AMAs March 19, 2020

Hi, I'm John Saddington! I'm an indie app creator & venture-backed entrepreneur. I'm obsessed with community. AMA!

John Saddington @8bit

🛑 — I'll be here ALL DAY on FRIDAY, March 27th! Put it on your calendar!

OMG! Thank you @rosiesherry for the invite to do an AMA! Indie Hackers has become dangerously-close to a fetish and I'm kind of obsessed!

Okay, so, here's a snapshot:

  1. Currently, I'm the CEO / Founder of a venture-backed, distributed-first startup called YEN. We raised ~$4.1M over two rounds of financing and we've got about $1M left after a very difficult and painful pivot late-last year.
  2. I'm married (15 years this year) and have 3 beautiful kiddos, 13, 9, and 2.
  3. I've been doing remote work for over 10+ years, just as long as I've been using a Standing Desk.
  4. I've had my own share of "successful" indie projects (i.e. where I'm just a "solo" founder or project creator). One of the more obvious ones is Desk, a macOS app that won "Best Apps of the Year` via Apple 2 years in a row! Crazy. At the height, it was making > $1,000 a day (after Apple took their cut)! There are too many small side-projects to mention!
  5. I am a writer (blogging publicly for 19 years) and an amateur filmmaker—I have a daily vlog that I produce to share my story of running my company here in San Francisco.
  6. Before becoming an entrepreneur (late-bloomer maybe? i started my journey in my late 20's) I was an enterprise software engineer, working for companies like Johnson & Johnson, Dell, Fox, and Newscorp (among many others). I was an executive product director at the last one when I was 25. I have no idea why they hired me because I didn't know what I was doing. I've lived the "cube" life and I hate it and I will never go back.
  7. I love #opensource so hard — I try to share most of what I do publicly, as much as I possibly can. More about me on my #handbook that you can use for your own project!

I think that's about it.

I'm obsessed with community-building. I'm obsessed with building meaningful things with people that I love. And, if we can move really quickly, I like that too.

🛑 — I'll be here ALL DAY on FRIDAY, March 27th!

So, AMA! I really am an open book.


  1. 8

    Super awesome of you to do the AMA @8bit.

    My main question is towards getting the first 100 paying customers.

    I've heard a lot of strategies, mostly around hand-to-hand combat (highly personalized cold email, retargeting people that work in certain companies, etc).

    What has been your tried & true method to get those first 25 customers even? Once tapped out of friends & family to buy, it seems a bit fuzzy how to scale past that.

    Should the goal be 1,000 email subscribers before even focusing on the customers? If so, what does that look like.

    (All this assumes the product is something the market is actually willing & wanting to pay for)/


    1. 2

      if you need any follow-ups, just reply!

      1. 2

        Wowow a video reply? This is super awesome! Really really insightful, thanks @8bit

        1. 1

          of course! whatever you need.

  2. 5

    Where do you get all your energy from?

    1. 5

      honestly... community.

      when i get to "be myself" in front of others... it's like... effortless.

      i've spent my life trying to be someone that i'm not. most of the pain that i've experienced in life was self-inflicted... meaning, i allowed myself to be in unhealthy places... for a lot of really fucked up reasons.

      now, as i get closer to 40, i've finally kind of just ... given up on trying to impress people or make people happy or try to make people like me. it's too much work and i end up just hating myself even more for playing those games.

      and, i'm not trying to change anyone anymore. instead, i'm just trying to be the very best version of me—i just want everyone else to be the very best version of themselves.

      i know i'm not supposed to answer this one early... but, i just had to. i want people to know that i'm not here to tell folks how to live or build their projects... i'm here because i think IH is a safe (and fun!) place for me to build my dreams with people that i really like.

      that's all.

  3. 4

    You are on fire, dude I'd love to just meet you and absorb some of that (chi) energy from you. Also, you look like 23 ish, I wish if I'm at 38 I look like you lol. Much respect for your activism here. I literally am following your each and every post even if I don't do it intentionally you're just there! Thank you from behalf of all IH newbies like me <3

    1. 1

      thanks for making me feel so welcome here!

  4. 3

    Hey John - another late bloomer here :) Would love to know what you were up to before this entrepreneurial journey of yours.

    Also, kudos to your honesty. "i've spent my life trying to be someone that i'm not. most of the pain that i've experienced in life was self-inflicted... meaning, i allowed myself to be in unhealthy places... for a lot of really fucked up reasons." - I'd love to hear more about this "trying to be someone else" stuff (and why), and how you've changed this. I'm intrigued if you wouldn't mind sharing.

    Finally, would love to know your Myers-Briggs (MBTI) type if you've done it/know what I'm talking about. If not, s'all good!

