make the site feel a bit more current and busy, a bit more lived-in, if that makes sense.

    [3] Small nitpick, I would change the info-boxes on each DJ page so that "electronic" fits and doesn't need a line-break (I think this is the longest single word you'd have commonly?), and then I would change the word-wrap to normal so that it isn't breaking up words. This just makes the site look a bit more polished.

    Again, the site looks great -- just think those changes would give it an added boost in terms of feeling like a site I'd want to use and share.

    ---

    In terms of marketing, have you tried making lists of the top DJs in different areas, and then asking those DJs to share it with their followers? "Hey xyz, you were ranked the #3 DJ in abc -- Here's a link to share on your social media"

    Or lists of "top wedding DJs in XYZ" and then share it on wedding boards, wedding websites, etc.

    Those are also pages that could be tested for search ads.

    1. 2

      Hey Sobbuh!

      Thanks for the feedback, great points!

      0] Bummer with the hero images, I haven't experienced that issue. It's supposed to be showing DJs near you. Could you send me a message with what browser you're using please?

      2] These are some great points! Would also love to hire a copywriter.
      I'll probably incorporate most of it, but I'd be a bit careful copying the current approach of Airbnb or any company at that stage. I think an early-stage startup requires bit of a different approach where explaining how the service works might be necessary.

      Concerning marketing, we do have tons of landing pages for different locations. I love the idea of getting the top DJs to share it!

      Again thanks for your feedback, really appreciate it.

      1. 1

        0] I'm using Chrome 92 *Version 92.0.4515.159 (Official Build) (x86_64)

        Here's a screenshot of what I see: https://imgur.com/a/HzCBh0v

        ---

        2] I agree with you on copying too much and being at different stages -- it's a good point. There's a balance to find in there, for sure.

        ---

        I think you're in a great spot and have saved a note in case I ever need a DJ. Looking forward to seeing you grow!

  10. 1

    What's the best thing that happened to Cueup that you can't attribute to yourself?

    1. 1

      Hey Andrew!

      Nice and difficult question! The first thing coming to mind, is when the page is shared with big audiences and giving a boost. Also, the world opening up for events again. Feels like most good thing happens indirectly from some action.

      And many congrats on becoming a dad 🙏

Trending on Indie Hackers
How long did it take to build your MVP? 34 comments Dealing with lack of motivation due to failed soft launch 27 comments Bootstrapped my productivity app to 700 paying customers! AMA. 19 comments Free e-mail countdown timer that doesn't suck 💩 6 comments Return of the external link 5 comments How To 10X Your Design Rates in 2022 (Free Script) 2 comments