    1. 3

      PS. Started watching your channel and I love it! So beautifully real and you talk about emotions and crying! big respect + love

      1. 1

        thank you for that! i have an answer coming for you... this one made me dive a bit deeper... storytime mode!

  5. 3

    Thanks for doing this.
    Q: If you get to retired next month, what kind of work/initiative would you like to get involved in?

    1. 1

      haven't shared these thoughts in a while... thank you!

  6. 3

    Can you recommend any good resources for getting started contributing in open-source projects?

  7. 3

    I like community too

    1. 1

      lol — thanks yo. appreciate you!

  8. 3

    Hi John, (again we've emailed a few times). I have a question, hopefully a good one...

    Your business seems like a robust one in the face of the pandemic, because it a remote-first community. Have you made any changes or small pivots as a result of how locked-down the world has become in the last 7 days?

  9. 3

    What was the single biggest influence that made you successful? There are a lot of ingredients, I'm sure, but was there a chance encounter or a way of thinking that did the trick? Or you've always succeeded since you remember? :D (as opposed to making only duds for 5 years like me)

    1. 1

      wow, loved this question!

      lmk if you have any feedback or follow-ups!

      1. 2

        haha, loved seeing you react :D great reply. Thank you!

  10. 3

    @8bit I'm looking forward to this! You've blown me away with your presence here thus far. So I guess my first question is:

    How the hell do you find/create/justify the time to spend so much time helping others? Which I know sounds silly, because of course helping others is the goal. But still, at least for me, if I spend 30 minutes writing a helpful answer to somebody there's this tiny voice in my head yelling at me saying "get back to work, this isn't profitable." Ugh. So basically, I want to be more like you, but I need to get my subconscious on board with that idea!

    1. 1

      thank you. what a great question!

      1. 1

        Wow thanks so much for the personalized response @8bit! So cool! I really love (and resonate with) how you talk about time boxing. I'll definitely start incorporating that into my day. That way it's not a guessing game as to what's working and what isn't. Thanks!

        1. 1

          of course! i hope that was helpful. let me know if you need anything else!

          1. 1

            I found very interesting your idea about time boxing, thank you!

            1. 1

              of course! i could talk about this for a while.

  11. 2

    What’s the piece of content you’re most proud of?

    1. 1

      the "Year in Review" posts that you can find on my "About" page.

  12. 2

    (a few questions in one)
    What do you see as the difference between "followers" and "community"?

    My take: Casey Neistat / MKBHD seem to have very large number of "followers" vs Nerdfighteria (DFTBA) which feels more like a community.

    How do I know which makes more sense for my business? Should I be leading to get followers or engaging to create community?

  13. 2

    What's your favorite(s)...

    • Movie?
    • Book?
    • YouTuber?
    • Video game?

    Also a comment...

    Seeing the responses in this AMA is awesome! I'm going to have to start looking around for a community pool for me to cannon ball into... lol

  14. 2

    Hi John, Great work your doing fair play.
    What metrics are the best the track for an early stage startup?
    What do you find is the best way to approach potential partners or brands if you do not have a direct line in?


  15. 2

    Hey John! 3 months into your new adventure with community building what AHA! moments have you had?

  16. 2

    Top five things to do when starting a community? Also, thoughts on a proprietary platform (like IH) vs something like a facebook group? Thanks!

    1. 1

      sorry for the stupid answer:

      i can do follow-ups!

  17. 2

    i'm literally just waking up... it's 7:14am right now... i will get to these!

    just give me a sec to get some ☕...

    1. 1

      i woke up. and, i'm responding to my own post. i need more ☕.

  18. 2

    Since the first post I read of yours on IndieHackers I knew you’d be a role model for me. Thanks for doing this AMA, I really appreciate it and so does everyone in IndieHackers. My question is, what was the process of finding what you love? And how did you know you found it? This is where I am right now. Everyday I feel a little more lost. Not sure exactly what to work on. Not wanting to waste my time on something that won’t be successful. Pretty much always in a state of uneasiness.

    1. 1

      there we go.

      what a great and deep question.

  19. 2

    Hey John I love your GIF! I'm 15 and I just launched my 1st product: LoveYourLanding. I'd love to hear what you think.

  20. 2

    You look too young to have three kids! 😂

    1. 1

      i'll just answer this by saying: thanks.


  21. 2

    Congrats on your pivot and the new vision. For a short time I rode the crypto train and enjoyed DCTV. Best of luck to you both and your team.

    1. 2

      thank you friend! appreciate that! appreciate you staying with me and checking things out!

  22. 2

    This comment was deleted 4 months ago.

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